It was wonderful seeing so many of you this past weekend at the Women’s March. I hope you’re feeling energized and ready for more action.
And on that note …
I’m joining Planned Parenthood on Tuesday, March 13 for a Day of Action in Albany. We’ll be meeting state representatives to demand that New York State be a leader on reproductive rights by advancing access to sexual and reproductive health care in 2018.
Bus transportation is provided by Planned Parenthood from 26 Bleecker Street. Breakfast and lunch will also be provided, plus training for all attendees.
I’m going and would love to have you join me (I’ve never been to Albany!) for what sounds like a great day with an organization I enthusiastically support.
If you’re interested in coming to the Day of Action in Albany:
Our Committee-palooza! at the beginning of the year was a very productive evening. Members split up into break-out sessions for each of our standing committees, defined at least two near-term goals, and outlined specific action steps to take for each.
The basic goal of Grand Street Democrats is straightforward: support (and create where necessary) an infrastructure of local activists that can raise issues, amplify local voices, and pressure officials for change. The strength of that infrastructure will come from fully engaged members with a real sense of ownership for our shared goals. So active committee participation is essential to bringing about the change we want.
Here’s what we’ll be working on right away:
Policy and Social Action (PSAC)
Traffic & congestion pricing. We’ve started this effort with our Traffic Town Hall, but this challenge is not going away and the solutions are not obvious or easy to implement. We will continue to pressure our local elected officials and the Department of Transportation to send Williamsburg Bridge traffic to more appropriate avenues.
Judicial elections. One of the important roles local Democratic clubs play in our civic structure is to nominate judicial delegates and help select our judges. This process happens largely without voters’ active participation, so it’s our job to be engaged in these decisions.
Communication with elected officials. We want to make sure our elected officials have ample opportunity to address local residents directly — and vice versa. We’re starting with an Albany Report on February 8 with our two state representatives, Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou and State Senator Brian Kavanagh.
Partnership with Sister District. Ours is a Democratic stronghold, unlikely to elect a Republican in the foreseeable future. So if we want to turn our energy to addressing progressive change across the country, Sister District is a national organization that could be a perfect partner. We hope to help elect progressive Democrats in other parts of the country who can really turn the tide in the U.S. Congress.
Youth vote initiative. When young people vote, more Democrats are elected. By creating a video campaign and partnering with other organizations focused on educating and registering young people, we can contribute to a generational shift that will make this country more progressive.
Civics trivia and guide to local politics. By helping more of our neighbors learn the ins and outs of local government, we can support a more active political community. We’ll start on March 5 with a Pub Night + Trivia at Lucky Jack’s on Orchard, then bring trivia games to other events around the neighborhood.
Register more Democrats. You may think of yourself as an independent, but if you are not registered as a Democrat in this neighborhood you don’t get to vote in primaries — which means, essentially, your vote is not going to count. To keep residents engaged, we believe everyone should register as a Democrat.
Historic preservation. Our neighborhood has a deep heritage that speaks not only to the history of our city but the history of our country — yet there is no historic neighborhood defined in the Lower East Side to preserve and celebrate that heritage. Working with LESPI and the City Council, we will seek to get historic acknowledgement for some of the tenement blocks in the neighborhood before it all disappears.
Zoning and development. This neighborhood is at the beginning of a major period of development. While recognizing that new development can be an improvement to the area, we will advocate for appropriate zoning to make sure that the special character of this neighborhood is not lost.
Neighborhood beautification. By partnering with our local parks and finding new ways to keep our streets looking sharp and fresh, we hope to keep this neighborhood livable and vital.
Partner with other neighborhood groups. Our specific district (AD 65 Part A) is narrowly drawn, but the issues we care about are shared by our diverse community. We want to make sure we are reaching out beyond any one affinity group to bring a broad coalition of progressives together.
Partner with local businesses. We want to promote and support local businesses, and ask them to promote and support us — political goals like safer streets and better traffic management affects us all.
F Train station, East Broadway & Essex
Next to Seward Park
In 2017 I was moved and inspired by participating in the Women’s March on Washington. Riding down to DC on “The Love Bus” (organized by Grand Streeter, Tami Pollak) with a crew of 50+ like-minded neighbors gave me hope for our future. It was just one day, but felt like a meaningful step on the road to a greater social movement that would protest Trump’s racist, sexist hate-mongering, and promote true democratic values of inclusion and equality.
This past year has indeed been protest-filled — there’s been so much to protest! — but there’s also been progress. One of the highlights of 2017 for me was the launch of Grand Street Democrats, formed by and for our community as a tool for greater civic engagement. Electing me and Lee as district leaders was another meaningful step on the journey we’re taking together, but it is YOUR continued efforts that will have the greatest impact locally and nationally.
So let’s come together this Saturday, January 20th, for the 2018 Women’s March in New York City, to see ourselves as part of the larger political landscape, to remember we are not alone on this road and we are stronger together.
Pending any last minute notifications from the MTA or the Women’s March, our plan is to meet outside the F train station at East Broadway and Essex (in front of Seward Park) at 10:30 am. We’ll either ride to 57th Street, then walk up Central Park West to enter the line up via the main entry point at 72nd street, or transfer to the B train and ride to 72nd street.
As I’m sure you all know, it will be a long day, with lots of standing around, but the weather forecast looks good! Wear comfortable shoes, bring a water bottle and some snacks, your signage and a metro card. (Full FAQ can be found here.)
Manny Cantor Center was filled Thursday night with 175 residents, half a dozen elected officials, and two high-ranking Department of Transportation officials to talk about the growing traffic problem on Grand and Clinton Streets. District Leaders Caroline Laskow and Lee Berman hosted the event.
The problem is focused on the corner of Grand and Clinton Streets, where cars coming west on Grand Street from the FDR Drive and north on Clinton Street from downtown Manhattan converge before getting on the Williamsburg Bridge. The bottleneck there keeps our streets clogged with honking cars during evening rush hour and late at night, dramatically impacting safety and quality of life. (See Matt Marello’s video to witness the problem.)
How did this come about? Sean Quinn, from DOT’s Office of Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs kicked off the evening with a presentation detailing 10 years of pedestrian safety improvements in the neighborhood that have left these streets unable to cope with the increase in automobiles. Most impactful was the decision in 2012, in response to the growing rate of accidents on Delancey and the tragic death of 12-year-old Dashane Santana, to block left turns from Essex Street onto Delancey and to open Clinton Street as an access route to the bridge. This made it more difficult for drivers to get to the Williamsburg Bridge from the Houston Street exit of the FDR, and pushed them to Grand Street.
The drivers who come through, honking in frustration at the traffic, do not live here, or work here, or shop here.
Since then, we’ve watched as our residential neighborhood has been turned into an on-ramp to the Williamsburg Bridge. The drivers who come through, honking in frustration at the traffic, do not live here, or work here, or shop here — they are just trying to get out of Manhattan. And despite a petition last year signed by more than 1000 residents, letters of concern from our elected officials, and a resolution from the Community Board, no progress has been made by DOT to improve the situation.
Grand Street Democrats members Jeremy Sherber and William Rockwell presented two short-term ideas to relieve pressure at Clinton and Grand. One would force Grand Street drivers to drive past Clinton and make turns on Norfolk or Essex Street to get to the bridge, while allowing Clinton Street drivers to continue to feed onto the bridge. The idea here is that both streams of traffic might flow more smoothly if they were not forced to merge together.
The other idea would be to stop the Clinton Street approach south of Grand Street altogether, making sure drivers from downtown used larger streets like Allen and Essex to get to the bridge. In this scenario, the number of cars on Grand would not decrease, but the flow of traffic would improve, hopefully getting rid of the angry honking.
But even these suggestions don’t address the real issue: these streets are not appropriate for bridge traffic at all. That’s why DOT needs to explore changes that take commuters off these residential streets altogether and push bridge traffic to larger, more appropriate avenues on the perimeter of our neighborhood.
Essex Crossing construction is in full swing and will bring thousands more residents to this neighborhood, along with significant new retail that will draw shoppers, car service pick-ups, and delivery vehicles. The streets directly involved today in feeding the Williamsburg Bridge are facing a major increase in local traffic in 2018. To support the residents and businesses in these new developments, DOT must find some other way for drivers to get to the bridge.
Many residents spoke Thursday about other ideas that need to be explored, including a safer, dedicated left-turn lane from Essex to Delancey; moving bike lanes to streets not also used by so many cars; an exit from the FDR directly onto Delancey; better timing of traffic lights at Grand and Clinton; and a general realignment of tolls that would limit the attraction of the free Williamsburg Bridge to commuters and delivery vehicles. Undoubtedly any comprehensive solution will need to consider all of these options, and more.
These residential streets are not appropriate for bridge traffic at all.
So what’s next? DOT did not give any new information about its plans or offer any specific recommendations of its own. In fact, Manhattan Commissioner Luis Sanchez said that they don’t like to do full studies unless they have a baseline “normal” traffic to start with, and since Essex Crossing construction will continue for another 5-6 years, there won’t be any “normal” traffic pattern for years. District Leader Lee Berman countered that the long lines of cars, the gridlock, and the honking — these are the new “normal” for our neighborhood, and DOT can’t keep dragging its heels on producing real recommendations to solve this problem.
Thursday’s large, passionate turnout will help convince the elected officials in attendance that this is an issue of great concern to our community. Grand Street Democrats will continue to put pressure on our elected officials and DOT officials to deliver meaningful results.
There’s a lot to say about last night’s Traffic Town Hall — 175 neighbors, five elected officials, DOT officials and engineers all getting together to address the problem made for a successful meeting. But nothing’s fixed yet, the problem is growing, and we need to keep the pressure on. So we’ll have more to say later.
In 2018, Grand Street Democrats is teaming up with Sister District to help shape elections outside our immediate neighborhood, leveraging our strong Democratic advantage to swing districts where the outcome is in doubt and the balance of power in state government is decided.
To kick-off our partnership, we’ll be preparing together for the January 20 Women’s March in NYC with a protest poster-making party on Saturday, January 13.
This is a family-friendly event — kids are more than welcome, they are great artists and natural protesters!
Our residential neighborhood is being turned into an on-ramp for the Williamsburg Bridge. The intersection of Grand and Clinton is the main center of the problem, creating a honking backup for several blocks in both directions. Despite a resolution from Community Board 3 and letters from our local elected officials, the Department of Transportation has not adequately addressed the situation. In fact, it’s gotten worse.
Councilmember Margaret Chin has helped us secure the DOT Manhattan Commissioner for a town hall on Thursday, January 11. Other elected officials will be participating, and several community groups are co-sponsoring the event because this is a matter that effects the quality of life of everyone in the neighborhood.
Seward Coop resident Matt Marello filmed the intersection last winter to illustrate exactly why the traffic pattern is causing such a problem.
We will be presenting two short-term solutions to keep cars moving more efficiently and safely, while pushing for long-term changes that would keep this traffic out of our neighborhood entirely.
Please join us to show DOT how important this issue is to all of us.
At our regular meeting in November our members outlined a half dozen committees that will help us direct activities for Grand Street Democrats. So we’re not going to waste any time — let’s start 2018 with a Committee-palooza!
What’s a Committee-palooza? Honestly, we just made it up. But here’s how we think it works: You and your neighbors (and the friend you bring with you) break out for the GSD committee you care about and brainstorm specific goals and actionable steps for the new year. Then each committee shares those ideas with the whole club, so we can align our priorities and get to work.
For example, let’s say you care about helping Democrats across the country pick up seats during the 2018 mid-term elections. You sit down at the Big D table to decide what projects will be most effective — fundraising, phone banks, out-of-state canvassing — then make a plan to identify candidates to support or outside organizations to partner with.
Or, you’re dismayed by the massive new skyscrapers going up on the waterfront combined with the new developments closer to home. So you join the Political & Social Action Committee and start coming up with a plan to support zoning changes on the Lower East Side or pressure the MTA to increase access to public transportation.
The idea is to do some talking … and then chart a path from talking toward action. We want to find real opportunities for progress, and deputize club members (you!) to make change happen.
Department of Transit Manhattan Borough Commissioner Luis Sanchez took questions for an hour at Wednesday night’s meeting of the 7th Precinct Community Council from residents concerned about the increased traffic on Grand and Clinton Streets.
Sanchez said DOT has looked at a bunch of different options — traffic signal timing, changes in signage on the FDR, banning a right turn onto Clinton from Grand — to alleviate congestion in this residential corridor, but has not settled on any solution. Construction, said Sanchez, at Essex Crossing and the Houston Street on/off ramps has caused major headaches and make any analysis subject to change as soon as the construction zones shift.
Bottom line: DOT does not yet have any recommendations to alleviate congestion on Grand and Clinton.
Here’s a live view of traffic in our neighborhood from Waze:
But the hundred or so neighbors who came out Wednesday were not ready to take “no” for an answer.
Several community members asked if there is nothing to do about the number of cars, can the police do anything about the honking, often late at night? Honking tickets, it turns out, are particularly difficult to issue — and create even more congestion while drivers are pulled over.
How about cameras at East Broadway and Clinton to fine drivers who block the box? It turns out there is state legislation about how many traffic cameras can be installed in New York and in what areas.
Many people had specific suggestions about how to re-route traffic to the Williamsburg Bridge. How about opening Suffolk Street northbound so there are three ways to get from Grand to Delancey? Or turn Delancey Street under the bridge into the main access point, bypassing Grand Street altogether? What if the whole neighborhood were blocked off from through traffic so that cars are pushed up Essex or even Allen? Each option got a lukewarm response from DOT’s Sanchez, with assurances that every option is still on the table.
So what will it take to get the DOT to make some real changes? We plan to continue putting pressure on DOT officials to make sure they know just how disruptive this problem is to our residential community. Right now we are working with Councilmember Margaret Chin to hold a Traffic Town Hall on Thursday, January 11, where we’ll have a chance to make clear to DOT officials that the traffic madness has to stop.