District 1 Council Candidates: Safer Streets? Less Traffic? No Thanks.

Reader Ian Dutton sends this dispatch from last night’s candidate debate for the District 1 City Council seat representing Lower Manhattan, organized by the Downtown Express and the Villager. If you’re a District 1 resident who values safer streets and a well-funded transit system, tough luck.

Last night at the Council District 1 candidates debate, in the "lightning round" (one-line answers), a question was "Grand St. bike lane: good or bad."

All the candidates came out strongly against it to the cheers of some in the crowd. Only PJ Kim, the last to comment, tempered his statement with, "but we must not demonize bikers." They all either flatly opposed congestion pricing or want carve-outs for residents (pandering, hmmm?) and opposed East River tolls.

On the congestion pricing question (about 1:31:00 into this audio file posted on the Lo-Down), Pete Gleason and Alan Gerson were the two to outright oppose the idea — although the incumbent Gerson voted for pricing last year. Margaret Chin, the only candidate to express any support for bridge tolls (check the 1:32:00 mark), qualified her answer by saying that car-poolers should be exempt.

Any exemption for congestion pricing or bridge tolls, of course, opens the door to more exemptions. The first people who will take advantage? Exactly the same placard-holders whom District 1 candidates rightly blame for clogging downtown streets.

We’re talking about a district that is absolutely pummeled by bridge traffic, where about 80 percent of the households don’t own a car. Those who do own one earn nearly two-and-a half times those who don’t, on average [PDF]. There was a great opportunity here for a savvy candidate to
separate from the pack on livable streets issues. And yet, no one chose to
grab it.

  • J. Mork

    Re: car-poolers exempt.

    The discount for car-poolers is built in. The more people in the car, the less any charge is per person.

  • DowntownMaven

    I was there and want to clarify that PJ Kim does support congestion pricing but wants to make sure that low income residents and small businesses are accommodated.

  • So long as the connected and moneyed are the ones in power, this is going to be the case. Should an unmoneyed, proletarian councilmen somehow win, they will develop their own connections, get money, and become similar to whom they replaced. Philosopher-kings don’t exist in nature. There is no way out.

    I am awaiting the reality of the oil peak and the death of the boomers.

  • Small businesses SHOULD be accommodated. Deliveries and stuff like that who need to use the streets shouldn’t have to deal with it. It’s private personal cars and luxury cabs (black cars) that should.

  • There is nothing wrong with getting small businesses to pay their share. Trucks and vans cause pollution and take up valuable road space. Under the previous proposal($8 per day) a van that enters the CBD to make four deliveries adds just $2 to an order. Hopefully this small charge will encourage small businesses to make more efficient deliveries and schedule those deliveries during off-peak hours when the charge is not in effect. I am not willing to throw congestion pricing under the bus in an attempt to pander to the mythical small business owner.

  • Congestion pricing is accommodation for small businesses,

    according to Eric Gioia:

    “My dad owns a flower shop in Queens,” said Gioia. “He used to deliver in a truck to Manhattan, but it’s no longer profitable, thanks to the ‘time tax.’ It takes too long, the gas is too expensive. There are business owners in the [city’s] outer ring who are making the decision every day about getting into Manhattan, and the congestion fee is just putting a number on that.”

  • Sorry, here’s the link I meant to put in the last post.

  • I don’t understand why Paul Newell (and others from his campaign) is working for Gleason. No money or support from me…

  • Jean Grillo

    Paul Newell is working for Pete as I am because we want to bring the Lower East Side and the Lower West Side together, at last, in terms of goods and services. That’s why Freddy Ferrer endorsed Pete Gleason and not Gerson (as he has in the past) Not everyone in Lower Manhattan have had their needs for housing and schools represented. Talk to Norma Ramirez and David Diaz who are also backing Pete.


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