Transit Activist Gary Reilly in the Hunt for City Council Seat

reillycrop.jpgGary Reilly, the Brooklynite whose petition drive for subway service improvements drew thousands of signatures last summer, is running to replace term-limited Bill de Blasio on the City Council. A Carroll Gardens resident and neighborhood blogger, Reilly has made transit the centerpiece of his campaign.

"For me, investment in transportation infrastructure is the key to the continued success and prosperity of our city," Reilly tells Streetsblog. "Within my own corner of Brooklyn, I envision robust F/V and G service along the Culver Line, with express and local service. I see a Smith/Ninth Street Station that is ADA compliant. And I see better bus service, particularly along a re-imagined B61 line, perhaps split into two routes to better insure against disruptions."

Reilly, a 33-year-old attorney, says he would work for a "sustainable funding regime" for citywide transit and livable streets infrastructure and initiatives, including curbside parking reform and "some form of congestion pricing." If elected, he says, "there will be at least one loud and clear voice for transit, for pedestrians and for cyclists on the Council."

As noted in today’s New York Times, the 2009 campaign season is well underway, and Reilly has a crowded field to contend with in District 39. CB6 District Manager Craig Hammerman, Pratt Center for Community Development Director Brad Lander, Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats President Josh Skaller, and Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation Executive Director Bob Zuckerman are also vying for the seat. (The Brooklyn Paper has short profiles of all five.) All of the candidates are Democrats. All except Reilly live in Park Slope.

Photo: Tom Callan/The Brooklyn Paper

  • First, a disclaimer: I’m sorry. I am. I absolutely despise the word “duh,” but I don’t know of any other that fits as well:

    One reason I’d consider supporting Reilly is one “duh factor” item. His petition demanding that unused express subway tracks GET FRIGGIN’ USED!

    That’s the kind of thing that deservingly SHAMES THE HELL out of incumbents: when a solution is right there in front of everyone, and no one does a thing about it.

    We need lots more people in government who not only see potential solutions, but actually organize to get them realized.

  • I am biased of course, but great post.

    One of the things we as transit advocates should be working on this summer is lobbying the Ravitch commission members to ensure that we get the best possible plan this winter. There’s no reason that the best aspects of the congestion pricing plan can’t be resurrected and improved upon with other funding sources.

    We also need to be on top of our congressional representatives on high speed rail funding. If nothing else, high gas prices are giving us a window of opportunity to make some real structural changes in the way we prioritize rail transportation.

    We’ll have our new website up within the next two weeks. Anyone interested in helping out with the campaign in the meantime please email friendsofgaryreilly AT


  • This is encouraging, but much as we need more transit-savvy voices on the city council, we need them even more in the state legislature.

  • sonny

    May I also suggest that we quickly get ALL of our buses to be the clean hybrid-electric sort, not just a select few. As someone who has to deal with cranky old loud buses ripping up & down my street constantly, I wonder why some neighbrohoods enjoy the quiet clean hybrids and others have been ignored.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Within my own corner of Brooklyn, I envision robust F/V and G service along the Culver Line, with express and local service. I see a Smith/Ninth Street Station that is ADA compliant. And I see better bus service, particularly along a re-imagined B61 line, perhaps split into two routes to better insure against disruptions. Reilly, a 33-year-old attorney…”

    Were he an accountant familiar with the MTA’s books, he would probably wouldn’t see any of these things. And if that’s his issue, he’d be better off running against our blind state legislators, despite the absence of an open seat.

    At least he is in favor of somethings that raise money.

    As for the F/V, the mostly likely Culver scenario is something like the B/D on the Concourse line, with peak direction express service. The current pattern is a base of 8 tph on the F with a peak of 15. The 10 Vs turn at Second Ave. I don’t see them going to 25 trains per hour on that line given possible demand.

    But by keeping the 8 tph for the F in the peak direction and having 10 Vs originate from the yard, they could go with 18 tph with express and local service. Perhaps 20, with two more Fs. (The 15 tph F to or from Queens would come the other way). The V would relay at Second Avenue in the mid-days the way the B does at 145th Street.

  • Community Guy

    Reilly has no relevant working experience as far as I can tell.

    Brad Lander is far and away the best candidate with the most substantive record and most thoughtful platform on Streetsblog-type issues.

    Under Lander’s leadership, the Pratt Center has been one of the only non-governmental institutions in the entire city (aside from the advocacy groups) doing anything on Bus Rapid Transit:

    Brad and Pratt Center also did some of the smartest and most impressive political organizing during the poorly run congestion pricing campaign. It was COMMUTE that went out and generated political support in outer borough black and latino communities. In the end it was too little too late but it was very important political work that no one else was doing. That was all Brad and Joan Byron.

    I also think that Brad’s community development and affordable housing experience is exactly what’s needed in this part of Brooklyn right now to help figure out how to start leveraging some real public benefits from all the private development that’s reshaping Brooklyn. Brad’s just got way more going for him than any of the other candidates.

    Craig Hammerman, meanwhile, is the absolute worst of these candidates on Streetsbloggish issues. As a Community Board district manager he has spent much of his career looking out for the interests of car owners above everyone else. I nearly barfed when I saw him on NY1 last night boasting about how the suspension of parking regs and the total disappearance of street cleaning is a benefit for everyone in his community board.

    Gee, thanks, Craig. But how is it a benefit for the majority of people in your CB who don’t own cars? Just wondering. As one man-on-the-street aptly put it:

    “I think it’s awfully nice for people who own cars, but I think it’s likely it will get a little smelly,” said one area resident.

  • Forgive my ignorance, but where are these unused express tracks we’re talking about?

  • Josh, I haven’t kept up with the issue so I don’t know how current it is, but this is what *I* was referring to:

  • mfs

    Glad Reilley is bringing attention to the issues- don’t know much about him or his involvement with the community, but I’m interested in learning more.

    Ditto on Community Guy’s comments. I think Brad Lander would be a great council person with a fantastic perspective on how development and transit can work together to make a more livable city. That’s why I’m volunteering for his campaign.

  • Curatore

    I’ve heard Craig Hammerman talk about the street cleaning issue for the district before at the Community Board meetings. What NY1 news of course didn’t explain is that there are still places where the sanitation brooms sweep twice a week – like where I live around Columbia Street – Hammerman got the City to reduce that to once a week under the new plan. The streets will get cleaned and we get to eliminate the unnecessary movement of vehicles. Getting rid of those car movements will enhance pedestrian safety and sure beats choking on extra fumes. The streets may “get smelly” while the rules are suspended as they change the signs, but the streets will be just as clean swept once a week than they are now. And instead of losing the sweeping services, they’ll be sweeping the commercial areas more, and doing the industrial areas at night.

    Do your research – I think Craig’s done more for our district than all the other candidates combined. He’s got the most impressive record of the bunch, and he’s very approachable. I’ve called him at the Community Board lots of times and he’s always willing and able to help out. I don’t know anything about any of the others. Sounds like they might have some good ideas. But Craig does too plus he knows a lot about our district, and he’s able to get things done. What good’s an idea if you don’t know how to enact it?

  • May I also suggest that we quickly get ALL of our buses to be the clean hybrid-electric sort, not just a select few. As someone who has to deal with cranky old loud buses ripping up & down my street constantly, I wonder why some neighbrohoods enjoy the quiet clean hybrids and others have been ignored.

  • Guest

    Reilly’s transit goals are laudable but being a Council rep is much more than transit issues. And really as we saw from the CP debacle, the Council has limited power to change MTA. He should run for legislature against Millman. He’d get my money.

    I like Lander too but Im not convinced that he can hang with the politics, its a rough and tumble business.

    This district should be able to come up with someone who has the right issues and the experience to make them happen. de Blasio should have been good, he’s a smart guy but blew it on CP and was too focused on his next office.

  • Guest

    Josh, there are unused F express tracks from when that train ran.

  • Guest

    Any chance that we can get Michael Burke from the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership to run for this seat? I think he lives in Park Slope.

    DBP has a pretty progressive transportation agenda and he used to be chief of staff at Borough Hall. Plus that guy has his own show on BCAT.

  • Felix

    The funny thing about Hammerman’s obsession with fighting for the interests of motorists is that last I knew (when he ran 8 years ago), he had never owned a car in his life.

    Still, I’d take him over Jeffries or Millman in a second. Why are all the good people running for City Council? I guess it’s a result of term limits and matching funds.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    This is an important race and all things being equal some quality candidates. That said, there is a lot left unsaid.

    “His petition demanding that unused express subway tracks GET FRIGGIN’ USED!” – There is a lot of unused capacity around NYC, in many neighborhoods the same NIMBY forces that oppose everything else oppose expanding transit along unused capacity, especially in Queens, where they cry loudest about MTA “underservice”. Still though, the Culver Line is way down the list of capacity utilization on the MTA Subway lines. Lower third of capacity utilization, it may seem crowded to you but compared to the real heavily traveled corridors it is a smooth ride. I sat yesterday at morning rush from Jay Street on in, had to stand a couple stops, big deal. Nothing to storm the winter palace about.

    “the best possible plan this winter.”
    Good plans are a dime a dozen. “It takes more than a good idea to make a great public improvement. The fact is that such things happen when there are leaders available, ready and eager to take advantage of the logic of events. Even then the whole result is accomplished only by a series of limited objectives, over a surprisingly long period of years.” – Robert Moses

    “We also need to be on top of our congressional representatives on high speed rail funding.”
    Hooray, but before that wonderful day why don’t we get them to fuel the buses in the outlying points.

    “I like Lander too but Im not convinced that he can hang with the politics, its a rough and tumble business.”
    I don’t particularly like Lander but he can hang with the worst of the politics. He has had to hold his nose through lots of issues over the years and has earned his bones.

    “Why are all the good people running for City Council? I guess it’s a result of term limits and matching funds.”
    Ya think? Great idea, impose term limits on everyone at all levels of government so that they will have to constantly run for office and pander to the inside players constantly, so that their seats are never secure. That will be a big help.

    Lander and Reilly both favor downzoning, though Lander does so reluctantly. Downzoning is like sucking money out of transit. Anyone who favors downzoning and wants more resources put into transit really has some splaining to do. Lander however, has made it clear that he knows what good policy would dictate but is compelled by political reality to support the downzoning jihad sweeping NYC local politics. Reilly, on the other hand, apparently actually believes that it is good policy and can with a straight face advocate both for increased express service (infrastructure and operating investment) and downzoning (that will make such service less efficient and more expensive to operate).

    Between the two, Lander gets my vote.

  • Lars

    Weakest on the transportation issues for sure will be Hammerman. I find that so ironic.

  • Curatore

    You’re right. Yes, I’ve heard Hammerman say that he’s never owned a car. I think he bikes and rides the bus. He should know best what the transit needs are from a user’s point of view. But all they seem to talk about at those Community Board meetings is parking, parking, parking. I guess he’s just trying to be responsive to that constituency. I own a car, don’t use it much, and know that parking in brownstone Brooklyn is a very real issue that people talk about a lot. I know he supports congestion pricing, and believe he was the one pushing for residential parking permits too.

    I’ve also heard him talk about using the waterfront more for transit, taking more truck trips off the highways and streets in favor of barge and rail options, and know that he was responsible for helping us save our port here on Columbia Street.

    I’ve also heard him talk about congestion pricing as a necessary component to a regional traffic plan that would also include having the Verazzano Toll restored to a two-way toll and Nadler’s freight tunnel idea.

    Frankly, I don’t recall seeing any of the others take part in any of those discussions. Where have they been? Was Reilly even born when Hammerman was working on these things?? Hammerman’s got experience, he’s a smart guy, he knows how to get things done, and I trust him. He’s getting my support.

  • Carol Gardener

    Based on his Community Board district manager experience Craig would probably be capable of running a decent constituent services shop. But beyond that his CB experience is essentially a negative. CB’s are generally not places where one finds innovation and creativity in NYC govt. CB6 is no exception. Hammerman tends to be very inside-the-box, reactive, afraid to take a stand and offend, and limited in his idea of what can and can’t be done in New York City government. Call it Community Boarditis. He’s got a bad case of it.

    If you’re a brownstone owner with a car looking for a City Council member who can help you figure out how to fight an unfair parking ticket, Craig’s probably your guy. If you’re a trans-alt advocate looking for a City Council member who can push government in innovative new directions and be somewhat of an activist, you need to look at Lander or Skaller. I think Lander comes away looking the best, without question.

    Reilly is a non-starter in this race and really needs to do much more work in the community and get some things done if he wants to run for office. This year he should be running against Joan Millman, absolutely pounding her for allowing the MTA to cut the Smith/9th Street elevator project. If Joan had supported congestion pricing she could have had made a deal and created some leverage to potentially keep that project intact. But Joan is never out front on anything. Reilly could have really made a name for himself by taking her on. Either way it’s a losing battle for him this round. But running against Millman he’d at least be doing a real public service.

  • Curatore

    Carol – that’s an astute summary of the Community Boards, and one I won’t argue. But have you talked to Craig, the candidate for City Council, not the District Manager for the Community Board? The guy’s got some great ideas for transit, he’s got passion and commitment, and he’s got experience unmatched by anyone. Even working within the system, Craig has pushed the City to do more and look at things differently.

    I’m not interested in radical thinkers who can’t get anything done because they don’t know how the system works. Call me a practical guy. Because of term limits these officials don’t have any time to waste in office. As soon as they get elected they’re going to be learning about their jobs while they’re working on their next career move. I don’t think Hammerman has much learning to do about the job – he can probably teach a class in New York City government.

    In the end, none of these candidates would likely view things or act too differently from one another. It’s a bunch of liberals after all. Put the guy with the most experience in charge, and you’ll get the most done. For effectiveness alone, I’m with Hammerman.


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