In a City Council district in the heart of the Bronx, where the overwhelming majority of households are car-free, an aide to Council Member James Vacca distinguished himself last night by vocally supporting congestion pricing, on-street parking reform, and protected bike lanes.
The District 15 seat, representing Bathgate, Belmont, Crotona, Fordham, East Tremont, Van Nest, and West Farms, is currently held by Joel Rivera, who is term-limited. Candidates Kenny Agosto, Albert Alvarez, Raquel Batista, Joel Rivera (no relation to the incumbent), Cynthia Thompkins, and Ritchie Torres attended the forum, which was sponsored by the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center, Bronx Health REACH, and the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.
The forum invitation listed “public transit” as one of the issues up for discussion, but the moderators did not ask any questions related to transportation. In the current district, which was slightly redrawn in the latest round of redistricting, three-quarters of households are car-free, according to the 2000 Census. During the forum, the candidates only mentioned transportation issues tangentially: Alvarez and Torres spoke about the impacts of heavy traffic and idling on asthma, while Agosto said playgrounds at schools should not be used as parking lots.
Streetsblog was able to speak with four of the candidates — Agosto, Alvarez, Thompkins, and Torres — after the event to ask for their positions on bus service and MTA funding.
The district has two Select Bus Service routes, on Fordham Road and Webster Avenue, and all four candidates supported further expansion. “I generally support Select service, but I also don’t want to limit other services,” Agosto said. “We want to make sure that we have adequate service across the board.” Alvarez said he supports further expansion of SBS, as long as the city maintains constant communication with business owners about the potential impact on deliveries. Thompkins said she supports expansion of SBS to Southern Boulevard, which is outside the district, and the Grand Concourse, adding that better bus service can help improve east-west travel within the borough.
When it comes to funding the MTA, however, the candidates weren’t as unanimous.