DECISION 2022: The StreetsPAC Guide to the Assembly Primary Season
Look out, Albany incumbents.
Just in time for early voting, which begins on Saturday, the city’s only political action committee devoted to road safety and livable streets is urging city voters to retire seven current officeholders in 19 races across four boroughs.
“There are some long-term officeholders whose views on transportation and street-safety issues haven’t evolved with the times, or for whom slowing down speeding drivers or making walking and biking safer and easier don’t really register as important issues,” said Eric McClure, executive director of the street safety PAC. “However, thanks to the work of committed advocacy organizations … a good number of people are coming around to the idea that our streets and sidewalks and built environment can be so much better, and so much more livable and inviting, and some of those people are choosing to run for office. And they definitely recognize the value in StreetsPAC’s endorsement.”
McClure dismissed the notion that StreetsPAC was anti-incumbent, given that eight of the endorsees — Khaleel Anderson in Eastern Queens’s 31st District; Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas in Western Queens’s 34th District; Brian Cunningham in central Brooklyn’s 43rd District; Bobby Carroll in Brooklyn’s 44th District; Emily Gallagher in North Brooklyn’s 50th District; Eddie Gibbs in Harlem’s 68th District; Harvey Epstein in Manhattan’s 74th District; and Jeffrey Dinowitz in the North Bronx’s 81st District; are incumbents.
The remaining four endorsements are for open seats. Let’s hit those first:
Juan Ardilla (District 37 — Long Island City/Maspeth). Quelle embarras! Hours after Ardilla learned he got the StreetsPAC endorsement for the seat being vacated by Cathy Nolan, his rivals planted a killer story in the Sunnyside Post: that the street safety avatar was, in fact, driving around in a car with multiple speed-camera violations! The story made StreetsPAC’s write-up read a bit more like “do as I say, not as I do”: “He wants to reduce the car culture in the eastern part of the district by improving transit access and making it easier and safer to bike, and supports the expansion of Citi Bike and the bike-lane network. … He’s also committed to pursuing reform of the Department of Motor Vehicles, including the periodic retesting or recertification of drivers.” Doctor, heal thyself!
Grace Lee (District 65 — Lower East Side). Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou is vacating this safe seat to run for Congress against Bill de Blasio, Mondaire Jones and Carlina Rivera, so Lee (a regular Citi Bike user) is the beneficiary of that wishful thinking. “She will make upgrading public transit a priority, especially improving bus service and subway accessibility on the Lower East Side, and she’s also interested in reforming the MTA board and making sure the agency is focused on enhancing service,” StreetsPAC said. She also wants a faster fix of Canal Street and a crackdown on placard abuse.
Adam Roberts (District 73 — Silk Stocking District). With Dan Quart retiring, this race is wide open. Roberts, an architectural policy expert who once worked for Council Member Ben Kallos, got the nod for his commitment “to improving transit service and making it safer and easier for people to walk and bike.”
Tony Simone (District 75 — West Side): Upper West Siders can be forgiven for forgetting to vote in this election, given that retiring Assembly Member Dick Gottfried has been in the seat since Nixon was president. Simone said all the right thing to the group — “he believes fewer cars, better transit, and more people on bikes are key to a more livable city. He supports … taking steps to speed up buses.” Etc. — but he got our attention when he also said that “the Hudson River Greenway should be widened by taking a vehicular lane from West Street.”
Now, onto the expendable incumbents:
Anthony Andrews (District 32 — Southeastern Queens): StreetsPAC endorsed Andrews over incumbent Vivian Cook, citing his support for buses, including more automated enforcement. “He also wants to see the area’s haphazard bike lanes connected and expanded into a safe and contiguous network.”
Samy Nemir Olivares (District 54 — East New York): Olivares is a big support of bike lanes and congestion pricing and is “committed to advocating for improved transit service, especially faster and more reliable buses by way of dedicated lanes, and believes buses should eventually be fare-free,” StreetsPAC said. The incumbent, Erik Dilan, has never been a leader on these issues, and, in fact, once voted against bus lane enforcement cameras.
Hercules Reid (District 58 — East Flatbush): Reid, a former aide to Mayor Adams, is a member of Families for Safe Streets (he was hit while on his bike in 2015). He told StreetsPAC he would work to expand Citi Bike to his neighborhood, and improve the area’s slow buses. Incumbent Monique Chandler-Waterman only took over recently, having beaten Reid in a special election in May. In an interview with City and State, Chandler-Waterman did not mention livable streets issues at all.
Ryder Kessler (District 66 — West Village/Tribeca): Assembly Member Deborah Glick has represented this district since the first Bush administration, but she’s also won the support of many street safety advocates for her work on speed cameras. But Kessler has emerged as even more progressive on the broader livable streets agenda. “He has made transforming and improving the safety of the city’s streets a central plank in his platform,” StreetsPAC said. “He’s an advocate for replacing free curbside car storage with more space for pedestrians, containerized trash receptacles,
protected bike lanes, dedicated busways, and improved outdoor-dining setups. He believes the bike network should be expanded and universally hardened against incursion by drivers.” But the endorsement of Kessler was “not an easy decision,” the group said because of Glick’s decent record. The main knock? “She was slow to come around on congestion tolling, and more recently, rallied with opponents of the Open Restaurants program.” Kessler looks poised to eat Glick’s lunch.
Delsenia Glover (District 70 — Harlem): Glover, a housing advocate, told StreetsPAC that “the city would be a much better place with fewer cars.” She also supports improving bus service with new busways, and expanding the bike network. The current Assembly Member Inez Dickens, who was a Council member before moving to Albany, has never been a leader on street safety issues.
Patrick Bobilin (District 76 — Upper East Side): Four-term Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright has not distinguished herself on any livable streets issues, so StreetsPAC wants a change. “Bobilin supports transit improvements, especially to bus service — he’d like to see a 14th Street-style busway on 86th Street — and ultimately envisions a fare-free transit system supported by progressive taxes,” StreetsPAC wrote. “He’d like to improve ferry service by integrating it with the larger transit system, and plans to advocate for major improvements to the East River Greenway.”
Jonathan Soto (District 82 — Northeast Bronx): He’s a former staffer for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and is challenging 18-year incumbent Michael Benedetto. But if that isn’t enough, Soto told StreetsPAC that he will take on “dangerous” (his word) car culture, and “wants to make it much easier, and safer, for residents to get around without driving,” StreetsPAC said.
Election Day is Tuesday, June 28, but early voting starts on Saturday. To find your polling place or to see where to vote early (but not often), visit the Board of Elections website here. To find your Assembly Member, click here.