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Steve Bannon Would Love to Team Up With Chuck Schumer on Infrastructure

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Imagine all the Trump signs marking projects that get tax breaks from the infrastructure plan Steve Bannon is pushing for.

We mentioned it briefly last week, but Trump advisor Steve Bannon’s comments to the Hollywood Reporter about infrastructure are worth a closer look. It helps explain why Democrats like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are making a grave mistake when they line up to help Trump implement this plan.

Bannon is the propagandist who entered the Trump campaign team after turning Breitbart into the world’s leading “news” source for white supremacists. In the Hollywood Reporter article, he refers to cities as “the metrosexual bubble” and lashes out at his enemies list, which includes “globalists,” liberals, elites, centrists, and Megyn Kelly.

Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan is the central piece of what Bannon calls his “economic nationalist” (read: white nationalist) agenda:

Like [Andrew] Jackson’s populism, we’re going to build an entirely new political movement. It’s everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy. I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Ship yards, iron works, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.

Policywise, Bannon seems to have no idea what he’s talking about. The references to “ship yards” and “iron works” don’t make much sense. We’re talking about a plan to build roads, water systems, and electrical grids.

There’s a good reason a propagandist wouldn’t want to talk about the actual infrastructure policy that Trump’s team has floated. The construction industry is at nearly full employment right now, and Trump’s plan won’t have much if any stimulative effect.

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Do Not Collaborate With Hatred

Trump photo via Gage Skidmore/Flickr. Schumer photo via

Andrew Cuomo and Chuck Schumer must resist the urge to collaborate with Donald Trump on infrastructure. Trump photo via Gage Skidmore/Flickr; Schumer photo via NASA/Bill Ingalls/Wikimedia Commons

Last week, on the day after the election, I watched as Chuck Schumer and Andrew Cuomo, Democrats who represent my state, said they could find common ground with Donald Trump, with Cuomo specifically mentioning “infrastructure” as a potential area of collaboration. We responded with a post explaining why this was a strategic mistake in terms of transportation policy.

Today I’m writing about far more urgent and important reasons to oppose Trump and his agenda.

Trump began his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists,” and from there he only ratcheted up the racism, sexism, and xenophobia. His vision of America — where religious minorities are persecuted, immigrants live in fear, and racial profiling by police is actively promoted at the highest levels of government — threatens the physical safety of hundreds of millions of people and is diametrically opposed to the core values of a democratic, pluralistic society where everyone is entitled to equal rights under the constitution.

Since he was elected, Trump has bullied the press for reporting on the massive demonstrations against his rise to power. He has named the overt white supremacist Steve Bannon, the CEO of his campaign, to a senior position in the inner circle of his White House. There is zero daylight between the Trump campaign, premised on hatred, and the nascent Trump administration.

We must prevent the bigoted, undemocratic nature of Trump’s faction from becoming further embedded in our government, laws, and institutions. We must neutralize Trump and his ilk to the greatest extent possible until they are removed from power via the democratic process.

I can sympathize with people who, in the disorienting hours after Trump was elected, felt the reflex to get something constructive done. But if that was your impulse, I urge you with all the conviction in my being to reject it immediately.

There is no moral basis for collaboration on Trump’s infrastructure agenda — because enabling any aspect of the Trump policy platform will grease the skids for enacting the entire Trump worldview. No piece of infrastructure is worth that risk.

Schumer, Cuomo, and to a lesser extent Mayor de Blasio will be tempted. Cuomo and Schumer are especially enamored with big-ticket infrastructure projects like overhauling Penn Station, revamping La Guardia airport, and building a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River, which New York cannot afford without federal funding. They may soon face a stark choice between accepting that money and protecting hundreds of thousands of people from Trump’s deportation force.

Trump has pledged to revoke federal funding from America’s 300-plus “sanctuary cities,” which shield undocumented immigrants from the threat of deportation. New York is a sanctuary city, and stands to lose billions of dollars annually for infrastructure and other essential municipal functions. If that is the price, so be it. New York can draw on internal resources. Streets and railroads can be rebuilt. But once we lose our humanity, it is gone for good.

The Democratic Party now finds itself in the minority in both the House and Senate. There are few levers of legislative power available to them, other than whatever Republican resistance to Trump remains in Congress, and the filibuster, for however long that lasts. But the opposition to Trump retains significant power in other forms.

Trump will assume office as the most widely disliked president-elect in modern history. He will have lost the popular vote by a margin that’s expected to number in the millions, once all the ballots are counted. Our elected leaders should draw courage from these facts. They must resist the Trump agenda at every step, in the strongest possible terms, and they must do their utmost to communicate to Americans that Trump’s vision for the future of the country is repulsive and at odds with the essence of our republic.

Andrew Cuomo and Chuck Schumer are now two of the most senior Democrats in the nation, and they represent a state where resisting Trump will augment, not diminish, their political strength. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say they are major figures in the free world’s first line of defense against Trumpism. They must not fold.

Over the weekend, Cuomo came out with another statement about the Trump presidency, less conciliatory than his first. Writing in the Daily News the same day, however, he still did not stake out a sufficiently strong position.

The headline to Cuomo’s piece in the Daily News read: “If Trump governs unjustly, we’ll fight at every turn.” But Trump has already said and done too many hateful things to treat this as a conditional fight. We have to resist immediately.

The weakest passage in Cuomo’s op-ed says:

The night he became commander-in-chief, Donald Trump said he wanted to be President of all Americans. Despite the divisiveness of the campaign, he has an opportunity to live up to that promise by acting first on issues where there is common ground with his opponents. He said he wants to govern on behalf of forgotten Americans, and any time he does that, he can count on both Democrats and Republicans to help him achieve success.

Trump also said that he wants to rebuild America’s infrastructure. In that effort, he will find New York a willing partner as the Tappan Zee Bridge, a new La Guardia Airport, a new cross-Hudson Tunnel, and a revitalized Penn Station continue to rise.

Now is not the time to extend a hand to Trump and talk about potential partnerships. Cuomo and Schumer must refrain from making any overtures unless and until Trump conclusively renounces, with complete and utter finality, the racist, anti-democratic platform that he campaigned on. Trump recently told 60 Minutes that the people around the country committing acts of violence in his name should “stop it.” That is not enough. He must prove, in word and deed, that he is not a threat to the rights and freedoms we hold dear.

Meeting that threshold is not possible as long as Trump surrounds himself with the same coterie of white supremacists, authoritarians, and sycophants who staffed his campaign operation and served as his media surrogates. After everything Trump has said, it may well be impossible, full stop.

It is imperative to mobilize all the influence at our disposal to resist and defy Trumpism. This is a theme we will hone and develop in the weeks and months ahead, but for today, this is my advice…

Call your governor, call your senators, call your U.S. representative, and tell them: Do not collaborate with hatred. Do not yield an inch to bigotry. Tell them: Bend to Trump’s will, and we will come at you furiously to stiffen your spine. Stay resolute, and we will have your back. We are going to fix this.

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Democrats Who Embrace the Trump Infrastructure Plan Are Suckers

As painful as it is to deal with the reality of a Donald Trump presidency, if you think highways and sprawl are a terrible mistake, the time to mobilize is now.

Senator Chuck Schumer reportedly sees infrastructure as an area of collaboration with the Trump administration. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

One of the first things on Trump’s agenda, after dismantling Obama’s social and environmental legacy to the greatest extent possible, is a huge round of infrastructure spending.

During his victory speech, Trump said, “We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none.” And he has proposed $1 trillion in infrastructure spending, a truly staggering amount, equal to 20 years of typical federal spending on surface transportation.

The vague concept of “infrastructure” is an area that leading Democrats seem to consider fertile ground for collaboration with Trump. The day following the election, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she was hoping to “work together to quickly pass a robust infrastructure jobs bill.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer reportedly views infrastructure as a potential area of policy alignment with Trump. Both New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio have said they can envision teaming up with Trump on infrastructure.

The New York Democrats have their eyes on building the trans-Hudson Gateway rail tunnel. But the vast majority of Trump’s plan would, in all likelihood, entail a road-building bonanza benefiting the construction and finance industries to the long-term detriment of the nation.

There is a school of thought which holds that Trump, born in Queens, will have an innate understanding of why transit matters. His transition site has a few glancing references to transit and rail.

But to expect enlightened transportation policy from the Trump administration is to ignore everything we know about the sources of his political power — rural areas and the suburbs — as well as the explicit policy ideas coming from his advisors and the Republican Party’s hostility to any transportation infrastructure that doesn’t move cars and trucks.

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Gas Tax Hike Will Help New Jersey Pay for New Rail Tunnel

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To history’s list of epic negotiations, we may someday add the prospective deal to finance the Gateway Project between Newark’s and New York City’s Penn Stations. With two belligerent states, a disgraced Port Authority, and Amtrak and the federal government on the hook for Gateway’s $15 billion (and counting) expense, divvying up the cost will be contentious, to say the least. But the final equation will almost certainly include a rise in New Jersey’s stunningly low gasoline tax.

The recent history of cross-Hudson rail tunnels is tortuous and depressing, with few rewards for paying close attention. Informed observers agree, however, that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s main motive in cancelling the ARC rail tunnel in 2010 was mercenary: the state’s Transportation Trust Fund had run dry, and big bills for highway expansion were coming due. Scrapping ARC allowed Christie to divert $2.5 billion in Port Authority tunnel funds to road projects. Thumbing his nose at New York State and proving his anti-transit bona fides to fellow Republicans were bonuses.

Five years on, the ARC cancellation is blowing up in Christie’s face. No less a bigwig than New York Senator Chuck Schumer this week labeled it “one of the worst moves made by any political figure in the New York area for over 100 years.” The reason, of course, is the prospective “transportation Armageddon” (Schumer again) from losing 75 percent of cross-harbor passenger-rail capacity if just one of the two ancient Sandy-damaged rail tunnels ceases to function — as happened on multiple days last month, causing some rail commuters’ 15-mile trips to stretch out to three hours.

Schumer, of course, is a Democratic Party stalwart — he’s set to succeed Minority Leader Harry Reid as the Senate’s ranking Democrat next January. But in his third term he has attained avuncular status that transcends partisan divisions, at least in nuts-and-bolts issues like infrastructure. That helps explain why his proposal this week to create a new non-profit corporation to assemble the billions needed to build a new cross-harbor tunnel and oversee the project has attracted mostly glowing coverage. (It doesn’t hurt that Schumer’s statesmanship contrasts markedly with other politicians’ finger-pointing and buck-passing.)

Both personally and politically, Christie may be no more disposed to have New Jersey cough up funds for the Gateway project than he was five years ago for ARC. But he has far less room to maneuver. Of late, Christie has been ridiculed for GWB-gate, slammed for using the Port Authority as a political piggybank, and practically disavowed by his Republican Party. Now, the need for a new Hudson rail crossing, if only for redundancy so the existing tunnels can be rehabbed, has graduated from hypothetical to dire. With a reported 80 percent of rail tunnel passengers residing, and voting, in New Jersey, it’s unlikely that Christie will be able to blow off Gateway the way he blew off ARC.

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DOT Scores TIGER Grants for Vision Zero and Rockaways Transpo Study

City Hall and Senator Charles Schumer announced yesterday that NYC DOT had secured a $25 million federal grant for street safety and greenway projects in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. Notably, the press release announcing the funding hailed street design improvements as a “critical” component of the city’s Vision Zero safety agenda. In addition, a separate $1.4 million federal grant will fund a transportation study for the Rockaways.

A planted concrete median extension at Fourth Avenue and 45th Street will be funded in part by a federal TIGER grant. Rendering: NYC DOT [PDF]

The awards are from US DOT’s competitive TIGER program, which doesn’t always distribute funds to New York City. While the city nabbed two awards from the program this year and has received awards from the program in the past, all three of New York’s TIGER applications were rejected last year.

The $25 million grant comes on top of $21.2 million in federal highway safety funds distributed by the state earlier this year to similar projects. These grants can supplement dollars from the city’s vast capital budget, which also funds DOT’s bike and pedestrian programs.

The TIGER grant will help support a pedestrian safety redesign near the Metro-North station at Park Avenue and 125th Street in Harlem, where DOT is planning wider sidewalks and narrower car lanes on Park Avenue, as well as curb extensions at 124th, 125th and 126th Streets. It will also fund the capital construction of a road diet initially installed with paint and flexible posts on two sections of Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, from 8th to 18th Streets in Park Slope and from 33rd to 52nd Streets in Sunset Park. Extensions of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway will also get a boost from the grant, one near the Gowanus Canal and another in Bay Ridge, where wider sidewalks and a two-way protected bike path on Hamilton Avenue will connect to the existing greenway near Owl’s Head Park.

The TIGER grant will also support eight Safe Routes to School projects:

  • PS 154 Harriet Tubman School in Harlem will receive three curb extensions and six pedestrian islands
  • PS 54 in Woodhaven, Queens will receive four curb extensions and four pedestrian islands
  • PS 239 in Ridgewood, Queens will have a nearby complex intersection simplified and receive expanded pedestrian islands and sidewalks
  • PS 199 Maurice Fitzgerald School in Long Island City, Queens will receive five curb extensions and two pedestrian islands
  • PS 92 Harry T. Stewart in Corona, Queens will receive six curb extensions and four pedestrian islands
  • PS 13 Clement C. Moore in Flushing, Queens will receive seven curb extensions and one pedestrian island
  • Our Lady’s Catholic Academy in South Ozone Park, Queens will receive five curb extensions and three pedestrian islands
  • Our Lady’s Queen of Peace School in New Dorp, Staten Island will have a nearby complex intersection simplified and receive four curb extensions, a plaza, and improved traffic channelization.

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Caption Contest: Chuck Schumer Rides the Prospect Park West Bike Lane

Photo: @PSteely

Looks like protected bike infrastructure is growing on Chuck Schumer. High-powered backchannel NIMBY assault notwithstanding, New York’s senior senator apparently does enjoy riding the bike lane in his front yard, as you can see in this Sunday morning photo courtesy of fellow PPW resident Paul Steely White.

So, when will the rest of Streetsblog’s 2011 April Fools Day post come true?

Caption submissions welcome in the comments. Winner will be selected and posted tomorrow.

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Chuck Schumer on Niagara Falls Highway: “Tear Down This Road”

Plans for section of the Robert Moses Parkway in downtown Niagara Falls would turn the highway into a two-lane road and reconnect the waterfront with downtown. Image: Frank Report

Most members of Congress are excited to cut the ribbon for a new stretch of freeway, but it’s a smaller set indeed that will stand up for the removal of a highway, no matter how neighborhood-blighting. As of yesterday, count New York Senator Chuck Schumer among their number.

“Right now, the Robert Moses Parkway stands as a Berlin Wall, with the state park on one side and the city on the other,” Schumer said at a press conference yesterday. “Our message to the transportation secretary is clear: Tear down this road.”

The highway in question is a short stretch of the Robert Moses Parkway in downtown Niagara Falls (the name adds a certain historical sweetness to its removal). The highway, which sits on an elevated berm, would be replaced with a lower and slower two lane “park road” and bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Taking down one mile of highway, said Schumer’s office, would open up 40 acres of the waterfront.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer announcing his support for tearing down a section of the Robert Moses Parkway, seen in the background. Image: Niagara Gazette

Schumer promised to secure $10 million in federal funds needed to complete the design work for the highway removal and urged Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to fast-track the project through federal review. “For years, this project that would help transform downtown Niagara Falls has been stuck in the mud. Enough is enough; we must tear down this road,” said Schumer in a press release. “Lowering the Parkway would connect downtown with the majestic views of the waterfront park, pumping new life into Niagara Falls. We absolutely have to get this done.”

The Congress for the New Urbanism, the leading advocates of highway teardowns nationally, celebrated Schumer’s support. “CNU’s John Norquist has long argued that freeways like the Robert Moses Parkway are monoliths from a disastrous planning era have no place in cities,” said CNU program director Caitlin Ghoshal. “But federal, state, and local governments are just now better understanding the financial and transportation implications that make teardowns a good decision for taxpayers.”

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Unlicensed Drivers of Private Cars a Far Bigger Threat Than Tour Bus Drivers

Last week’s tragic bus crash in the Bronx, which left 15 dead, has captured the attention of New York’s media and political elite. Since the crash took place nine days ago, the New York Times has published no fewer than seven articles updating its readers on every detail and development.

Peter and Lillian Sabados were killed by a driver who had racked up 29 license suspensions. The calls for stricter licensing procedures following their deaths were far less numerous than the calls for reforming the tour bus industry following last week's fatal casino bus crash in the Bronx.

Much of the attention has centered around whether Ophadell Williams, the bus’s driver, should have been licensed to operate the bus in the first place. Governor Andrew Cuomo took a break from high-stakes budget negotiations to order an investigation of Williams’ driving and criminal records and Senator Chuck Schumer has called for the state DMV to audit every driver’s license held by a tour bus driver. Said Schumer in a WNYC report, “Looking after a crash, or a spot check while the driver is behind the wheel, that’s good, but what would be better is preventing these people who shouldn’t be driving, from getting behind the wheel in the first place.”

Schumer’s focus on prevention must be cold comfort to the family of Peter and Lillian Sabados. The elderly couple were killed in a hit-and-run crash while walking to Thanksgiving Mass in 2009. Their killer, Allmir Lekperic, had amassed at least 29 license suspensions in the three years beforehand. Any attempt to prevent Lekperic from getting behind the wheel in the first place was clearly ineffective.

You’d never know it from watching the news this week, but there are far more Allmir Lekperics in the world than deadly bus drivers. Each year, around 375 people are killed in bus crashes nationwide, according to a 2009 report by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration [PDF]. The bulk of those deaths come from crashes involving school buses and transit buses; charter and tour buses were involved in only 396 out of 2,629 fatalities between 1999 and 2005, around 57 a year.

Compare that to the number of people killed in crashes with improperly licensed drivers. One in five fatal traffic crashes nationwide involves at least one driver without a valid license, according to research by the AAA Foundation [PDF]. Those crashes killed an average of 8,801 people each year.

Crashes involving unlicensed drivers, therefore, killed more than 154 times as many people as all crashes involving charter buses.

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WPIX Long Island Reporter Rob Hoell Eats Marcia Kramer’s Lunch

Here’s the piece about the Prospect Park West bike lane that ran on the Channel 11 News last night.

While it would have been great to see more of the data showing the success of the redesign, WPIX Long Island reporter Rob Hoell gets a lot of the good political details into the segment: The role of former DOT commissioner Iris Weinshall and involvement of Weinshall’s husband, Senator Chuck Schumer; the fact that Weinshall and Schumer live on the street that has been redesigned; the connections between Schumer and Jim Walden, the attorney at the white-shoe law firm Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher who is working “pro bono” on behalf of bike lane opponents.

It would have been a cinch to connect all these dots a week ago, before CBS2’s chief political correspondent, Marcia Kramer, filed her latest hatchet job on the PPW redesign. But not one shred of information about the political machinations behind this high-profile bike lane fight has ever made it into a Marcia Kramer segment. Why is that?

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Chuck Schumer’s Office Has No Comment on Prospect Park West

U.S. Senator and Prospect Park West resident Chuck Schumer. Photo: Noah Kazis

Streetsblog has contacted Senator Chuck Schumer’s press office twice asking for comment on the Prospect Park West bike lane and received no reply.

Reports have recently surfaced personally tying Schumer to efforts to reverse the Prospect Park West redesign, which enjoys broad popular support according to a web survey of nearly 3,000 Brooklynites.

Schumer’s wife, Iris Weinshall, is a former DOT commissioner and prominent ally of a group looking to remove the bike lane.

David Seifman at the Post reported earlier this month that Schumer has spoken to City Council members about his displeasure with the bike lane.

Jim Walden, an attorney with the high-powered law firm Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher, has given his services free of charge to bike lane opponents, who have been threatening to sue the city to remove the lane. Walden is a top Schumer contributor and was on the Senator’s shortlist for a U.S. Attorney nomination in 2009. The anti-bike lane group he’s representing pro bono is based out of 9 Prospect Park West, one of the most exclusive properties in Brooklyn and the same building where Schumer and Weinshall reside.

Schumer, however, has not taken any public position on the redesign and his office has remained silent on the issue.