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Eric Adams

Mayor Disses Local Councilman, Saying ‘Community’ Opposes McGuinness Safety Plan

The mayor openly mocked Greenpoint Council Member Lincoln Restler, who supports the redesign.

Mayor Adams discussed why he discarded a DOT plan to make McGuiness Boulevard safer.

Is he for safe streets or just settling scores?

In Mayor Adams's first public comments since he changed his mind and discarded his own Department of Transportation's widely backed McGuinness Boulevard safety plan, the mayor openly mocked the Greenpoint Council member who supports the redesign.

"Who is the Council member over there?" the mayor asked before being told it is Lincoln Restler.

"Who? OK," the mayor responded before breaking into a laugh and moving onto the next reporter's question. (To watch the segment, click here or jump to 39:05 in the video below):

The open mockery was the latest stunning development in the fast-moving story that Streetsblog broke last week, namely that on a conference call on July 3, Mayor Adams changed his mind about a road redesign that he had already approved after his chief adviser Ingrid Lewis-Martin claimed that the plan is widely opposed in the neighborhood.

In fact, more than 7,000 residents have signed a petition in support of the project, and both state legislators for the district, as well as Council Member Restler, the community board and Borough President Antonio Reynoso support the plan.

A source told Streetsblog that Lewis-Martin is the only member of the leadership team inside City Hall who opposes the DOT plan for McGuinness. The same source said that other members of the City Hall team were trying to work around Lewis-Martin to ensure that the plan would go through. But Adams sided with his chief aide in the call.

On Monday, Streetsblog asked Adams what had happened since his initial approval and his flip-flop.

If the mayor was serious about street safety and traffic violence, he would show it.

Council Member Lincoln Restler after being mocked by Mayor Adams on Monday

"Four hundred people went to a meeting and raised their concerns and I listen to New Yorkers," he said, referring to a town hall meeting held by the owners of Broadway Stages, a key business in the neighborhood — a meeting which supporters of the redesign were not allowed to attend.

"I have been an advocate for safe streets. ... I'm very comfortable on my advocacy to make sure the city is shaped to deal with those who use our streets on bikes, in cars and skateboards and pedestrians," he added. "This is going to be a contentious conversation. My desire is — I'm not going to force feed communities. I'm not going to do that. My desire [is] protected bike lanes everywhere, but I'm going to respect the voices of the people who live in these communities. And we can find a way. We will find a way to get what we're looking for — a safe place. If I think, as mayor, that there are other ways of doing it, I'm going to do that."

It was after he was reminded of the petition signatures and local political support on the ground, Hizzoner mocked Restler. "Ooh," he said before laughing.

Later, at Restler's Atlantic Avenue office, the Council member, who had been watching the live feed from City Hall, declined to make it personal.

"This isn't personal and it shouldn't be political," Restler said. "Over 7,000 residents have signed the petition to make McGuinness safe and the overwhelming number of them live in close proximity to the roadway. If the mayor was serious about street safety and traffic violence, he would show it."

Restler said he is now focused solely on reviving the safety plan, which has been debated and formulated for two years by the DOT and was approved overwhelmingly by the local community board — a panel on which Gina Argento, a co-owner of Broadway Stages, sits.

"We experience a crash per week on McGuinness," Restler said. "The mayor supported this plan, and has undergone some sort of reversal for reasons that are unknown. I'm not sure who got to him, but I hope that he can still be persuaded that we have an obligation to keep our neighbors safe and the experts at DOT have put forward the best plan to do so."

Streetsblog asked Restler if he thought the mayor's mockery of him had anything to do with the fact that before he was elected to the Council, Restler spearheaded an effort to reform the Brooklyn Democratic Party organization — a group to which the Argento family and Broadway Stages has donated more than $80,000. That money earned the attendance of party machine boss Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte-Hermelyn at the aforementioned town hall meeting, though she admitted that she didn't know anything about the issue, but was there to support her "friends." (The Argentos have also given more than $15,000 to Mayor Adams's campaigns.)

Restler has long been on the outs with the party machine, which has supported Mayor Adams.

"Your question speaks for itself," Restler said. "My focus is on how we can make McGuinness Safe. We need to end the cycle of violence that characterizes McGuinness Boulevard."

The have been more than a decade of efforts to make McGuinness safer. In just the last 10 years along the 15 blocks of McGuinness between the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Pulaski Bridge, there have been 1,698 reported crashes, according to NYPD stats, injuring 387 people and killing three, or roughly 39 injuries per year. And the DOT told Community Board 1 that in just the five years between 2016 and 2020, 230 people were injured, 13 severely. That's roughly 46 injuries per year.

And the two speed cameras on the stretch caught roughly 30 people every day driving at least 11 miles over the speed limit in fiscal year 2021 — when the cameras weren't even on 24-7.

The latest effort to tame the runaway roadway began after the hit-and-run killing of Matthew Jensen, a local teacher, in May 2021. Since that crash, some preliminary safety improvements have been made, but there have still been 175 reported crashes in those 25 months, or roughly two per week. Those crashes have injured 65 people, including six cyclists and 13 pedestrians, according to city stats.

The mayor proclaimed himself as a supporter of safe streets in the Monday press conference, but the numbers suggest otherwise.

The city failed to meet its legally mandated bus- and bike-lane mileage last year and is very far behind on meeting this year's higher requirement (30 miles of dedicated bus lanes and 50 miles of protected bike lanes). According to a tracker by Riders Alliance, the city has so far this year installed only 6.8 miles of the full 150 miles of bus lanes he's required to do in five years. According to a similar tracker for bike lanes by Transportation Alternatives, the city has done just 4.6 miles of bike lanes this year.

In addition, then-candidate Adams promised to put public money into Citi Bike (he has not done so) and create bike superhighways (none has even been proposed).

Meanwhile, road violence appears almost unabated. So far this year, total injuries in crashes is up 1.3 percent over the same period last year, according to the NYPD. And 117 people have been killed on the roads this year, which above the 2014-2022 average of 113 fatalities through this date, according to data by the DOT:

Chart: DOT

It's not the first time Mayor Adams has sought to belittle a perceived rival. Earlier this year, he mimicked City Comptroller Brad Lander. And last month, when he took umbrage when a housing advocate blamed him for rising rents in the city, he accused her of speaking to him as if she "owned" him on a "plantation." That woman turned out to be a Holocaust survivor.

City Hall declined to comment.

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