Years of frustration with the leadership of Manhattan Community Board 7 boiled over at a traffic safety forum on the Upper West Side last night. Twice during the event, neighborhood residents who lost family members to traffic violence called on elected officials not to reappoint Dan Zweig, who has co-chaired CB 7′s transportation committee for at least 15 years and blocked or delayed key street safety proposals.
Last night’s panel included Dana Lerner of Families For Safe Streets, whose son Cooper was killed by a turning cab driver last year. She told the audience she was shocked to learn after her son’s death that there were proposals from neighborhood groups to improve street safety — including for the block where Cooper was killed — that had failed to receive support from the community board. “When I found out about this, I was crushed. I was just crushed. I couldn’t understand,” she said. “All I could think was, if they had — if this had been looked at, might Cooper be alive? I always wonder that.”
After Cooper’s death, DOT implemented a road diet on West End Avenue, including pedestrian islands at the intersection where Cooper was killed. Lerner said neighbors ask her if she’s pleased to see the changes. “I don’t understand why it was my son’s death that made this happen,” she said. “Community Board 7, particularly Dan Zweig, was not receptive to the ideas of the community. And I feel that moving forward, we absolutely have to have people who are willing to listening to the community members.”
Zweig has a long history of stonewalling street safety projects. A redesign of Columbus Avenue added a protected bike lane and pedestrian islands, improving safety for all street users, including a 41 percent drop in pedestrian injuries. But Zweig, who had used parliamentary process to try to block the project, said he doesn’t trust DOT’s numbers and insists the street has become more dangerous.
Other projects have been stalled at Zweig’s hands, as well. Last September, he and committee co-chair Andrew Albert sent a letter asking DOT to stop a one-day demonstration program that would add tables and chairs to an extra-wide sidewalk on 97th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam until the committee had given its two cents. The letter, sent on CB 7 letterhead, was never approved by the committee, and residents who were asking for the upgrades weren’t copied on the letter [PDF].
“They’re supposed to consult the rest of the committee before they make a move like that. And apparently that’s par for the course,” said Bob Leonard of Friends of Stryker Park. ”These guys wound up pulling the rug out from underneath us.”
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