Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
A Bike Lane Dispute Brings to Light Clash of Powerful Politicians
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Mayor Michael Bloomberg dined privately with a small group of guests that included his former transportation commissioner, Iris Weinshall, and her husband, Senator Charles Schumer, last March.
By that time, both Schumer and Weinshall had made known their displeasure over a bike lane that had been built across the street from their home – on Brooklyn’s leafy Prospect Park West.
According to sources familiar with what was said at that dinner, Schumer asked the Mayor: “Can’t you get rid of that lane?”
“You don’t like it?” the mayor responded. A beat. “I’m going to make it twice as wide.”
Neither Schumer’s office nor the mayor’s office would comment.
But the clash of two powerful politicians is typical of the story of the Prospect Park West bike lane, which is about much more than a about a strip of pavement – it’s about the perennial New York City question of who decides what goes where and how.
The city’s aggressive effort to install new bike lanes roiled many neighborhoods. But only one group – the one that included the former commissioner Weinshall -- sued to have a lane removed.
Emails unearthed by Streetsblog, a pro-bike-lane website, shed new light on how this group of influential New Yorkers managed to raise their fight above all the rest, marshalling the services of one of the city’s premier law firms, and then, as the emails show, tried to make sure that information never got out.
The emails were obtained through a freedom of information request to the City University of New York, where Weinshall works as vice chancellor.
For the full story, go to transportationnation.org.