The 2012 NYC Streetsies, Part 2

The second installment of the Streetsies is reserved for everyone who made the year’s worst news. Streetsie aficionados will recognize a lot of familiar faces in the 2012 edition. For the best local transportation projects of the year, check out part one.

We interrupt this installment of the Streetsies for a year-end pledge drive update. In addition to being eligible to win a Specialized hybrid bike courtesy of Bicycle Habitat, everyone who gives $50 or more by midnight Sunday will be in the running for a sweet collection of jazz CDs from Sunnyside Records. Thanks for reading, and please make a tax-deductible contribution to Streetsblog and Streetfilms so we can keep on bloggin’ in the year ahead.

Okay, now here’s the worst of 2012. Stay tuned for more Streetsies (and our final pledge drive prizes) next week.

Biggest Setback

The best thing you can say about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s transportation record is that, unlike in 2011, he had some legitimate competition this year in the “Biggest Setback” category. Still, he won handily again by ramming through his shiny symbol of accomplishing Big Things, the Tappan Zee highway bridge.

At the beginning of 2012, a broad coalition of local Hudson Valley governments was fighting to preserve the vision of transit-oriented growth that came out of the extensive public planning process for the replacement Tappan Zee. Their best leverage was the veto power wielded by three county executives over the Cuomo administration’s application for low-interest federal financing. But once Cuomo got Rob Astorino, C. Scott Vanderhoef, and MaryEllen Odell to cede their votes in exchange for guaranteed rush-hour bus lanes and a working group to study transit options for the I-287 corridor, that lever was gone. While the fight goes on for quality transit and relief from 1950s-style car-dependence in the Hudson Valley, there’s a lot more ground to cover today than there was a few years ago, pre-Cuomo.

Andrew Cuomo's New York: "Justice" and "Community," mega-bridges, yogurt trucks, choppers. Transit? Not so much.

Meanwhile, the governor’s spine turned to jelly when the trucking industry complained about higher Thruway tolls. And, in an extra twist of the knife, Cuomo’s post-Sandy global warming epiphany was all about building expensive things to protect the region from the next storm, not investing in a low-carbon future to help keep climate-related disasters at bay.

Biggest Obstacle to Safer Streets

Hands down, this distinction belongs to Teflon Ray Kelly. At the February hearing when family and friends of New Yorkers killed in traffic told the City Council in heartrending detail about their experiences dealing with NYPD’s broken crash investigation system, Ray Kelly never showed up. When the press finally dug into the police department’s appalling failure to hold deadly drivers accountable, Ray Kelly had nothing to say. When the Mayor’s Management Report revealed that traffic deaths had risen as NYPD traffic enforcement dropped, Ray Kelly didn’t bother to promise he’d turn things around.

It’s going to take a change at the top to fix NYPD.

Photo: Daily News

NIMBY of the Year

It looked like Manhattan Community Board 7 transportation committee co-chairs Dan Zweig and Andrew Albert, masters of the death-by-a-thousand-parliamentary-delays technique, were poised to capture Streetsblog’s coveted NIMBY of the Year Award after they cast sort-of-decisive votes against the Columbus Avenue bike lane extension. Then in a last minute surge, these three raced ahead to claim the prize for an unprecedented third year running:

It’s hard to say what’s more astounding about Norman Steisel, Iris Weinshall, Louise Hainline, and their interminable quest to undo the public process that produced the Prospect Park West bike lane. The sheer amount of time they’ve devoted to making it more dangerous to cross the street? The fact that they can still count on the press to quote their lawyers in mindless he-said/she-said stories, even though it’s a matter of public record that they didn’t believe their own lawsuit? The complete inability to grasp that they’re at odds with most of their neighbors? Their whole operation defies belief.

Worst NYC EDC Project

Future generations will surely wonder what the hell the New York City Economic Development Corporation was thinking when the agency decided to put a giant ferris wheel and oceans of parking at the most transit-accessible part of Staten Island.

Why, EDC, why?

Dumbest NYC EDC Negotiating Ploy

EDC reportedly had the Sheridan Expressway teardown killed just to grease their contract negotiations with the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market Cooperative — the city’s largest produce distributor — because the market doesn’t want to tack on a few minutes to some truck trips. But if convenient truck access to all points in NYC is so important, why would NYC EDC ever take the market honchos seriously when they threaten to leave the South Bronx and set up across the Hudson if their demands aren’t met?

By the way, here we are at the end of 2012 and there’s still no agreement between EDC and the market.

Best Argument for Abolishing NYC EDC

Yankee Stadium’s lavishly subsidized parking garages — an EDC project through and through — went belly up.

Biggest Disappointment

After sending signals last year that wide-ranging reform of NYC’s mandatory parking minimums could be coming to neighborhoods outside the Manhattan core, the Department of City Planning proposed a modest but welcome reduction in Downtown Brooklyn’s parking minimums. And… that’s it. Nothing else. The rest of the parking minimums outside Manhattan haven’t been touched.

Even a call to action from Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman didn't spur Amanda Burden to do much of anything to reform NYC's burdensome parking minimums. Photo: NYT

While cities with much paltrier transit service than NYC aggressively expand the zones where parking minimums don’t apply, Amanda Burden has barely touched the issue in 12 years of running the planning department, to the detriment of housing affordability and the city’s long-term sustainability. Time is about to run out on her.

Most Epic Subcontractor FAIL

The Public Bike System Company, the equipment supplier in Alta Bikeshare’s winning bid to run NYC’s bike-share system, tried to save some money by ditching the firm that developed the software for its bikes and kiosks. They chose a brilliant time to do it — right when 10,000 of their bikes were poised to hit the streets in the media capital of the world. Who knows how it all played out for PBSC’s accounts, but it didn’t look like such a smart business decision when the company struggled to replace the software with an in-house solution, leading to a series of frustrating delays.

Most Useless Legislating

After threatening to do something that would actually benefit most New Yorkers, like, say, passing a law calling on NYPD to get serious about crash investigations, James Vacca’s transportation committee went back to its same old parking shtick this fall. Sadly, these are the pressing questions that have come to define the Vacca era of transportation committee leadership:

  • How many different ways can the City Council try to squeeze more free parking spaces from the city’s finite amount of curb space?
  • Will Vacca, David Greenfield, and company ever realize that they are wasting a lot of time on something that is basically impossible, and that even in the imaginary world where they succeed, New York would be a worse place because of it? If they already know this, will they ever admit it?
  • If James Vacca or a member of his staff gets a parking ticket on Sunday, can they draft a bill that would negate the ticket by Monday?