Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Who's representing Queens?

On Saturday I pointed out that the "Community Advisory Councils" convened by the Department of Transportation for the 34th Street busway project are heavily weighted towards the small minority of neighborhood residents who are NIMBYs opposed to the project, largely because the DOT has solicited no participation from residents of Queens, Staten Island or Waterside Plaza.

There is one person who claims to represent Queens, at least in some sense, at these Community Advisory Council meetings. He is not a bus rider, though; I have never heard him address a transportation question from any point of view other than a driver's. His name is Corey Bearak.

Bearak lives in a part of Eastern Queens where it is considered embarrassing for any middle-class person to get around without a car. For trips to Manhattan it is understood that some people have to leave their cars at home, but in Bearak's version of the American Dream everyone will somehow be able to drive and park everywhere even in Manhattan - for free, of course.

For many years Bearak has been involved with an organization called the Queens Civic Congress, a confederation of neighborhood groups. The Congress provides a useful forum for community boosters to share information, but it goes far beyond its mission when it takes positions on controversial issues, claiming to represent the views of the people of Queens, as they did with congestion pricing. Its member organizations are not representative, and the organizational structure of the Congress itself is not representative, but the Congress still takes positions as though it were.

Bearak has attended meetings of the Community Advisory Council, but it is not clear what segment of "the community" he is there to represent. He is a paid lobbyist and spokesperson (and probably webmaster) for the "Committee to Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free." He is also a paid Policy and Political Director for the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1056, a lame union representing the drivers for many of the MTA Bus lines that were taken over by the City a few years ago.

What's Bearak's role in the Community Advisory Council for the 34th Street Transitway? You can get a hint from this PDF (Bearak has the quirk of blogging in PDF files and classic rock quotes):
At a recent (November 4) meeting concerning the proposed 34th Street Transitway, a consultant for the project several times told residents with their concerns that that these plans only resulted because the city did not get “Congestion Pricing.” Hmmm......

As Derek & the Dominos sing and play, Tell The Truth.
You can read more of Bearak's dispatches about the Transitway and other issues on his website.

None of this is intended as an attack on Bearak, who's a nice enough guy. I disagree with him on numerous issues and I think that the whole anti-congestion pricing campaign has been slimy and dishonest from the start. I'm also very suspicious of what he's up to with regards to the Transitway. But he's got a particular agenda and a particular code of ethics, and he sticks to them.

My main criticism is of the DOT. Why did they limit the "community" to people living right near 34th Street? Why concede the frame that the only "community" that matters is the tiny group of people who really care about curbside car access? And once they did, why did they then let Bearak in? They wound up with a bunch of entitled NIMBYs screaming about not being able to get bottled water delivered by truck, and a guy who seems to be paid to attack the Bloomberg Administration - and no express bus riders to balance them out! Strategic geniuses they ain't.

The DOT needs to open up the process to people who actually favor the Transitway. Put signs on all the buses that use the Transitway, and invite a bunch of people in Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island to come out and say how much they want it! Until the DOT does that, they just look like a bunch of masochists.

1 comment:

bz741 said...

He might represent the eastern part of Queens, but he certainly does not represent Western Queens, where public transportation is vital, with the amount of subway & bus lines that pass through western Queens. That is where most of the population is, yet most of them can voice out because they either don't have the willpower or are immigrants. I take the express bus to get to Downtown, and when I took it once to reach Midtown, 34th Street was horrible. I would gladly welcome the transitway, as it would speed up bus traffic for not just the M16 & M34, but for all those express buses as well.