Jeffries Declines to Field Questions at G Train Rally

The Observer reports from last night’s G Train rally, organized by Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries:

Almost 100 G riders kicked off a month-long campaign to increase
service on the "forgotten stepchild" of the New York subway system, as
Mr. Jeffries and others have called it.

"It’s important to increase the intensity of the public campaign,"
Mr. Jeffries said, "to stress to the M.T.A. that G train service
enhancements are absolutely necessary."

The story does not mention the disconnect between Jeffries’ words and his deeds, perhaps in part because the Assemblyman felt it necessary to tightly orchestrate the proceedings. Streetsblog reader Maxwell Ciardullo tells us that, when he approached Jeffries’ chief of staff prior to the event, she asked him not to bring up congestion pricing. Ciardullo popped a question at the end of Jeffries’ speech anyway, but the Assemblyman quickly ushered him aside. More from his account after the jump.

So after everyone spoke and Hakeem came back up to the mike he gave a few action steps and moved to close things up. At that point, I stood up and asked him if he would take a question from a constituent. He started waving me over to the side of the room, but I asked anyway hoping the entire crowd would hear it. Essentially I said: As a constituent, you seemed largely antagonistic to CP, which would have been the largest boost to the MTA budget and capacity in years, so how do you expect them to take you seriously after you cut their budget?

And by that time he was at my side shaking my hand. He never did answer the question about what he actually expected from the MTA, but instead wanted to debate CP with me. He cited the lack of an environmental impact statement as a sticking point for him and pawned off some of the blame on the poor relationship between Silver and Bloomberg.

He also tried to call me irresponsible for shouting my question over the applause. I countered that it was irresponsible for an elected official not to take questions from his constituents.

When I pressed him on his public statements about CP he said that he sometimes has to present one way in public and work another way in private. He also portrayed himself as a driving force behind the residential parking permit program.

I kept emphasizing that as a constituent he certainly appeared to be nothing but critical of the plan from the start and that it came across every time I saw him in the papers as well as in communication with his staff. I actually emailed and called his office numerous times this spring and only got a response after emailing with State Sen. Eric Adams and asking him to nudge Hakeem to get back to me. Hakeem didn’t really have an explanation for that one, but at that point he told me I should make an appointment with his office and come in and talk so we could continue the conversation.

  • Larry Littlefield

    If the transportation system is allowed to go into a downward spiral, there will be lots more symbolic events and small grants by legislators. That’s what memeber items are for.

    I think it’s great if people will be in their face about the big picture things they have done and haven’t done.

    To be fair, Jeffries is a newcomer and is not responsible for most of what the legislature has done to sell out the future. It is the perpetual incumbents who are the real problem. Still, good to wake Jeffries up before he sinks into the much himself.

  • Mark Walker

    Jeffries is in the muck already. He’s already decided ingratiating himself with the big guns in the state legislature matters more than serving his constituents. His loud and public stand against CP proves that. In his defense, at least he did take a public stand on the issue. And I think his sudden interest in the G train indicates that he knows he made some enemies and therefore needs to make some friends.

    I know most Streetsbloggers don’t want to have public confrontations with anti-CP legislators. But may I make a suggestion? Show up in large numbers, wearing Streetsblog T-shirts, fold your arms, and look them in the eye. Pointedly refrain from applauding. Just stare, like the specter at the feast. You can’t get arrested for that.

    This is now my standard procedure whenever I see a motorist do something flagrantly stupid. I stop, stand, fold my arms, and give them a prolonged blank-faced stare. If they notice me, it has an effect. I can tell from the look on their faces. Since drivers make illegal U-turns, back into one-way streets, and make a lot of other bonehead moves in my neighborhood, I get to practice this technique at least once or twice a week.

  • Felix

    Gee, who would have thought he’d be scared and vulnerable on this issue? Good thing for him the rest of the transit advocates were too polite to bring it up.

  • gecko

    Then in private, he should be starting to call for another Congestion Pricing vote!

    Re: “When I pressed him on his public statements about CP he said that he sometimes has to present one way in public and work another way in private.”

    Same with Joan Millman and the others who said they support it.

  • Komanoff

    Kudos to Maxwell Ciardullo for his civil, appropriate and well-executed confrontation with Jeffries yesterday. And kudos too to S’blog for helping provide the info and context for Matthew’s moment. Holding electeds accountable, and effective advocacy in general, require a broad range of actions. This is one of them.


Hakeem Jeffries Responds to Congestion Pricing Critics

From today’s Crain’s Insider: Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who is holding a rally this evening for better G train service, is drawing fire from transit advocates because of his opposition to congestion pricing. Streetsblog commenters plan to confront him at the rally. "Simply because one did not support the mayor’s version of congestion pricing does not […]

Will the Real Transit Advocates Please Stand Up?

This Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., Hakeem Jeffries, staunch opponent of congestion pricing, will stand on the steps of the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene and call for increased service on the G train. As Streetsblog noted last week, this move reeks of cynical pandering from someone who had ample opportunity to stand up […]

Pricing Round-Up: Dems Conference in Albany

Assembly Democrats met behind closed doors last night to gauge their collective sentiment on congestion pricing. According to the Post, only seven of the 36 legislators who spoke during the meeting expressed support, but the one who matters most, Shelly Silver, remains uncommitted:  Silver, who has not voiced a public position on the issue, said […]

The 2008 Streetsie Awards, Part 2

Biggest Setback: After being approved by an unprecedented civic coalition, the mayor and New York City Council, congestion pricing — the one policy measure that simultaneously reduces traffic congestion while raising money for mass transit and livable streets — died in an Albany backroom without even a vote. Lobbyists of the Year: Walter McCaffrey and […]