NYLCV Endorses Safe Streets Foe Alan Gerson for Re-Election

The New York League of Conservation Voters came out with their slate of primary endorsements today. Streetsblog readers may be surprised to see that District 1 incumbent Alan Gerson is one of four City Council candidates in Manhattan to win the environmental group’s endorsement.

Since last fall, Gerson has agitated against pedestrian and bike improvements, going so far as to introduce a bill that would subject street safety projects to City Council oversight. During the current campaign, he’s done nothing to distinguish himself from the rest of the District 1 field when it comes to green transportation policy. He recently told the crowd at a candidates forum that he now opposes congestion pricing, after voting for it last year. So, what’s up with the endorsement from one of the city’s most prominent environmental advocacy organizations?

NYLCV spokesman Dan Hendrick said the decision came down to Gerson’s voting record. "He had 100 percent on our scorecard, which is very meaningful to us,"
he said. "In terms of actually being there
when the votes were needed, he was there." The NYLCV graded City Council candidates based on 13 bills, giving extra weight to the congestion pricing vote along with four bills intended to make buildings more energy efficient. (Of the five weighted bills, pricing was the only one to pass the council.) If bills didn’t reach a vote, candidates received credit for co-sponsoring them.

Remarkably, Council Member Melissa Mark Viverito, running for re-election in District 8, did not receive an endorsement from NYLCV, despite making a much more vocal stand in favor of congestion pricing than Gerson and scoring a perfect 100 on the scorecard. Hendrick explained that Viverito did not return the NYLCV candidate questionnaire, a prerequisite for gaining the group’s endorsement, prior to the organization’s July board meeting, where members decide whom to endorse. The board will consider Viverito for its next round of endorsements, he said. That round will be released after the September 15 primary, however, which will effectively decide who wins the seat. Viverito faces five primary challengers.

So we have a perverse result, where Gerson gets rewarded despite railing against projects that make green transportation safer, and Viverito receives no meaningful credit for getting out in front on congestion pricing, a transformative sustainability policy. Gerson’s vote for congestion pricing was a no-brainer for his Lower Manhattan district. If congestion pricing is ever going to clear the stumbling block in Albany, New York City will need to elect more people who are willing to speak forcefully in favor of it like Viverito.

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