This is the latest installment in our spotlight series on StreetsPAC endorsed candidates.
Vanessa Gibson, Council District 16, Bronx
Gibson was elected to the NY State Assembly in 2009, and was a fierce proponent of the successful effort in Albany this year to bring speed cameras to NYC. She also supports a host of district-wide safety measures, such as countdown clocks, speed bumps, and increased enforcement in both residential and commercial areas. She sees Slow Zones as a way to reduce speeding and believes new public plazas will enhance neighborhood connectivity. She'll also be working to make the new Webster Avenue Select Bus Service a success and is very excited about the re-opening of the High Bridge bike and pedestrian connection to Upper Manhattan.
StreetsPAC: What is the biggest transportation issue facing your district?
Vanessa L. Gibson: For the past several years funding for public transit has been under attack as government at all levels (Federal, State, and Local) has curtailed its commitment to investing in the public transit resources, such as subways and buses, that many residents of New York’s 16th Council District rely upon each and every day. The cuts in service that have been proposed – and often rejected after extensive public criticism – would have devastated many families in my community and I look forward to working with local residents, Streets PAC and other stakeholders to assure that mass transit receives the investment of public dollars it so desperately needs.
SP: How do you make the case to residents, community board members, and business owners that livable streets are good for the district?
VG: Livable streets can be a critical component of our long term effort to enhance the local economy in the Bronx by encouraging the growth of small scale retail and service businesses that can provide future employment opportunities. This is particularly true in parts of the borough where the unemployment rate has remained stubbornly high since the national economy slowed down in 2008. I look forward to being an active partner in spreading the word about the potential benefits of livable streets – from a stronger local economy to enhanced public safety and improved air quality – and look forward to working with residents, community leaders, and local businesses on this ambitious effort.
SP: What do you think New York City streets will look like four years from now? What about twenty years from now?
VG: With effective leadership – and a strong working relationship with local residents – I believe we can dramatically improve the livability of communities throughout New York City over the next five to ten years. The Citi Bike program is an important example of the types of initiatives that can provide alternatives to the existing mix of transportation options available to local residents while decreasing dependence upon automobiles, reducing traffic congestion, improving air quality, enhancing public safety and encouraging economic revitalization. We need to build upon its successes and develop marketing opportunities that expand the options that are available – particularly from working and low income families.
SP: What are some of the best places to visit by bike in your neighborhood?
VG: While there are several places that stand-out, I am particularly excited by the programming and cultural opportunities provided by the Bronx Museum of the Arts which is located at 1040 Grand Concourse. They are one of the jewels of the Bronx and the access they provide to quality exhibits is an important contribution to our community.
SP: What street in your neighborhood/district do you think is a model for what you'd like to see elsewhere?
VG: While my community is comprised of many wonderful neighborhoods, what stood out when I first moved to the area from Brooklyn was – the people. Even now – after having worked and lived in the Bronx for more than a decade – that remains true to this day. So while I don’t have a specific location that I can pinpoint, I will say that our community has a lot to offer and a lot to be proud of.
SP: Everyone has a memorable story to tell about being on the subway. What's yours?
VG: My most memorable subway-related story isn’t about riding on a subway. Instead, it goes back several years to when the MTA threatened to eliminate the free-fare student Metrocard program and students from throughout New York City joined together to rally in support of the program. It was just so beautiful to see students from all walks of life and diverse backgrounds joining together in a fight – a successful fight I should add – that preserved their right to access a public education.
It is a moment in New York’s recent history that we should all be proud of and I am hopeful that we can continue building upon that energy and that success in the future.