DOT Revs Up its “Alternative Modes” Department

ManhattanBridgeBike_1.jpg
A rendering of the Sands Street bike path on the Brooklyn side of the Manhattan Bridge

Here is yet another sign that change is afoot at New York City’s Department of Transportation:

Insiders are reporting that Ryan Russo has been promoted from the Brooklyn Borough Commissioner’s office to take over as the new Director of Alternative Modes. That might not be the correct title and we do not yet know the exact job description but it looks like Russo will be running many of DOT’s pedestrian and bike projects and taking over the languishing Safe Routes to Schools program.

Russo is in his early 30’s, lives in Brooklyn, often shows up to community meetings on a customized orange bike, and has a background in urban planning. In his two-and-a-half years as the Downtown Brooklyn Transportation Coordinator Russo has racked up a quantity of impressive accomplishments (PDF file) for pedestrians, cyclists and more livable streets. 

Among these accomplishments, Russo oversaw significant expansions and improvements of Downtown Brooklyn’s bike network (PDF file). This includes the design and development of unprecedented, new, two-way, physically-separated bike lanes on Tillary and Sands Streets to help make the dangerous approaches to the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges safer. He faciliated the creation of the Willoughby Street pedestrian plaza. He moved a major, traffic-calming redesign of Vanderbilt Avenue from a back-of-the-envelope sketch to paint-on-asphalt in a matter of months. And, god bless him, he stopped the honking on Clinton Street by "feathering" the traffic signals.

Russo leaves his current post open to one significant criticism. He was hired at the end of the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project specifically to develop a Downtown Brooklyn Transportation Blueprint. As the DOT’s web site says, the Blueprint was supposed to be "a year-long study." It has been 20 months since the first public meeting and Downtown Brooklyn still has no Blueprint.

That being said, if we had to choose between a "Blueprint" and the numerous tangible improvements that Russo has helped create over the last few years, we’ll take facts-on-the-ground ahead of a document any day.

In his new job, Russo’s immediate superior is Gerard Soffian. Soffian reports directly to Deputy Commissioner Michael Primeggia.

We are hoping that as his first official act in the new office, Ryan will declare that walking is no longer to be called an "alternative" mode of transportation.

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