Nyc Mayor'S Race
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
For New York mayoral candidates, bike lanes are complex. That's why City Council Speaker Christine Quinn proclaimed them off-limits for dinner party conversation. It's why Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who's criticized the way the city approves bike lanes, leapt Wednesday to issue a statement proclaiming "bike lanes make NYC streets safer."
On the one hand, some of the Democrats running for mayor use bike lanes as a signifier for what they see as Mayor Michael Bloomberg's high-handed, top-down approach to decision-making.
On the other hand, polls show New Yorkers like bike lanes--particularly environmentalists, Latinos, young people, and techies, all of whom may play unpredictable roles in the 2013 vote. Independent polls show pretty consistent majorities in almost all categories approving of bike lanes, and an even bigger majority approving of bike share.
And yet every single one of the major Democrats has at some point criticized the mayor for not fully consulting communities about where to install new bike lanes, even though the plans for such lanes must be approved by community boards.
So while today's New York Times article--headlined, "Anxiety Over Future of Bike Lanes"--captures a real fear among bike advocates that the next mayor may not be as friendly towards biking as Mayor Bloomberg, this dance isn't over yet.
"The need for safer streets for bikers, walkers, and drivers is one I feel in my core," de Blasio said in his statement. "For that reason, I fully support bike lanes and I want to see them continue to expand around the city. They are clearly making many NYC streets safer."
Okay, now wait for it:
"But I think we need to take an approach different from the Mayor’s. While more and more communities and riders want bike lanes, the City still hasn’t come around to proactively engaging those who are concerned by them. We need to increase our outreach and bring more residents and small businesses into the discussion early so we can fine-tune designs and parking rules from the get-go. Just going to community boards is not enough. Proactive outreach seems to be the Bloomberg Administration’s last resort. I think we need to make it uniform practice, and put it at the front end of every project.”
Watch this space. This is going to get interesting.
Monday, April 16, 2012
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is the first likely 2013 New York mayoral candidate out of the box with a detailed plan for financing the city's transit system. It's a a mix of solutions -- but the gist is this, there should be more financing for transit, and not just from transit riders.
Instead, Stringer wants to bring back the commuter tax, killed by Albany over a decade ago, as well as take a fresh look at congestion charging, bridge tolls, and other sources of funds for transit.
All of the taxes and fees would require approval by state lawmakers and Governor Cuomo. In the past, leaders of both parties and Governor Cuomo have not supported congestion charging, and Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver brokered the deal that killed the commuter tax.
Stringer's proposals, to be delivered at a speech to the Association for Better New York Tuesday morning, now set a bar for the other candidates -- City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, and former City Comptroller William Thompson.
Other than Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing proposal, transit funding has not been a big part of mayoral campaigns in the past. Stringer's speech is a sign that that there will be more discussion to come in the next 19 months.
Among his proposed solutions:
- Dedicate the NY Mortgage Recording Tax, which currently funds transit operating expenses, to transit capital expenses. Stringer says the tax fluctuates too much to be a reliable source of year-to-year funds.
- Instead, he wants to use the tax as the basis for a transit infrastructure fund, to draw in in union and other pension investments.
- To replace the loss of the recording tax to the operating funds, he suggests a number of possible funding sources.
- Bridge tolls, a la the 2010 Ravitch Plan.
- A congestion charge, a la the Sam Schwartz "Fair Plan"
- Letting the MTA borrow against increased property tax revenue that comes when new subway stations are built.
- A restoration of the commuter tax, which was repealed by the state legislature in 1999.
Stringer says he'd spend the money on more bus rapid transit, light rail on 42nd street, and connecting Red Hook Brooklyn to the Navy Yard, an AirTrain to LaGuardia, and an "X" subway line connecting Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.