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Gale Brewer Reappoints Safe Streets Foes to Manhattan Community Boards

2:28 PM EDT on April 21, 2015

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer has reappointed a slate of community board members with a long history of opposing safer streets and better transit.

Brewer announced her 2015 board appointments on Monday. Among those granted another two-year term was Community Board 7's Dan Zweig. Zweig was recommended by Council Member Helen Rosenthal and reappointed by Brewer despite protests by neighborhood residents and traffic violence victims all-too-familiar with his hostility toward projects that would save lives and reduce injuries on Upper West Side streets. Zweig's reappointment will complicate efforts to install a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue, which Rosenthal has said she supports.

Gale Brewer tells traffic violence victims how nasty they are for urging her to remove street safety obstructionists from community boards. Photo: Stephen Miller
Gale Brewer told street safety advocates they were "nasty" for urging her to remove obstructionists from Manhattan community boards. Photo: Stephen Miller

Community board votes are supposed to be advisory, but in practice, if a board opposes a street redesign, nine times out of ten DOT will water it down to the board's satisfaction or withdraw the project altogether. Board member objections usually center on perceived impediments to driving and parking.

Hostile community boards are a huge obstacle to Vision Zero. Yet Brewer said last year she would not remove board members who oppose transit and street safety improvements. Through two rounds of appointments she has stayed true to her word.

Led by chair Henrietta Lyle, Harlem's CB 10 has held up bus lanes on 125th Street and delayed safety fixes on streets including Morningside Avenue and Lenox Avenue. Lyle has dismissed census data showing that most Harlem households are car-free, and complained to Streetsblog that “empty” bus lanes on 125h Street slow her cab rides to the subway. Lyle was nominated this year by Council Member Inez Dickens and reappointed by Brewer. Brewer also reappointed CB 10's Barbara Nelson, who opposes road diets and almost single-handedly stalled a plaza proposed by Harlem neighborhood groups.

Ted Kovaleff marshaled a CB 9 transportation committee vote against a road diet for Riverside Drive and pedestrian islands for W. 120th Street. The decision was based in part on Kovaleff’s belief that Riverside should remain conducive to speeding because traffic congestion used to interfere with his weekend car trips to Vermont. Brewer reappointed Kovaleff to CB 9.

The case could be made that CB 12 has come a long way from the days when Jim Berlin led board opposition to Greenmarkets, but Berlin hasn't given up on impeding progress in Washington Heights and Inwood. Last month Berlin persuaded the CB 12 transportation committee to pass a resolution calling for DOT to factor the preservation of free curbside parking into a bikeway design. At that meeting Berlin was openly dismissive of the majority of public speakers, who testified in favor of the project as proposed by DOT, and addressed a staffer for Council Member Mark Levine as “honey child.” Regardless of Berlin's antics, City Council transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez nominated him for another term, and Brewer approved.

CB 7 has a long history of stalling safer street designs on the Upper West Side. Dan Zweig and Andrew Albert, who co-chair the board's transportation committee, have for years opposed street safety projects despite supportive DOT data and favorable public testimony. When people who lost loved ones to traffic violence urged Brewer not to reappoint Zweig this year, Brewer told them, “People are complaining about how nasty you are.” Ignoring pleas from safety advocates, Brewer and Rosenthal gave Zweig another two years. Brewer reappointed Albert in 2014.

Streetsblog has a message in with Brewer's office concerning her community board picks. We'll have rundowns of 2015 rosters in other boroughs in future posts.

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