September 2, 2009 / Brooklyn news / Politics / Election Coverage

In the 33rd District, candidates must love bikes

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Some City Council debates focus their energy on lower taxes, affordable housing, or crime. But in the 33rd District, at least for one night, bicycles were the main issue.

Perhaps that’s because the event was hosted by Transportation Alternatives, the bike-advocacy group. But cycling was front and center also because the 33rd District — which stretches from Greenpoint to Park Slope along the Williamsburg waterfront — is the city’s epicenter of two-wheeling.

“Williamsburg has definite biking bedrock,” Transportation Alternatives spokesman Wiley Norvell told — some would say warned — six of the seven candidates for the Democratic nomination: Isaac Abraham, Ken Baer, Doug Biviano, Ken Diamondstone, Jo Anne Simon, and Evan Thies.

“Every candidate realizes its legitimacy as an issue. And no candidate would take a pass [at answering a bike concern] for it is such an integral part of neighborhood life.”

Well, one candidate would — front-runner Steve Levin blew off the debate, something he has done repeatedly throughout the campaign.

In the end, there was not much controversy among the candidates. Jo Anne Simon, a longtime Democratic district leader, spoke for many in the crowd when she said, “We need to teach everybody that they [sic] share the road, and make sure they share the road respectful­ly.”

She advocated bike safety educational programs there should be a reduction in bike accidents and promote safer biking in the big riding community.

But not all residents are on two wheels. Barbara Vetell, president of Greenpoint West Street Block Association, typically uses four, and had the opposite concern than most attendees.

As a driver, she is scared of bikers, saying that bikers have all the power. If she hits a cyclist, she’s responsible, even if the biker ran a red light.

“They should be licensed,” she urged. “And they should be ticketed [for traffic violations]!”

Like others, she shared a local concern that the new one-way Kent Avenue — with its two-way protected bike lane — would increase truck traffic on neighboring streets. The one-way transformation of Kent Avenue has just taken effect, in the quiet of summer, so it is unclear whether the concern is a real one.

All candidates denounced the idea of licensing bicyclists, but all did call for better road safety in a city where 23 cyclist died on the roads last year — up 200 percent, said Thies.

The former Community Board 1 member also added that there are only 4.8 miles of protected bike paths in Brooklyn.

“I would like to see more money spent by the Department of Transportation on bike education programs and also the DMV to hand out [safety pamphletes] with [automobile] licenses,” he added.

Interestingly, not one candidate rode a bike to the debate.

Biviano said he has a bike in the back of his car, even though he did drive to the forum.

Updated 5:14 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Jim from Greenpoint says:
Can you believe 9 out of 14 debates Levine didn’t show up this time again!! We don’t need a person who really doesn’t care for us and representing us as a councilman, just going in his buss Vito low-Paz foot steps!! We need change real change!! Low- Paz is still trying to control the 33rd district and 34th district
Let’s proof him this time we had enough and we need to stop him to control our live!! So lets work together and send a positive message we need somebody with experience and knowledge not just be a puppet of Low-Paz and taking credit for doing noting…..
Sept. 2, 2009, 11:47 am
Eric McClure from Park Slope says:
Barbara Vetell must be confusing New York City with some other place, because, if she hits a cyclist and isn't drunk and remains at the scene, it's extremely unlikely she would be held responsible for anything, regardless of who might be at fault.

And in a collision between her car and a bike, it's a safe bet that the bike -- and more so, its rider -- would be in far worse condition.
Sept. 2, 2009, 11:52 am
Aaron from Park Slope says:
Exactly. Feel free to run over and kill cyclists and pedestrians, Barbara. As Eric says, as long as your vehicle is properly licensed, registered and inspected and you are sober, the NYPD will give you nothing worse than a "failure to yield" summons, even if you kill, say, a 4-year-old boy crossing the street with his babysitter legally, in the crosswalk, with the signal giving them the right-of-way (as happened at 3rd Ave and Butler not so long ago). You will get your summons and the NYPD will put you back in the drivers seat of your rolling, 3-ton weapon and send you along you way within an hour or two after the fatality. There is virtually no penalty in NYC for injuring or killing people with your car. I can't imagine what a NYC driver would have to fear when it comes to cyclists.
Sept. 2, 2009, 1:15 pm
Real Reform Brooklyn from the 33rd says:
If still anyone believes that Levin is anything but a Lopez-stooge, they should have their head checked out. He didn't make another debate!!?!?! It is just the tip of the iceberg of what he has picked up from Lopez. Check out more at including his out of District campaign headquarters and other dirty dealings by Lopez.

Jim from Greenpoint is right. People need to wake up and realize how dangerous the situation is for the district.

Real Reform Brooklyn
Sept. 2, 2009, 2:49 pm
bob from williamsburg says:
hey jim (abraham-schlesinger) i feel your pain .we all know that levine is one of the front runners in the race . persoanly I dont think that their should be more that 3 or 4 debates in any local race. as I see in this race evry tom dic and hary who has an agenda wants to make a debate .If I wher for say runing for office,i would do the same .
Sept. 2, 2009, 6:27 pm
Doug Biviano from Brooklyn Heights says:
As I mentioned at the debate this issue of 44,000 Americans killed on roadways every year and the idea of 'automobile immunity' has touched my family in a very real way. We need transportation alternatives and renewable energies defined and funded as the top national security priorities of this nation:

NYC must force the national dialogue and lead the way.

Doug Biviano
Sept. 2, 2009, 11:12 pm
Sloper from Park Slope says:
Fourteen debates? So, what, he went to seven of them? I've been to a few of them, and they are all filled with partisans who have already chosen sides, or who actually work for one of the campaigns. There usually isn't much in the way of concerned and undecided voters there, looking to see who's who.

As a result, I think it would be fair to say that Levin might have thought it better to be knocking on doors in the district, or otherwise meeting with people who are actually voters rather than be in a room with the same usual suspects who try to pass themselves off as the political class of Brooklyn.
Sept. 3, 2009, 7 am
Mike from GP says:
Uhhhh, although they're important, this debate was about a lot more than just bikes.
Sept. 3, 2009, 7:54 pm
common sense from bay ridge says:
Why does the city not really crack down on both cars and bikes? Maybe then everyone would stop driving like savages, and the corrupt politicians would have new money to steal. Right now, it's pathetic to watch cars doing 50mph down side streets, and bikes flying thru red lights and stop signs.

I've seen two cars get totaled at a 4 way stop sign outside my apt where the speed limit is 30mph. How does that happen? I've had bikers curse me out for trying to cross at the same intersection. A little courtesy would go a long way to lowering the body count, but that will only happen when there are consequences for acting like an a-hole.
Sept. 8, 2009, 9:38 pm

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