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Safety for McGuinness Blvd. Was a Winning Issue for Greenpoint Pols

Safety foes convinced Mayor Adams "the community" opposed the effort, but Tuesday's election results begged to differ.

File photo: Kevin Duggan|

All the candidates who rallied behind this banner won on Tuesday.

A slate of north Brooklyn politicians who support the redesign of McGuinness Boulevard clinched victories in Tuesday's primary elections — cementing the case that Greenpointers want Mayor Adams to stop stalling the long-awaited street safety project.

Emily Gallagher

Opponents of the city's plans to reduce a lane of traffic on the deadly boulevard — led by the local film studio company Broadway Stages — funded candidates and even ran themselves up and down the ballot, yet all of those candidates lost to supporters of an approved redesign that was stalled by the Adams administration.

"The message of this election is crystal clear," Assemblymember Emily Gallagher, who easily won the Democratic primary against well-funded challenger Anathea Simpkins, said in a statement. "North Brooklyn demands Mayor Adams finish the job and make McGuinness safe."

Broadway Stages, a substantial donor to Mayor Adams and the Brooklyn Democratic Party, pushed City Hall adviser Ingrid Lewis-Martin to intervene and scale back the Department of Transportation proposal last year, overriding the views of all of the neighborhood's elected officials.

Opponents of the redesign have claimed that the city ignored the community's perspective. Lewis-Martin reportedly advised the mayor that local residents hated the plan and that advocates were all from outside the community.

Putting the lie to that claim, Gallagher secured more than 75 percent of the vote in Tuesday's primary after championing the plan to remove a lane in each direction from the highway-like boulevard. Gallagher handily won the vote in every election district on and around the roadway, which cuts through the middle of the neighborhood.

In the heavily-blue district, the nomination all but secures victory in the general election in November.

"This is a clear referendum on the McGuinness Boulevard project," said Kevin LaCherra, an advocate with the pro-redesign group Make McGuinness Safe. "Literally from day one it was clear that Anathea’s priorities were [Broadway Stages founder] Tony Argento’s priorities in terms of McGuinness Boulevard."

Simpkins, who won just 20.4 percent of Tuesday's vote, ran with the support of Keep McGuinness Moving, a group tied to Broadway Stages that opposes the road diet plan, and she garnered thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from people against the street revamp.

The political newcomer outraised Gallagher by $42,000, along with another $127,000 in supportive spending by a pro-charter school PAC, The City reported.

Simpkins received $3,250 in campaign donations from Argento, along with another $3,000 from two limited liability companies that share the film bigwig's address, state campaign finance records show. Argento also ran unsuccessfully for a low-level party position.

Gallagher's predecessor Joe Lentol, who rallied against the redesign last year, kicked in $250 for Simpkins, as did Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce CEO Randy Peers, whose $300 donation paralleled his opposion to the overhaul.

Simpkins's transportation platform remained vague on what design she would like to see on McGuinness Boulevard beyond "that all future street redesigns follow a standardized protocol to ensure that all residents have the opportunity to provide feedback."

She denied being opposed to the plan in a social media post earlier this month, saying that she wants "everyone in the community to feel safe."

In a statement, Simpkins said the election's low turnout did not mean that most residents were for a redesign.

"In a year that had a historically low turnout, it’s very challenging to gauge what the majority feels about any issue," Simpkins told Streetsblog in a text message. "That said, I have always been on the side of pedestrian safety and hope that the conversation and collaboration continues regarding how to achieve that objective."

Anti-road diet candidates lost down-ballot races, too.

In the state-level district leader race, Averianna Eisenbach, one of main opponents of the redesign, and her running mate Everton Smith lost to street safety advocates Luke Ohlson and Jenna Bimbi, both of whom were endorsed by Make McGuinness Safe.

Tony Argento ran and lost for the hyper-local party position of County Committee member, as did Broadway Stages's community relations director Monica Holowacz, her mother Christine Holowacz, and Keep McGuinness Moving rep Evelyn Pinezich.

"The word is mandate," Ohlson told Streetsblog. "This needs to be a strong signal to all decision makers that this plan needs to move forward."

Voters name-checked McGuinness Boulevard as a key issue during the campaign, said Ohlson.

"I did have people ask me where I stand on it specifically," the Brooklynite said. "I was very clear that I supported the safety improvements and people were very enthusiastic about that."

After City Hall's interference, DOT installed a watered-down version of its plan last year on a northern portion of McGuinness from the Pulaski Bridge to Calyer Street, which added a curbside bike lane but kept the adjacent car lane open to drivers during the daytime — a design that has led to cars chronically blocking the cycling path.

Agency reps previously said they would complete the remaining stretch down to Meeker Avenue this spring, but that work has yet to start.

Mayor Adams and the DOT have not indicated any plans to make the roadway safer beyond what was installed last year.

City Hall declined to specify how or when the city plans to proceed on McGuinness Boulevard.

Broadway Stages did not respond to a request for comment.

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