City Council District 18 Candidates on Streets and Transportation Issues

City Council District 18 candidates Michael Beltzer and Amanda Farias.
City Council District 18 candidates Michael Beltzer and Amanda Farias.

Tomorrow’s Democratic primaries will be the decisive vote in most City Council districts, determining who will represent New York City neighborhoods for the next four years. In some races, the outcome is likely to come down to a few hundred votes or fewer.

Two weeks ago, Streetsblog sent four open-ended questions to the candidates in eight contested City Council races. We’ll be publishing the responses we received, as well as supplementary material from StreetsPAC questionnaires, in a series of posts this afternoon.

Below are the responses for the 18th District, which covers the neighborhoods immediately east of the Bronx River and south of Tremont Avenue. We received responses from two of the five candidates, Michael Beltzer and Amanda Farias. Ruben Diaz Sr., Elvin Garcia, and William Moore did not respond to Streetsblog’s inquiry.

New York City bus service keeps getting worse. Average speeds are the slowest in the nation, and ridership continues to drop. New York City government can improve service by prioritizing buses on city streets. What policies do you support to make bus service faster and more reliable? Where would you like to see bus improvements in your district?

Michael Beltzer: TSP, Bus Lanes, Queue Jumping, All Door Boarding and better bus spacing. I would like to see countdown clocks, bus transfer stations and bays. I would like to upgrade the Bx 5, Bx 27 and Bx 39 to SBS and get a real BRT line on Bruckner Blvd.

Amanda Farias: I would promote using proof-of-payment and making fewer stops. Additionally I would repurpose lanes and make them dedicated bus lanes to ease the flow of traffic on buses. These measures have been proven to increase on-time performance of buses, and reduce travel times, which leads to more people using the bus. The solution might not be a popular one among car riders, but is necessary to increase the efficiency of buses, which would ultimately mean fewer people relying on their cars for transportation.

How would you make bicycling safer in your district? Do you support the expansion of protected bike lanes, even if street space has to be reallocated from traffic lanes or parking spaces?

Michael Beltzer: I will continue to advocate for more lanes to be placed in the district as I have while on the local Community Board with projects like the Castle Hill road diet. I will push for curbside lanes and to finish the Soundview Master Greenway Plan.

Amanda Farias: I support the expansion of protected bike lanes. They have shown to be a great solution to minimize traffic and incentivize ridership among cyclists. I would also provide free helmet programs and events in conjunction with DPR for residents within my community.

How can the City Council best use its powers to reduce traffic deaths and injuries and ensure all New Yorkers can safely walk and bike to get where they want to go?

Michael Beltzer: To strengthen the power of NYCDOT to act in the best interest of the most vulnerable road users, independent of Community Board approval.

Amanda Farias: I would add speed cameras, speed bumps, safer cross walks, expand the sidewalks, create slow zones, and expand Vision Zero.

Congestion pricing has been in the news as a potential way to reduce traffic jams and fund the transit system. One option is the Move NY plan, which would toll all East River crossings and a cordon across Manhattan at 60th street while reducing tolls on outlying MTA crossings. The revenue would fund the MTA capital program, accelerating transit improvements and reducing the need for future fare hikes. Do you support this plan?

Michael Beltzer: Yes as well as a Transit Development Tax and reevaluation PILOTs and other tax incentives.

Amanda Farias: The idea of congestion pricing is good at face value. The added revenue would go a long way to help fund the ailing MTA. If we do implement congestion pricing, and charge people for using their cars to get from point A to point B, we need to ensure we are also creating more viable options for public transportation. Much of the Bronx is a transportation desert, leaving constituents with no option but to use their cars to commute. Congestion pricing could potentially place a further burden on those who have to rely on their cars to get to work if we didn’t also offer them options that included more reliable public transportation. Additionally, if NYC is going to be paying congestion pricing, we need to ensure that our money is being invested back into the community in a way that is equitable to the investment the MTA places in Metro North and LIRR.

  • AnoNYC

    They both seem pretty progressive on transportation. Michael didn’t specifically mention protected lanes however which are important in the district (Lafayette, Soundview and even much of Castle Hill Ave are very good candidates), and Amanda did not specifically endorse MoveNY citing equity without taking the statistics into consideration (The 18th district has a large “rail rapid transit desert” but it also has a low rate of automotive registrations per household/the overwhelming vast majority of residents commuting into Manhattan south of the park take the subway or express bus).

  • Vooch

    I think Amanda wins by a slight margin, but both at least say the right words

  • Michael Beltzer

    AnoNYC, the questionnaire was sent during a very busy part of the campaign so my answers were not as robust as they should be.

    While on the local community board, I pushed for many safe street improvements, such as the castle hill ave road diet. In that project, I asked for protected bike lanes. I have been instrumental in securing expanded pedestian space/plaza, LPIs, curb extensions, traffic lights and speed bumps throughout the district.

    I do have a long record of supporting Vision Zero and look forward to continuing advocating for safer streets in our communities!

  • AnoNYC

    Thank you for the clarification Michael and I am looking forward to someone with your progressive views on transportation to continue working towards improving our city.

    Since you are reading this there are some transportation issues I would like to see addressed off the top of my head.

    -There is a serious bottleneck during peak hours at Bronx River Ave and Bruckner Blvd. The traffic here can really delay the westbound Bx5 and I have been thinking about a solution of some type for some time. If the Bx5 were ever converted to select bus service (considered by NYCDOT), we need to figure out a way to give the route priority over the private vehicles at this location especially. I suggest perhaps queue jumps and priority for the turn onto westbound Bruckner Blvd from northbound Bronx River Ave. Additionally, there is a redundant stop along the Southern Blvd stretch at Aldus St which seems unnecessary and only adds time (District 17 side but major area destination for residents along the Bx5 so collab necessary).

    -Queue jumps or bus lanes for the Bx36, Bx5, and Bx 39 on White Plains Rd between Lafayette Ave and Bruckner Blvd please. Perhaps even a queue jump just south of Westchester Ave on White Plains Rd too.

    -As a bicycle commuter, the Bruckner Blvd drawbridge has become a point of conflict with pedestrians, bicyclists and illegally parked vehicles along the sidewalk. Bruckner Muffler and Tire frequently parks vehicles in a way that hampers safe access alongside Bruckner Blvd. The drawbridge narrows in sections too along the pedestrian walkway. There are also gaps in the bridge wide enough to catch a bicycle tire and throw a bicyclist into traffic. This is in District 17 right over the border but affects anyone bike commuting or walking to and from the 6 train at Hunts Point Ave or any points west.

    -Lights in Soundview Park along the Lafayette Ave path at least for commuters and walkers.

    -Bicycle racks at the Parkchester 6 train station (also for Hunts Point is district 17 but another important destination that could use bike racks for residents of district 18).

    -Parkchester (complex) in general needs bike racks.

    -Road diet for Soundview Ave (very low traffic volumes), and the total elimination of the service roads on either side bordering Monroe Houses/Cablevision (Could probably build new mixed use housing on those parcels the street is so wide in that area).

    -Convert the buffer protected bicycle lane on Lafayette Ave to parking protected. The road is wide, traffic volumes are low, but speeds are fast. Perfect canidate

    Just a few concerns off the top of my head.

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