Friday’s Headlines: The Comptroller Job Isn’t Just About Money Edition

(Clockwise from top left) Comptroller candidates include State Senator Brian Benjamin, City Council Member Brad Lander, Assembly Member David Weprin and State Senator Kevin Parker.
(Clockwise from top left) Comptroller candidates include State Senator Brian Benjamin, City Council Member Brad Lander, Assembly Member David Weprin and State Senator Kevin Parker.
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It’s our December donation drive. Your gift helps us do these kinds of important stories. So please click here.

Let’s make some news from the Comptroller’s race!

Earlier this week Hell’s Kitchen Democrats and Chelsea Reform Democratic Club held an online debate with the four leading candidates to be the city’s accountant — State Senator Brian Benjamin, City Council Member Brad Lander, Assembly Member David Weprin and State Senator Kevin Parker — and it was clear that if your only issue is street safety, you only have one candidate.

Of course, most of the debate focused on city finances — they used words like “revenue” and “property taxes” and “auditing city contracts” yadda yadda yadda — but only Lander was fluent and had a vision when it came to outlining how the city’s top fiscal officer can play a key role in reducing road violence.

Lander leaned into street safety about 40 minutes into the debate (view it here in its entirety) when he was asked a question about how the city can save money. He answered first by addressing the need for cost savings in the city’s billions of dollars in capital contracts, but then segued to a topic that none of the other candidates had mentioned previously: the hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements the city pays out to victims of crashes by drivers of city-owned cars. (He must read Streetsblog.)

“We know how to reduce these crashes,” Lander said. “I would make sure there is a program.”

At another point, all four candidates were asked how they would cut the $9 billion in costs that the city bears from traffic crashes of all kinds. Again, Lander was the most prepared.

First, he mentioned his “Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Act,” which requires the worst drivers to take a safety course or lose their wheels, which was inspired by the death of two children by a driver “who had run so many red lights and speed-camera violations that she was in the top 1 percent of reckless drivers,” Lander said. “So we had the information to know she needed to change her driving behavior or stop driving before she killed Abigail and Joshua. We can use the data from the cameras and identify the top 1 percent and tell them you have to take a reckless driving course and change your driving behavior or you will lose your car because you can’t use it like a weapon aimed at your neighbors.”

By comparison, here is an unedited version of what Weprin said: “The audit function can play a role. A lot of the accidents could be discovered faults in the certain things that DOT is doing and other agencies that are doing traffic enforcement.”

All the candidates promised to cut fuel use by the city, but Lander went further than the others.

“My plan is to reduce the vehicle fleet,” he said. “Let’s start with policing. It’s mostly a pedestrian city and the things we want people noticing are there on foot. So the fact that vast majority of our officers are driving around in cars is bad public safety policy, bad environmental policy, bad fiscal policy and also leads to unnecessary crashes.” (Let the record show, the other candidates used the word “accident,” not “crash).

So it was a fun night. Now, the news from yesterday to set you up for the weekend:

  • Curbed offered a full-throated yawp in favor of e-scooter share, which is coming in the spring (but not to Manhattan).
  • A hit-and-run driver fleeing a crash killed a Brooklyn pedestrian. (NYDN, NY Post)
  • Road rage + gun + car = mayhem. (NYDN, NY Post)
  • It’s the same old story: COVID-19 restrictions reduced the total number of vehicle crashes in 2020, but the number of fatalities remains high because of all the speeding. (NY Post)
  • A bunch of plutocrats are rummaging through the couch cushions to help struggling street vendors (NY Post). Nice gesture, to be sure, but so many people are struggling right now in part because of the economic system built by (and for) said plutocrats.
  • A soft landing for an MTA facilities chief who ignored warnings about asbestos. (NYDN)
  • Any last possible notion of New York being a progressive city certainly burned up in the furnace of the Council’s approval of the Flushing waterfront rezoning yesterday. (NY Post, amNY)
  • In case you missed it, Community Board 1 in Manhattan also wants more space at the Brooklyn Bridge — but in the public space under it. (Tribeca Trib)
  • A group of Democratic lawmakers is suing to stop ranked choice voting, hoping to overturn the will of the people, who voted by a wide margin last year to create the “automatic runoff” voting system. (NY Times)
  • And, finally, we had a few more people click on the yellow “donation” icon on the top of this page yesterday, so let’s honor them now: Thanks, Lawrence! Thanks, Laura! Thanks, Jeffrey! Thanks, Andy!

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