Thompson, Avella Pledge to Dump Sadik-Khan If Elected

dem_bums.jpgTony Avella and Bill Thompson. Photo: Daily News.

I didn’t get to watch last night’s Democratic mayoral debate between Bill Thompson and Tony Avella, so I missed the high drama that ensued when the candidates were asked if they’ll retain Janette Sadik-Khan as transportation commissioner. Good thing Brian Lehrer played excerpts on his show this morning (check the 13:40 mark). Now I know the answer from both: "No."

Thompson got started with a restrained, "I think you bring your own team to the table." Then Avella took the first rip at the city’s new bike lanes and public plazas.

"There has to be community involvement," he said. "You can’t just dictate from the top: ‘Hey, tomorrow, here’s a bike lane, here we’re gonna close off the street,’ without having communication with the elected officials, the community boards, and the neighborhoods, and that’s why she should be fired."

This prompted an escalation from Thompson: "I favor bicycle lanes, however, you are hearing the complaint all over the city of New York, because the communities have not been consulted. They’ve been ignored. Bicycle lanes have been dropped upon them and there has been no discussion. That’s wrong and that shouldn’t continue."

Avella and Thompson don’t seem to have a very good grasp of the facts on this
issue. DOT’s plaza program is entirely opt-in. They won’t build a plaza
in your community unless someone from the neighborhood asks for it. New
Yorkers are basically competing with each other to get these public
spaces added to their streets. Oh, and attacking the new plazas on Broadway is kind of like pledging to pave Bryant Park at this point.

When it comes to bike lanes, DOT, if anything, has rather
timidly avoided going against the grain of community board votes. The Grand Street bike lane? Approved by Manhattan CB 2. Eighth Avenue cycle track? Approved by Manhattan CB 4 and CB 2. The Kent Avenue bike lane? Approved by Brooklyn CB 1. Meanwhile, DOT has not striped a bike lane on Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard because CB 10 has yet to approve it. They added a bike lane to Empire Boulevard only after Brooklyn CB 9 explicitly asked for one.

Are there exceptions? Thankfully, yes. Otherwise even more power over transportation policy would be vested in people like Vinicio Donato, the chair of Queens CB 1 since 1975. Last year Donato’s board wrote a letter to DOT opposing the Vernon Boulevard bike lane. Streets are safer because the DOT went ahead and striped the bike lane anyway.

So when these candidates moan about the lack of community input, they’re basically pledging to halt any progress toward making New York City’s streets less car-centric. Why make streets safer and less clogged with cars when you can cater to a minority of self-interested motorists? I suppose we’ll see soon enough whether, after 16 years in exile, New York City Dems can ride that message back to City Hall.

  • Adam

    I just left both campaigns a note letting them know that, as a lifelong Democrat, I wouldn’t consider voting for a candidate who wasn’t planning to retain Jeanette and to continue her policies. (And it’s true — I wouldn’t.)

  • AverageJoe

    Love it! Finally we have two elected officials who stand up and support the masses of NYC who are disgusted with this billionaire Bloomberg’s schemes and his elitist limousine liberal, Sadik-Khan.

    Vote for Bloomberg. Who cares? Win or lose, he’s history in 4 years, so is JSK and her little hippy experiments.

    Vote for Republican billionaires who overturn the will of the people and extend term limits.
    Bike lanes and TL extensions are two examples of these two petty diktators.

    Let’s hear you all defend Bloomberg: 3,2,1..

  • vnm

    Before I read this post I was staunchly in the ABA camp. Anybody but Avella. Now I’m kind of souring on Thompson too.

  • No Longer Undecided

    Well, that does it. I’ve been frustrated with Bloomberg, but these two pandering meatheads just won Mayor Mike my vote for sure.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “New Yorkers are basically competing with each other to get these public spaces added to their streets.”

    Depends on who you count as New Yorkers. I believe that politically New Yorkers are the retired and those who commute in from the suburbs where the real New Yorkers moved 30 years ago.

    “As a lifelong Democrat.”

    I probably would be too in much of the U.S. Not here.

    Just remember Ed Koch,though a Democrat, ran against the Democratic Party and its backers in 1977 (read The Bronx is Burning) and later ran as a Republican as well. Giuliani was a Republican, as was Bloomberg. If Bloomberg wins, it will mean a rejection for the city’s Democratic Party in ten of eleven elections, by voters who wouldn’t even think of voting for a Republican President.

    Think about it. Thirty years of people pulling the lever against their own party in the vote that matters the most to them. And thirty years of the leaders of that party not caring, because they control offices for which there are no real elections.

  • mike

    Average Joe (or should I say “thefacts” on,

    “little hippy experiments”? Really? Come on, you can do better than that.

    Look, I can’t stand Bloomberg either, but JSK has been genius.

    What I can’t stand is people like you who pretend to take the populist position, but end up supporting the most elitist, anti-people positions by promoting car use and discouraging walking, transit and biking.

  • Transportation in 2009 and going forward is an *environmental and public health topic*, and needs to be part of any real candidates Green policy leadership plans.

    To be against sustainable transportation as Thompson and Avella and other machine-politicians currently are is the same as supporting existing Asthma rates, and existing dependence on foreign oil. It is unacceptable. New York is a leading world city, and it needs world class local leadership, not out-of-touch depletist politicos with their heads in the sand.

  • I’m no fan of Bloomberg, however, I do like his administration – particularly Ray Kelly, Adrian Benepe, and JSK. Last night Thompson and Avella gave me three good reasons not to vote for either one of them.

  • Shea decided early on: her litmus test for the next mayor was going to be the question, “Will you keep Janette as DOT Commissioner.”

    For the first time, Shea and I will be not be voting for the Democratic mayoral candidate this year, whoever wins.

    Not enough community consultation? I can say, as a community board member, they are wrong. Did DOT do what every person on every street asked? Not possible. Did they, in cases, go door to door with literature directing people to attend CB meetings to express their opinions? That would be crazy — but YES, they DID! I bet these guys were spouting off before they bothered to find that out, but they are far off the mark or simply pandering.

    I reject them both.

  • “Community involvement?” The more residential streets DO get closed to cars, the more they’ll see what “community” actually means.

  • I was as anti-Bloomberg as anyone four years ago, but he has truly redeemed himself of late, primarily by appointing JSK and giving her leeway to bring about the beginning of some historic changes to our city.

    Going back on that now is unthinkable. Four more years!

  • chuck

    In defense of Avella – I sent an email the same way Adam did (first post). Rep from Avella campaign replied within a couple hours with this:

    “Tony strongly supports the bike lanes and the bulk of Sadik-Khan’s work. The problem Tony has with her is the lack of community input in the construction of bike lanes, which has created chaos in various neighborhoods and unnecessarily turned communities against cyclists.

    See, for example: (full disclosure: I wrote this article)

    We want an cycling advocate to head the DoT, but we want one who will be sincerely open to community input, which Tony doesn’t feel Ms. Sadik-Khan has done.”

  • These two are dead meat as far as I’m concerned. Roadkill, you might even say. With bike tires and my footprints down their backs.

  • lee

    so who’s left?

    Littlefield for Mayor?

  • Red

    It’s actually kind of sad. Thompson had what I thought were pretty good responses in TA’s candidate survey. Hopefully he can redeem himself. Avella, of course, is a clown.

  • The Opoponax

    Yup, that settles it. Voting for Reverend Billy in November. But how best to use my primary vote?

  • The Opoponax

    Also, interesting to hear that about the Vernon Ave. bike lane – I use it every day to commute into Donato’s neighborhood for work. I probably wouldn’t do so without it, and thus without that bike lane I wouldn’t have discovered several neighborhood businesses (because I would spend my morning underground, instead). My office has discovered several new places to order lunch takeout, for instance, all because I’ve cycled by and smelled yummy things cooking.

    That morning and evening ride also regularly reminds me how easy it is to bike over to places like P.S. 1 or the Astoria Pool on the weekends.

    Good to know that Donato would prefer local businesses lose money and local cultural institutions stand empty, if it means traffic goes slower or a few less cars are on the road.

  • Well if I lived in NYC and not the Northcountry (for school) I might not put a vote in for mayor or vote republican, because these two are absolute clowns. Seriously, have they no idea? did they miss the memo from Obama on livable streets and changing the way American transports its citizens? Wow just wow, I was looking to hopefully intern with JSK and the DOT, but certainly will knock the city off my list if either of these two are elected.

    without public input, HA!

  • vnm

    I would also like to add that there is hardly a better street for a bike lane that Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.

  • MisterBadExample

    I have some real problems with Bloomberg and the high-handed way he’s dealt with city problems (I especially dislike his feud with Critical Mass). That said, Avella and Thompson came off like idiots in this one. Getting rid of Janette Sadik-Khan won’t solve any problems, and neither guy offered much of a vision beyond ‘I’m not Mike’.

    We only have one choice: Reverend Billy!

  • Shemp

    These fake process issues are the local equivalent of the “death panel” health care rhetoric for people who are against NYC DOT’s program. They are just going to keep saying it regardless of public opinion shown in polls like Quinnipiac or the facts of CB votes on DOT projects.

  • glenn

    How embarassing for the local Democratic Party – getting schooled on sustainability by a Republican. Unfortunately the local democratic machines have no vision of the future and have no willingness to lead – they just want to “fight” for ALL favored constituencies over the interests of the general public.

    Can you imagine the race to the bottom on this issue if Weiner was involved?
    BTW – Weiner is doing a stand-up job on healthcare in DC. He should stay there.

  • Olivia

    While I will (probably) vote for Bloomberg and am not familiar with Sadik-Khan, I do take issue with some of those new bike lanes and the defiling of Broadway. Esp. in lower Manhattan, the addition of bike lanes were *not* done with community consent. The Grand Street bike lane effectively reduced a bustling thoroughfare to an automobile-nightmare. Two lanes of already congested traffic was whittled down to one line of immobile cars. And all the businesses along and around Grand Street rely on trucks to transport their goods and thus survive on a daily basis. NONE of the Chinatown community want that bike lane. The only way it garnered support was from yuppies whose million-dollar condos were regrettably lumped with the Chinatown zoning district. These yuppies don’t support the businesses along Grand Street, but their new bike lane does hurt them.

    Also, this new bike event occurs in Lower Manhattan on the weekends. Go bikes, right? Well, in order for the event to operate, the police closed down ALL the sidestreets from SoHo to the Williamsburg Bridge. There are no cars and no parking along these closed streets. So other than the MASSIVE headache this caused my family while we were trying to get to my dear auntie’s funeral, it also meant that most of the businesses along these streets were CLOSED. I have never seen Lower Manhattan look so desolate and deprived of business since 9/11 than I did last Saturday during the bike event.

    And finally – the defilement of Broadway. Some NYers like that we can sit out in plastic lawnchairs in front of Macy*s. Some say this makes more tourists want to visit NYC. While I understand their sentiment, let’s face it: we’ve never had a problem w/ lack of tourists to begin with! In fact, the bulk of us NYers want LESS tourists. And we also don’t want to turn into suburbia.

    So, sorry for the rant. Honestly, I’m not anti-biking. I actually wish ALL of America would be a lot less car-dependent. But I understand why any NYer, not just democratic, would want the person responsible for ill-thought bike lanes and the bastardization of Broadway to be ousted.

  • Between the people who are still going to vote for Bloomberg but think Broadway has been defiled by the rabble being allowed to mill about their Macy*s shoppe, and those of us who are quite familiar (if not obsessed) with JSK and would vote for a sack of bricks if it meant continuing the new policy direction, I think the incumbent mayor is in pretty good shape.

  • And finally – the defilement of Broadway.

    I have to note here that you give absolutely no support for the notion that the changes to Broadway represent a “defilement.” I have no idea why you might think that. How can you defile something that was so repulsive to begin with? And I’m not talking about porn theaters and heroin dealers; they were gone years ago.

    Meanwhile, the rest of us “real New Yorkers” are glad that Times Square is actually something other than an obstacle, a sea of deadly cars and jam-packed tourists. It’s now something that you don’t have to be a tourist to want to visit.

  • Paul

    Um, so Olivia, what you’ve concluded then is that you’re against public space and that we should allow cars on every inch of space between the buildings of Manhattan? I think you’re out of your mind. There is far too much space devoted to cars already. Times square should NOT even allow through traffic. Imagine if they turned Venice’s grand canal into a road and allowed traffic to come in from the mainland, turning St. Mark’s Square into a parking lot. That’s what I’m talking about! Sometimes the community doesn’t always know what’s best for them, nor are the traffic engineers.

  • Paul

    My last phrase should be: …nor are they traffic engineers.


  • mike

    you guys are being had by a clever mayor who is throwing you a bone (with all these bike lanes) but is screwing you in every other way possible..

    jsk is ok, but she is absolutely a manhattan-centric elitist, so enough with the goddess worship please?

    i used to like this site but it has become nothing but a a “bikes will solve all the world’s problems” propaganda..just change the site name to bikesblog already

  • Albert

    “the communities have not been consulted. They’ve been ignored. Bicycle lanes have been dropped upon them and there has been no discussion. That’s wrong and that shouldn’t continue.”

    For over a century, *Automobile* lanes have been “dropped upon” the city, the country, the world, without “consulting” the residents of the neighborhoods they’ve invaded and while “ignoring” the welfare of the communites they’ve often destroyed. Any “discussion” was after the fact and useless.

    *That* was most certainly wrong, and unfortunately it will most likely continue. Sadik-Khan and Bloomberg are only trying to accomplish something good for “the grid” while they can.

  • Albert

    And thanks, Adam, for those links:

    I, too, wrote them notes, telling them who I would not be voting for (nor any of my friends, if I can help it) and why.

  • Bill

    I bike and I vote. I’ve seen at least a four-fold increase in bikers in the last year alone. I love what the city is doing and the claim that the community had no input is patently not true.

  • Moser

    Mike, every whiny little shit head “community” type who isn’t granted veto power over their neighborhood is throwing around “elitist” about this or that. Why don’t you explain exactly what you mean by that.

  • Matt H

    Hi Mike E,

    I hear you; I ended up voting for the green party candidate last time around.

    Then I was totally floored by Bloomberg’s Earth Day address, PlaNYC, JSK, the whole deal. Four more years!

    Matt H

  • Ray

    Thank you gentlemen. Now you are are on the record.

    I will view Mike Bloomberg’s inevitable landslide re-election victory as a referendum – an overwhelming public validation – of Sadik-Kahn’s numerous transformative initiatives.

    Take note cranky/opportunist politicians and NIMBYs. You’re going down.

  • Mark

    Dear Janette Sadik-Khan:

    If you find yourself out of a job in NYC, we would greatly appreciate it if you would take over the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. You can have Nathaniel Ford’s job and we wouldn’t even complain if you kept his absurdly high salary.

    San Francisco

  • If the “community” has such a specific vision of bike infrastructure that nobody is paying attention to then why don’t we see plans? Obviously there is no plan. And there is no plan because there is no vision except at DOT. The communities that have had these bike lanes forced(forced!?) upon them don’t have any kind of plan for how to make life in the city better for anyone but themselves. NIMBY is too kind because it implies that maybe something can be built in someones yard, these people are nihilists.

  • Dee Lite

    Wow, this is just great. These two guys are democrats? They just pushed this not-sure-I-can vote-for-Bloomberg-cause-3rd-term-thing-bothers-me to how can I now help Bloomberg squash whoever wins the primary.

    Don’t these two realize they need all the votes they can get. As a registered Democrat I will not cast a vote for either of these two.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Dear Olivia,

    Sorry to inconvenience you with our “new bike event,” Summer Streets, enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people this August. I will be sure to check in with you personally before next years Summer Streets events to make sure none of your dear aunts and uncles have recently died. Rest assured that all future citywide events will be scheduled around your personal travel needs.

    — Janette Sadik-Khan.

  • Valaire

    Perlmutter for Mike. Big deal. Go chase an ambulance and defend a drunken murderer.
    Sadist-Khan has gotta go, idiot.

  • Blair

    These dufuses are the best NYC Dems can find? Vote Sadik-Kahn!

  • David Reina

    Wrong, wrong wrong! Thats how my local bike lane implementation was carried out.

    Our family owns a building on Kent Ave in Williamsburg and it houses 4 businesses and a museum. The property has had active loading zones on Kent Ave since the late 1800’s. Nobody from the city administration ever came to us to say they were thinking of putting in a bike lane and asked how this would that affect our businesses. Why? Was this too much trouble to do before you scramble peoples live around? Sorry but I believe this is irresponsible leadership.

    Even though CB1 voted for a greenway which contained bike lanes, some CB1 board members have admitted at later meetings that they did not understand the bike plan would mean losing the street parking and loading areas. Many of us believed that a greenway was something along the waterfront and not something that would disturb a major transportation corridor for the neighborhood.

    But since last October all our loading and parking areas had been replaced by a curbside bike lane. Since then our delivery suppliers, customers and freight shipping companies have had to endure a stream of tickets to conduct normal business like they had been for decades. But somehow we don’t count in this green picture. Phooey!

    Its kind of like a dictatorship is running my community! Does all the taxes we pay on our property and to the city for our businesses mean poop now? I think the fact that we’ve maintained a graffiti free, neat and clean property and kept sidewalks clear every winter means we’ve done and continue to do our part for the community and we demand respect for our needs in return. I believe local property owners and residents should always have a major say regarding their immediate transportation corridor and that those public officials who want to make changes get out on the street to talk with us.

    I know many people frustrated by the bike paths and I have heard from many businesses affected by the lanes and by calming measures. An example of this is a business I purchase parts from called Beardslee Transmission on Jackson Ave in LIC. They supply bearings, drive belts, pulleys, etc. which keep the cities industrial air conditioners and other equipment running. Many of the parts you buy from them are heavy such as the cast iron pulleys. Not items you would want to carry far to your car or bike. Some years ago when I first started buying from them, there were parking meters in front of their business. This later got replaced by a bus stop but at least you could go a little further down the block and sometimes find a meter. In this past year a calming island has been built in the middle of the Jackson Ave eliminating a lane of traffic and removing the last few parking meters. Now it is very difficult to find parking when I need items from this business. I really have to ask our city administration who is looking at the big picture here? Are you consciously trying to make businesses fail?

    I suggest that in the next election we put some of these new road changes up to a public vote.

  • David,

    Have them park around the corner.

    I can’t imagine you guys are receiving shipments of refrigerators every morning.

    God forbid people should be inconvenienced so that cyclists can have a safe route on a major street that they had already been using.

  • NM

    It’s tricky, no doubt. Public rights of way are a public subsidy to whoever gets to use them. Historic use is actually not a bad argument for allocation, since people and businesses do need some kind of predictability, and change is quite legitimately upsetting. Another factor to consider is – which users will get the most benefit from them while doing the least harm? For example, should hundreds of people not be able to travel by bike (and reduce the harmful impacts of other forms of transportation) in order to provide loading for an (or a few) individual business(es)? Consulting such a business would certainly have resulted in feedback against the bike lane. Should this business also have veto power? Or is there some other agreement that could be reached that would have made this business owner feel heard? While I support the bike lanes, maybe we should be thinking of some kind of public forum to generate creative solutions here. For example, loading is best done during times of low traffic volume anyway, when cyclists least need a dedicated lane, so maybe there could be a couple of ‘loading hours’ when the lane can be blocked. Or if only there were a way to accomplish the ‘alternate side bike lane’ similar to the way highways switch direction in some areas (this would obviously only be conceivable is a very congested area). But it’s still tricky. Cyclists need predictability too to know their lane will be available when needed, but luckily, we are not the first city to attempt this. How have these issues been handled in the most bike-friendly cities in the world?

  • For a long time people who had businesses that relied on truck traffic got what they wanted. They could park where they wanted and drive their trucks as fast as they wanted down city streets that were more than wide enough. Beleive me I understand how it used to be. My father ran a manufacturing and retail business in Manhattan for twenty years. But now the city has decided that it can’t cater exclusively to panel trucks. I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but it hasn’t exactly worked out so well for the rest of us-what with the terrible pollution and the needless deaths of pedestrians and cyclists.
    All the haters can kick and scream but this is happening. The City is going to take some of that road space back and give it to pedestrians and cyclists. It’s going to make it harder to drive and park large trucks. And it’s going to make it so that people who want to speed down city streets and park wherever they want. If you find that really frustrating, I recommend trying to get around on a bike.

  • Larry Littlefield

    There is always going to be a conflict between people who want the streets in their neighborhood to be just for them, and those who need to pass through it. Many of those who want to pass through other people’s neighborhoods don’t want people from other neighborhoods to pass through theirs.

    I’m not a big fan of selfishness, but at least I can understand rational selfishness.

    What I don’t get is Lower Manhattan politicians who don’t object to their neighborhood being a through motor vehicle route between Long Island and New Jersey, but do object to people on bicycles riding from Brooklyn to Midtown on their streets, and want more street space for the former and less for the latter.

    I can only sum up the attitude this way. Any change is going to tick off someone. Those who will benefit from the change, even if the vast majority, are either unaware of can be convinced they are threatened. Therefore, the winning strategy for those who see the policies of our government as a fun little game played for profit is to oppose change. Particularly since the most organized and tuned in interests are those benefit from unearned special privilege, and they are the only people that matter.

    What is the principle? “Community opposition” is hardly it — just an excuse. This is exactly like the whole “death panel” thing. These sleazebag pols are all the same.

  • fdr

    “Oh, and attacking the new plazas on Broadway is kind of like pledging to pave Bryant Park at this point.”
    So what are you saying, that the “pilot” isn’t really a pilot, and that the “DOT evaluation” is pre-determined? Wow, what a surprise.

  • Jason A

    While I wouldn’t concede every point David Reina is arguing, I’m very sympathetic to the concerns of local businesses. After emergency vehicles, deliveries deserve their rightful spot on the road. The problem is too many delivery vehicles compete with private automobiles for street space.

    This is a big reason why we need congestion pricing and serious parking reform.

  • J


    Have you not noticed that you loading zones are returning. The dictator you are speaking of is listening to you, yet you are still screaming. I agree that the original design was lacking, but now they are changing it.

  • J. Mork

    Any change, even positive change, is going to make conservatives upset. This is by definition.

    Further, in this town, the Democrats are the conservatives because there hasn’t been anyone to oppose them and because it’s not in their self-interest to make changes and risk upsetting anyone.

    This is where Bloomberg comes in.

    (And, yeah, I know he’s not perfect.)

  • I’ve sent both candidates an email letting them know that I will not be voting for them given their statements.

    Will see what response they have, if any.


Thompson vs. Bloomberg: The Ultimate Bicycling Referendum?

Tonight’s debate will be broadcast on NY1. Tonight at 7:00, mayoral contenders Mike Bloomberg and Bill Thompson face off in the first debate of the general election. Andrew Hawkins at City Hall News has some good pre-debate reading for New Yorkers who care about how this election will affect the future of our streets and […]