Squadron Fields Questions at Heights Meeting
By Raanan Geberer
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — Transportation of all types — bicycles, cars, helicopters, subways, buses and even motorcycles — took center stage at state Sen. Daniel Squadron’s community meeting at the Dodge YMCA on Tuesday night.
Another popular topic was that of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Those parts of the park that have already been opened, at Piers 1 and 6, have been very successful in attracting visitors. The type of funding that will be used to operate the park, however, has been a controversial topic.
The meeting took the form of a question-and-answer session. The first person to be recognized was Tony Manheim, one of the founders of Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Manheim asked whether Squadron and Assemblywoman Joan Millman would give up their nominees’ positions on the park corporation’s board to mayoral appointees, since control of the park has passed from the state to the city. Squadron answered that the board contains both city and state representatives, and the city appointees are in the majority.
Manheim also said it might be a good idea to dissolve the park corporation once construction ends and have the city Parks Department administer the park afterward. Squadron agreed with the idea.
In a related matter, Squadron believed that the planned indoor recreation bubble on Pier 5 of the park would eventually be built, despite the fact that no developers came forward when a Request for Proposal (RFP) was issued. He said the RFP was flawed and was written in a way that discouraged developers.
Yet another attendee talked about the well-known conflict between walkers and bicyclists on the Brooklyn Bridge, which has caused several accidents. He said people refuse to stay on their side of a dividing line even though there are two “safety managers” stationed at either end of the bridge. A new Geico Insurance commercial starring the Geico Gecko makes fun of this situation.
Squadron said these safety agents should be given bicycles to ride back and forth over the bridge, identifying trouble spots and breaking up problems.
One resident asked why motorcycle fatalities have gone up 34 percent in one year. Another attendee answered that it was because more people were buying Vespa scooters. Squadron tried to steer the discussion to include “all two-wheeled vehicles,” and yet another resident complained about bicyclists who run red lights and don’t stop for stop signs.
After the motorcycle discussion was revived, Squadron asked those who were interested in motorcycles to raise their hands and those who wished to discuss helicopters to raise their hands. Those who wanted to complain about helicopters far outnumbered those who wanted to explore the motorcycle issue.
David Manning, a Manhattan transplant who recently moved to the Heights, complained about helicopter noise, mainly coming from tourist choppers. Squadron recalled that he originally merely tried to make sure that the helicopters kept to certain routes that weren’t close to residential areas. This didn’t work, he said, and now he and his fellow legislators want to ban tourist helicopters entirely.
Another participant in the meeting, who is a former Federal Aviation Administration official, agreed with Squadron that tourist helicopters don’t contribute much to the city’s economy. Although they take off from the Lower Manhattan Heliport, the official said, their corporate headquarters is in Linden, N.J. They do all their maintenance and repairs in New Jersey, he said, and they pay taxes there rather than in New York.
The city’s subway system also came in for criticism. Several people at the meeting urged more security for the Concord Village entrance to the A train’s High Street station, which is separated from the more widely used Cadman Plaza West entrance by a long tunnel. One resident urged that a station agent be placed in the now-closed booth there. Squadron agreed, but noted that the MTA is phasing out station agents citywide.
One of the most contentious moments in the meeting came when Marsha Rimler, a local resident who has often submitted op-eds and comments on park-related topics to various publications, spoke.
She began by reminding Squadron that he had been elected on a platform opposing housing within Brooklyn Bridge Park, and said she was very disappointed that he and Assemblywoman Joan Millman were willing to compromise on the issue.
Squadron replied that the Bloomberg administration was very tough to negotiate with, and there was always the chance that the city could cut off funding entirely. As it is, he said, they were able to modify the housing, and there is now a good chance that housing will be eliminated entirely from Pier 6.
Rimler then called attention to the fact that Squadron’s wife works for the city and that “Mayor Bloomberg is her boss.” Since Squadron was involved in negotiations over the park that involved Bloomberg, Rimler asked whether Squadron would submit to an investigation by the Board of Ethics over whether this was a conflict of interest.
Squadron responded by saying that the question was “way out of bounds.”
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