Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Christine Quinn's disappointing record on transportation

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is running for mayor of New York. In theory I like the idea of the city's first lesbian mayor, and she seems like a nice person. She did get the council to pass congestion pricing in 2008. But overall her record on transportation has been negative, and there is no indication that she has any interest in taking a more progressive stand on the issue.

In addition to the contempt she has shown in writing, here are several actions Quinn has taken that show how low issues like pedestrian safety, fair access to jobs, clean air and water, resource conservation and protection, and prevention of global warming rank among her priorities. Thanks to Streetsblog for keeping an eye on her.

  • Jimmy Vacca's Kvetch Committee. When Transportation Committee chair John Liu was elected comptroller in 2009, Quinn appointed Jimmy Vacca to chair the committee. Vacca represents a conservative part of the southeast Bronx where 62% of households have at least one car, and the neighborhood elite simply ignore the other 38%.

    Over the past three years Vacca has continued Liu's pattern of pandering to the city's wealthy car-drivers, flattering their fantasies that they're a disadvantaged, oppressed class and attacking anyone who gets in their way. When he has shown interest in pedestrian deaths, it has been temporary and fleeting, but he always seems to have time to dream up new giveaways to drivers. All this time, Quinn has stood with Vacca and even reiterated some of his kvetches.

    In part, this is clearly a political calculation. Quinn has seen transportation as an issue where there is no strong case for progressive action. With that gone, it is simply a political bargaining chip, to be traded to outer-borough power-brokers in exchange for their support.
  • Four more years of Ray Kelly. Back in January the Post reported that Quinn is planning to reappoint Ray Kelly as Police Commissioner. Under Kelly's leadership, the NYPD has actively obstructed enforcement of laws protecting pedestrian safety, while harassing cyclists in Central Park.
  • No taxi reform. Mayor Bloomberg made a heroic, if flawed, effort to increase the supply of taxis, especially in the "inner boroughs." He tried to get a bill passed in Albany because people seem to agree that the taxi lobby has bought the City Council, and thus it will never pass a bill that the medallion owners don't want.
  • Limiting pedicabs. In 2007, Quinn shepherded a law through the City Council, over Bloomberg's veto, to drastically reduce the number of pedicabs in the city and their ability to cross bridges. It was widely speculated at the time that she did this as a favor for her friend and neighbor Emily Giske, who introduced Quinn to her future wife Kim Catullo. Giske is a registered lobbyist who was working for motor taxi companies at the time.
  • No increase in transit funding. When the MTA was first established, the city and state governments both contributed to the subway and bus budget. Rudy Giuliani cut the city's contribution in the 1990s, as George Pataki was cutting the state's share. Bloomberg hasn't cut the city contribution as much as Giuliani did, but it has gone down. Yes, that's something to critique him for, but the City Council has never challenged him on it.
Remember these things when people ask you to support Quinn. I think we can do better.


nathan_h said...

How about we just don't support any politicians who are literally married to their lobbyists, as a rule? That seems fair enough, though it does exclude a disturbing number of those in power.

Cap'n Transit said...

Sorry, Nathan, I was really having trouble making that clear with all the pronouns. Giske is the lobbyist; she's married to somebody named Annie Washburn. Catullo, a product liability lawyer, is married to Quinn.

Quinn and Giske are not married, but they are close friends.

Hip said...

Who are we supposed to support in the primary? None of the above?

Woody said...

"Who are we supposed to support in the primary? None of the above?"

If none of the above are supporting us, that's reasonable.

But there are four strong Democratic candidates. I'm hoping that one will figure out that taking a different position from the car-loving transit-haters is a good way to break out of the pack.

Alon said...

At this stage, if Mayor Quinn doesn't force universities to shut down events for livable streets and transit investment, I'll be happy.