The 2011 NYC Streetsies, Part 3
The third installment of the Streetsies concludes 2011 for Streetsblog NYC, but we still have a few days left in our year-end pledge drive. Please drop a donation in our bucket to help support Streetsblog and Streetfilms in 2012.
Have a great New Year everyone. We’ll see you back here on January 3.
Elected Official of the Year
What progress would New York City have made on bike policy in 2011 without City Council Member Brad Lander?
Flash back to this spring. The Prospect Park West lawsuit had the tabloid press whipped into an anti-bike frenzy. A growing faction within the city’s political class found it advantageous to attack NYC DOT’s transportation reform efforts. And why wouldn’t they? With Democratic Party kingmaker Chuck Schumer reportedly upset about the new bike lane in front of his house, it seemed like any pol who stood up for safer streets was going far out on a limb.
Against this backdrop, Lander defended the Prospect Park West project again and again. While other Democrats with local ties stayed off to the side or hopped aboard the DOT-bashing bandwagon, Lander made a stand. On the steps of City Hall, on the local news, in front of Brooklyn Supreme Court, in legal briefs submitted to Judge Bert Bunyan, he reminded everyone of the years-long public process that produced the PPW bike lane and the broad support for the project in his district.
Lander’s defense of the PPW project would have been enough to earn him this Streetsie. Of course, he also stood up for pedestrian refuges on Fort Hamilton Parkway, spoke eloquently against NYPD’s irrational Central Park bike crackdown, and produced an excellent report about bus service on the B61.
Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito saw right through the business owners who claimed that protected bike lanes in East Harlem would worsen asthma rates. Instead of folding under the pressure, she called it what it was: “misinformation.”
Comeback of the Year
In March, the New York Times was ready to write Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan‘s political obituary. Not so fast, Michael Grynbaum. By September, Sadik-Khan was announcing the most ambitious bike-share program in North America. Yesterday she delivered the news that New York City pedestrian fatalities are at an all-time low. The mojo is back.
Activists of the Year
I might be a little partial but this award goes to Eric McClure and Aaron Naparstek of Park Slope Neighbors. For years they were out doing the gruntwork to make Prospect Park West a safer street: putting on public workshops, gathering signatures, and attending community board meetings. Then in 2011, thousand-dollar-an-hour attorneys and PR professionals parachute in and start lobbing grenades at the redesigned street, all because a few very well-connected people in the neighborhood didn’t like the result of that public process.
Throughout the winter, spring and summer, Eric and Aaron went toe-to-toe, quote-for-quote with the NBBL war machine. You couldn’t ask for better people on the front lines.
Most Spontaneous Advocacy Campaign
Seemingly on a lark, Ken Coughlin and advocates for a car-free Central Park mounted a hugely successful campaign that no one saw coming. Sure, this wasn’t the first time that a car-free park proposal won community board votes. But it wasn’t supposed to happen this year, not during a supposed backlash against livable streets policies.
As one community board after another endorsed a car-free park trial, they confounded the whole backlash narrative. Getting cars out of NYC’s flagship park is just plain popular. By the end, more community boards signed on to the idea than ever before. While no car-free trial happened in 2011, the city started collecting traffic data that can be used to evaluate the effect of a car-free Central Park next summer.
Most Persistent Advocates
After many false starts and delays, Bike Upper Manhattan finally got an audience with Community Board 12 and NYC DOT to talk about adding bike infrastructure in their neighborhood.
Advocacy Campaign to Watch in 2012
Brownsville residents are pushing for the neighborhood’s first bike lanes. Will the city stripe them?
Best Ambassador for #BikeNYC
Brooklyn’s own Kimberly White, organizer of the first Youth Bike Summit here in New York, received a standing O after she delivered the closing address at the 2012 Safe Routes to School National Conference in Minneapolis.
The Speaking Truth to Power Award
Last December, Jason King was run over and killed on his way to work by a truck driver who was backing up illegally. After a Marcia Kramer segment used his death to promote a Carl Kruger bill to ban walking while listening to music or talking on cell phones, Jason’s mother, Sonia King, sent an outraged letter to CBS 2, Kruger’s office, and the Manhattan DA. She wrote: “They left the truth out of the story and used our son’s death to go for headlines and political pandering.”
Best Local TV Reporting on the PPW Story
Best Bike-Related Commentary By a Reporter Whose Beat Has Nothing to Do With Bikes
Jason Gay writes a sports column for the Wall Street Journal, and he also penned this brilliant postmortem of the 2011 bikelash.
Favorite John Cassidy Smackdown
You knew things were getting out of hand when the New Yorker published a column spouting nonsense about bike lanes, even if it was just on their website. Of all the responses to John Cassidy’s bike lane rant, Aaron Naparstek wrote the original and best, though I do think Adam Sternbergh got stiffed in the voting for this Streetsie.
Favorite Installment of the NBBL Files
I thought the one about Chuck Schumer would take this prize. I was way off. Chuck is powerful, but he’s just one guy. It turns out that the most fascinating thing about NBBL is that they sought out an impressive collection of friends in politics and government to undo the public process that produced the PPW bike lane.
Runner-up: Gary Hustwit’s Urbanized.
Winner: Bill Cunningham New York. The next time someone tells you, “Not everyone can bike,” recommend this documentary. An 80-year-old fashion photographer bikes around Manhattan on a beat-up Schwinn — every single day, except when he’s in Paris. (Also recommended for this purpose: My NYC Biking Story, starring Lucette Gilbert, directed by Elizabeth Press.)
Most Boring Video
Best Reason to Stop Forcing NYC Developers to Build Parking
Most Revealing Moment of Candor
Department of City Planning official Howard Slatkin admits that the Bloomberg administration uses parking minimums to buy political support for upzonings.
The “I Told You So” Award
Yankee Stadium garages go belly-up, further proof that the obscene amounts of subsidized parking at the new stadium were a total waste of taxpayer money.
Most Convincing Cultural Signifier That Bike Commuting Has Gone Mainstream
Martha Stewart invites Bike New York’s Emilia Crotty to the studio to share tips on biking to work.
After Staten Island Republican James Oddo proposed environmental review for new bike lanes, he told Streetsblog that he wasn’t out to slow the growth of the bike network at all. He just wanted to call attention to what he sees as an overly restrictive environmental review process. Duh.
Most Unexpected Pro-Bike Lane Survey
In the far reaches of car-dependent Eastern Queens, City Council Member Mark Weprin found that 61 percent of his constituents support bike lanes. Said Weprin: “People seem to like them, including myself.”
Community Board Hall of Fame
Ian Dutton is leaving Manhattan CB 2 after seven years of service, decamping for Brooklyn. On the community board Ian was a strong counterweight to perennial NIMBY Sean Sweeney. During his tenure, protected bike lanes, public plazas, pop-up cafes, and performance parking came to SoHo and Greenwich Village. His efforts earned him the first Streetsie for Activist of the Year, back in 2007. One of the last projects he helped initiate and shepherd through was the conversion of the Hudson Street buffered bike lane to a protected lane.
Manhattan’s loss will be Brooklyn’s gain.