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Traffic tamer needed to handle Bklyn streets

When the Mayor announces his new commissioner for the Department of Transportation, that person had better be ready to handle the traffic mess more commonly known as downtown Brooklyn. That was the demand of two borough city councilmembers that joined transportation advocates at City Hall Monday to demand that the Bloomberg administration appoint a Commissioner “with the credentials and experience to tackle the traffic congestion and pollution that are plaguing New Yorkers.” The top chair at the Department of Transportation (DOT) is expected to be vacated in April now that Commissioner Iris Weinshall, the wife of Senator Chuck Schumer, has tendered her resignation. Weinshall, who has been DOT Commissioner since 2003, announced last week that she has been appointed vice chancellor for Facilities, Planning, Construction and Management at the City University of New York (CUNY) “I have had the privilege of serving the City of New York for more than 25 years and I look forward to continuing that service at CUNY,” Weinshall said in a statement regarding her departure. “As a life-long New Yorker and CUNY graduate, I’m excited about the opportunities and challenges this homecoming presents.” Weinshall was appointed special transportation advisor to Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2003, with responsibility for shaping the city’s transportation strategy. Mayor Bloomberg also named her to the Taxi and Limousine Commission. As she leaves, Weinshall prides herself on ensuring that pedestrian fatalities in New York fell to their lowest level since 1910. But, while praising her accomplishments, those bracing the cold outside City Hall Monday said that the new DOT commissioner should have a mandate that would reduce automobile traffic while improving surface transit and increasing walking and bicycling options. “This city has been fortunate to have such a hard-working DOT commissioner in Iris Weinshall for the past five years,” said Brooklyn Heights City Councilman David Yassky. “But now that she is moving on, we must look toward the next five years and beyond and choose a commissioner who will tackle our quickly increasing environmental and transportation challenges.” “Our next transportation commissioner will be making decisions that will affect the health, business and general quality of life of all New Yorkers—let’s make sure she or he makes the right ones.” “It is crucial the administration selects a new Department of Transportation commissioner who will make pollution, traffic congestion and parking issues a priority,” said Councilmember Bill de Blasio, harking back on the complaints his constituents in Park Slope have forwarded to him over the past few years. “The next commissioner will play a vital role in making sure the city reaches its future goals of increasing and improving our transportation alternatives.” “There is so much a transportation commissioner could do to improve the quality of life of New Yorkers by reducing traffic and encouraging transit use,” said Gene Russianoff, senior attorney for the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, who also attended the City Hall presser. “We need a dynamic leader — like Commissioner Thomas Frieden has been in the area of health — to improve air quality and neighborhood life by taming city traffic.” Those calling for change said that they hope the new commissioner would push the DOT to release the final findings of their 1999 Truck Route Management and Community Impact Reduction Study, their take on fixing truck traffic concerns throughout Brooklyn. Last promised to be released in December, the study has yet to be shown to the public. They also hope that the new commissioner would be more concerned with public transportation than Weinshall’s regime. “New York City needs a new DOT commissioner with a new mandate,” said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “The old mandate was to move as many cars as quickly as possible. The new DOT commissioner must figure out how to move the most people around the city, using all of the available tools including mass transit, walking and bicycling.”

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