Who Will Be NYC’s Next Transpo Committee Chair?

Now that Michael Bloomberg, Bill de Blasio, John Liu, and the City Council have been sworn in, attention turns to speaker Christine Quinn’s choices to head legislative committees. For New Yorkers who care about street safety and sustainable transportation, the big question is who will run the City Council transportation committee.

vacca_garodnick.jpgJames Vacca, left, and Daniel Garodnick are rumored to be in the running for transportation committee chair.

Committee chairs can set the agenda in more ways than one, acting as gatekeepers for pending bills and commanding bully pulpits that focus public attention on city agencies. The power of the transportation chair was quite apparent last year, when John Liu held up a committee vote on the Bicycle Access Bill, casting its future in doubt.

The bill’s ultimate passage was a big step forward for the council on sustainable transportation. But the city’s legislative agenda can still get clogged up with counterproductive items like the parking "grace period" which the council passed in December. Will the next transpo chair spend time and energy trying to score cheap points with car owners, or will New Yorkers get a leader who puts safety and livability at the top of the agenda?

"Historically, the transportation committee has been overly sensitive to
New York’s minority of motorists," Transportation Alternatives director Paul White told Streetsblog. "We really need someone who
understands New York’s supermajority of transit riders, walkers, and,
increasingly, cyclists."

The next transportation committee chair could, for instance, move legislation requiring NYPD to release traffic safety data to the public every month, the same way it releases crime data. "We still don’t get that information until several months or even years down the road," said White. With a sizable slate of bus, bike, and pedestrian projects on tap, the next chair could also rally support within the council for allocating street space to more sustainable modes.

According to a Daily News report, Quinn is expected to choose committee chairs
toward the end of the month, and Bronx council member James Vacca is on
the short list for the transportation committee. Vacca was one of
the leading proponents of the parking grace period bill
. The lone opponent of that bill, Manhattan rep Daniel Garodnick, has also signaled interest in the position, sources tell Streetsblog. Garodnick was among 19 local elected officials who last month urged DOT and the MTA to implement a bold BRT design for First and Second Avenues, incorporating separated lanes for both buses and bikes.

  • Garodnick is a great council member for my part of his district in addition to being very good on transportation/streets issues. If he wants the job I sure hope he gets it.

  • CM Garodnick is really great to work with and has a great staff that are knowledgeable about a wide range of transportation issues.

  • NM

    I’m pulling for Garodnick too and just dropped a note to Quinn at this link: http://council.nyc.gov/d3/html/members/home.shtml.

  • BTW, in terms of importance, Transportation is one of the most frequent items that the public calls the City Council about.


  • Glenn, but how many of those calls are about Alternate Side Parking? Since I’ve subscribed, 90% of the 311NYC Twitter posts are about ASP, so obviously there’s a demand for that information. Maybe some people just like calling their councilmember’s office to find out.

    Update: I called my councilmember just now, and the receptionist had to put me on hold to find out and ask a driver because she wasn’t a driver herself. The answer BTW is yes, ASP is in effect tomorrow.

  • Oh, I bet you are right that’s a big chunk. But it just goes to show that Transportation is a top area of interest, even if it is mundane inquiries…

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Practical politics being what it is my money is on Jimmy Vacca based on the recent skirmish over the Kingsbridge Armory Christine Quinn needs the Bronx politicians to secure her on position as Speaker going forward. That counts way more than positions on issues.

  • Thanks, all. I’ve posted an analysis of the candidates. Garodnick would be the best choice, of course. But if we have to go with someone from the Bronx, and Majority Leader Rivera isn’t going to be demoted, then Koppell or Seabrook would be better than Vacca. Let’s just hope it doesn’t turn out to be Helen Foster.

  • Thanks, Cap’n Transit. That was a good read…

  • I wrote the following:
    Dear Speaker Quinn,
    Mass transit and livable streets in NYC go hand-in-hand. News that you are interested in selecting car-friendly James Vacca over transit-friendly Dan Garodnick to head the Transportation Committee is not only a bad choice for the future of responsible economic growth of our city, but also for the affordability and safety of the city’s residents. PlaNYC calls for increasing traffic and pedestrian safety, and increasing mass transit and making our streets safer is a co-requisite. Appointing Mr. Vacca would be a mistake and as one of nearly five million daily transit riders and bikers, I urge you to strongly consider Mr. Garodnick instead to head the Transportation Committee.

  • Westsider

    Dan Garodnick is clearly the best choice! I hope Quinn makes the right decision.


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