Focus On: Ritchie Torres (Council District 15: Bronx)

This is the fourth installment in our spotlight series on StreetsPAC endorsed candidates.

ritchie_torres.jpg“I’m a walker,” says Ritchie Torres. “The car should not be the center of urban life.”  As a child in the Bronx, Torres grew up with asthma as a result of the pollution spewed by traffic on the Cross Bronx Expressway.  He will work to improve health in his district through the transformation of major thoroughfares, like the Grand Concourse and East Tremont Avenue, into complete streets with room for transit users, cyclists, and pedestrians.  He will also aim to improve the walking experience around Arthur Avenue, a mecca for visitors.

StreetsPAC: What is the biggest transportation issue facing your district?

Ritchie Torres: The greatest challenge confronting the Bronx is the lack of sustainable transportation. The Cross Bronx Expressway, stretching across the Bronx, has made the borough a dumping ground for greenhouse gas emissions. 

SP: How do you make the case to residents, community board members, and business owners that livable streets are good for the district?

RT: The case for complete streets is best framed in moral terms: we owe it to our children and grandchildren to protect the quality of the air they breath

SP: What do you think New York City streets will look like four years from now? What about twenty years from now?

RT: I am optimistic about the future of sustainable transportation. Four years from now, New York will have bike share in every borough. Twenty years from now, bike share will become a fixture in every neighborhood.

SP: What are some of the best places to visit by bike in your neighborhood?

RT: A bike ride from Allerton Avenue to Bedford Park, with the Botanical Gardens as a backdrop, is a real marvel. 

SP: What street in your neighborhood/district do you think is a model for what you'd like to see elsewhere?

RT: No street in District 15 is so complete so as to be a model for streets elsewhere in the District. Having said that, Fordham Road is moving in the right direction (the Fordham Plaza reconstruction and the Select Service 12 are reasons for hope). 

SP: Everyone has a memorable story to tell about being on the subway. What's yours?*

RT: Every so often, while riding on the subway, I am reminded that the subway system is a microcosm of New York City, teeming with colorful personalities.

I remember coming across a tall man wearing a clown costume in a subway car--he had it all: nose, wig, makeup, baggy pants. The dirt covering his pants had all the straphangers staring at him. And yet the man just sat there, unfazed by the disapproving looks around him. He didn't care what anyone thought of him. It's a free City, and he was free to be as colorful as he wanted to be. Literally and figuratively.

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StreetsPAC supports candidates for public office who will champion Safe, Complete and Livable Streets.