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The Bronx

Amid Rash of Crashes, DOT Has No Bronx Borough Commissioner

“Whenever I have concerns with DOT at the moment, I have to call you," Council Member Rafael Salamanca Jr. told DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez at a hearing.

12:01 AM EDT on September 13, 2023

DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez rides an e-scooter on Bronxdale Avenue in the Bronx in October, 2022. Photo NYC DOT.

The Bronx is yearning.

The Department of Transportation under Mayor Adams has not hired a Bronx borough commissioner — creating a vacuum of accountability and leadership amid a scourge of crashes in the historically underserved borough, a top local pol charged on Tuesday.

“Whenever I have concerns with DOT at the moment, I have to either call your chief of staff or call you to get something done. There is no borough commissioner in the borough of the Bronx," Council Member Rafael Salamanca (D-Concourse Village) told DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez at a Council oversight hearing on Tuesday.

"When is that going to change, when am I going to be able to call the borough commissioner of DOT in the Bronx?”

It is unclear how long the position has remained vacant, but according to city records, former Bronx Borough Commissioner Nivardo Lopez resigned shortly after Adams's election in Nov. 2021 in order to join Gov. Hochul's administration. Rodriguez said during the hearing Tuesday that the agency has an “interim [borough] commissioner.”

According to a search on LinkedIn, longtime DOT employee Keith Kalb served as deputy, and then interim, Bronx borough commissioner until this July. His page on LinkedIn now shows Kalb as the director of special projects in Queens. The agency clarified late Tuesday night that borough planner Darisa Cruz now "leads the office in an acting role" after Kalb "departed to pursue another opportunity in the agency."

Meanwhile, all other boroughs have their own commissioners, according to the DOT website. When former Staten Island borough commissioner Thomas Cocola retired in 2021, his replacement, Roseann Caruana, then the assistant commissioner, stepped up to fill the role that same year, according to city records

A rep for the DOT said the agency is “going through the hiring process” and that the office “maintains a near-capacity and experienced staff assisting Bronx residents each day.” 

But Salamanca insisted that’s not nearly good enough — especially in a borough where road fatalities and injuries have soared in the last few years, yet not enough investment has been made. 

The empty six-figure position comes as more people are getting injured in traffic crashes in the Bronx than in any other borough — the number of serious injuries in the Bronx was 23 percent higher per capita than citywide, according to a report from Transportation Alternatives. And long-planned safety improvement projects, like a busway on Fordham Road, are being shelved.

“There needs to be a level of accountability and our level of accountability is reaching out to that borough commissioner," Salamanca said. "Please speed it up.”

A spokesperson for the DOT said that street safety projects are "neither planned nor implemented" by borough commissioners and that several "great projects" are lined up for the borough, including bus priority on Gun Hill Road, a road diet and protected bike lane on Soundview Avenue, and a protected bike lane on University Avenue.

This story has been updated with additional comments from DOT.

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