Streetfilms: “We’re New York, We Can Lead”

Traffic Information & Relief Bill Press Conference 
Running time: 4 minutes 3 seconds

Transportation Alternatives held press conference on the steps of City Hall yesterday in support of Intro 199, a bill introduced in the City Council by Councilmember Gale Brewer that calls for better information-gathering about the city’s traffic and aims to "reduce the proportion of driving to the central business districts and increase the proportion of walking, biking and the use of mass transit."

Mary Beth Kelly, widow of Dr. Carl Henry Nacht, who was killed by a truck when he was riding his bike on the West Side bike path, spoke strongly about the need for traffic policy that will address the intimidation of pedestrians and bicyclists by vehicles on the city’s streets. She called for a goal of zero fatalities of cyclists struck by vehicles, the same goal that has been embraced by the city of Stockholm, Sweden. "Why should Stockholm lead?" asked Kelly. "We’re New York, we can lead."

Meanwhile, after the council hearing on the legislation was over, Department of Transportation commissioner Iris Weinshall, who spoke against it as unnecessary, noted that DOT figures show a decrease in the number of vehicles entering Manhattan, from 978,487 in 2000 to 943,381 in 2005, and suggested that increased traffic chaos existed merely in the public imagination. "You have SUVs, you got these minivans. I think the cars are getting bigger and there is a perception there is more traffic," Weinshall was quoted as saying in Newsday. "We think it is still manageable."

But how can you manage what you don’t know? Good management requires good data. As Bruce Schaller points out in his new study, Traffic Information in NYC (PDF) there is still a lot we don’t know about how New York City’s streets are being used, particularly when it comes to pedestrians, buses, bikes and other non-motorized activities.

  • Credibility Gap

    How very ironic that Commissioner Weinshall, in a bravura head in the sand performance, opposing Intro 199 made the case for it.

    In response to valid City Council concerns about traffic clogged streets she cited declining traffic in Manhattan’s Central Business District as evidence that the city does not have a traffic problem. But it is utterly obvious to most New Yorkers that first: Manhattan south of 60th street is only a very small part of the city. Second: there is a significant and growing traffic problem in large parts of every borough. Third: Citing statistics about Midtown does not answer questions about Queens.

    The fact that the DOT does not have data to speak to public concerns about traffic in Queens (seen Queens Boulevard lately?) or Brooklyn (Flatbush look OK to you?)should be alarming to a City Hall purportedly concerned about creating a “sustainable” future or a livable now.

  • AND, if the Commissioner’s stats are true then if the city was already doing better data collection then they might be able to identify WHY fewer cars are entering the CBD: Are more people on transit? Bicycling? Carpooling? Is the strange mysterious smell from NJ keeping drivers from going to NYC? (Okay that one is a joke)

    The $$$ issue I understand (City Hall needs to fund DOT more) but give me a break “public imagination”? If she walked around the streets more often she’d realize that walking thru cars sitting in your crosswalk is not an imagination.

  • anon

    Who’s having the Iris pinata party?

    How can the city’s talk about sustainability be taken even slightly seriously when it keeps putting Iris out there with these know-nothing/do-nothing messages?

  • JK

    Can Streetsblog post Weinshall’s testimony? Did she really only talk about CBD traffic stats at a hearing dedicated to the need for traffic info beyond the CBD? Is she being quoted out of context?

    This is not consistent with the new,improved, renaissance era DOT that the advocates and these pages have been writing about.

  • Breaking news – late on a Friday as per usual for the NYPD.

    The new police parade rules are now published:

    50 is the new number that now triggers a permit.

  • ddartley

    I was always skeptical about Streetsblog’s optimistic (and friendly) use of the phrase “Iris Weinshall Renaissance.” The thought that 999,000 cars instead of a million means there’s no problem is 20th Century thinking. I don’t think she deserves the bashing she sometimes takes in comments here, but she’s clearly not a visionary. Wouldn’t it be exciting if the DOT boss was?

  • nobody in particular

    I think the limited “vision” that DOT recently has acquired has come from above DOT. I don’t believe Iris has any inherent vision, judging from her knee-jerk resistance to anything remotely visionary.

  • JK

    The mayor’s legislative office reviews all proposed legislation and upcoming hearings with Dep mayor for gov relations Kevin Sheekey, and in this case probably with Doctoroff since he has DOT in his portfolio. So, it’s assumed that DOT’s position has been vetted by a number of people close to the mayor before going public. If the administration has a better idea than 199, they might be more comfortable separating data collection from policy goals for instance, they had a chance to say that to council. Did they? Nobody’s posted what DOT said beyond the “There’s no traffic problem in the CBD” comment.

  • SenorSwanky

    what, the incredible new greenstreet at 1st ave & 20th st (highlighted in her speech at boro president stringer’s conference way back when) isn’t visionary enough for you? how cynical of you to imply that all of that progressive talk was only to mollify her and her deputy commissioners’ bosses! you must be a bleeding heart, stinky cheese eating eurotrash, the type that vandalizes our subway system.

  • gecko

    There should be a towards zero death initiative right now. We do not need a slow motion response to an emergency situation. The remedies should be clearly spelled out and the city government be held immediately responsible. As a city and a nation the fact that we can’t respond to this emergency, or the genocide in Darfur, or the severe privation and hardship that a third of the people on this planet live in is a clear indication we are unable to act when the situation calls for it though we have the complete means to do so. This goes way beyond being immoral. It is extremely dangerous and just plain stoooopid.

  • someguy

    fact check: pedestrian deaths in NYC have been steadily, and significantly, declining for the past few decades. someone is doing something right, so let’s give some credit where it’s due.

  • Maria

    Indeed, Transportation Alternatives and Queens and Bronx neighborhood groups did incredible work in getting NYC DOT to finally reduce vehicular Level of Service in favor of traffic calming measures on Avenues of Death like Queens Blvd and the Grand Concourse. DOT never would have done these changes, which Iris now touts all over the place, if T.A. hadn’t hammered and hammered and hammered.

    Streetsblog should go and try to dig up local paper headlines from the Queens Blvd. fight so that people can remember better how utterly resistent Weinshall and Primeggia were to the ped safety measures that she now brags about.


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