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City Council Candidates on the Issues: Ben Kallos, District 5

We continue our series on City Council candidates with a Q&A with government transparency advocate Ben Kallos, who’s running to represent District 5 in Yorkville, Roosevelt Island, and the Upper East Side. Yesterday, we ran a Q&A with Republican candidate David Garland. Streetsblog did not receive questionnaire responses from Democrats Edward Hartzog and Micah Kellner.

City Council District 5 candidate Ben Kallos. Photo: Benjamin Kallos/Flickr

Streetsblog: The East River Greenway could serve as a primary route for walking and bicycling in the district, but it is disconnected and in need of upgrades. Plans to complete the greenway proceed on a project-by-project basis without a comprehensive vision for a continuous path from 125th Street to the Battery. How would you improve the greenway as council member?

Ben Kallos: The Upper East Side has one of the lowest amounts of green space in New York, so we have to not only protect but expand our open green spaces. I will support the proposed East River Blueway plan for a vision of a continuous waterfront greenway from 38th Street to 60th Street. I also support its expansion as a continuous path from 125th Street to the Battery. If feasible, it will improve quality of life on the East Side. An added benefit will be that bikers currently forced to rely on streets to commute will be able to use the Greenway, keeping both bikers and pedestrians safer.

SB: Protected bike lanes have increased bicycling rates on First and Second Avenue. Do you support these changes? Where else would you like to see protected bike lanes on the Upper East Side?

BK: Improving protected bike lanes is vital to creating a safer city for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. Prior to protected bike lanes, we were all crowded into the same streets, creating an unsafe environment for everyone. Instead, bike lanes should be part of complete streets, so everyone has room to safely navigate. I am committed to working with the community to minimize the negative impact of bike lanes on small business and residents as well as increasing enforcement of traffic infractions by cars and bikes to keep both bikers and pedestrians safe.

SB: Select Bus Service upgrades have sped buses and increased ridership on the same avenues. Do you support these changes? Where else would you like to see bus improvements on the Upper East Side? What types of changes, specifically, would you like to see to bus service?

BK: As a city council member, I will continue to champion the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. As chief of staff to Assembly Member Jonathan Bing, I had the privilege of working to pass the bus lane camera legislation into law that made the BRT system possible. In our district, the M15 on First and Second Avenues Select Bus Service (SBS) has been a resounding success. In cities like Chicago, which have citywide BRT lines, traffic has been cut by as much as 80 percent. I have emerged as the “transit” candidate with the endorsement of Transit Workers Union Local 100 and I will fight for the expansion of transit service and Select Bus Service.

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City Council Candidates on the Issues: David Garland, District 5

Streetsblog continues our series on City Council candidates with a look at the race for District 5 in Manhattan, covering Yorkville, Roosevelt Island, and the Upper East Side. The seat has been held by Jessica Lappin, who is now running for Manhattan borough president, for two terms.

City Council District 5 candidate David Garland. Photo courtesy the candidate.

There are four candidates vying for the seat. Republican David Garland, a business management consultant, is joined by three Democrats: Community Board 8 member Ed Hartzog, government transparency advocate Ben Kallos, and Assembly Member Micah Kellner.

Streetsblog sent questionnaires to the campaigns to get a better understanding of where the candidates stand on transit, traffic safety, and transportation policy. We begin today in alphabetical order with responses from Garland and will run answers from Kallos in a separate post. Hartzog and Kellner did not respond.

Streetsblog: The East River Greenway could serve as a primary route for walking and bicycling in the district, but it is disconnected and in need of upgrades. Plans to complete the greenway proceed on a project-by-project basis without a comprehensive vision for a continuous path from 125th Street to the Battery. How would you improve the greenway as council member?

David Garland: I have a grand vision for the East River Greenway, as I think it’s some of the most poorly utilized real estate in Manhattan. Not only should bike and walking paths be seamlessly connected, but we should be finding creative ways to lure people to this beautiful area of the city with limited riverside cafes and restaurants. The area needs buttressing against future storms, and a redesign of the corridor should be done simultaneously.

SB: Protected bike lanes have increased bicycling rates on First and Second Avenue. Do you support these changes? Where else would you like to see protected bike lanes on the Upper East Side?

DG: Absolutely. I think anything that increases biking rates and decreases vehicular traffic is good for health and the environment. That said, the safety challenges that pedestrians face with speeding bikers need to be addressed, as well as the challenges bikers face with the bike lanes being used for commercial staging and pedestrian use also need to be addressed.

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City Council Candidates on the Issues: John Ciafone, District 22

We have an update to our series on City Council candidates with questionnaire responses from two additional candidates in District 22, which covers Astoria, Ditmars-Steinway, and northern Jackson Heights. In April, we ran responses from Democratic District Leader Costa Constantinides and former New York Young Republican Club President Daniel Peterson.

City Council District 22 candidate John Ciafone. Photo courtesy the candidate.

This week, we add responses from candidates who announced after we sent the initial questionnaire this spring: Green Party candidate Lynne Serpe and Democrat John Ciafone. Antonio Meloni, who responded to Streetsblog’s questionnaire but did not provide answers for publication, has since dropped out of the race. Danielle De Stefano did not respond.

Streetsblog: A proposal for a pedestrian plaza at 30th Avenue, 33rd Street and Newtown Avenue was defeated by opposition from Community Board 1 and Council Member Vallone. Do you think public plazas, like the ones installed in other neighborhoods throughout the city, provide a benefit to the community?

John Ciafone: I am a strong advocate of pedestrian plazas. Although I would have supported pedestrian plaza at 30th Avenue and Newtown Avenue, the argument about traffic and parking is tenuous at best. Traffic is already unmanageable and impossible to park and with a pedestrian plaza, I truly believe businesses will flourish.

SB: Astoria Boulevard is slated to receive Select Bus Service improvements to speed bus travel. Could other parts of the neighborhood benefit from things like dedicated bus lanes?

JC: We need dedicated bus lanes on every major avenue in Astoria, for instance: Ditmars Boulevard, 30th Avenue, and Broadway. We also need a dedicated bus lane on 21st Street and Crescent Street. It would increase the time efficiency of the buses and better accommodate the commuters.

SB: How can the council best use its powers to reduce vehicular deaths and ensure traffic justice citywide?

JC: I will advocate for pedestrian havens and zones where tables and chairs can be set up for enjoyment. I will advocate for bike lanes on both directions of 21st Street. I will advocate for more crossing guards near the schools. I will advocate for cameras to be installed at traffic lights to avoid intersection accidents. I will also advocate for digitizing speed cameras which tell drivers the rate of movement of their vehicles. I will advocate for the delay time of traffic signals from red to green. I will also advocate for speed bumps and speed humps throughout 21st Street.

SB: The MTA is a state agency, but what actions would you like to see the City Council take to fund and expand transit service?

JC: The City Council needs to have a predominant voice in the MTA budget meetings. The City Council members know better as to the individual needs of their locales and the trials and tribulations of commuting issues in their neighborhoods.

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City Council Candidates on the Issues: Lynne Serpe, District 22

We have an update to our series on City Council candidates with questionnaire responses from two additional candidates in District 22, which covers Astoria, Ditmars-Steinway, and northern Jackson Heights. In April, we ran responses from Democratic District Leader Costa Constantinides and former New York Young Republican Club President Daniel Peterson.

City Council District 22 candidate Lynne Serpe. Photo courtesy the candidate.

This week, we add responses from candidates who announced after we sent the initial questionnaire this spring: Green Party candidate Lynne Serpe and Democrat John Ciafone. Antonio Meloni, who responded to Streetsblog’s questionnaire but did not provide answers for publication, has since dropped out of the race. Danielle De Stefano did not respond.

Streetsblog: A proposal for a pedestrian plaza at 30th Avenue, 33rd Street and Newtown Avenue was defeated by opposition from Community Board 1 and Council Member Vallone. Do you think public plazas, like the ones installed in other neighborhoods throughout the city, provide a benefit to the community?

Lynne Serpe: When I ran for City Council four years ago, I proposed turning that intersection into a pedestrian plaza. I was active in the recent attempt to convince the community board to support the proposal, and was disappointed by the position of many of the other candidates in District 22. I am a big advocate of using our public spaces for non-traditional use, to create shared and safe places for our community to gather, play and relax. I have a long history on this issue: I volunteer with the Astoria Park Alliance on Shore Fest, the street closure of Shore Boulevard for three Sundays in August, and host Ping Pong in the Park. I volunteered with Transportation Alternatives to improve the pedestrian crossings at Astoria Boulevard and 31st, and have led street cleanups of that area and the sidewalks surrounding Two Coves Community Garden near Astoria Houses. I’ve hosted Make Music New York and have participated in Park(ing) Day numerous times. As councilwoman, I would push for more street furniture along our commercial corridors and work with local businesses and residents to create a “Greenest Block” contest similar to those of the Brooklyn and Manhattan borough president’s offices.

SB: Astoria Boulevard is slated to receive Select Bus Service improvements to speed bus travel. Could other parts of the neighborhood benefit from things like dedicated bus lanes?

LS: I support upgrading the M60 to Select Bus Service, which will improve travel times and mean fewer people driving to the airport. Traffic congestion is an economic, environmental and public health problem. Rates of asthma and other respiratory ailments are on the rise, especially in neighborhoods with heavy truck traffic. Bus Rapid Transit works and is crucial in areas where there is limited access to mass transit, such as many under-served areas in Queens. Dedicated bus lanes for the Q69 and Q100 are needed on 21st Street, along with a range of traffic calming measures and bike lanes. But one of the most significant issues in our district is frequency of bus service! The Q101 and Q104 are far too infrequent, the Q18 is standing room only after three stops during rush hour, while the Q103 along Vernon Boulevard is practically nonexistent during the week and doesn’t run at all on weekends. At a time when New York City is finally recognizing the need to improve waterfront access, this is ridiculous. I also support bike racks on buses, and would advocate for the City and MTA to develop a pilot project for the Q19 along Astoria Boulevard to Flushing.

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City Council Candidates on the Issues: Mel Wymore, District 6

We continue our series on City Council candidates with a Q&A with former Community Board 7 chair Mel Wymore, who’s running to represent District 6 on the Upper West Side. Earlier this week, we ran responses from real estate executive Ken Biberaj, Democratic Party District Leader Marc Landis, former Community Board 7 chair Helen Rosenthal, and Green Party candidate Tom Siracuse. Streetsblog did not receive questionnaire responses from Democratic State Committeewoman Debra Cooper and education activist Noah Gotbaum.

City Council District 6 candidate Mel Wymore. Photo: Mel Wymore/Facebook

Streetsblog: The effort to bring protected bike lanes to the Upper West Side continues to face hurdles from some community board members. Do you think the lanes are a benefit for the neighborhood? Do you want to see them expanded and, if so, where?

Mel Wymore: The protected bike lane along 20 blocks of Columbus Avenue, which I brought from committee to the full board as chair of Community Board 7, was a big win for the Upper West Side. In its first year of use, cycling on the avenue increased while sidewalk biking virtually disappeared, and pedestrian injuries dropped 41 percent. The bike lane brought with it benefits like pedestrian refuge islands, dedicated loading zones and left-turn lanes that make the street safer for all users and calm traffic while improving traffic flow. When some merchants on the avenue raised concerns about delivery access to their stores, I formed a task force that worked with DOT to address the problems. I look forward to the expansion of the Columbus redesign this summer, and believe the next candidate for such treatment should be Amsterdam Avenue, which is one of the five most dangerous streets in Manhattan.

SB: Outgoing Council Member Gale Brewer has been a strong supporter of closing the Central Park drives to automobile traffic. Do you also support a car-free Central Park? If so, how would you like to see a car-free Central Park implemented?

MW: In spring 2011 I initiated and championed a borough-wide resolution calling for an extended trial closing of Central Park’s loop road to traffic. Every community board surrounding the park approved the resolution, which was then passed unanimously by the Manhattan Borough Board. Central Park was created as a refuge from the surrounding city, and from the beginning the park’s bucolic loop road has been an integral part of that design. The loop is now the most-used recreational space in the park, and perhaps in the city. Moreover, allowing car traffic on this road only serves as an enticement to drive to Midtown, adding to congestion. Returning Central Park to the city dwellers for whom it was intended is simple: close it to motor vehicles now and forever. Within a week or two, overall traffic will shrink and I am confident that New Yorkers will never look back.

SB: Citi Bike was launched last month. Plans call for the program to be expanded to the Upper West Side in the future. Do you support the siting of bike-share stations in the neighborhood?

MW: I participated in workshops led by the DOT to propose bike-share station locations here on the Upper West Side. I was disappointed to learn that the initial build-out would not reach most of our district, and I eagerly await the planned expansion to 79th Street and hopefully beyond. Bike-share gives our city an exciting new “fill-in-the-gaps” public transportation option, and the siting of stations is a good use of scarce public street space. Implementation of the bike-share program will also expand day-to-day cycling culture and prompt ongoing improvements to our cycling infrastructure.

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City Council Candidates on the Issues: Tom Siracuse, District 6

We continue our series on City Council candidates with a Q&A with Green Party candidate Tom Siracuse, who’s running to represent District 6 on the Upper West Side. Earlier this week, we ran responses from real estate executive Ken Biberaj, Democratic Party District Leader Marc Landis, and former Community Board 7 chair Helen Rosenthal. We will continue later this week with former Community Board 7 chair Mel Wymore. Streetsblog did not receive questionnaire responses from Democratic State Committeewoman Debra Cooper and education activist Noah Gotbaum.

City Council District 6 candidate Tom Siracuse. Photo: Elect Siracuse/Facebook

Streetsblog: The effort to bring protected bike lanes to the Upper West Side continues to face hurdles from some community board members. Do you think the lanes are a benefit for the neighborhood? Do you want to see them expanded and, if so, where?

Tom Siracuse: I am in favor of bringing protected bike lanes to the Upper West Side. The more people using bikes, the less air pollution. A study would have to made so that bike lanes will not cause undue traffic congestion such as on Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues.

SB: Outgoing Council Member Gale Brewer has been a strong supporter of closing the Central Park drives to automobile traffic. Do you also support a car-free Central Park? If so, how would you like to see a car-free Central Park implemented?

TS: I favor a car-free Central Park all year. The only roadways open to traffic should be the crosstown transverses that do not affect the interior roadways.

SB: Citi Bike was launched last month. Plans call for the program to be expanded to the Upper West Side in the future. Do you support the siting of bike-share stations in the neighborhood?

TS: Yes.

SB: On the East Side, Select Bus Service on First and Second Avenues has led to faster bus speeds. Do you want dedicated bus lanes and other service improvements for bus riders on the Upper West Side, and if so, where?

TS: We already have an express bus on the 5 bus that goes on Riverside Drive and then to Broadway. Express buses can alternate with regular buses on the 104, 7, 10 and and 11 lines.  My experience with installing machines to buy bus passes before entering the bus is not good. People approaching the bus stop often do not have enough time to buy the pass at the machine before a bus takes off, delaying their travel time. Seniors and the disabled can get stressed out with this extra step.

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City Council Candidates on the Issues: Helen Rosenthal, District 6

We continue our series on City Council candidates with a Q&A with former Community Board 7 chair Helen Rosenthal, who’s running to represent District 6 on the Upper West Side. Earlier this week, we ran responses from real estate executive Ken Biberaj and Democratic Party District Leader Marc Landis. We will continue later this week with Green Party candidate Tom Siracuse and former Community Board 7 chair Mel Wymore. Streetsblog did not receive questionnaire responses from Democratic State Committeewoman Debra Cooper and education activist Noah Gotbaum.

City Council District 6 candidate Helen Rosenthal. Photo: Helen Rosenthal for City Council/Facebook

Streetsblog: The effort to bring protected bike lanes to the Upper West Side continues to face hurdles from some community board members. Do you think the lanes are a benefit for the neighborhood? Do you want to see them expanded and, if so, where?

Helen Rosenthal: The bike lanes are a benefit to our community because they slow traffic, provide a safe lane for bikers, and provide a resting place (the refuge) for seniors or others who can’t get across the street in one light cycle. As chair of Community Board 7 in 2008 and 2009, I shepherded the resolution for the Columbus Avenue bike lane through the transportation committee and full board when the board members were totally resistant to even contemplating a DOT study for a bike lane. We need to make sure the Columbus Avenue bike lane extends below 77th Street to connect with 9th Avenue. We must extend the bike lanes to Amsterdam Avenue! I’m excited to have the opportunity to serve in the Council to continue advocating for bike lanes throughout the city (we urgently need to extend the west side greenway to circle around to the east side of Manhattan).

SB: Outgoing Council Member Gale Brewer has been a strong supporter of closing the Central Park drives to automobile traffic. Do you also support a car-free Central Park? If so, how would you like to see a car-free Central Park implemented?

HR: I too am a strong supporter of closing the Central Park drives to automobile traffic. I ride my bike in Central Park on a regular basis and know that a car-free Central Park would be safer for all those who are enjoying the open space that Central Park provides. As the future city councilwoman whose district will include Central Park, I will work with all the stakeholders to bring about a successful car-free Central Park — much in the same way I worked with residents and landlords to protect affordable housing for Trinity House and the Stern residents (a situation that also seemed intractable).

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City Council Candidates on the Issues: Marc Landis, District 6

We continue our series on City Council candidates with a Q&A with Democratic Party District Leader Marc Landis, who’s running to represent District 6 on the Upper West Side. Yesterday, we ran a Q&A with real estate executive Ken Biberaj. We will continue later this week with Green Party candidate Tom Siracuse and former Community Board 7 chairs Helen Rosenthal and Mel Wymore. Streetsblog did not receive questionnaire responses from Democratic State Committeewoman Debra Cooper and education activist Noah Gotbaum.

City Council District 6 candidate Marc Landis. Photo: Marc Landis/Twitter

Streetsblog: The effort to bring protected bike lanes to the Upper West Side continues to face hurdles from some community board members. Do you think the lanes are a benefit for the neighborhood? Do you want to see them expanded and, if so, where?

Marc Landis: I support the increased use of bicycle transportation — it’s healthier for individual bikers, and reduces pollution for everyone in the city — and bike lanes are a huge part of making that happen. Protected bike lanes can be part of the solution, if implemented carefully to ensure that the needs of small businesses are met, and that the interests of pedestrians, especially seniors and families with young children, are protected. I believe the best locations for bike lanes are on less-congested “residential” avenues and in the parks.

SB: Outgoing Council Member Gale Brewer has been a strong supporter of closing the Central Park drives to automobile traffic. Do you also support a car-free Central Park? If so, how would you like to see a car-free Central Park implemented?

ML: I support additional limitations on motor vehicles driving through Central Park, but we need to ensure that this does not result in additional congestion and pollution on the Upper West Side.

SB: Citi Bike was launched last month. Plans call for the program to be expanded to the Upper West Side in the future. Do you support the siting of bike-share stations in the neighborhood?

ML: I support bike-sharing stations on the Upper West Side, in close consultation with the community to determine locations. We must determine locations where demand will be greatest, and stations must be appropriately sized and located. The locations suggested by people on the bike-share website are a great start.

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City Council Candidates on the Issues: Ken Biberaj, District 6

Streetsblog continues our series on City Council candidates with a look at the race for District 6 in Manhattan, covering the Upper West Side. The seat has been held by Gale Brewer, who is term-limited, since 2002.

City Council District 6 candidate Ken Biberaj. Photo: Ken Biberaj 2013/Facebook

Six Democratic Party candidates are vying for the seat: real estate executive Ken Biberaj, Democratic State Committeewoman Debra Cooper, education activist Noah Gotbaum, Democratic Party District Leader Marc Landis, and former Community Board 7 chairs Helen Rosenthal and Mel Wymore. They are joined by Green Party candidate Tom Siracuse.

Streetsblog sent questionnaires to the campaigns to get a better understanding of where the candidates stand on transit, traffic safety, and transportation policy. We begin today in alphabetical order with responses from Ken Biberaj and will run answers from Marc Landis, Helen Rosenthal, Tom Siracuse, and Mel Wymore in separate posts. Streetsblog did not receive questionnaire responses from Debra Cooper or Noah Gotbaum.

Streetsblog: The effort to bring protected bike lanes to the Upper West Side continues to face hurdles from some community board members. Do you think the lanes are a benefit for the neighborhood? Do you want to see them expanded and, if so, where?

Ken Biberaj: New York City is a leader nationally and globally in the effort to create greener, more sustainable communities. Finding safe ways for people to move around the city with minimal impact on our environment is a huge priority for our leadership, and I believe bike lanes are a positive step in this direction. With a rise in bicycle use, as well as the Citi Bike program being introduced this year, we can expect more cyclists on the streets, and bike lanes are necessary to ensure the safety of our citizens. With this, I think we also need to ensure that our cyclists follow appropriate traffic rules to ensure the safety of pedestrians.

SB: Outgoing Council Member Gale Brewer has been a strong supporter of closing the Central Park drives to automobile traffic. Do you also support a car-free Central Park? If so, how would you like to see a car-free Central Park implemented?

KB: I fully support a car-free Central Park. All the data and history clearly demonstrates that removing, not adding, capacity for cars will reduce congestion over time, not to mention the tremendous health benefits and opportunities getting cars out of Central Park will present. I foresee an international architecture competition to reimagine the current loop road in Central Park to better accommodate bikers, walkers, runners and add much needed green space, almost like a High Line in Central Park. This would be a win-win for the people of New York while attracting additional visitors from around the world.

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City Council Candidates on the Issues: Clifford Stanton, District 11

We continue our series on City Council candidates with a Q&A with activist and food wholesaler Clifford Stanton, who’s running to represent District 11, covering Kingsbridge, Riverdale, Woodlawn, and Norwood in the Bronx. On Monday, we ran a Q&A with Andrew Cohen, who serves as a CB 8 member and legal advisor to Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz; yesterday we had replies from track coach and businesswomman Cheryl Keeling. Candidate Ari Hoffnung, a deputy city comptroller, told Streetsblog that he does not reply to questionnaires.

City Council District 11 candidate Clifford Stanton. Photo: Cliff Stanton for Council

Streetsblog: Riverdale was one of the first neighborhoods in New York to receive Slow Zone treatments from DOT, and an application is underway for Norwood. In your view, has the Slow Zone program been successful? Where else could it be considered in the district?

Clifford Stanton: The Riverdale Slow Zone was the culmination of four years of advocacy and lobbying by the PS 24 Parents Association during my tenure as President. As the current Parent Safety Chair of the PS 24 PA, I am pleased to see that the Slow Zone has had a positive effect by reducing vehicular speeds, especially on Independence Avenue. I believe more must be done (i.e. a midblock crosswalk, four-way stop, median, sidewalk redesign) to make this stretch of roadway safer. As the Parent Safety Chair of the Bronx High School of Science Parents’ Association, I have been assembling a coalition of support for a Slow Zone in the area of Paul Avenue from Mosholu Parkway to 204th Street. I have also accumulated over 300 petition signatures in support of the Norwood/Mosholu Slow Zone.

SB: Select Bus Service has led to faster bus speeds on Fordham Road. Do you want dedicated bus lanes and other service improvements for bus riders elsewhere in the district, and if so, where?

CS: My priority for Select Bus Service is the success of the new Webster Avenue route, which is scheduled to begin this summer. Once in office, I will work closely with DOT and the MTA to ensure complete streetscape improvements and to make any necessary post-implementation adjustments. It is vital for the LaGuardia service to extend to Gun Hill Road, and I will work to ensure it is not truncated due to insufficient funding. No other citywide priorities for Select Bus have been identified for my district. Nevertheless, successful implementation on Webster will maintain momentum for the program, and my constituents will benefit from a more developed transit network.

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