In a bid for outer-borough Dems, Lhota proposes road-widening

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Traffic on Staten Island after an accident. (Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr)
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A Staten Island Democrat named Judy had a pressing question for Joe Lhota on Monday night.

"On Staten Island we have horrible traffic conditions," she told the Republican mayoral candidate during a telephone town hall meeting with registered outer-borough Democrats.

"I’m here 40-some-odd years," she said. "I have roads that are still here from when I moved here when it was just fabulous. Now we have thousands of more people using these same roads."

She asked why Staten Island couldn't have more right-turn-on-red signals, like her frequent wintertime destination in Florida does.

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"Well, you’re not kidding about congestion on Staten Island,” said Lhota. “I’m out there a lot. It’s really crazy. Hylan Boulevard is like the longest parking lot I’ve ever been in in my life. The lights aren’t in sync."

The former M.T.A. chairman promised to pick a transportation commissioner who'd sync those lights and fix the "pothole situation" that, according to Lhota, "everyday gets worse and worse. It's really a bad scene."

He didn't make any promises about right turns on red, but, he did offer a counterproposal.

"You know, everybody tells me we can’t widen the roads on Staten Island because it will encroach on people’s property," he said. "But we’ve got to find a way."

Lhota's remarks are in keeping with his turn away from transit advocacy, to the disappointment of those who hailed his performance running the M.T.A.

But they are in keeping with his need to win outer-borough Democratic support, and his apparent belief that those Democrats are more likely to vote for a Republican who understands the tribulations of driving in New York City.

On Monday, Lhota's campaign used a software program to reach registered New York City Democrats by phone. They were given the option of dialing "1" to participate in the call. All of those who asked questions hailed from the far reaches of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

The most recent public polling shows Lhota running more than 40 points behind his Democratic rival, Bill de Blasio. New York City Democrats, meanwhile, outnumber Democrats six to one.

At least three times during his hour-long teleconference with registered Democrats in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, Lhota said that he could not win without Democratic support.

"By the way, for those of you who are Democrats on the line—you're all Democrats!—we're making this a point of talking to all of you," said Lhota. "I really want your support. Let me tell you, I can't become mayor of New York without getting support of Democrats. And so if you have any questions for me at all about what I will do as mayor, just dial zero now, and I will be able to talk to you and tell you exactly what I feel."