The 2015 NYC Streetsies, Part 2
The Streetsies just won’t quit. Yesterday’s awards were about projects. Today we’re focusing on people and politics. Stay tuned for the final batch tomorrow, and don’t forget you’re running out of time to make a year-end donation to Streetsblog, which enters you to win a new Tern Link D8 folding bike.
Elected Officials of the Year
Here’s who stood out in a very deep field of contenders for this Streetsie in 2015.
Honorable mentions go to a trio of City Council members: Brad Lander, who swooped in and saved a Kensington street safety plan from community board purgatory; Donovan Richards, for carrying the banner for Woodhaven Boulevard bus rapid transit; and Antonio Reynoso, who got the city talking about why it doesn’t make sense for people on bikes to follow the same set of rules as people driving cars.
Our second runner-up is Public Advocate Tish James, who used her office as a platform to advance several smart streets-related campaigns. James was right there with Richards standing up for Woodhaven BRT. She also introduced a bill to revise city traffic rules that rob people of the right-of-way while crossing streets, and she publicly called on DOT to make bike infrastructure standard in street redesigns.
First runner-up is City Council Member Mark Levine. Extending the 125th bus lanes to West Harlem was a key issue for Levine when he ran for office in 2013. He kept up the pressure this year and the city delivered, speeding up transit trips for thousands of passengers every day. Levine helped advance another major improvement with his vocal support for a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue.
Streetsblog’s Elected Officials of the Year are two Queens council members — Julissa Ferreras and Jimmy Van Bramer.
This was the year protected bike lanes reached the interior of Queens, with DOT putting a protected lane on 1.3 miles of Queens Boulevard and proposing another for 111th Street in Corona (which, with any justice, the agency will build out quickly in 2016). Van Bramer and Ferreras created a receptive political climate for these projects, asking DOT to redesign streets, hosting workshops, and gamely going up against the not-in-my-backyard contingent. With 2.3 million residents and a nasty collection of car-centric arterial streets in need of major changes, Queens could use more leadership like that.
Andrew Cuomo Transit Catastrophe of the Year
As usual, the governor provided plenty of fodder for this award. While New York City subways burst at the seams and the rail and bus systems crossing the Hudson showed their age, Cuomo was absorbed by his customary assortment of vanity projects. (That, and settling scores.)
Especially frustrating is that the governor — not the mayor — is best situated to deliver big, transformational change to the region’s transportation system. This was the year Cuomo could have attacked New York’s traffic problems head on by putting his weight behind the Move NY toll reform plan. Using the toll swap revenue to plug the gap in the MTA capital program would have spared transit riders from future fare hikes. More than two dozen local elected officials are on the record in favor of Move NY even though they were under no obligation to say anything about it. City Hall sent signals that toll reform was fine by the mayor.
Instead, Cuomo chose to let New York choke on its dysfunctional toll system for the foreseeable future. Sure, there’s a slim chance the governor, desperate for revenue, will turn to Move NY early in 2016 — in which case, he’s a lock for a lifetime achievement award from Streetsblog next December. But don’t kid yourself. Some kind of debt bomb that explodes in the face of transit riders after Cuomo leaves office is much more likely.
Dumbest Trial Balloon
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton floated the worst street design proposal of 2015 when he suggested the city’s intractable painted boob/creepy Elmo/fake Buddhist monk problem should be solved by ripping out the Times Square pedestrian plazas. The immediate and forceful blowback was a nice affirmation of how much New York has come to appreciate the car-free spaces on Broadway. But then Bratton dug in his heels for a few more weeks, and the more he talked about making the city safer by undoing a signature street safety accomplishment, the harder it became to believe that NYPD can make any significant progress on Vision Zero as long as he’s in charge.
Worst de Blasio Moment
Entertaining the removal of the Times Square plazas as a real possibility.
Best de Blasio Moment
Standing up for the Right of Way Law when the TWU attacked it.
The #deBlasiosNewYork Award for the Most “de Blasio” Transportation Policy Story of the Year
Sandwiched between major campaign donors in the yellow cab industry and Uber’s hyper-aggressive lobbying tactics, City Hall backed off a proposed growth cap on for-hire vehicles. The thing is, while a citywide “Uber cap” was a flawed policy proposal, the impulse to limit for-hire vehicles on the crowded streets of the Manhattan core had merit. The whole situation is very de Blasio.
Can the mayor salvage something next year from the muddled improvisations of 2015? At least City Hall had the sense to put Bruce Schaller in charge of drafting its report on the for-hire vehicle industry.
The Traffic Reduction Policy That DOT Forgot
Whatever happened to PARK Smart, the program to cut traffic and reduce double parking through well-calibrated meter prices? You know, the one with a track record of success in New York City. No one has heard a peep about it since October, 2014.
The de Blasio campaign goal of 6 percent bicycle mode-share by 2020 morphed into a much easier to achieve goal: doubling the center city cycling count by 2020.
The “It’s About Time” Award
In September, DOT finished installing the 140 speed cameras allowed by Albany, more than a year after the agency began siting and turning on its new allotment.
NIMBYs of the Year
The ideological commitment of the West 125th Street bus lane NIMBYs was truly impressive. “Your progress is trampling on our liberties,” bus lane opponent Julius Tajiddin told DOT at one point. “Give us freedom!” Because government should never violate the freedom to make bus riders stew in traffic.
Even more impressive were their political ties, with surrogates for local power brokers Charlie Rangel and Keith Wright huddling to talk bus lane opposition strategy after a key community board meeting. Good news for bus riders, though — those lanes got painted.
Clearest Expression of Windshield Perspective
State Senator Joe Addabbo told his constituents to fight bus lanes on Woodhaven Boulevard because he drives on it every day and he’s afraid the project will slow him down.
Most Revolting Press Conference
For some reason, Assembly Member Michael DenDekker and State Senator Jose Peralta started talking about “distracted pedestrians” at a press conference responding to the hit-and-run killing of 17-year-old Ovidio Jaramillo.
Best Argument for Community Board Term Limits
After obstructing progress on street safety for a generation, Dan Zweig, Ted Kovaleff, and Henrietta Lyle all got reappointed by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer to their respective community boards.
Purest Distillation of Community Board Priorities
Queens Community Board 5 chair Vincent Arcuri, faced with the prospect of eliminating parking minimums for affordable housing near transit so more people can put a roof over their heads, called the idea “an insult to Queens.”
Parking Abomination of the Year
Simone Development’s plan for phase two of Hutchinson Metro Center, facilitated by Empire State Development, looks like a 1980s suburban office park. Except it’s going to be right next to a Metro-North station in the East Bronx.
The Fugheddaboudit/Oy Vey! Award
— Brian Howald (@bdhowald) November 20, 2015
As soon as a patch of flat, expensively-built granite opened up by the steps to Brooklyn Borough Hall, replacing the old crumbling bluestone, Borough President Eric Adams and his staff were parking their personal vehicles on it. Marty Markowitz says, “Mazel tov!”