Denny Farrell Says We Got His Street Safety Rant Wrong; Here’s the Audio

Assembly Member Denny Farrell, chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, played a key role in the death of congestion pricing. More recently, he’s been a regular at Upper Manhattan community board meetings, where he inveighs against traffic safety projects. Now, he’s spending his time writing letters to bloggers.

Assembly Member Herman "Denny" Farrell, chair of the Ways and Means Committee. Photo: NY Assembly
Assembly Member Herman “Denny” Farrell, chair of the Ways and Means Committee. Photo: NY Assembly

Last month, Farrell attended a Community Board 9 transportation committee meeting where DOT presented its plan for a road diet on Broadway between 135th and 153rd streets. Most of the audience, including Council Member Mark Levine and Captain Michael Baker, commanding officer of the 30th Precinct, were receptive to the proposal.

Nevertheless, Farrell objected to the plan’s fundamental component, which would reduce the number of car lanes from three to two in each direction. DOT says traffic volumes on Broadway are low enough, even during the busiest hours, to be accommodated in two lanes. The right lane on this section of Broadway is regularly blocked by trucks making deliveries, which would use expanded curbside loading zones under DOT’s plan.

Farrell wrote a letter to Streetsblog objecting to coverage of his remarks at the meeting. He posted the text of the letter to his website, and sent a copy on Assembly letterhead to Streetsblog [PDF]:

Dear Mr. Miller,

I am writing in response to your July 10 article, “Will CB 9 Take Its Cues From a Denny Farrell Rant Against a Safer Broadway?” [link added] about a Community Board 9 meeting held Thursday, July 9.

First, I will concede that I may have been wrong or misspoken about the relative safety of Florida’s roads and highways and their success in reducing pedestrian injuries and fatalities. I will admit that I have never taken the time to study Florida’s safety statistics in any great detail. But I have been there, and seen how Florida traffic is routed to left- and right-turn lanes that allow traffic to flow while, apparently, protecting pedestrians.

However, in reading your article, it seems that you may have misheard my “rant” during the meeting, as I certainly do not recall making several of the statements you attributed to me.

And I must challenge your mocking tone in reporting my statement that bicycles are dangerous. Your article omitted my statements about bicycles being silent, and my complaints that bicycles should continually make a warning noise to alert pedestrians when a bicyclist is approaching.

In case you are not aware, less than four hours before July 9’s CB9 meeting, a pedestrian was seriously injured by a bicyclist during an incident on First Avenue near West 87th Street.

This did not occur in my District, so I am not fully conversant in all the details, but according to the account published by DNAinfo.com [link added], this senior citizen was crossing the bicycle lane (similar to my “ranting” description) on her way to her car when she was struck and knocked to the pavement by a bicyclist who fled the scene. According to DNAinfo, the pedestrian is in critical condition and the New York Police Department is asking for the public’s help in identifying and locating the bicyclist.

As you may or may not know, I am a grandfather, and the father of a 10-year-old with whom I often walk the streets of New York, so I am concerned with her safety, my own, and the safety of everyone else whether they are traveling on foot or on wheels.

Yours truly,

Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
Member of Assembly

I recorded audio of the meeting and posted a nearly 13-minute excerpt including Farrell’s remarks in their entirety, followed by a back-and-forth between Farrell and Levine. Here are some highlights:

  • Farrell begins by blaming pedestrians for traffic dangers
  • 1:20 — Opposes removing car lanes, which he claims is retribution for the defeat of congestion pricing
  • 3:00 — Praises road design in Florida and jaywalking enforcement in California
  • 4:00 — Returns to blaming pedestrians for traffic dangers
  • 5:30 — Says that coming to a full stop for pedestrians is causing traffic congestion
  • 8:10 — Claims bicycles are dangerous because they do not automatically make warning noises
  • 10:05 — Levine responds
  • 12:00 — Farrell says road diets to not improve safety

Farrell was first elected to the State Assembly in 1974, according to a biography on his Assembly website, where he has served as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee since 1994. He represents the the 71st Assembly district, covering parts of West Harlem, Washington Heights, and Inwood. Farrell made an unsuccessful challenge to Mayor Ed Koch in the 1985 Democratic primary for mayor. He led the Manhattan Democratic party from 1981 to 2009 and chaired the state Democratic party from 2001 to 2006.

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