Bloomberg-Fatigue May Dampen PlaNYC Support in the Bronx

We’ve heard plenty of congestion pricing complaints (and some kudos, too) from the Bronx, but what about the rest of PlaNYC? City Limits reports on a recent community summit where Bronxites said they are unhappy with how the Bloomberg administration composed its legislative centerpiece, among them some who might ordinarily support pricing but are put off by what they see as PlaNYC’s top-down execution.

While many supported congestion pricing in
principle, the assembled group – including community board members,
clean water advocates, local elected officials and members of the Bronx
Council for Environmental Quality and of Sustainable South Bronx –
questioned its financial projections and implementation.

More fundamentally, the forum revealed
skepticism about the overall PlaNYC initiative and frustration with
what some called the Bloomberg administration’s heavy-handed approach.
Speakers voiced concern that PlaNYC was formulated and will be
implemented without sufficient input from grassroots urban
environmentalists who know what works. Others said the current
sustainability goals are too modest and that PlaNYC is more public
relations than policy.

"You don’t have to skim the surface much to
see some real collaboration and change happening in New York and other
cities. That’s why this is really frustrating, because it feels like
the door has been closed and they aren’t interested in new ideas," said
Miquela Craytor, deputy director of Sustainable South Bronx, an urban
environmental justice group that unsuccessfully pushed the architects
of PlaNYC to include the creation of "green-collar" jobs – those within
or promoting environmentally sustainable industry – as a central tenet
of the initiative.

"They are saying, ‘we just want to get this
plan done and then we’ll think about other ideas.’ Well, then you just
want to tell me what you are doing. You are really not interested in
what I say," Craytor added.

In addition to the oft-repeated concerns about motorists using the borough as a park-and-ride hub, there is also doubt, founded on precedent, that transit dollars will reach low-income Bronx neighborhoods.

Craytor and Dart Westphal, a former president
of the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality, said the city needs to
make subway and bus improvements before the plan is implemented, not
afterward.

Westphal said he found it hard to trust that the
revenues from congestion pricing would be equitably directed towards
transit improvements throughout the city.

"I’m really concerned,"
he said, recounting promises made by City Hall when the Third Avenue
Elevated train was dismantled during the Lindsay administration that it
would be replaced with an extension of the semi-mythical Second Avenue
line. Buses that troll the route of the old El were supposed to be a
temporary fix, Westphal said. "I’m really concerned all this congestion
pricing money will go to the Number 7 train extension and the JFK
express link in Lower Manhattan and building the west side, and we’ll
still be stuck waiting for the bus."

  • Resom

    Complaining about the process is generally cover for something else, which is what your headline hints at anyway. PlaNYC is pretty broad and if you can’t find a way to use its goals to promote your community or advocacy
    aspirations then you aren’t really trying.

    Journalists who let civic leaders say off-handedly that “transit should come before congestion pricing” without challenging the premise are lazy or not thinking clearly about their topic. The mayor’s plan will roll out a lot of bus service before beginning pricing, and waiting for new rail service would obviously throw congestion pricing many years and mayoral administrations into the future. Why not ask Dart Westphal if he’s willing to roll the dice on progressive transportation policy coming out of a Mayor Quinn or Weiner?

  • Davis

    Boy, New York City’s outer borough civic organizations are absolutely off their rockers these days. I think they’ve seen too many buildings and empty lots turn into lux condos during the Bloomberg years and they’ve simply decided: We are not going to allow this administration to do anything else in our neighborhoods, period, even if it’s pretty good policy, overall.

    As for Majora Carter at Sustainable South Bronx — she may be a “genius” and all, but I really think that she has made a decision to just shoot herself in the foot. She reminds me of Arafat or any one of these old revolutionaries unable to make the transition from insurgency to governance.

  • Bronx is Burning

    How DARE you lecture people like Dart Westphal or Majora Carter on governance! Do you have any idea how many trojan horse projects this administration has brought to the Bronx under the guise of improving parks, greenways, environmental conservation?? Yankee Stadium and the Filtration Plant? Give me a f-ing break. They have earned their right to say Show Us the Money.
    The Bronx owes far more to those two than to Bloomberg.

  • The borough may be different, but the complaint is the same: “There have been too many promises broken and lies told in the past–why should we believe you now? If you want our support for Congestion Pricing, we want to see tangible improvements first.”

    On Staten Island as in the Bronx, that’s the position of most elected officials and it’s not hard to understand. Many of the projects Staten Islanders are begging for have been discussed and proposed and studied for decades, as building permits flowed like water, with little consideration, beyond express bus service, of the increased demand that comes with growing population.

    Making approvals conditional on tangible improvements may seem like blackmail to some, but to some others, at least on Staten Island, it seems more like playing the only decent card you’ve been dealt.

  • I didn’t mean to suggest, in my post of a moment ago, that ‘tangible improvements first’ was the position of most Bronx politicians, only most on Staten Island. Sorry for the mis-statement.

  • gecko

    The mayor should be reminded that human capital is the cornerstone of PlaNYC and should be cultivated to the extreme to accelerate truly disruptive positive change and jettison PlaNYC far beyond original goals.

    Calling in the Penalosas for ideas might be one path.

  • I’ve posted a long response to this dialogue at the West Bronx Blog
    http://westbronxnews.blogspot.com/2007/11/bronx-view-of-congestion-pricing.html

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    As a onetime South Bronx resident and the descendant of a family that white-flighted out of the Bronx, I think you’ve got the right tactic, Dart. As I read your proposal, you don’t want to make congestion pricing contingent on the completion of the projects you mention, just on their planning, right?

    The least the city could do is to put the Second Avenue Subway’s Bronx component back on the drawing board. Even better would be to bump it up ahead of the Lower Manhattan-JFK link and the downtown segments of the SAS. It’d be nice if certain Bronx politicians had the kind of vision you do, and put the concerns of transit riders living near Third Avenue ahead of the concerns of the tiny minority of South Bronx motorists.

  • Hilary

    To Dart Westphal’s post on the West Bronx blog, I would add the city’s refusal to allow the Scenic Byway designation to go forward, which would bring new money for greenways and mitigation of the impact of CP’s “free by-pass.” Not only are there megabillions in projects for Manhattan standing in line before the Bronx gets any money for things that were promised many mitigations ago, it is denied the opportunity to take advantage of funding that competes with nothing else.

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