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This Week: Upper Manhattan Candidates Debate Transportation

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Labor Day and the Jewish high holidays make this an abbreviated week, but with the critical primary elections just seven days away, the state's political world is going full-tilt. Tonight, at least three of the four candidates running to replace Eric Schneiderman in the State Senate will meet at a debate co-sponsored by Transportation Alternatives, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, and the Upper West Side Streets Renaissance to talk about how they plan to provide for the transportation needs of the Upper West Side, West Harlem, Washington Heights, Inwood, and Riverdale.

Whoever wins the seat will be replacing one of the more pro-transit members of the State Senate. Before entering the Senate, Schneiderman represented the Straphangers Campaign as a private attorney, and in office he publicly embraced PlaNYC. However, even Schneiderman remained out of sight during the most recent fights over MTA financing.

The three candidates expected to show up tonight are Adriano Espaillat, Miosotis Muñoz, and Mark Levine. Espaillat currently serves in the Assembly representing an overlapping district; Muñoz was an aide to Congressman Charlie Rangel and Manhattan borough presidents C. Virginia Fields and Ruth Messinger; Levine was chair of Community Board 12's transportation committee and founded a credit union for low-income Upper Manhattanites. A fourth candidate, Anna Lewis, has not yet confirmed whether she will attend, according to a DNAinfo report.

Streetsblog last looked at the race in June, noting that while each of the candidates to represent this largely car-free constituency expressed strong support for transit, none would support tolling the free Harlem River bridges that run through the district. Plenty of other revenue sources got the thumbs up: Espaillat was a vocal congestion pricing supporter, Muñoz wanted to reinstate the commuter tax, and Levine was even willing to toll the East River bridges on top of a commuter tax. But when it comes to new tolls inside the district, these candidates seemed to draw the line.

To find out where they stand on transit funding, what they'd do to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety, or to pose your own question, show up tonight at 7:00 p.m. at the Armory Foundation, located at 216 Ft. Washington Ave., between 168th and 169th Streets. The debate will be moderated by West Side Spirit reporter Dan Rivoli and Columbia urban planning prof David King.

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