Friday’s Headlines: Crystal Hudson’s Idea of Leadership Edition
Today's headlines are long, but worth it!
12:38 AM EDT on September 29, 2023
They say in politics, you can lead, follow or get out of the way. Fort Greene Council Member Crystal Hudson is looking for a fourth way.
On Thursday, Hudson, who has presented herself as a progressive Democrat, threw red meat to her car-loving, Department of Transportation-hating Fort Greene constituents at a town hall meeting called "The Downside of Vision Zero."
Cloaked in the mantle of the dispassionate public servant who wants to "hear from all sides" (her words), Hudson at one point suggested in the clip below that she only wants to hear from all sides as long as one of them is not too vehement in support of street safety and car reduction.
"I am committed to ensuring that your voices are heard," she told the group at the meeting, which was packed with opponents of the city's Underhill Avenue bike boulevard. "I've been advocating for many of the things that you all want to see happen. DOT has not been a great partner and that's like the best way I can say."
She then went on to admit that she canceled a meeting about the Underhill Avenue bike boulevard — over which DOT had extensive outreach for many months — "because word got out and all of the pro-bike folks and bike lane folks were planning to come to the meeting. And I just didn't want to have a repeat of the meeting from 2022," she said, referring to a prior meeting on the Willoughby Avenue open street where supporters of safe streets made their voices heard. "And so that's why I canceled that meeting."
In further comments in the clip below, Hudson said the "experience" of that Willoughby Avenue meeting made her want to redouble her efforts to make sure the pro-car/anti-bike voices of her community are heard because DOT — an agency that has been under fire for virtually every street safety project outside of Manhattan going back to the Bloomberg era — is inclined to only listen to bike advocates.
"I'm really heartened to see people coming together from all across the district ... people who clearly have felt unheard by DOT and generally by government," she said. "It's always been a goal of mine to make sure that my office is hearing from as many people as possible that we're not only listening to one side, that we are giving people an opportunity to express themselves. We just held a meeting with DOT, and opponents to the Underhill Avenue bike boulevard because I've learned from that first meeting, that when you hold a meeting where everybody is invited, It's unproductive.
"I do think it's important to make sure that every perspective is actually heard," she added. "And what I've heard from you all is that that has obviously not been the case."
Funny thing, though: Hudson was front and center — cheering and thanking DOT — when the agency created a plaza on Underhill Avenue at the northernmost end at Atlantic Avenue earlier this year (that plaza is now under fire from the opponents Hudson aided and comforted on Thursday night). She previously called the plaza an example of "what happens when government and communities actually work closely together for a vision and to execute that vision."
It was talk like that that had earned Hudson an endorsement from StreetsPAC, the city's only political action committee devoted to safe streets, for her re-election this year. She told the group that she wanted "a broadly progressive transportation agenda" and that she "supports the Willoughby and Vanderbilt Avenue Open Streets, and has been pushing the Department of Transportation for greater progress on protected bike lanes."
But after Thursday's meeting, bike advocates weren't so sure.
"Here’s my City Council rep standing up for the interests of parked cars and drivers over the lives of people in her district," tweeted Ben Kabak, who also posts on the account Second Avenue Sagas.
Fortunately, Hudson fired back on Twitter pointing out that the meeting's host, legendary anti-bike pastor Rev. Anthony Trufant, had said she's only hearing the voices of Transportation Alternatives. She also called us back late on Thursday to say her critics were wrong about her and her approach to governing.
"The reality is, I’ve held meetings with all sides that have not been productive" because issues around street safety "have become contentious and racially charged," she said.
"So I’m not able to have meetings where everyone is in the same space. It doesn’t work," she added. "Opponents to this stuff feel like they haven’t been heard, so I provided a space for them to be heard by DOT.
"We are willing to meet with anyone who wants to meet," she added. "DOT hears from people who are proponents of all of this. All we did was create a space for people who are in opposition. My job is to make sure that people are being heard. People have felt like they are not being heard. The solution is to create separate opportunities for people to be heard."
Streetsblog asked if she now feels confident that DOT has finally heard from opponents in her district. She said she believes the agency has.
So we asked, then, since everyone has been heard, what does Hudson — herself, their elected official — want DOT to do on Underhill Avenue? Her answer will surprise some voters.
"My personal perspective doesn’t matter," said the incumbent, who is running to retain her position in office. "My job as Council Member is to make sure all perspectives are being heard. It is up to DOT to determine what to do now, now that they’ve heard all perspectives."
Neither StreetsPAC nor DOT responded to a request for comment.
In other news:
- We have a new NYPD Transportation Bureau Chief! Meet Philip Rivera. He joined the NYPD in 1995 on patrol in the 46th Precinct in the Bronx, and later became its commanding officer, before climbing the ladder at 1 Police Plaza. Late in the day, the NYPD sent out a press release to its media list (but didn't put anything on its website or on its many social media channels, of course), and no papers covered it. We'll have more today.
- Get ready for awful subway service today, thanks to more rain. (NYDN)
- A judge said the city can go ahead with its plan to require the app-based delivery giants to pay a minimum wage. (NY Post, NY Times, Streetsblog, The City, Crain's)
- This is dumb: GOP members in Congress want to cut Amtrak's most successful Northeast Corridor service (amNY). But Rep. Dan Goldman is fighting it (Brooklyn Eagle).
- This is smart: Council Member Bob Holden wants more express bus service. (QNS)
- Christopher Robbins likened the MTA/Port Authority OMNY/AirTrain debacle to a Gogol story (and this Russian lit major approves!). Please read "Dead Souls." (Hell Gate)
- And, finally, there's a great new plaza in town (thanks to the Meatpacking BID)! Apparently, these things are only divisive in some neighborhoods...
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