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Protesters Call for 'Car-Centric' UWS Transportation Leaders to Step Down

By Emily Frost | February 4, 2015 4:10pm
 A group of local residents said the committee members have not pushed hard enough for change. 
Group Calls for Transportation Committee Leaders to Step Down
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Dozens of frustrated residents called on the leadership of Community Board 7's Transportation Committee to step down Tuesday while accusing them of stalling on street redesigns that could have saved lives.

Holding aloft signs that read "Vision Zero = Zero Action @ CB7" and "CB7: A proven record of failure" at Tuesday's full CB7 meeting, the protesters charged committee co-chairmen Andrew Albert and Dan Zweig with delaying street redesign plans, lacking foresight and acting hostile to community members who push for change.

Their issues with the two, dating back to 2008, include the co-chairmen opposing protected bike lanes and bike racks, dragging their feet on a redesign of Amsterdam Avenue and not including community members on a new CB7 Vision Zero task force.

Local resident Julie Kowitz Margolies even alleged at the meeting that "because of [Albert and Zweig's] recalcitrance and car-centricity, changes that would have saved lives were delayed or crushed, and people have died." 

The protesters also enlisted the help of street safety advocacy organizations Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets to join the chorus of voices attacking the co-chairmen.

A pair of Families for Safe Streets members who live on the Upper West Side — Sophia Russo, who lost her 4-year-old daughter Ariel in a crash June 4, 2013, and Mary Beth Kelly, whose husband died in a cycling crash — told their stories at the meeting while calling for a change in leadership.

Albert and Zweig didn't listen to residents who brought up safety issues at the corners of West 96th Street and Broadway and West 95th Street and West End Avenue prior to fatal crashes there, claimed protester and local resident Mark Gorton.

"They don’t understand what safe streets look like, and they are incapable of having a positive vision," said Gorton, adding that he doesn't have an issue with the two men as people, merely as committee leaders. 

However, City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal voiced her support of Albert and Zweig at the meeting, irking members of the group who later lashed out at her on Twitter.

"We did a lot of work with the DOT and two very big street redesigns came up in February and again in the summer with West End Avenue," said Rosenthal, addressing the two leaders publicly Tuesday night.

"You helped sail that through very quickly," she added. 

Lisa Sladkus, former leader of the local advocacy group Upper West Side Safe Streets Renaissance, said "it’s time to stop protecting people’s feelings and start acting for the safety of our community."

Albert responded in an email to DNAinfo, saying, "CB7 continues and will continue to prioritize issues of pedestrian safety in our neighborhood."

Zweig did not respond to a request for comment. 

The pair has led the transportation committee for at least a decade, but they can now only serve as committee leaders for another four years under 2013 revisions to the board bylaws.

Board members are reappointed every two years either by the borough president or the local City Council member. Zweig is up for reappointment by Councilman Mark Levine in April 2015 and Albert by Borough President Gale Brewer in April 2016.  

Group members said they're planning another action in the coming weeks.