These East Bronx City Council Candidates Want Your Commute Fast, If Not Free

May 20, 2021

If some city council hopes are successful, the east Bronx will have more bike paths, ferry stops, and transit service – even free subways and buses for everyone.

In the race to succeed board member Reverend Rubén Díaz Sr., candidates have made access to public transport a major campaign theme, including the type of car reduction projects that have encountered resistance elsewhere in the city.

Three of the seven candidates – state committee wife Amanda Farías, Michael Beltzer, a member of the Bronx 8 Community Education Council, and Darlene Jackson, a social worker and local neighborhood advocate – have focused their campaigns around access to public transport and equity.

The platforms include municipal control of subways and the elimination of fares on the city’s transit system to help fight climate change.

The three, who compete to represent the area that includes Parkchester, Castle Hill and Soundview, argue that better public transit options would boost the health and economy of the Bronx. The challenge is particularly acute in the 18th arrondissement lacking public transport, where it takes more than an hour for many commuters to get to Midtown.

Farías uses her own mother, a healthcare worker at NYU Langone, as an example: she usually takes a crowded # 6 train for an hour and 25 minutes to get to work. Some days, she asks Farías to drive to the Soundview ferry dock – a 30-minute trip to Midtown East.

“My mother’s story is the story of the neighborhood,” Farías told THE CITY. “When you look at Council District 18, we don’t have efficient buses going east to west in the Bronx, and those are the only ways we can get around the community.

“We don’t have efficient metro access,” she added. “We have a major train route which is not ADA compliant, and which is hyperlocal for most of its entire route, and which prevents people from going to and from East Town. Side to work – so we have to find effective ways to support our community. “

Metro-North on track

Hopes for a better transit in the eastern Bronx were boosted last week with news that New York received federal approval for a $ 1.6 billion plan to bring four new Metro-North railroad stations to the northeast Bronx by 2025.

The project, in the works for more than a decade, would create a local East Bronx service by cutting out stations along the New Haven line and sending those trains through the Hell Gate Bridge to Penn Station, which n currently has no connection with the Metro-North metro.

contrary to all stations in the Bronx except two Along the No. 6 elevated train, the new suburban train stations would be fully accessible to people with disabilities.

One of the proposed stations could appear in Parkchester, in the Council Quarter where Farías, Jackson and Beltzer operate. Co-op City, Hunts Point and Morris Park are also expected to benefit from rapid Metro-North service.

The stations would be transformative for the northeastern Bronx, slashing travel times to Manhattan’s West Side from neighboring Co-op City from 75 minutes to just 20 minutes, according to MTA estimates.

Advocates of transit celebrated the approval. Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Renae Reynolds announced the project was “a game changer for accessibility in the East Bronx.”

The ferry is making waves

Whoever is ultimately elected to represent the district on city council in November would have little direct power over rail given that the MTA is a state-controlled agency. But the new board member could have more influence over bus and bike lanes and the potential future expansion of NYC Ferry service.

NYC Ferry arrived in the Bronx in 2018, starting with a stop at Soundview. A planned extension is supposed to reach Ferry Point Park at some point this year, depending on the system operator.

Farías told THE CITY that she would like to add more ferry stops to the borough and bring a free shuttle or transfer between the Bx39 bus and the Soundview ferry, which is in the neighborhood. She highlighted the health benefits of expanding ferry options, again referring to her mother.

“It completely changes the dynamic of her morning – the time she spends with her family, with my younger brother, whether or not she’s having breakfast at home,” she said. “It changes the whole dynamic of someone’s day by just giving them an efficient public transportation option.”

Darlene Jackson is running for Bronx City Council /Ben Fractenberg / THE CITY

Jackson, a member of the transit advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, wants more protected bike lanes in the district and a bus service from Crosstown in the Bronx.

“It’s not just about getting around – it’s the health benefits,” she said. “The Bronx is ranked last in health, so it makes sense to reduce pollution by making more space for bikes and buses. And I cycle myself for my sanity, it’s therapeutic for me.”

Beltzer, like Farías and Jackson, wants to add more bike paths to the neighborhood. Roughly 15% of local streets have bike lanes as of 2018, which is higher than the district and city averages of 12% and 10%, respectively.

The other four Democratic candidates on the ballot for the district’s 18th primary that ends June 22 did not respond to THE CITY’s request for comment.

Free spins

The three candidates interviewed by THE CITY also made affordability a major issue.

Farías is campaigning against the removal of “two-fare zones” – where commuters have to pay for a transfer to get to their destination. Currently, NYC Ferry does not accept transfers from buses or subways, requiring an additional fare of $ 2.75 per trip.

It applies the same principle of affordability to future commuter rail service.

“Intra-city service on MTA’s existing commuter train lines is, frankly, expensive,” she told THE CITY in an email. “Even a discounted LIRR ride entirely within the city typically costs $ 7. On Metro-North, a rush hour ride between Riverdale and Grand Central costs $ 9.75 (off-peak costs $ 7.25). It’s impossible for residents of my communities, or communities like me, to have these awards. “

Michael Beltzer is running for Bronx City Council /Ben Fractenberg / THE CITY

Jackson raises similar proposals, as well as an extension of the Fair Fares Program, which offers half-price metro rides to the city’s poorest residents.

Beltzer, meanwhile, is campaigning for free public transport for all.

He told THE CITY that he believed the “first step” to achieving free public transit in New York City is to gain municipal control of the city’s transit system – which he, Farías and Jackson argue.

“More than half of the members of the community does not own a car, they therefore rely on public transport and the means to move in complete safety: we are going to work, we are going to doctor’s appointments, we are going to drop off our children, ”he said. should be free, especially if we want to meet our climate goals. “

‘Really exciting’

Public transit advocates have said that while they are optimistic about the ideas proposed by the candidates, they see any struggle for municipal control of the city’s transit system as a major challenge.

“I don’t think the city needs full control – I think the city needs consent rights, like over the capital budget and over key hires,” said Shabazz Stuart, an advocate for the government. public transport and member of the advisory board of Transportation Alternatives.

“New York is in a very strong negotiating position,” he added. “The city is directly funding the capital budget to the tune of $ 2.66 billion, and the city should say, ‘We need to have a seat at the table so that our voters, who massively use the system more than any other voter. , can ensure that their interests are respected. “”

Still, Stuart said he was thrilled to see such a passionate promotion of transit energize a Council race.

“It’s a really exciting group of candidates, and there are some talking points that we just haven’t seen at this depth in the vernacular, all over town,” Stuart said.

Census and other data compiled by NYU’s Furman Center shows nearly 68% of the inhabitants of the district in 2018, there were “car-free journeys”, slightly below the Citywide average of 70%. The typical commute time to work was 46 minutes, about the same as the city and borough average.

Jackson, who describes herself as a commuter and single mom, told THE CITY that the benefits of increased transit options outweighed the costs.

“Transit fairness is really about investing in people and rethinking our current system in a way that works for everyone.

This story was originally posted on May 18, 2021 by THE CITY. register here so that the latest THE CITY stories are delivered to you every morning.

THE CITY is an independent, non-profit news organization dedicated to impactful reporting serving the people of New York City.

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