Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie: Good on Street Safety, Iffy on Transit
For the first time in two decades, the New York State Assembly has a new speaker. Assembly Democrats elected Carl Heastie of the Bronx to succeed longtime speaker Sheldon Silver, a week after Silver was indicted on federal corruption charges.
Until a few days ago, Heastie wasn’t all that well-known outside the Bronx, where he is the Democratic party leader. While we don’t know much about his stance on transportation policy, he does have a voting record on street safety and transit issues.
Here’s a rundown.
- Heastie was an early supporter of congestion pricing, in 2007, but after Silver and Assembly Dems killed the plan without bringing it to a vote, he came out against tolls on Harlem River bridges. Both proposals were intended to provide the MTA with a much-needed steady revenue source.
- Heastie was one of 22 Assembly members who signed a 2007 letter asking the MTA not to raise fares and promising more support from Albany. Eight years and two governors later, New Yorkers are still waiting on that one.
- In 2010 Heastie went along with former Westchester rep Richard Brodsky in claiming that free transit trips for students don’t cost anything, leaving the MTA holding the bag.
- Last year Heastie was an early sponsor of bills to lower the New York City speed limit to 25 miles per hour and expand the city’s red light camera program.
As for changing the pay-to-play culture in Albany and reforming the “democracy of one” system that empowers the speaker at the expense of rank-and-file legislators and shrouds the Assembly in secrecy, Heastie is an unlikely candidate to shake things up.
Heastie raised eyebrows in 2013 when he introduced a bill legalizing predatory payday loans after receiving $10,000 in campaign contributions from the check-cashing industry. And not only did Silver vote for Heastie today, he appeared at the Monday closed-door meeting where Heastie’s ascension actually took place, and endorsed him. “He’s a good man and he’ll do a good job,” Silver said.
That means Rochester representative David Gantt, Silver’s gatekeeper for legislation on the transportation committee, probably isn’t going to lose his chairmanship.