Just when many advocates believed that time had run out for the Complete Streets bill pending in Albany, a major hurdle was crossed on Tuesday. The Assembly’s version of the bill, which had been dramatically watered down, was amended again to match the stronger Senate version which passed by an overwhelming majority two weeks ago.
The Complete Streets bill now working its way through the Assembly would direct the New York State Department of Transportation to consider pedestrian and bicycle accommodations in the planning and development of state, county, and local roads and other transportation facilities that are eligible for state and federal funds. The remaining hurdles include the Ways and Means committee, chaired by Assemblyman Herman D. Farrell, and then the Rules committee, chaired by Speaker Sheldon Silver. Only then can it be brought to a full vote on the Assembly floor, with a final stop on the Governor’s desk.
Two weeks ago, the bill appeared to have been killed when its Assembly sponsor, Assemblyman David Gantt, amended it to exempt all but state roads—i.e. close to 90% of the roads in the state. Upon hearing the news, advocates jumped to action.
After analyzing which of New York’s most dangerous roads would be exempted by Gantt’s amendments (the vast majority of them), AARP, Tri-State, Vision Long Island, Empire State Future, NYS Bicycle Coalition and Transportation Alternatives issued a joint press statement saying that “New Yorkers deserve better.” The Buffalo News editorial board agreed, and advocates took to the airwaves on the Public News Service. Action alerts went out to State Bicycle Coalition members and MTR readers, asking constituents to phone Assemblyman Gantt and their own legislators. And on Wednesday, the halls were swarming with AARP members in red shirts who urged their legislators to move the bill along.
When asked if the onslaught of calls, memos and bodies hurt or helped the cause, one legislative staffer told MTR that it helped bring the issue to the forefront–especially with the budget getting most of the attention.
“You never stop till the referee blows the whistle,” AARP’s Bill Ferris told MTR. And advocates certainly are not. Yesterday, the New York State Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Alliance urged its members to call Speaker Silver’s office. And through TSTC’s website, New Yorkers can now ask State Assembly leadership (Speaker Silver and Assemblymembers Farrell and Gantt) to support and move the bill.
MTR will return on Tuesday.