Parking Over Bus Lanes? In One Brooklyn District, Pols Bow to Drivers

Free her. Photo: DOT
Free her. Photo: DOT

On-street car storage is still apparently a politically viable opinion in Central Brooklyn.

At a forum last week, seven candidates to fill the seat vacated by Jumaane Williams when he became public advocate, were asked a straightforward question — “Where the choice is preserving parking or building bus lanes, what do you choose?” — and five proudly championed free real estate for car owners rather than a proven method of improving service for tens of thousands of bus riders.

That majority included two presumptive front-runners — Monique Chandler-Waterman, who was Williams’s director of community outreach for two years and has earned his endorsement; and Farah Louis, Williams’ former deputy chief of staff — plus three other candidates, L Rickie Tulloch, Xamayla Rose, and Jovia Radix.

Would-be Council Member Monique Chandler-Waterman has been endorsed by the man she hopes to succeed.
Would-be Council Member Monique Chandler-Waterman has been endorsed by the man she hopes to succeed.

Only Adina Sash and Victor Jordan defended bus riders over selfish drivers. In an interview this week, Sash couldn’t believe her fellow candidates’ answer.

“I was thinking they must have misunderstood the question,” said the candidate, a comedian behind the popular Flatbush Girl Instagram account. “There are parts of the district where homeowners have cars and struggle at night with parking, but I’m not sure what the motivation was for prioritizing parking over bus lanes. We have to do what’s in the best interest of the majority of the district — and those are people using mass transit. These are people who are trying to just keep their head over water. They don’t have the luxury of taking a car.”

Sash said she would have gone beyond a transit discussion if she had been allowed a fuller answer.

“What about the environmental impact?” she asked. “That should have been part of the question. We have to be more aware of our carbon footprint.”

Jordan, a former teacher and Community Board 17 member, also told Streetsblog that supporting bus lanes was a no-brainer.

“Most of my constituents depend on public transport — and it’s better than driving anyway,” he said. “Clearly, the candidates who favored parking should not be running for office because they are so out of step with the residents here. They may have money and be connected to political bosses, but they don’t understand the issues that matter to the public.”

The support for drivers is no surprise from the former Williams staffers, one of whom is his hand-picked successor. Williams defended drivers in the battle over the Select Bus Service B44 and B82 in his district. And he has a well-documented record of speeding. The 45th Council District includes Flatbush, Flatlands and Midwood. Parts of the district have very low car ownership, with just 25 to 40 percent of the households having a car, according to city statistics. But throughout most of the district, a majority of households have a car.

The candidates who preferred on-street car storage did not call back.

Even though the majority of candidates supported parking, Jordan and Sash earned applause for their answer — an indication that car-centric candidates are simply out-of-touch with the tens of thousands of their constituents who take buses every day. A winning candidate should know that, said Eric McClure, executive director of StreetsPAC, the livable streets political action committee.

Candidate Adina Sash favors bus lanes to parking.
Candidate Adina Sash favors bus lanes to parking.

“Prioritizing public transit, and especially the city’s underperforming bus network, is critically important to creating economic opportunity and improving the lives of New Yorkers,” McClure told Streetsblog. “This is especially true for the people of the 45th Council District, whose main bus lines all received ‘D’ grades on the Bus Turnaround Coalition’s most recent report card. It’s deeply disappointing that the majority of candidates for the vacant Council seat don’t seem to grasp that.

“We need leaders who will look out for straphangers, not the entitled driving minority who are hogging far more than their fair share of city streets,” McClure added.

Chandler-Waterman and Louis are seen as the front-runners because of their endorsements, with Chandler-Waterman getting the nod of her former boss, while Louis has the endorsements of the party’s County Chairman Frank Seddio, Borough President Eric Adams and Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte. The two also lead in fundraising.

The non-partisan special election is on Tuesday, May 14.

This story was updated on April 23 to include comments from Victor Jordan.