Wheels Within Wheels: Has Bloomberg Found a New Biking Buddy?

The Midwestern carpetbagger is out, the homegrown BroBo is in at the Office for Operations

Seal of approval. (Gothamist)

Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith was hired last year to shake up the Bloomberg administration’s third term—creating efficiencies, reinventing government and combating calcification. About the only thing the former Indianapolis mayor and Kennedy School wonk managed to yank was the Department of Transportation’s bike chain, and now that Mr. Goldsmith is making a surprise departure from the administration, two-wheeled activists have high hopes for his replacement as deputy mayor for operations.

That would be Caswell Holloway, a Brooklyn Heights native, who has been widely lauded for the turnaround job he affected as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, where his cost-cutting measures and green infrastructure plans have won praise from both conservationists and conservatives.

Around the same time Mr. Goldsmith joined the administration, the city’s transportation czarina, Janette Sadik-Khan, came under fire from all sides, including from her new boss. Last September, Post City Hall bureau chief David Seifman reported that the two had exchanged “heated words” over bike lanes. The bike-lash had already begun to grow, and the department scaled back a number of ambitious projects, including lanes on the East Side of Manhattan and the closure of 34th Street. Mr. Goldsmith was far from the only critic, but transportation watchers still made the connection frequently.

City Hall argues that the bike lanes have always been full speed ahead, and Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson has gone so far as to bike to work—and have it filmed by Streetsblog—to make the case for new lanes. The administration points to Robert Steel, the deputy mayor for economic development, who has taken over most of the transportation portfolio from Operations. (How about that? Bike lanes as economic engine.)

“We plan to continue to look for ways to improve on the record-setting levels of safety we’ve achieved for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians through aggressive safety enforcement and street design changes where appropriate,” said spokesman Marc LaVorgna. Nothing’s changed, in other words. Except for support for the lanes, which a Marist poll yesterday placed at 66 percent—a supermajority! If there had been any pullback on bike lanes, now might be the time to stop. Or not. The poll also found 27 percent of New Yorkers want more while 44 percent think there are enough and 23 percent are in the Anthony Weiner, tear-them-the-bleep-out camp.

A DOT insider notes that Ms. Sadik-Khan could have gone over Mr. Goldsmith’s head at any time, though his replacement is more than welcome: Mr. Holloway “won’t have much of an impact directly, but it is good to have another ally over there,” the source said.

That kind of news cheers the two-wheelers almost as much as a shiny new bike. “Based on Cas’ record on sustainability and green infrastructure, we think he will continue to push for progressive planning in the city,” Transportation Alternatives spokesman Michael Murphy told The Observer. And so we have traded the Midwestern carpetbagger for the homegrown BroBo. The transportation czarina has her found her sustainability commissar.

mchaban [at] observer.com | @MC_NYC

Wheels Within Wheels: Has Bloomberg Found a New Biking Buddy?