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Posts from the "Weinshall Watch" Category

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Confirmed: Former DOT Commish Weinshall Wants PPW Bike Lane Gone

David Goodman’s City Room piece on the PPW bike lane survey includes the first new information in months about the extent of former DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall’s involvement in efforts to do away with the current design.

Following the October demonstrations where bike lane proponents vastly outnumbered naysayers, Weinshall and other opponents have not let up in their campaign to undo the re-design. Together with fellow PPW resident and former deputy mayor Norman Steisel, Weinshall, who directly preceded Janette Sadik-Khan as DOT chief, has sat down with City Council members and discussed her wishes to see the old three-lane speedway come roaring back, Goodman reports:

Since the Park Slope protests, some well-connected people, including  a former city transportation commissioner, have lobbied for changes to the current lane. Iris Weinshall, the transportation commissioner from 2000 to 2007 and the wife of Senator Charles E. Schumer, and Norman Steisel, a former deputy mayor, had breakfast last month with Mr. Lander and, shortly after, with Mr. Levin.

“They made very clear that their goal is to see the bike lane removed and the old configuration restored,” Mr. Lander said in an e-mail.

Ms. Weinshall said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that she “had concerns over all about safety elements of the bike lane and the level of both community input and the data that’s being made available to the community.”

Ms. Weinshall had previously declined to comment on the lane, with speculation in the cycling press swirling around her role in opposing it.

“I’m not opposed to bike lanes,” Ms. Weinshall said. “I put in a number of them as commissioner, including the lane on Plaza Street” that connects to Prospect Park West.

The most dangerous activity I can imagine on Prospect Park West — barreling down the street in a multi-ton vehicle at deadly speeds — is down dramatically since the re-design took effect. A safety-based rationale for returning to three wide lanes of traffic defies explanation.

In related news, Weinshall is rumored to have a shot at replacing the widely respected Chris Ward as head of the Port Authority, if Andrew Cuomo gives the word.

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It’s Official: Sadik-Khan in at DOT

After weeks of speculation, City Hall has announced that Janette Sadik-Khan, a senior vice president at Parsons Brinckerhoff, will be the new commissioner of the NYC DOT. This from a press release issued this afternoon by the mayor's office:
"Janette Sadik-Khan has a superb mix of public and private sector transportation management experience and she will make great addition to our team. She's joining us at an exciting time, as we use the last 979 days of our Administration to enact policies to set this City on the course for a better future," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Janette has the skills and the experience to meet the challenges of overseeing our vast transportation infrastructure, to ensure that people can move around our City safely, and to continue to lead the DOT by implementing innovative and exciting policies."

"I am pleased to be joining Mayor Bloomberg and his team, who are continuing to show leadership by articulating a bold new vision for New York. I look forward to working with the men and women of DOT to realize that vision," said Janette Sadik-Khan. "My first priority is the safety of our residents as they use the networks of roads and bridges that connect our City, and I will focus on making our system more sustainable and achieving a full state of good repair for our aging infrastructure. I am very happy to be returning to city government at such an eventful time."

"This is an exciting time to be joining the Bloomberg Administration and I want to welcome Janette to DOT," said Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding, Daniel Doctoroff. "Because we recognize that transportation is linked with land use, energy, housing development, air and water quality, we truly operate as a team, and I know that Janette will be an integral part of that as we work to meet the challenges that the Mayor has laid out as part of PlaNYC."

Sadik-Khan's first day on the job is May 14th.

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Sadik-Khan is Next at DOT

Employees at the engineering consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhoff were recently informed that senior vice president Janette Sadik-Khan will be leaving because she has been selected by Mayor Michael Bloomberg as New York City's next Department of Transportation commissioner. She is reportedly due to start work on May 14.

Today's Crain's Insider reports:

Insiders say Janette Sadik-Khan will be named to head the city Department of Transportation by the end of the week. Sadik-Khan, a senior vice president at engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff, is viewed as the choice of transit advocates, who believe she will extend mass transit options as opposed to car-friendly projects. Michael Horodniceanu, a former DOT traffic chief under Mayor David Dinkins, was the other finalist for the post. The new commissioner's job will be particularly challenging, given Mayor Mike Bloomberg's ambitious PlaNYC agenda.

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Department of Judith

judy.jpgAt her final staff meeting, Department of Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall told the assembled that City Hall is still looking for a "transportation person" but has not reached a final decision. First Deputy Commissioner Judy Bergtraum will be named as Acting Commissioner until the deal is done.

Rumor has it, however, that a deal is close to being done.

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Why Hasn’t Mayor Bloomberg Announced Her Replacement?

Department of Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall's last day on the job is this coming Friday, April 13.

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Breaking News: Frieden Tapped as DOT Commish

Please note: This was an April Fool's Day post...

Dr. Thomas Frieden accepting his new job as DOT commissioner this morning in Central Park.

In a major restructuring of the Bloomberg Administration, outgoing Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall will be replaced by Public Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden. Bloomberg's surprise announcement came at a rare Sunday morning press conference, where the mayor also rolled out a major piece of his 2030 Sustainability plan for reducing congestion.

After thanking Weinshall for her efforts, Bloomberg set forth his vision for New York's new Transportation Commissioner. "Today begins a new day, when we look at our streets differently, when we see the inextricable link between public health and and the public realm, when we choose clean air and quality of life over congestion. What I started on Friday with my veto of the pedicab cap will continue through the end of my administration. We will free this city from the negative consequences of automobile congestion."

"Driving a single-passenger private motor vehicle in New York City is about to go the way of smoking in restaurants," Commissioner Frieden said. "I accepted this job because I realized that the best way to achieve many of our public health goals is to reduce New Yorkers' automobile dependence."

Bloomberg went on to announce his support for congestion pricing and said that he would begin taking street space away from private motor vehicles throughout the city to help accelerate his long-stalled Bus Rapid Transit project. Bloomberg named Vision42 founder George Haikalis as DOT Deputy Commissioner and boldly announced that by the end of his term 42nd Street would be transformed into a car-free light rail pedestrian boulevard.

He then introduced Dr. Thomas Frieden as the new DOT chief. "Tom is the natural choice. He has been a remarkable innovator as New York City's Health Commissioner, but he can do more for public health as DOT commissioner than he can in his current position," the mayor said.


Vision 42: One of the many innovative projects now embraced by the Bloomberg Administration

"As we move more people out of automobiles and encourage more people to bike and walk around the city," Dr. Frieden said, "our city's residents will get fitter and healthier. We'll reduce obesity and diabetes rates. Moreover, we will start eliminating the ground-level pollution that causes asthma, lung cancer and other respiratory ailments that plague so many New Yorkers, our children and seniors in particular."

Frieden also pointed to the fact that much of the traffic congestion and pollution was from automobiles merely driving through the city as something he intends to address. "Automobile congestion is not only making our residents sick, it is stymieing New York City's economic development and holding us back from being the greatest city in the world."

The move stunned Livable Streets advocates. Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives, was initially very excited about the announcement, but quickly realized the full impact of City Hall suddenly buying in to his entire agenda. "I'm not really sure what TA's mission would be moving forward. I mean, if Frieden's running the show, what are we going to complain about?" He was last seen scratching his head and mumbling something about updating his resume and trying to get a job in the new DOT.

Ken Coughlin, chairman of the Car Free Central Park campaign, reportedly received a call in advance of Frieden's appointment from Dan Doctoroff. "He told me that he's been a big supporter of Car Free Central Park from day one, but just has been waiting for the right moment to announce his support for a total ban on automobiles from entering the park." Coughlin then did three cartwheels in front of City Hall and high-fived several people around him.

Streetsblog will be following this story as it unfolds. Stay tuned and happy April Fools Day.

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Meet the New Boss

Michael_H.JPG 

Multiple sources say that Mayor Bloomberg has chosen Urbitran Chairman and CEO Michael Horodniceanu as New York City's next transportation commissioner. Iris Weinshall's last day on the job will be Friday, April 13. No word yet on when the official announcement will be.

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Mayor Bloomberg at the Crossroads: Who Will Run DOT?

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.

JanetteSadikKhan.jpg 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.

Read more...

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Old Gray Lady Gets on the Bandwagon

The New York Times came out advocating for progressive transportation policies in its Sunday City section editorial, saying that the departure of DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall presents "a great opportunity to take bold action on a vexing quality of life and health issue: traffic congestion."

After giving Weinshall props for her actions on the Queens Boulevard front (and taking her to task on the Staten Island Ferry crash), the Times goes on to say how much more needs to be done, voicing some arguments that probably sound mighty familiar to Streetsblog readers:

Whoever gets the job should waste no time in helping to secure federal money to study ways of relieving traffic, including the possibility of congestion pricing. Washington has recognized that the nation's cities need traffic controls, and millions of dollars are being offered to municipalities seeking solutions. New York should claim its share.

There has been a lot of pushback on the idea of congestion pricing, in which drivers would be charged a fee in the most heavily trafficked part of the city, Manhattan south of Central Park. Opponents portray the fee as a regressive tax that would be hard on small businesses, but versions of such a charge in London, Stockholm and elsewhere show promising results, reducing traffic apparently without impeding commerce.

As a quick second act, the next commissioner could take a bite out of congestion and set an example for the rest of city government by revoking its workers' parking permits, an idea promoted by Transportation Alternatives, a nonpartisan advocate for reduced car traffic. City workers from all departments, the police in particular, regularly abuse the privilege -- the permits amount to a free pass to park, even double-park, anywhere -- especially in Lower Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn.

In the larger picture, the new commissioner should treat city transportation as the regional issue it is. Much of the traffic on the most heavily used streets originates in outlying areas. Workers are commuting from ever greater distances. Sometimes that is a matter of necessity, sometimes it's a matter of perceived convenience.

The city would benefit greatly from a transportation leader who promotes use of public transit, walking and cycling as not just a way to a destination, but as a way of life.
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The Iris Weinshall Legacy: Queens Boulevard

"What became clear to me in this discussion was that the engineers were thinking from the motorists' viewpoint."  -- Iris Weinshall, New York Newsday, April 29, 2001

 


A long walk across Queens Blvd. at Grand Ave., Elmhurst, circa March 2001. Photo: Jeff Saltzman

Departing Department of Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall often cites the pedestrian safety improvements she ordered for Queens Boulevard as the greatest accomplishments of her six years in office. Before taking over DOT, the Queens Boulevard death machine was killing an average of 9 pedestrians a year, including an astounding death toll of 18 in 1997 alone. Once DOT began focusing on pedestrian safety along Queens Boulevard, the death rate fell to just over three per year. Today, crossing Queens Boulevard on foot is still a challenge but it's a lot safer than it used to be.

ped_killed.jpgAs City Hall mulls the future of its Department of Transportation, it is useful to recall the decades of pedestrian carnage on Queens Boulevard and what it took, finally, to staunch the bloodshed. Because it was Queens Boulevard where Iris Weinshall, the city's newly appointed transportation commissioner, overruled her agency's top traffic engineers for the first time and, in so doing, achieved what she often says is her proudest accomplishment.

In late 2000, the Daily News launched a crusade to tame the "Boulevard of Death." Newsday followed suit, and the 7.1 mile long, 12 lane, monster street dominated their contest for Queens readers. The tabloids ran more than twenty-five newspaper articles spotlighting the horrible conditions, including five front pages.

Prodded by the media coverage, the city's new DOT commissioner, a transportation policy neophyte, instructed her traffic engineers to make walking across the boulevard safer and easier. But the engineers resisted. Increasing pedestrian crossing times, they said, would would back up traffic to the Queensboro Bridge and motorists would be stuck fuming. Weinshall, frustrated by her top engineers' apparent inability or unwillingness to trade motorist convenience for pedestrian safety, shared a candid revelation with reporters: DOT's traffic engineers, she said, were "thinking from the motorist's viewpoint."

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