With DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall set to depart city government in three weeks, sources say that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is close to announcing her replacement. The Mayor's choice will have a profound impact on day-to-day neighborhood life as well as the City of New York's long-term future. Though the DOT commissioner job search has barely been covered by the local press, this may very well be one of the most important decisions of the last 1,000 days of the Bloomberg Administration.
Last week, Annie Karni of the New York Sun reported that Janette Sadik-Khan and Michael Horodniceanu are the top two candidates for the job. Sources quoted in Karni's article described Sadik-Khan as the "people-first" candidate and Horodniceanu as "cars-first." While that characterization is, clearly, an oversimplification, there is no question that the two candidates present Mayor Bloomberg and the City of New York with two very different options.
On the one hand, there is Sadik-Khan, 46, a senior vice president at the planning and engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff. During the Dinkins Administration, Sadik-Khan (left) was the director of a now-defunct New York City department called the Mayor's Office of Transportation, which was responsible for long-term transportation planning and the coordination of the various agencies and authorities with power over New York City transportation policy and infrastructure. (Rudy Giuliani disbanded the office.)
In her municipal capacity, Sadik-Khan was the liaison to the MTA and the overseer of the Port Authority's Airport Access Plan, the development of the Farley Post Office Rail Station and a 42nd Street light rail plan that nearly came to fruition. With the Second Avenue subway, Bus Rapid Transit, the Fulton Street transportation hub and a number of other mega-projects planned, underway or envisioned, New York City government is once again in need of an individual with the ability to coordinate the work of disparate agencies and, as Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff said last week, think in "bold and creative" terms about what is possible for New York City transportation policy.
Sadik-Khan, who declined to be interviewed for this article, brings expertise in transit and land use, finance, and communications. She is intellectually curious and in touch with her field's global innovators. An editorial board member of NYU Rudin Center's New York Transportation Journal, Sadik-Khan recently published interviews with Bogota's Enrique Penalosa and Copenhagen's Jan Gehl. She was a driving force behind the Partnership for New York City's congestion pricing study, Growth or Gridlock. Mayor Bloomberg knows that she is qualified for the job. According to "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz, in 2001 Sadik-Khan was the Bloomberg administration search committee's top choice for DOT commissioner -- before the Mayor decided to stay with Giuliani's transportation chief, Iris Weinshall.
Sadik-Khan has professional transportation experience on the federal, state and local levels and a law degree from Columbia University. But her biggest and most important qualification for the DOT Commissioner's job is what is not on her resume. Sadik-Khan is not a traffic engineer.
Horodniceanu, on the other hand, is.