Wednesday’s Headlines: Mayor on the Subway Edition

A rare sight: de Blasio on the subway. File photo: Gersh Kuntzman
A rare sight: de Blasio on the subway. File photo: Gersh Kuntzman
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It all started when mayoral race newcomer Shaun Donovan said he would ride the subway every day if we elect him next year. (NY Post)

And that got us thinking — whatever happened to mayors like Koch and Bloomberg who rode the subway to work?

Our current mayor famously does not ride the subway to work — even deriding it as “cheap symbolism” under questioning from Streetsblog contributor Charles Komanoff once.

Sure, a rich plutocrat like Bloomberg wasn’t kidding anyone that he was a “man of the people” just because he took the subway from the Upper East Side to City Hall. But so what? Symbolism does matter some times — in fact, in a city where the majority of residents take transit, it’s not symbolism at all to want to understand what they’re going through when the train is packed or the buses bunch.

Riding the subway clearly doesn’t show that the mayor is a man or woman of the people, but it does connect the mayor to the people in a way that Bill de Blasio consistently fails to connect. So after hearing about Donovan’s pledge, we reached out to 11 mayoral candidates and asked the simple question: “Will you commit to riding the subway regularly and, if so, why do you think it’s important, beyond the cheap symbolism of suggesting that you are a man or woman of the people?”

We heard from six candidates:

Carlos Menchaca: “I will commit to riding subway regularly, plus riding my bike regularly across the city, and significantly limiting car trips. What I am proposing for my own lifestyle as mayor is how most New Yorkers commute through the city. How else can a mayor turn the page toward a better chapter of government if they do not experience the life of a New Yorker? I’m the Mayor of Ideas who grounded in community.”

Zach Iscol: “I use public transportation and will continue to do so regularly. Riding the subway is how I get around and it’s how my family gets around, so it’s not symbolic — it’s what New Yorkers do. It’s also part of the job of being mayor. The best leaders whether in business, in government, non-profits, even in combat, are always out on the frontlines because that’s where you get the information you need to be able to deliver solutions and real results.”

Loree Sutton: “When I chose to make New York my permanent home after living all over the world during my military career, it was walking and exploring the city streets on foot that made us fall in love with this city. I am, and always have been, a regular subway rider, and would have no plans to alter my habits. One of the primary concerns driving my campaign is the restoration of public health and safety, and to me, that means ensuring that our subways are clean and safe for riders, and making people feel confident that riding our subways is safe. It also means taking a systems approach to building a transportation infrastructure that integrates all of our transportation modes — subways, buses, bicycles, scooters, pedestrian pathways, ferries, ride shares and cars — into one safe, healthy and coordinated system.”

Eric Adams: “I already ride the subway regularly, and as mayor I see that as more important than ever to continue my regular ridership. Now is the time for leaders to encourage more New Yorkers to return to our mass transit system, in order to restore farebox revenue, reduce street congestion, and safely return the commercial activity that keeps our city moving. I have a special love for our subway system, as someone who worked to keep people safe underground, and I am personally invested in its survival and success.”

Scott Stringer: “I’m a lifelong New Yorker and I’ve been riding the subway my whole life. Government leaders should understand, first-hand, how under-investment in mass transit impacts New Yorkers every day.” [For the record, this does not answer the question.]

After initial publication of this story, we heard from Maya Wiley (last seen boasting of her parking placard):

Maya Wiley: “I already ride the subway all the time – it’s the fastest way to get around our city and as Mayor of course I will continue to do so. Public transit is vital for everyone across the five boroughs, which is why we need to invest in our subways, busses and bike lanes to create a cleaner, safer and more sustainable future.” Her campaign also sent over this interaction:

Meanwhile, Joel “A Walker in the City” Epstein just wants a full-time mayor. (Medium)

In other news:

  • The bike boom — which we’ve reported on twice in the last two days — continues. Bike New York tweeted about a 20-percent rise on the Upper West Side (and you can trust Orcutt — his math is better than ours!)
  • Who knew we were creating such a big story when we published Assembly Member Bobby Carroll’s op-ed last year calling for a $3 surcharge on non-“essential” online orders. Carroll followed up with an op-ed in the Daily News (which we mentioned in yesterday’s headlines). Well, everyone followed that, including Gothamist, which created a civil war among progressives, with America’s brand-name progressive firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez taking the proposal to task on Twitter (even though, frankly, it’s an idea that connects directly to AOC’s Green New Deal, but why quibble?). We asked Carroll to fire back at The Bronx congresswoman but he, wisely, declined.
  • The Daily News Editorial Board is no fan of the Gateway project. Larry Penner remains a cautious fan. (This Island Now)
  • Like us, the Post also covered the small (but important) placard abuse bust of four Correction officers.
  • Unlike us, the Post parroted the NYPD’s version of the crash that mortally wounded a cyclist last month.
  • Manhattan Borough President candidate Brad Hoylman is pitching his under-25 mile-per-hour speed limit. (amNY)
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