Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Hitting for the Cycle

The NY Times is reporting that local Park Slope residents are bring a lawsuit against the Prospect Park bike lanes-and it's about time that some folks challenged the arbitrary and capricious actions of Commissioner Sadik-Khan: "Well-connected New Yorkers have taken the unusual step of suing the city to remove a controversial bicycle lane in a wealthy neighborhood of Brooklyn, the most potent sign yet of opposition to the Bloomberg administration’s marquee campaign to remake the city’s streets."

And while the action is only directed at these particular lanes, it could have repercussions for all of the commissioner's schemes: "But while the suit seeks only the removal of that particular lane, it incorporates criticisms of the administration’s overall approach in carrying out the high-profile initiatives of its transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, including placing pedestrian plazas in Times and Herald Squares and rededicating dozens of miles of traffic lanes for bicycle use."

What the suit will hopefully do is to expose the corrupt nature of the methodology used by DOT-and underscore the need for full environmental review of measures such as these that have a significant impact on traffic. The Times doesn't get fully into the legal theory, however, but does suggest its outline: "The lawsuit, filed by a group with close ties to Iris Weinshall, the city’s transportation commissioner from 2000 to 2007 and the wife of Senator Charles E. Schumer, accuses the Transportation Department of misleading residents about the benefits of the lane, cherry-picking statistics on safety improvements and collaborating with bicycle activists to quash community opposition."

The latter suggestion raises some interesting issues of collusion between the Bloombergistas and the not-for-profit sector. As the paper points out: "The opponents also produced e-mail correspondence that they sought to portray as an effort by the Transportation Department to coordinate criticism of the lane’s opponents. In an exchange from June, Ryan Russo, the department’s assistant commissioner for traffic management, told Aaron Naparstek, a leading bicycle advocate, that the lane “is under serious attack,” and he asked whether Park Slope Neighbors, a neighborhood group in favor of the lane, was “counterattacking” the criticism. “There are enough important people talking to other important people for me to worry and to require neutralizing,” Mr. Russo wrote in the e-mail."

Wow, coordinating with a non profit, who would have suspected? But the larger issue is one of  rooking the residents and cooking the books: "The opponents, however, disputed that safety had improved, and their suit argues that the department presented “deceptive” statistics. They also accuse transportation officials of ignoring required environmental reviews and subverting a public review process by presenting a full report on the lane only after the decision was made to make it permanent."

Just as we have been arguing all along-as we said yesterday: ""Data-driven?" Cooked books is more like it-and if her data is so righteous why is most of what DOT plans concocted in secrecy worthy of the old Soviet Union? And, aside from the bicycle brigade, Sadik-Khan is pretty much universally-and deservedly-despised: "Council members have found her dismissive and confrontational,” said Letitia James, a councilwoman from Brooklyn who described herself as a friend of the commissioner’s. “Other than Brownstone Brooklyn and parts of Manhattan, she is pretty much despised by my colleagues.”

So, it's about time that Her Haughtiness was challenged-and our only regret was that the action wasn't brought by the city council, the folks that should be in the middle of the oversight of all of Sadik-Khan's majestic visions. As far as TA goes, we owe the group an apology for accusing it of being on the Bloomberg pad. Clearly, the payoff here was pure policy and no donation was needed to grease the wheels.

It does, however, underscore just how creepy the commissioner's ideological bent really is. To have a mayoral administration riding in locked wheels with this helmeted brigade is the one truly frightening thing that has come out of this so far. We do anticipate that once the opponents get a chance top review the books, they will find-just as we found with Willets Point-that both the figures lie, and the liars figure.