Disability Rights Lawsuit Against the MTA to Follow
By Arthur Z. Schwartz
I spent 24 years on Community Board 2. During those 24 years I interacted with numerous City and State Agencies (mostly the Parks Department and the Hudson River Park Trust), and I experienced the Community Board as a means by which the efforts of Village community activist pioneer Jane Jacobs was brought to life: planning was not done from “afar” (City Hall), but was a process where government engaged in an interactive relationship with local residents.
It was a process which saw Hudson River Park become what it has become, where local playgrounds were redesigned by the users, where liquor licenses and landmarks decisions took community input into mind, and where even street signage and parking rules were vetted by the community. But during the Bloomberg administration this started to change. Bloomberg created an Imperial Mayoralty with his sidekick, City Council Speaker (and our Council member) Christine Quinn, as his Major Domo. People still figured out ways to beat Bloomberg; if we hadn’t there would be a stadium where Hudson Yards is. His Department of Transportation Commissioner, Janette Sadek-Khan started building bike lanes, but for the most part worked to coordinate with Community Boards and affected communities, like when the Hudson Street Bike Lane was built.
Comes along Polly Trottenberg, Mayor deBlasio’s DOT Commissioner. Under her six-year watch transportation in NYC got slower. Bus speeds hit all-time lows. Under deBlasio-Trottenberg the For-Hire Vehicle population increased by 100,000 cars, mostly roaming around Manhattan. Meanwhile, with increased traffic, Trottenberg started building more bike lanes, often between the curb and a row of parked cars, usually eliminating, on north-south streets, a lane of traffic. The City unleashed Citi-Bike (which I think is great) but did little to require the hundreds of thousands of new commuter-bikers to abide by traffic rules. And now Trottenberg, whom I think is a “progressive” Robert Moses, wants to reshape our neighborhoods more.
Problem is, like Robert Moses, Polly doesn’t give a hoot about what affected communities think. I watched her sitting at Town Hall meetings about her L-Train Shutdown Plan, rolling her eyes, as resident after resident talked about how her plan for a carless 14th Street would destroy the residential streets north and south of 14th Street. When the L-Train shutdown was shut down, and Polly made it known that she still wanted to proceed, her subordinates met ONCE with the 14th Street Coalition, and those subordinates basically said that Polly was so angry about the fight-back against her that she wouldn’t change anything. (The DOT did agree to allow big trucks on 14th Street because the Feds reminded her that it was a designated truck route; her ADA compliance people made her agree to allow vehicles to pick up and drop off people on 14th Street.)
So we went to court, probably about 18 block associations (some as part of the Council of Chelsea Block Associations) and a number of co-ops, including the Vermeer and the Victoria, and convinced Judge Eileen Rakower to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) because the DOT had not done a proper environmental review of its plan under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). What peeved the Judge most was the utter lack of statistics presented by the DOT. They appealed, twice, and twice failed to get the TRO lifted.
Now they have come back with some statistical modeling (no explanation of how they were derived) which they say shows “no impact” on 12th, 13th, 15th and 16th Streets (we also complain for people on 17th through 20th, the crosstown streets north of 14th). But here is what the statistics show:
From 8am-9am cars increase as follows:
12th 195 – 332
13th 242 – 408
15th 178 – 257
16th 204 – 295
From 9am-10am cars increase as follows
12th 193 – 331
13th 240 – 424
15th 201 – 270
16th 191 – 263
From 5pm-6pm cars increase as follows
12th 232 – 340
13th 305 – 465
15th 218 – 251
16th 216 – 287
From 6pm-7pm cars increase as follows
12th 206 – 385
13th 293 – 474
15th 220 – 287
16th 214 -322
These are hourly numbers. Polly and her crew say that an increase of 150 cars PER HOUR(!) is no big deal. WE think Judge Rakower won’t agree.
And the tradeoff is to speed buses up 5 minutes, in a route which starts at Grand Street and goes to Abingdon Square. In fact, Select Bus Service (SBS) started on July 1, with off-board ticketing and fewer stops, a change which may have already sped things up. The trade off isn’t worth having endless streams of For Hire Vehicles and small trucks and vans going across our residential streets.
I call it Polly’s Folly. Hopefully Judge Rakower will see it that way too.
Arthur Z. Schwartz is President of Advocates for Justice and counsel to the Petitioners in Council of Chelsea Block Associations v Trottenberg.