City Council Candidates on the Issues: Andrew Cohen, District 11

Streetsblog continues our series on City Council candidates with a look at the race for District 11 in the Bronx, which covers Kingsbridge, Riverdale, Woodlawn, and Norwood. The seat has been held by Oliver Koppell, who is term-limited, since 2002.

City Council District 11 candidate Andrew Cohen. Photo: ## for Council##

Four Democratic Party candidates are vying for the seat: Andrew Cohen, an attorney who also serves as a CB 8 member and legal advisor to Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz, deputy city comptroller Ari Hoffnung, track coach and businesswoman Cheryl Keeling, and activist and food wholesaler Clifford Stanton.

Streetsblog sent questionnaires to the campaigns to get a better understanding of where the candidates stand on transit, traffic safety, and transportation policy. We begin in alphabetical order with responses from Andrew Cohen and will run answers from Cheryl Keeling and Clifford Stanton in separate posts. Ari Hoffnung told Streetsblog that he does not reply to questionnaires.

Streetsblog: Riverdale was one of the first neighborhoods in New York to receive Slow Zone treatments from DOT, and an application is underway for Norwood. In your view, has the Slow Zone program been successful? Where else could it be considered in the district?

Andrew Cohen: The Slow Zone in Riverdale is still being implemented as I write (new street painting was just installed indicating the 20 mph speed limit in the slow zone). It has been successful in slowing down traffic and has made travel in the zone unquestionably safer. The proposed Slow Zone in Norwood is well conceived and if approved, will go a long way to calming traffic in an area with desperate need for such measures. As you know, Slow Zones need to conform to DOT specifications and I have not studied whether other areas in the 11th Council District would  be eligible for a Slow Zone but there are numerous areas in the District that are in need of traffic calming measures including Webster Avenue and the surrounding area.

SB: Select Bus Service has led to faster bus speeds on Fordham Road. Do you want dedicated bus lanes and other service improvements for bus riders elsewhere in the district, and if so, where?

AC: Yes. Bus Rapid Transit has potential application all over the Bronx. Dedicated bus lanes are scheduled to be installed on Webster Avenue and I believe it will significantly improve service and reduce congestion and travel times for bus passengers.

SB: The Parks Department is planning to pave the Putnam Line rail-trail in Van Cortlandt Park, to connect with the paved trail in Westchester County. Is this a project you support or oppose? Why?

AC: The Putnam Trail is currently in very poor condition with deep potholes and terrible drainage issues. The trail should be upgraded to make it more accessible for runners, cyclists, pedestrians, and the disabled. Van Cortlandt Park will continue to have many unpaved trails.

SB: How can the Council best use its powers to reduce vehicular deaths and ensure traffic justice citywide?

AC: The City Council has oversight authority for the Department of Transportation and can use this power to work with DOT to make our streets safer. Through the legislative process policies can be developed which can make transportation safer. Provide funding for additional “talking” traffic lights. There are many seniors in the 11th Council District and the one talking traffic light that has been in stalled has been well received.

SB: The MTA is a state agency, but what actions would you like to see the City Council take to fund and expand transit service?

AC: Mass transit is the economic lifeblood of the city. Fighting for more money for mass transit is good transportation policy and good economic policy. The City should seek greater control over its mass transit.

  • James Reefer

    I’d vote for him.

  • Bronxite

    I didn’t realize how this guy was a weasel until I saw this answer about the Putnam Trail and heard about his debate performance in Riverdale this evening.

    Here he says the trail should be “upgraded,” letting the cycling community think he supports them.

    But at the debate, he said he opposes paving the trail and wants it to be “stone dust” instead. So he’s giving a very different story to the local NIMBYs who are using bogus “environmental” concerns to try to derail the improvements to the greenway.

    We have enough of this sort in the City Council already!

  • Can we get that statement about not paving the Putnam Rail Trail documented? I would like to have hard evidence about Cohen’s real position on completing the last missing critical path piece in the 55 mile Putnam Rail Trail. The rest of the trail is paved and completed, but it’s missing a safe connection to the rail line’s original start in the Bronx. Maybe Wednesday evening at the Bronx CB 8 meeting, we can hear more about how we don’t need a 1.5 mile paved rail trail.

    There are 8,000 toxic creosoted rail ties on the rail trail in Van Cortlandt Park that need to be removed. A stone dust path fails to meet required handicapped standards, even when new; and stone dust deteriorates rapidly, requiring expensive maintenance just to get back to a barely passable condition. Who has the maintenance budget for regrading mud several times a year? The soft path demanded by the runners will, in addition, be too narrow for safe use by all the people who already are using this trail.

    This was originally a two track railroad, in operation for 150 years. It has more than enough room for an 8 foot running path, a 12 foot or wider paved bike path, and a separate paved walking path in the busier southern mile of the park. All this can be done without cutting any of the large trees growing along the sides of the rail right of way. There will be a full tree canopy over the entire trail, just as in the Westchester and Putnam County sections. Far too much misinformation has been presented over this short but critical former railroad line.

  • JamesR

    I just don’t understand the ‘Save the Trail’ crowd. Do they not understand that the VCP segment is just a small piece of a much longer corridor? I rode the current path through Van Cortlandt Park out to the South County Trailway a few days ago and it was/is a rutted, unsafe mess. There is an entire park’s worth of cross country trails for trail runners to use. I run the Tortoise & Hare course a few times a week and it’s wonderful. The Putnam alignment, however should be for everyone’s use and that means the best quality surface possible.

    Does anyone know what funding stream the city is using to make the improvements? If they are using state Transportation Enhancements funds, then ADA accessibility is an absolute must and I don’t know if stone dust can meet that threshold unless it is meticulously maintained (which is just not going to happen – even a paved trail will end up with inevitable frost heaves).

    re: Stanton – Bronxite, if what you say is true, Cohen has just lost my vote.

  • Anonymous

    For a clarification from Cohen about his position on the Putnam Line rail-trail, see this post from today:


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