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Friday’s Headlines: Bombshell over DOT Edition

12:03 AM EDT on September 23, 2022

Yesterday's news was dominated (if we say so ourselves) by our own investigative reporter Jesse Coburn's deep dive into whether the Department of Transportation is (excuse the pun) firing on all cylinders.

Coburn's story — which relied on the never-before-seen DOT organizational chart, plus interviews with a dozen current and former DOT employees — exposed the high number of vacancies in senior positions and a cycle of low morale stemming from remaining workers being overtaxed and under-appreciated.

The piece received lots of comments on our site (and on Reddit), including some from people claiming to be DOT insiders. Some blamed advocacy types like, well, us, for thinking that the appointment of Council Member (and one-time DOT-bomb thrower) Ydanis Rodriguez to run a $1.3-billion agency would work out.

"Had you bothered to ask anyone at DOT ahead of his appointment, you might have learned [that] few if any thought he would be good pick to run the agency," posted "Former Staffer." (Hey, wait a second — we reported from the get-go that Rodriguez would "face a huge challenge running the DOT, a vast, sprawling agency with a $1.3-billion budget that is about to take over key responsibilities over crash investigations, outdoor restaurant regulation, open streets, much bigger legal mandates for bus and bike lane construction and, most important, an imperative to bring down road deaths after the bloodiest year of the Vision Zero era," so there).

Other commenters focused on the broader implication of Coburn's story.

"The Adams administration's 'no exceptions' return to office policy is a self-inflicted wound that has cost the city many talented people — both those already gone and potential new hires," posted NakedHikerNYC. "Think of it — for absolutely NO COST, the city could make itself a more attractive place to work, but it refuses."

And the equine-themed poster "Don Key" added that Rodriguez simply didn't know what he was getting into: "Rodriguez made promises and set numerical targets before he even set foot in the DOT office. He didn’t think about, say, concrete delivery capacity, or anything else someone with transportation agency experience might have flagged. Value expertise over lofty proclamations. Eric Adams clearly didn’t."

Another poster named "glittertitsandshortbangs," connected mostly with the reporting suggesting Rodriguez is obsessed with his press coverage.

"Well, he sure knows how to get his photo in the papers," the sparkly endowed, short-haired poster pointed out. "I can barely conjure up an image of Janette or Polly in my head (and I’m a nerd for this stuff). Him and Mayor Swag. They are actors. Not policy executives."

We hope you'll read the story, which came on the heels of our other story about the difficulty the agency is having with Mayor Adams's promise to redesign 1,000 intersections this year. So remember to always check Streetsblog — your one stop shop for the most important news from the livable streets beat.

In other news from Thursday:

    • What's with all this pond-hopping by Andy Byford? (NY Post, NY Times)
    • The subway system hit another record yesterday. (amNY)
    • The City took a look at Mayor Adams's decision to go with the QueensWay instead of the QueensLink.
    • Who says outer-borough or Jersey residents oppose congestion pricing? (amNY)
    • The NYC Ferry system needs stability before expansion (which is what they said about Russia in 1920, but who listened?) (Gothamist)
    • What's going on with open restaurants? (City&State)
    • It's time to fix the Washington Bridge, says Mark Levine and a host of other pols. (amNY)
    • A planetarium for Queens? Why not? (Gothamist)
    • We're unabashed fans of Upper East Site, but we simply can't make heads or tails of the lede on this Community Board 8 congestion pricing story: "Less than two hours after commending fellow CB8 members for taking a stand against a deeply unpopular plan that would be detrimental to Upper East Side residents, Russell Squire used his power as CB8 chair to kill the groundswell of grassroots opposition against a deeply unpopular plan that would be detrimental to residents without debate — kneecapping the opposition to the MTA’s congestion pricing toll plan during a fiery meeting and silencing its opponents, including a disabled board member with very real concerns about the impact a $23 toll will have on New Yorkers with a disability."

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