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Elections

Three Transit Villains Exit the Stage in 2010 Primaries

2:52 PM EDT on September 15, 2010

The votes have been counted in the 2010 primaries, humbling three of the state legislators who killed major transit funding initiatives the past few years.

Richard Brodsky, ringleader of the anti-congestion pricing contingent in Albany, vacated his Assembly seat in a bid for Attorney General. He lost convincingly last night.

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Bridge toll obstructionist Pedro Espada, who came to embody Albany dysfunction and corruption to a singular degree during his ascent to Senate Majority Leader, had just about every major constituency lined up against him -- prominent Dems, the unions, and the reformers (though the Bronx machine stayed neutral). He went down to defeat by a 2 to 1 margin in his northwest Bronx district.

Espada's disgraced Fare Hike Four mate Hiram Monserrate, having already failed to regain the Senate seat he was expelled from, lost again last night trying to get into the Assembly.

New York transit riders probably wouldn't be coping with worse service and steeling themselves for the third consecutive year of higher fares if the funding plans these pols opposed had gained passage. The MTA's finances remain ravaged by disinvestment -- the agency has a $9 billion hole in its five-year capital plan, soaring debt payments, and an operating budget that the voracious state legislature can take a bite out of at any time. It won't be long before Albany has to address the unfinished business of securing the future of the transit system.

Will they do a better job than previous legislatures? A lot will depend on the outcome of the general election, especially the balance of power between Dems and Republicans in the State Senate, but it looks like just a few Albany characters will be different. Despite the general anti-incumbent zeitgeist, Espada was the only NYC-area office holder to pay a political price last night.

So it's especially important that the new faces in Albany stand up for transit and their car-free constituents. Gustavo Rivera, the first-time candidate who vanquished Espada last night, will represent a district where 71 percent of households don't own a car.

Rivera played it safe during the campaign and never made an issue out of Espada's bridge toll obstruction. In his victory speech, forwarded to Streetsblog by a reader, he also skirted the issue of New York City's shrinking transit system. Here is the excerpt transit advocates should chew on:

We asked you to imagine an Albany without coups, corrupt lobbyists, and backroom deals.

We asked you to imagine schools that weren't overcrowded, and parks and streets that are safe for your kids to enjoy.

We asked you to imagine a community where tenants won't have to fear homelessness because their rent laws are being written by wealthy landlords.

And we asked you to vote for a state senator that won't lie to you or steal from you, that won't enrich his family and friends by placing them on the government payroll, that won't break the very laws he has sworn to uphold.

We asked the people of the Northwest Bronx to imagine all of these things and reject the corrupt politics of division and personal gain. And tonight, the answer we've gotten back is a resounding.

YES. Le preguntamos a la gente del Noroeste del Bronx si se podían imaginarse todo eso y nos dijeron en voz alta: ¡Claro que SI!YES TO CLEANING UP ALBANY.YES TO RESTORING TRUST IN GOVERNMENT.YES TO CREATING JOBS.YES TO IMPROVING OUR SCHOOLS.YES TO MAKING HOUSING AFFORDABLE AND HEALTH CARE ACCESSIBLE FOR ALL .YES TO RETURNING POWER TO WHERE IT RIGHTFULLY BELONGS - WITH THE PEOPLE!!

Rivera gave some promising but vague answers on the Transportation Alternatives/Tri-State Transportation Campaign candidate survey. It's especially encouraging that he told TA and Tri-State: "I do not own a car. I take the subway in NYC to work every day." Unlike Espada and the Albany pols who torpedoed congestion pricing, it seems, Rivera identifies as a car-free New Yorker and a transit rider.

Will he legislate like one?

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