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Opinion: What Would Jesus Do? He’d Build a Bike Lane on McGuinness, Mr. Mayor

In the Bible, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters." But the mayor is trying to serve safety and cars. And it's not possible, says one Greenpoint dad.

Greenpoint residents rallied at City Hall on Thursday with the support, apparently, of Jesus. Photo: Josh Katz

Chris Roberti is a Greenpoint parent who attended a rally at City Hall on Thursday to demand that the Adams administration follow through on its promise to make McGuinness Boulevard safer — a plan that the mayor discarded earlier this month. Roberti made a strong argument in support of safety that he hoped would connect to Mayor Adams's faith.

Chris Roberti. Photo: Josh Katz

I’m a dad and I'm what some would have you believe is a mythical being: a Greenpoint resident in support of the road diet that the mayor has recently changed his mind about supporting. In truth, there are thousands of us and the number grows as we speak. I’m also a proud member of PS110’s Safe Streets Committee — our mission is to create safe and accessible streets for everyone — prioritizing keeping children and pedestrians safe.

I have two children, both at camp right now, where I hope they are safe, but I know that when they go on excursions they enter an unsafe and unforgiving space: our poorly designed roads and the dangerous driving these poorly designed roads create. I see it all the time. Not only, but certainly, on McGuinness. A road which everyone agrees is an obvious and proven threat to the community. Every day that goes by without intervention is the administration and obstructionists playing Russian roulette with our neighbors and children’s lives.

When my children do something irrational, or frustrating, or maddening, I try to remind myself — and them — that if we know better, we can do better.

I began to notice the dangers of drivers and trucks after becoming a parent — like many of us, I imagine — suddenly, I saw cement trucks rolling through red lights, SUV drivers doing twice the speed limit on residential streets, and countless other horrors. These did not suddenly appear when my daughter was born, but I suddenly became aware of it. I began to know the world around me better, and so I began to try to do something to make the world around me safer.

I am disappointed in the recent confusing decision of the mayor, but I try not to be angry. As a parent, anger doesn’t get me very far. When my children do something irrational, or frustrating, or maddening, I try to remind myself — and them — that if we know better, we can do better.

I’m not angry with the mayor, but I think if he knew better, he would do better. So I’m inviting him to spend some time in Greenpoint, to do the work of seeing the city through a child’s, or elder’s eyes. Come walk the streets we walk with our scooters and strollers and two or three children. Speak to your colleagues and scientists who actually know what they are talking about when it comes to street safety.

I personally cross McGuinness half a dozen times a day, sometimes with my children on bikes or in a stroller, sometimes on foot, sometimes in a car. It’s a terrible street. Cars treat it like a highway, and as everyone knows, it’s deadly.

We have spent the last two years learning, talking, organizing, meeting, and compromising with our neighbors. In short, as we knew better, we could do better. And the design was created — after much feedback — by the DOT, approved by the community board, all of our elected officials and the mayor.

Now it’s been sabotaged by misinformation, fearful speculation, and lies. But somehow, the mayor believed it. And it’s sad, but I’m not angry. He did not know better, so he could not do better. I am confident that as we continue to work with our neighbors to form a plan, AGAIN, we will arrive at a plan for a truly safe McGuinness, AGAIN. And it will look like the plan the DOT has already presented. Though hopefully with a comprehensive streets plan for all of Eastern Greenpoint.

How Streetsblog covered the mayor's flip-flop.

I am also confident that restarting the work wastes valuable time — every week someone is injured on the boulevard. This delay will directly lead to more injuries. It’s unforgivable. You are asking the people of our neighborhood to continue to put themselves in harm's way because after an already lengthy and thorough process — a wealthy landlord did not like the result, and declared it fake news, and swamped the democratic process.

And while there may not be urgency from you, Mr. Mayor, you placed a deadly urgency upon us. And if a proposal that meets our safety objectives is not presented soon, we will be forced to make McGuinness Boulevard safe on our own. We know how to do it. We have the will to do it. On rides and marches, we keep us safe. Who keeps us safe? We keep us safe. Our patience is not endless. So I’ll say it again. If we do not have a proposal that prioritizes pedestrian safety very very soon, We will be forced to make the boulevard safe on our own. That’s a promise.

As a parent my sole focus is the nurturance and safety of my children. We have a plan that drastically improves the safety of a deadly threat within our neighborhood. It is the height of foolishness and irresponsibility to abandon that plan for the sake of some imagined inconvenience.

I know the mayor to be a man of god. And I want to share a piece of scripture that has resonated with me throughout my life, and certainly today: In the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 6 verse 24, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Jesus said that.

You cannot serve both the good of the people, and the will of the wealthy and powerful. You cannot serve both safety and cars. You just can’t. The truth is, if safety is your priority, and not just lip service, cars must be slowed down and, yes, inconvenienced. No one can serve two masters.

A good leader does the hard thing, she does the right thing for those without financial power. A good leader serves those who can do nothing in return for the leader themself. A good leader makes right and just choices for the people, our children, our elders, and our environment.

It seems possible that up until now, you did not know this, but the good news is: now you do. And now, Mr. Mayor, I wait along with my children, and the thousands of other children and families of this wonderful city, for you to do better.

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