Nasty, Personal, Elitist and Not a Bronxite


PlaNYC identifies North Riverdale, a neighborhood represented by Bronx Assembly member Jeffrey Dinowitz, as one of 22 New York City neighborhoods with a higher than average concentration of Manhattan-bound drivers. (Download the transportation section, page 86)

Bronx Assembly member Jeffrey Dinowitz wasn’t happy with Streetsblog’s presentation of his Riverdale Press editorial against congestion pricing last week. Dinowitz sent a response to the New York Press. In it, he suggests that my comments about his editorial were "nasty and personal" and that some of the support for congestion pricing "is very elitist in nature." He notes repeatedly that I’m not "a Bronxite," suggests that I twisted his words, and makes a few points around the substance of the Mayor’s plan as well.

I’d like to give a call or write a letter to Dinowitz. State Assembly Democrats can’t be written off. They will have a vote over whatever congestion reduction plan emerges from the 17-member traffic mitigation commission. Aside from letting him know that my family has deep roots in the Bronx, how should I respond to Dinowitz? What would be the most productive approach here, do you think? Suggestions are welcome, especially if you’re a Bronxite or, like hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of non-Bronxites each week, you happen to drive through the Bronx on your way to somewhere else.

  • How exactly was you critique of his editorial personal other than the fact that you correctly attributed his statements to him and publicized them in a place they would not be well received by the other +94% of his constitutents?

  • Swab

    Can you explain the peculiar circumstance of a rebuttal to a Streetblog response to Riverdale Press opinion piece appearing in the NY Press ?

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Aaron, you’re not being nasty or personal to Dinowitz. Nasty would be making dinosaur jokes or something stupid like that. You criticized Dinowitz’s public statements. How is that nasty? Please.

  • Boogiedown

    As a resident of the Grand Concourse (and therefor a Bronxite) I would like to point out that on weekends, and in the evenings and mid-days of weekdays, the level of traffic flowing through my neighborhood is shockingly lowered.

    When congestion pricing goes into effect I look forward to fewer cars using my street as their route to and from Manhattan’s business districts. With fewer cars I anticipate there will be less air pollution, so Dinowitz’s assertion that congestion pricing’s air quality benefits would only benefit “children who live in Midtown” is dimwitted at best.

    His assertion that it takes an hour and a half to get to Manhattan by transit is true BECAUSE of auto traffic. Many of his constituents who take public transit take the express buses that are touted as making Riverdale accessable to midtown. With less traffic, what buses ply these routes will arrive more easily and quickly, increasing the propinquity factor of Riverdale, thereby having a positive affect on the value of his constituents homes.

    And if Dinowitz really believes that Manhattan-bound car commuters will use his district’s streets as their park-and-ride lot, resulting in an increase in traffic and pollution, I have a bridge to sell him. Everyone knows how difficult it is to park as it is. Vacant spots on the street are vacant momentarily, immediately after someone else has left the spot. Commuters will not plan to “park and ride” on our neighborhood streets knowing that they more than likely cannot easily find a spot.

    As a bike rider, I would point out that less traffic will make my ride to and from Manhattan safer.

    I am a Bronxite and I support Congestion Pricing.

  • I am a Bronxite and I attacked him in a blog post here from the angle that the best thing that can be done for West Bronx transit, i.e. the BxM 1 and 2 buses, is to remove the cars fromt he road so commuting to midtown doesn’t take an hour and 15 mintues. I know streetsblog has taken the same argument generally and there is no better instance where it is more relevant than in the West Bronx.

  • steve

    I re-read the Streetsblog post on the Dinowitz editorial and there are no personal attacks, or even personal observations about him, except that the commutes into Manhattan by car, which is highly relevant.

    The commentary to the post does get a bit more personal, but that is in the nature of the blog format. I think S’blog goes as far as it should in editing out harsh commentary directed at public officials, although it seems to have loosened up a bit in the last few months. If Dinowitz doesn’t like it, he should retire from public life.

    As for the substance of the NY Press response:

    “Well, we didn’t pass congestion pricing, but we will get the money, so the threat was simply a lie to force us to pass it.”
    -Disingenuous. If we don’t pass congestion pricing, we don’t get the money.
    “The writer’s response to my concern that New Jerseyites would pay only $2 to $4 for the congestion pricing tax while most Bronxites would pay $8 is that most Bronxites use mass transit. That’s no response. Bronxites who drive would pay more than those from New Jersey for the congestion pricing fee.”
    -Bronxites who use the Triborough and the HH bridges would receive a discount from the $8 also, would they not?
    “Oppressed minority” is overblown. Dinowitz’s auto-commuting constituents have higher incomes than his mass-transit commuting ones, no?
    “If traffic should increase on the Henry Hudson Parkway in the Bronx then our air would be dirtier. Yes, maybe air would be cleaner in midtown and no, cleaner air doesn’t stop at 86th Street, but if our traffic in Riverdale does increase that does mean dirtier air here.”
    -None of his theories of how congestion pricing will increase traffic in the Bronx hold water. Given the credit for the HH Bridge, it would probably route some traffic on local streets onto the Henry Hudson, resulting in less idling and less pollution in the Bronx.
    “Please don’t tell me that mass transit will improve if this passes. The MTA has totally omitted the western Bronx from their proposed list of bus improvements. [Perhaps my constituents who oppose congestion pricing] don’t have faith that the MTA will actually deliver on mass transit improvements.”
    -Dinowitz is in state government, it’s his job to ensure there is follow through. For him to stand there with his arms crossed saying we shouldn’t trust that the executive branch of state government (run by a member of his party) to keep its commitments to congestion pricing, is for him to dodge his own responsibility. Same thing goes for the shortcomings he perceives in the mass transit in the western Bronx–what has he been doing to try to change things while he’s been in office?

  • Dinowitz Constituent

    You should first acknowledge your misleading headline – Dinowitz represents one Assembly district, not the entire Bronx, so Dinowitz’s opposition to congestion pricing is not on behalf of “5.2% of his constituents”.

    Next, stick to constructive dialogue. Dinowitz claims he wants to see mass transit improvements and some kind of congestion management solution, just not perhaps Bloomberg’s plan, and not in a way that is rammed down the Legislature’s throat.

    So show Dinowitz the various possibilities for reducing congestion, such as putting a price on free parking, revoking municipal employee permits, traffic calming, etc, etc. If he’s seriously interested in solving these problems, perhaps he might start agreeing with some of the ideas or propose his own.

    Dinowitz is an intelligent guy, albeit a bit thin-skinned at times in public dialogs. It wouldn’t hurt to pick up the phone and call his office to say hello.

  • drose

    I think someone should point to him that Metro-North would likely increase their use of the Riverdale train stops (254th St, Spuyten Duyvil and Marble Hill) if congestion pricing revenues are added to the mix, because CP will enable tracks at Penn Station to be freed up that would lead those Hudson Line trains to go down the West Side line to Penn. Now that won’t take place until East Side Access for LIRR is completed (2013 at earliest I guess), but some type of government funding will be necessary for ESA to be finished. Either CP revenues or higher taxes on his constituents could lead to fairly quick commutes to both sides of midtown.

  • This line struck me:

    Since, according to Mr. Naparstek, only 5.2% of my constituents actually drive into Manhattan, it must mean that most people who take mass transit in the Bronx also oppose congestion pricing.

    That discrepancy should give Assembleyman Dinowitz pause.

    I suggest you propose a Bronx-focused symposium on congestion pricing, to be jointly sponsored by Streetsblog and Assembleyman Dinowitz’s office. Three people per “side.” Exchange points beforehand to limit later charges of blindsiding.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Agreed, Drose, but with one correction: Trains from Marble Hill and Spuyten Duyvil will not be able to go to Penn Station, because they’re after the junction. The Hudson Line trains to Penn Station will only stop at Riverdale.

    http://maps.google.com/maps?geocode=0,40.893123,-73.911457&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=48.15347,82.265625&ll=40.891456,-73.915586&spn=0.045224,0.10849&z=14&om=1

    (Yes, I know there used to be a wye allowing trains from Marble Hill and Spuyten Duyvil to go west and south to Penn Station, and that could be restored, but if we’re heading into that realm I want service on the Putnam Line restored, all the way up to Richard Brodsky’s house.)

  • Dinowitz Constituent:

    The 5.2% number is the estimate given for Dinowitz’s district based on Census and DMV data via Transportation Alternatives. Coincidentally, it matches the rate of car commuting for the Bronx as a whole. 5.2% is also the car-commuter rate given for Koppell’s City Council district which, I believe, matches Dinowitz’s pretty closely. Koppell, btw, told Gotham Gazette that he is “leaning for” pricing.

  • kma

    I am not very impressed with the data used from the PlaNYC. If the quote was from City Planning, that would be different.

    PlaNYC seems to be a way to increase the “built” environment in Manhattan, with little or no consideration to sustatinable issues for the city and the metropolitan area.

    To me, this is the kind of thinking that has us looking at vacant stores along once busy economic hubs (and the suburban counter parts, the strip mall) with a new box store across the street.

    But that is just me, maybe it is ok for others.

    In the end, it is sad that we can not get on with the issue of increasing mass transit to the outer boroughs and not just have everything go to Manhattan.

  • drose

    Angus,

    I was a little geographically confused in stating Marble Hill would have Penn Station privileges, but the Mta’s web-page on Metro-North access to Penn shows Spuyten Duyvil station as being before the split:

    http://www.mta.nyc.ny.us/mta/planning/psas/overview.htm#StudyDevelopment

    Really don’t know who is right here, as I’ve never been to the station before.

    Dave

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Interesting, Dave. If you look at the map (and satellite picture) I linked to, the Spuyten Duyvil station is about 500 feet east of the junction. They’d have to either move or expand it to allow Penn Station-bound trains to stop there, but maybe that’s under consideration.

  • At the moment, the CP project is still a pilot, right? So point that out. If people don’t like it after X number of years in pilot programming, they’ll have another chance to shout it down. (Though it might also be worth pointing out that didn’t happen in London or Stockholm.)

  • gecko

    About being elitist: The Bronx High School of Science has graduated more Nobel prize winners than any other in the world; something like six (6) and all in physics and Dinowitz’s dumbing down the discussion is unacceptable.

  • jmc

    As a Bronxite I support congestion pricing. Criticizing public statements on transit issues is hardly “personal” and is definitely not elitist.

  • Chris H

    kma,

    What specific data used by PlaNYC does not impress you and why? What do you mean by “built environment”? Do you mean density? Density add to sustainability. If not, what exactly do you mean?

    Also, if you want to have a dialog about what you see as a viable alternative to C.P., I am more than willing and I have tried to participate in one. If you want to have one, please continue on the other Dinowitz article.

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2007/09/06/on-behalf-of-52-of-his-constituents-dinowitz-opposes-pricing/

    Otherwise you seem disingenuous in your request.

  • Another Bronxite here who wholly supports congestion pricing because it will decrease the traffic congestion and pollution in the borough.

  • kma

    I already had my say on congestion pricing. I am more interested in the use of PlaNYC. Is it point to point travel into Manhattan? Where did the get the info? Or is it people just passing by.

    I am not an expert on transportation, but know that the info that PlaNYC uses on other topics is just not serious. Like putting a park within 10 minutes of everyone is nice, but not if you have to give up all the big parks for other favorite projects, like McCombs Dam Park and Van Cortlandt Park.

    So you know, the “built environment” is what the administration calls NYC. No trees, just buildings. There is so much concrete that they can not even imagine another way to do things. And that does not save one tree, no matter how many times they are told that the tree cleans the air, lowers the temperature, captures the rain to avoid flooding .. . etc.

    There is so much wrong with the PlaNYC, but this is not the place. Suffice to say, it is not a sustainable plan. If you look at it real good, you will see a buildable plan. Building houses, utilites, subways, tunnels, bridges, sewers . . . but not one tree.

    It seems that many have fallen into the trap of the glamour. At this rate, there will be no fear of who is going to ride on mass transit as it will have drowned in the rain that can not be pumped into the sewer for lack of room. For you see, it is not the MTA’s fault that the trains flooded, it is the city fault. They build the catch basins to collect 90% of the storms, but that is only 10% of the rain.

    The other blog is confusing, but I will go visit it.

  • gecko

    Implying that intelligence is elitist is a typical Bush tactic and look where it got us.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Does the Assemblymember admit Riverdale is part of the Bronx?

    Congestion pricing will benefit everyone in the area affected by reducing congestion. What outer borough politicians forget is how many of their constituents work there. They will benefit for that reason.

    I spent most of my career in the public sector in Lower Manhattan, and now work in the private sector in the heart of Midtown. The traffic congestion makes Midtown miserable to walk around in. My advice is if you are visting the city stay south of 25th Street, and avoid the vicinity of the Williamsburg Bridge, Holand Tunnel and Canal Street.

  • Gary

    After reading both of these threads top to bottom, I’ve come to the conclusion, which Chris H alludes to above, that KMA is disingenuous . . . at best.

    Same old tired excuses and willful ignorance.

    I would also like to win Dinowitz over to the side of congestion pricing as ONE of the tools we need to improve transit and reduce congestion in this city; and I will welcome his support if and when it comes.

    But let’s be honest: his NY press reply to Streetsblog was disingenuous and disgraceful rhetoric.

    Perhaps the good Assemblyman can pitch in by helping to restore some of the state funding for transit that was gutted under Pataki & Giuiani’s reign of error.

  • kma

    So, you are happy getting one million trees twenty years from now? I think you started with the wrong topic — you should have stayed with transportation.

    This city can not figure out how to plant the trees destroyed by using Macombs Dam Park for Yankee Stadium . . . or the trees they destroyed in Van Cortlandt Park for a filter plant.

    Even though the whole country, including Bush’s EPA have stated that “green infrastructure” is more advisable than other more traditional approaches. The city still says it has to model using green roofs in the urban setting. This is a joke! They have been using green roofs and trees to help protect the WAshington DC (talk about congestion), but NYC has to study it.

    Frankly, it is just a simple way to turn it down. Do you know why? Because they would rather build than create.

    And while congestion pricing is a way to clean the air, and help the rest of us get around easier, the choice not to use green infrastructure to abate the overflow of sewage into our waterbodies, can cause people to get sick. People swim and people fish in those waters, and sometimes when it rains hard, there is not enough room in the pipe for the sewage. The green roof can absorb some of that rain and allow the design of the treatment plant to work.

    Maybe this is not wotth it anymore.

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