What Will They Do? Incoming Brooklyn Council Members Speak!

Brooklyn Council primary winners (at least the ones who spoke to us!) include (from left) Lincoln Restler, Jen Gutierrez, Crystal Hudson, Chi Osse, Sandy Nurse, Alexa Aviles, Shahana Hanif and Rita Joseph.
Brooklyn Council primary winners (at least the ones who spoke to us!) include (from left) Lincoln Restler, Jen Gutierrez, Crystal Hudson, Chi Osse, Sandy Nurse, Alexa Aviles, Shahana Hanif and Rita Joseph.

After the dust settled on the primary elections for next year’s City Council [certified results here], we began reaching out to the presumptive new lawmakers from the dozens of districts that will get new leadership on Jan. 1, 2022 to see what transportation priority the incoming Council Member has at the top of his or her list. Today, we examine Brooklyn, where 13 districts are getting new leadership.

brooklyn council districts

District 33 — Williamsburg, Greenpoint

Democrat Lincoln Restler won a free-wheeling primary to succeed Council Member Stephen Levin. During the campaign, Restler, a former City Hall staffer for Mayor de Blasio, hyped his own livable streets credentials, including demanding the end of city-issued placards and demanding that his former boss redesign McGuinness Boulevard. Here’s what he told us:

“Transportation makes up 30 percent of New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions — the largest source after buildings. An efficient, safe transportation network is critical to achieving our plan for carbon neutrality in the 33rd Council District.

My top livable streets priority is to reimagine our streetscape. It starts with the implementation of a network of truly protected bicycle lanes. I am also eager to push to improve the pedestrian experiences across the district by expanding public spaces, including permanent open streets, permanent outdoor dining, clean curbs for dedicated delivery space, containerization of garbage, and much more. The existential transportation challenge facing the 33rd is the crumbling triple cantilever section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. I will push to reduce the number of lanes of traffic in each direction and replace this crumbling relic with infrastructure we can actually believe in.”

District 34 — Bushwick, Williamsburg

Jen Gutierrez, a former staffer for term-limited Council Member Antonio Reynoso, defeated just one candidate to win the primary, which is tantamount to election in this highly Democratic district. During the campaign, Gutierrez promised to double-down on her former boss’s strong support for car-reduction strategies. Here’s what she said now:

“This is a tough one because I think we have so many things to tackle at the same time. Slow incremental changes to protect our streets are at the expense of the lives of New Yorkers. This means getting to work on priority corridors like Broadway and Myrtle, immediately. We need smart designs to make it safer for pedestrians to move around and thoughtful connectivity infrastructure for cyclists. Fighting for District 34 and the safe streets we deserve will be paramount to me.”

District 35 — Fort Greene, Downtown

Crystal Hudson won a multi-candidate primary to succeed term-limited Laurie Cumbo, who has been a longtime opponent of many street safety issues, including the city’s residential loading zone program. Hudson, who described herself as a bike rider during the campaign, said she would always take her cues from “the community” when it comes to bike and bus lane projects that are so essential to the neighborhood. Here’s what she told us:

“Despite our city’s attempts to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2024 through Vision Zero, 2021 is set to be the second deadliest [or most-deadly] year for traffic violence since Vision Zero began. It’s clear our current approach isn’t working, and we need to act now and dramatically ramp up our investment in road safety, especially in Black and brown neighborhoods that have suffered historic disinvestment. This means boosting funding to quickly implement the Street Masters Plan, which calls for more miles of protected bike lanes and bus lanes, more accessible pedestrian signals, and redesigned intersections. This means strengthening the Open Streets program and identifying streets that can be fully closed off for cars and for pedestrian use only. Above all, this means we must fundamentally shift our city’s relationship with our streets by reducing our reliance on cars and incentivizing New Yorkers — who have the ability — to use bikes and mass transit by creating hundreds of more miles of protected bike lanes, expanding bike parking, making our public transit system fully ADA-compliant, and ensuring Fair Fares is fully funded and expanded to cover all New Yorkers who need it.”

We followed up for specifics, and here is what Hudson told us:

“We need to create a network of interconnected bike lanes throughout our city that feed into a high quality network of safe streets, prioritizing Central Brooklyn which has suffered from a lack of bike infrastructure for far too long. Though we have a protected bike lane along Eastern Parkway, cyclists do not presently have a means of navigating the entirety of 35th District in a safe manner. As a start, I will fight for the creation of at least two additional two-way protected bike lanes to connect the northern and southern parts of the 35th District, potentially along Franklin Avenue and Washington Avenue. I also will advocate for another protected bike lane in the northern part of our district that connects to the existing protected lanes in Downtown Brooklyn, likely along either Myrtle Avenue or Dekalb Avenue. This cannot happen, however, without engaging the residents of the 35th District, urban planning experts, and other stakeholders to ensure that any plans to create additional miles of bike lanes best meet the needs of our community.”

District 36 — Bedford-Stuyvesant

Chi Osse won the multi-candidate Democratic primary to succeed term-limited Council Member Robert Cornegy, which is tantamount to election in the highly Democratic 36th. During the campaign, Osse specifically told us that he was angry about the lack of bike lanes and how Citi Bike locations cut out too much of his community. Here’s what he says now about his first priority:

“The first, most important livable streets initiative I will fight for is the push to make streets safe and pleasant for people. This can be accomplished through two critical steps. The first is, in the short term, making permanent and expanding the Open Streets Program that has been a boon for local business and established space for vibrant congregation right in the community. The second is, in the medium to long term, introducing protected bike lanes into our district in pursuit of the RPA’s Five Borough Bikeway Plan. Drivers in the district lose no street parking as their parallel-parked cars serve as barriers to protect bikers. Win-win solutions like these can ease transit, help the environment, and modernize our city.”

District 37 — East New York, Bushwick

Council Member Darma Diaz took office after the resignation of Rafael Espinal, but didn’t truly benefit from her brief incumbency, losing to carpenter and activist Sandy Nurse. During the campaign, Nurse emphasized, “We need to disincentivize the use of cars — and the way to get to that is to invest in better public transit.” Here’s what she said shortly after her victory in the primary, which is tantamount to election in this highly Democratic seat.

“When compared to surrounding districts, the 37th does not have as much Vision Zero infrastructure implemented. We do not have any areas that are designated as safer for Seniors, we have significantly less Leading Pedestrian Intervals than our adjacent council districts. We do not have any slow zones. We have only a couple of Turning Calm bumps. So we can see that we need to be a priority district for investments in pedestrian and vehicular safety.

“The first step for me is to sit with safer streets advocates and collectively determine the priority areas that need the most attention. At the district level, I will work with the 3 Community Boards and their Transportation Committees to outline where the Vision Zero plan needs further implementation in the 37th. We know that our district has not received the same level of implementation as other more affluent zip codes. I plan to organize with other City Councilmembers to ensure the continued implementation of Vision Zero equitably across all parts of the city.

“There are specific areas and intersections that I have personally seen more than one accident at in 2020 including the intersections of Glenmore Ave and Van Sinderen Ave, and at Liberty Ave and Van Sinderen Ave. There was also the horrific and tragic incident where two school children were killed by buses off the Pennsylvania and Liberty Ave intersections despite the fact that the Community Board and members of the Transportation Committee were advocating for traffic signals and signage. I will be advocating for those specific fixes.

“Additionally, I would like to see turning calms and Leading Pedestrian Intervals brought to our district for specific busy commercial intersections along Fulton, Atlantic, Knickerbocker, and Wyckoff Avenue. I am also deeply concerned about the safety of the outdoor dining huts that have been constructed right at intersections. If we would like to see these structures stay with us past COVID, I would like turn-calming speed bumps installed where these structures are closest to the intersection.”

District 38 — Sunset Park, Windsor Terrace

Alexa Aviles won the a wide-open primary race to succeed term-limited Council Member (and failed mayoral candidate) Carlos Menchaca, who has been a strong supporter of street safety initiatives in a neighborhood that is dominated by road deaths. Here’s what Aviles told us when we asked for her top priority:

“Working people want safe streets. We need to immediately improve pedestrian safety along Third Avenue by improving crossing conditions, lighting, and bringing in solutions like bus boarders and curb extensions. These simple and inexpensive changes would improve bus service along 3rd Avenue by ensuring that buses are actually accessible to riders with mobility challenges, and it will prevent cars from parking in bus stops. Safety conditions at the pedestrian crossing from Carroll Gardens to Red Hook at West Ninth and Clinton streets must be urgently addressed with methods like more lighting, increased crossing times for pedestrians and highly visible signs to alert drivers. This is one of only two pedestrian crossings into Red Hook and the site of our district’s single pedestrian fatality so far this year.

“Street safety for pedestrians and bikers is an issue for working people in my district. More District 38 residents walk or ride a bike to work compared to the citywide average. These residents are deliveristas and working people who commute to their jobs along commercial corridors like Fifth and Eighth avenues and the industrial waterfront. We cannot let them down.”

District 39 — Park Slope, Kensington

Shahana Hanif won the primary to succeed Council Member Brad Lander, a city leader on street safety issues. Nonetheless, filling Lander’s shoes on livable streets remains a full-time job given how many cyclists live in the Park Slope portion of the neighborhood — and how many would-be cyclists live in the southern portion of the district, where infrastructure is non-existent. Also bus riders need relief from painfully slow above-ground transit, thanks to no dedicated lanes. And so many roadways in the Kensington part of the district remain unsafe. One of Hanif’s vanquished challengers had called for a busway on Union Street, so we asked the winner what her priorities would be. Here’s what she said:

“My number one safe streets priority is putting more resources towards making the deadly intersections at Ocean Parkway and Church Avenue in Kensington and Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue in Park Slope safer. During the pandemic, I saw two sisters sitting together and studying for exams on Ocean Parkway with loaned tablets. I had never seen the space used like this! But, this is what a safe, walkable, and bikeable city looks like. Ocean Parkway can be more widely used — if we repave the greenway, lower speed limits for cars, and add more benches and seating, alongside community WiFi, for public use. Equally important is creating a thoughtful and participatory community engagement process with the Department of Transportation to identify and fix deadly intersections throughout the district.

“I have to quickly mention a second priority because my relationship with disability justice and transportation advocacy led me here: I want to see through the completion of the Seventh Avenue F/G elevator project so that all New Yorkers can have access to a more robust public transit infrastructure in my district’s hospital corridor and choose to ride the subway.

Safe and livable streets initiatives will continue to be a priority for me and I look forward to collaborating with NYC’s vast and brilliant network of safe streets advocates and community organizations to ensure an equitable, decarceral, and participatory approach. I’m excited to make group bike rides an important part of my office!”

District 40 — Flatbush, Crown Heights

Literally any one of the dozen or so people who ran to succeed term-limited Council Member Mathieu Eugene would have been an improvement on the do-nothing lawmaker, but public school teacher Rita Joseph triumphed in the primary, which is tantamount to election in this district. During the campaign (and in a Streetsblog op-ed), Joseph was keenly focused on the racial bias of the NYPD in regards to policing public space. Here’s what she told us after her victory:

“We need to get cars off the road in order to reduce traffic deaths and protect our environment. This will only be possible if we make other forms of transportation more feasible and reliable. Bus and subway service must be speedy and reliable, while biking needs to be made significantly safer. If NYC improves biking feasibility, bus service, and subway service, people will recognize that driving is not the most efficient mode of transportation. In turn, this will result in fewer cars on the road, less accidents, and better air quality.”

We wanted more specifics, and Joseph followed with this:

“I can’t name a sole individual project that I want to make my single biggest livable street priority, just because such a decision will require community input from transit/livable streets activists and constituents from throughout the district. What I can tell you with certainty is that I’d like to increase the mileage of protected bike lanes in the district.”

District 41 — Brownsville

Darlene Mealy, a former council member, defeated incumbent Alicka Ampry-Samuel in the Democratic primary. She has not responded to efforts to reach her.

District 42 — Canarsie

Former Council Member and current Assembly Member Charles Barron won the primary to reclaim his old seat and succeed his wife, Inez Barron. During the campaign, Barron said that his constituents don’t believe street safety projects are important, but he also said he supports bike lanes and NYPD reform. He declined to respond to repeated requests for comment for this story.

District 43 — Bay Ridge

Incumbent Council Member Justin Brannan easily won his primary and is expected to romp in November.

District 44 — Boro Park

Incumbent Council Member Kalman Yeger — a defiant opponent of street safety measures — easily won his primary and is expected to romp in November. He has never responded to requests for comment from Streetsblog. He ran unopposed on the Democratic and Republican lines.

District 45 — Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood

Incumbent Council Member Farah Louis won the primary and will likely retain her seat. She did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this story. During the campaign, she was weak on the need to expand bike lanes in her district, which currently has virtually no protected infrastructure.

District 46 — Flatlands, Marine Park

Mercedes Narcisse won a wide-open primary to succeed term-limited Council Member Alan Maisel. She did not respond to requests for comment both during the campaign and since.

District 47 — Coney Island, Bensonhurst

Ari Kagan, a council staffer, won the primary to succeed his former boss, term-limited Council Member Mark Treyger. Kagan did not respond to requests for comment.

District 48 — Sheepshead Bay, Midwood

This was a fun race. Multiple engaged candidates jumped into the race to succeed term-limited Council Member Chaim Deutsch, who wasn’t even in office (thanks to a tax-fraud conviction) by the time the primary rolled around on June 22. Steven Saperstein, co-founder of the Shorefront Coalition, won the primary and is expected to win in November. During the campaign, Saperstein, a former Republican, seemed interested in livable streets issues, but has not responded to repeated requests for comment since the election.

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