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Sneak Preview: Tuesday Night’s District 25 Candidate Debate

3:35 PM EDT on August 24, 2009

Tomorrow night, Transportation Alternatives will host the second of its three City Council candidate forums, this one for the District 25 race in Queens. Encompassing parts of Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, and Corona, it's an intriguing district.

Both Queens Boulevard, still one of the city's most dangerous streets,
and Northern Boulevard, another heavily trafficked feeder to the free 59th Street Bridge, run through the 25th. Only five percent of workers in the district commute by car to the Manhattan CBD, while 39 percent rely on transit [PDF]. Livable streets activism is strong here: Residents helped launch the 78th Street Play Street last year as a temporary corrective to the district's cramped sidewalks and lack of public spaces. Calls for a protected bike lane and traffic calming on Queens Boulevard have been continuous since the death of Asif Rahman last February.

Two-term incumbent Helen Sears sided against congestion pricing in last year's City Council vote, declined to join Eric Gioia and John Liu in urging safety improvements for Queens Boulevard, and responded to the district's sidewalk crunch by proposing a ban on food vendors in 2006. Democratic primary challenger Daniel Dromm, a teacher at PS199, also answered TA's candidate questionnaire, while a third Democratic candidate, Stanley Kalathara, has confirmed he will attend the debate. Republican Mujib Rahman has yet to confirm.

For a preview of tomorrow night's action, here's what Dromm and Sears told TA when asked their opinion of road pricing as a traffic reduction tool:

    • dan_dromm.jpgDaniel DrommDaniel Dromm does believe that road pricing will alter New Yorkers'travel choices. Dromm is a strong advocate for reducing motor vehiclecongestion and expanding mass transit access and funding. Road pricingmay be an effective way to reduce traffic but its implementation anddesign must not alienate or appear to unfairly burden differentsections of the City. The major concern is that road pricing, as twicerecently proposed, is not politically viable at the moment. Drommadvocates for vastly increasing street parking fees, improving parkingmanagement, and initiating a residential parking program. Dromm is afirm believer that neighborhoods surrounding high-traffic roadways willbenefit from reduced vehicular congestion.
    • sears.jpgHelen SearsHelen Sears: I believe that congestion is a serious problem in NYC for many reasons,including health (emissions contribute to high asthma rates and otherissues) and the environment (it is critical that we reduce our carbonfootprint). I look forward to working on this issue in the future, andwill advocate for a plan that equitably distributes any burdens equallyamong the five boroughs.

The forum gets underway tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Diversity Center of Queens, 76-11 37th Avenue (between 76th Street and 77th Street).

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