Wednesday, January 7, 2009
The Transit Candidate
When I recommended Representative Jerry Nadler for the Senate seat that Hillary Clinton will be vacating in a few weeks, I was totally serious. I didn't think he had much of a chance, since I hadn't heard anyone else mention his name, but now it looks like other people are thinking of him. The Times reported today that he's one of six people they know of who received a 28-page disclosure form from the Governor. He's been discussed on various Democratic blogs like MyDD and Matt Yglesias's, after he told Democracy Now! that he was "certainly" interested in the Senate seat.
Now it still might be the case that the best thing for transit and livable streets would be for that seat to go to Shelly Silver or Anthony Weiner, but there's no question that of all the candidates that have been mentioned, the one who's cared the most and done the most is Nadler. As he told Amy Goodman, "I think my record on economic development in New York, in terms of port development and transportation, has been a very far-seeing record."
To listen to our current senators talk, they seem to relate to transit in an abstract way, as one of the many kinds of pork that northeastern senators are expected to fight for, as well as possibly something that will earn them points with people who care about the environment. They don't seem to get that millions of people in the state rely on trains to get where they want to go. When they think about their constituents going places, it's usually by SUV or plane.
Nadler seems to be different. He's been one of Amtrak's most consistent supporters in the House. He's got a long record of supporting not just passenger rail, but rail freight, notably the Cross-Harbor Tunnel. He does occasionally support car things, like this bizarre rally in support of Manhattan car dealers. But he's willing to criticize a "really stupid project" like the Downtown-JFK rail link in order to defend projects that matter, like the Second Avenue Subway and the Fulton Street transfer station. And he's got a healthy skepticism about privatization.
It's certainly possible that CBK - or Gillibrand, Israel, Maloney or Suozzi - could turn out to be great for transit and livable streets, but Nadler's record beats the others' hands down. The financial disclosure forms are due back Thursday, so the Governor probably won't make a decision before then. That means there's still time to contact him and let you know how important it is to have a senator who cares about transit.