Mayor ‘Mansplains’ What Happened to DOT’s ‘Christmas Crush’ Fix

Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill. Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill. Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Mayor de Blasio doubled down on his assertion on Wednesday that a long-overdue plan to finally create more room for the thousands of pedestrians who flock to the Rockefeller Center area for the holiday season was merely “premature” — rejecting the theory that he had caved to his own NYPD, which put the kibosh on it.

“They didn’t block the plan. The plan had not been approved. Anything like that, we need to, at City Hall, understand the perspective of all agencies affected and what it’s going to mean for people overall in this city,” Hizzoner said during an unrelated press conference on crime stats.

Streetsblog reported on Monday that de Blasio made a scapegoat of someone at the Department of Transportation for allegedly “leaking” details of a plan to reduce pedestrian congestion during the holiday season by repurposing two travel lanes on Fifth Avenue — and he did so in order to protect NYPD officials, who weren’t on board.

But de Blasio insisted that nothing had actually been finalized or come before him at City Hall and that the typical process by which plans are made had failed.

“Somehow that was put out or leaked out at DOT before it had gone into that process, that’s the bottom line. When that process is actually done, when all the factors are considered, we’ll come to a decision,” he said Wednesday. “It’s not surprising that the Department of Transportation might have one perspective and however the information came out, whether it was on purpose or by mistake, it just jumped the gun of the whole process of working with all the other agencies. I’m the arbiter when it’s something important enough, So, what happened here was that process just didn’t actually finish before it was out in the public and we said, no, we’re not going to do something that hasn’t been properly worked through.”

But the timeline of how and when the process broke down is still unclear since NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan said his team has been meeting with DOT for a year to try to come up with a better way to get people moving more safely on Fifth Avenue — unlike last year when both de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill admitted that they didn’t do enough to ease the dangerous conditions for pedestrians in Midtown and other festive areas like the Brooklyn Bridge.

“We’ve been meeting with DOT on this for a while — as a matter of fact I’m meeting with them again this week to come up with a plan,” he said.

But de Blasio wasn’t pleased when reporters kept asking him about the plan-that-wasn’t, even resorting to “mansplaining” when this reporter asked about the breakdown in the plan.

“It’s not a shocking thing that some people have their own bias, sometimes related to which agency they’re for. Different agencies have different priorities. I really want to try and help people to understand it. If you’re this interested in the issue, I’m trying to give you a window on how the world works,” de Blasio said. “Everyone puts forward their views. If we can get everyone on the same page, that’s beautiful. If there’s a difference, it comes, if it’s an important enough thing, to me. … An agency, like any other group of people, has its own assumptions, its own preferences, its own worldview, and the idea is that the elected government has to ultimately decide how to balance all those factors. And that’s what this is an example of. We have to balance the factors and decide what we think works overall.”

Meanwhile, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Manhattan Council Member Keith Powers, Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and the Fifth Avenue Association want the city to do more, perhaps even pedestrianize the area around Rockefeller Center.

The mayor on Wednesday said that he would consider it.

“I’m willing to consider anything that is consistent with our overall goals in terms of safety, in terms of addressing congestion. There’s lots of lots of factors,” he said. “In terms of doing something more permanently, that’s a more serious, bigger discussion, but I would consider it, of course.”

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John Petro is a policy analyst for New York City affairs and the co-author of “Vision Zero: How Safer Streets in New York City Can Save More Than 100 Lives a Year.” Mayor Bill de Blasio released his administration’s Vision Zero Action Plan earlier this week, following up on a high-profile campaign promise just six […]