With a legislative rebuke to Sadik-Khanism, Quinn defies the Bloomberg administration again

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. (Dana Rubinstein)
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Christine Quinn moved to rein in the Bloomberg administration's bike-lane policies this afternoon, making this the second act of opposition in as many days to the policies of a mayor with whom she has been closely allied during her tenure as City Council speaker.

Yesterday, Quinn announced she was planning to file a lawsuit challenging the administration's new intake policies for individual homeless people.

Today, she announced the passage of two bills that could slow the rapid proliferation throughout the five boroughs of bike lanes and pedestrian plazas spearheaded by city transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

In recent years, the city has built 16 new pedestrian plazas on underutilized D.O.T.-controlled land. Another 26 are in the works. In the past four years, the city has also built 260 miles of new bike lanes.

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Sadik-Khan is beloved by public-transportation wonks, but deplored by critics like the New York Post's Steve Cuozzo for her wont to make radical changes to the New York City street grid without, they argue, extensive community input.

"From pedestrian plazas to bike lanes, these are projects which have caused all New Yorkers to have lots of opinions and feelings," said Quinn, speaking to a room full of reporters inside the Chambers Street Emigrant Savings Bank, which is serving as the Council's temporary meeting place while City Hall is under renovation. "But we've heard some very significant concerns about these projects from a lot of different communities in the city, things like small business people, who have said, these don't necessarily help our business."

Quinn is planning a run for mayor in 2013, and small-business owners will be a coveted constituency in the Democratic primary.

"But most significantly," said Quinn, "we've heard from people in the disability community, particularly people in the visually-impaired community, who raised the concern that pedestrian plazas have not been constructed in a way that it is safe for them to move through those plazas."

Quinn later introduced two bills in the Council: one that would require the Department of Transportation to consult with the police department, the fire department, the Department of Small Business Services, and the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, as well as with local community boards, before completing new pedestrian plazas or bike lanes; and another that would require the D.O.T. to provide public access to data on how such projects have affected traffic flow and safety in the years following their completion.

Both transportation bills were passed by veto-proof (and then some) majorities, 48 to 0.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Michael Murphy, a spokesman for Transportation Alternatives, which advocates for bike lanes in New York City, said of the legislation, "politics is politics."

"No other safe-street improvement seems to get that kind of treatment," said Murphy, who, by way of example, pointed to turning lanes, which don't require this level of consultation.

"The fact is that bike lanes make everybody safer," said Murphy. "They get bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers out of each other’s way and out of harm’s way. It’s kind of a no-brainer to me."

Murphy also said the bill only codifies the department's existing policies about seeking public input. 

Asked whether the new reporting requirements would slow things down, Murphy said, "That was a concern of ours. I guess we’ll see."