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2021 Mayoral Campaign

Kathryn Garcia Doesn’t Know What To Do About The BQE

5:30 PM EDT on May 26, 2021

Mayoral candidate Kathryn Garcia talks to reporters outside Moynihan station.

Mayoral candidate Kathryn Garcia talks to reporters outside Moynihan station. Photo: Christopher Robbins

Kathryn Garcia will get things done as the next mayor of New York City — but she'll have to get back to you on how.

The former Sanitation Commissioner with a brand new razor-thin lead in the latest poll of Democratic primary voters shared her top infrastructure priorities with reporters on Wednesday morning. They include fixing the crumbling Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, building the Queens Way, covering portions of the Cross-Bronx Expressway with green space, and building actual transit infrastructure on Staten Island.

"Getting impossible jobs done with solutions that actually work is my specialty," Garcia told the press in front of Moynihan Station, a reference to her biggest infrastructure priority: finishing the crucial Gateway tunnel project. "I’m ready to deliver on the projects that have stalled for years because of lack of funding, willpower, or creative thinking from our own city, state, and federal government."

Yet when pressed for some specifics on said creative thinking, Garcia sounded a little like the "Get Things Done" candidate morphing into the "Don't Mess Up My Lead In The Polls" candidate.

Garcia's rival, Comptroller Scott Stringer, has released a comprehensive and specific plan for addressing the BQE that includes a trucks-only restriction and creating a two-mile "linear park." What does Garcia think of these ideas?

"I want to make sure that this creates a more livable connection, that we keep freight moving on that connector. But this is also where my skills, to bring folks together to collaborate, so we actually achieve it, is what I intend to do," Garcia told Streetsblog.

"I am not picking the specific design — I am gonna leave that to the engineers who are gonna tell me how to build it right," she later added — though that is essentially the aimless position that the city finds itself in right now.

Garcia's press release notes that her administration would apply an HOV 3+ restriction to free bridges and the entirety of the BQE, but a city-commissioned panel of experts already recommended such mandatory car-pooling as well immediately cutting the highway from six lanes to four in its most structurally compromised portion to prevent further decay — and that was in January, 2020.

Another reporter asked if Garcia would move to eliminate Madison Square Garden's sketchy property tax abatement, which has cost New York taxpayers more than half a billion dollars since 1982.

"When I look at this, I put it in the context of our overall proprietary tax system, which needs a significant overhaul," Garcia replied.

Putting our current mayor's failed pledge to reform property tax rates aside, MSG's tax exemption is a brazen corporate handout that doesn't require a systemic overhaul to correct. The state legislature passed the explicit exemption when the owners of the Knicks and Rangers threatened to leave New York (sound familiar?).

For residents of the Rock, Garcia provided some assurances that they wouldn't be forgotten, calling Staten Island "the borough that has perhaps been the most neglected by the city when it comes to improving public transit accessibility and infrastructure."

Garcia also noted that she has personally overseen $8 billion in capital projects over her tenure as a public servant.

On congestion pricing, Garcia told Streetsblog that she wants to see it happen, but that disabled New Yorkers should probably have an exemption — a provision that is already baked into the language of the state law that created the tolls in 2019.

"I’ve been on the subway recently and they’ve said, 'I’m sorry the elevator at this station isn’t working, please go three or four stations and take a shuttle bus back.' We have to make it so people with disabilities can still get around this city," Garcia said.

Odds and ends

Meanwhile, uptown, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams was holding an event to discuss the "quality of life crisis" of reckless ATV and dirtbike riding, but to our ears he wasn't proposing anything new.

Adams trails Garcia by one percentage point, 20 percent to 21 percent, in the latest Emerson College/PIX 11 poll, which shows former presidential candidate and former suburbanite Andrew Yang at 16 percent, and no other candidate in the double-digits. (All of these polls should be taken with a grain of salt, as the bigger polling firms have largely stayed out of the race, blaming the new ranked choice voting system.) Adams was asked if he was concerned at all about Garcia's apparent ascent, given the new polling and her endorsements from the New York Times and Daily News editorial boards.

"I don’t look at the polls. I am so focused, disciplined, determined, no noise, no distraction," Adams said, minutes after his campaign blasted out an email with the subject line "Eric Adams tops two new polls as mayor's race enters final month."

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