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Council Speaker Adams Says She’ll Consider Suing Mayor Adams over Streets Master Plan Failures

"Just like you have to comply with the law and I have to comply with the law, the administration has to comply with the law as well," Speaker Adams said on Thursday.

12:02 AM EST on February 9, 2024

Photo illustration: Emil Cohen/NYC Council Media Unit (with Streetsblog Photoshop Desk)|

On Thursday, Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said she’d consider suing the Adams administration over its failure to follow the law.

We'll see you — er, we'll be thinking about seeing you — in court!

As the Council moves ahead to possibly sue the Adams administration over its alleged non-compliance with Council legislation, Speaker Adrienne Adams told Streetsblog that she is considering going the same route to get the mayor to comply with a 2019 city law requiring specific bus- and bike-lane mileage benchmarks.

"It is our responsibility to get to compliance [with the law]," Speaker Adams told reporters on Thursday when asked about the Council's fight with the mayor over his failure to provide housing vouchers. "Just like you have to comply with the law and I have to comply with the law, the administration has to comply with the law as well. So that's where we are right now."

Streetsblog specifically asked Adams if she would consider suing over the Adams administration's failure to carry out the Streets Master Plan, which now require the city to build 30 miles of bus lanes and 50 miles of protected bike lanes every year. The Adams administration has failed — dramatically — to hit that mark, and even a previous lower legal mark, in both its full years in office.

"We will take a look at all of it," Adams told Streetsblog. "It is still up to us to consider and to continue collaborating on any action."

Whether or not she's serious, people who understand the workings of city government, as well as advocates, think the time has come to pressure the Adams administration to follow the city law, which passed in 2019.

"The Council should sue, otherwise, what are new laws worth?" said one lawyer steeped in the issue. "The Streets Plan saw the Council come together in an unprecedented way on that subject."

The same lawyer expressed "little patience" for Adams administration arguments "about supplier limitations and bottlenecks" and staff departures that have allegedly hamstrung the administration.

"The only conclusion is that the Admin is not prioritizing and funding something they're required by law to do," the lawyer said.

There's no guarantee that a suit could succeed. Unlike a suit over the mayor's failure to provide housing vouchers to people facing eviction, as the Council ordered, a Streets Master Plan suit is fraught because the mayor has taken some action — building 33 miles of protected bike lanes last year, for example. It would be easy to show that the city is trying to comply rather than being completely inactive.

The mayor did say he would allocate more than $900 million towards Vision Zero projects, even if his administration failed to reach the legal requirement.

That failure infuriates street safety advocates, though strategies differ on what should happen now.

"Bus riders and our representatives in City Hall have more than enough on our plates — no one should have to go to court to enforce the city's guarantee of faster, more reliable service," said Danny Pearlstein of Riders Alliance, the bus passengers' advocacy group. "Mayor Adams promised not only to meet, but to exceed, the Streets Plan's required bus lanes and busways. He has 23 months left to deliver 130 miles."

Open Plans, the policy shop that shares a parent company with Streetsblog, welcomes a suit — and more effort by the very Council members who are currently talking so loud.

"This is a total failure of leadership [by] the Adams administration," said Sara Lind, the co-executive director. "This is the law and the Council should use whatever is at their disposal to enforce it. But let’s be clear: this isn’t just on the administration. Council members need to support projects in their own districts — we’ll never meet the benchmarks if every project gets pushed to someone else’s neighborhood. We don't need excuses, or slogans, or years of redundant engagement. We need leaders to do their jobs."

Streetsblog asked City Hall for a comment, but the press shop declined.

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