In a town hall meeting that centered on Council District 30’s traffic problems stemming from congestion, Councilman Robert Holden came out with stances on two hot-button issues in transportation: the rash of bicyclist deaths this summer and the passage of the Green Light bill in Albany.
Holden said that he wants a police crackdown on bike and e-bike traffic violations, and encouraged constituents to continue the fight against the Green Light law that the Legislature passed in June making New York the 13th state, in addition to D.C., to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license.
During the hour-and-45-minute meeting, the attending Ridgewood, Glendale and Middle Village residents had traffic on their minds. Attendees raised concerns including the need for traffic light synchronization on Woodhaven Boulevard and Fresh Pond Road, an unassuming white stop sign near Rentar Plaza and even an increase in plane traffic to and from LaGuardia.
“I know that the mayor is very gung-ho on the bicycle lanes. They don’t follow the laws. They don’t have a license plate. They’re not insured. They make lefthand turns in the right lane. They cross over two lanes,” said one attendee.
“Sounds like motorists,” Holden joked.
“But they’re not licensed,” responded the resident.
“And that’s what I have an issue with,” Holden said, referencing the bike messenger who was fatally hit by a truck in Manhattan and insisting that bikes have taken over as the most dangerous mode of transportation.
“We need some program that will train them — that will register them. But if they’re going to ride their bike every day, they should be insured,” said Holden. “We need some enforcement. The police have got to start cracking down,” he added to scattered applause from residents.
The next constituent to speak segued from bike traffic to the Green Light bill. “So about 90 percent of the issues that were raised have to do with the volume of cars on our roads,” started the resident, named Chris. “What really concerns me was that a couple of weeks ago in Albany, state legislators voted to add a whole other segment of our population to get driver’s licenses. That is going to increase the cars — everything that we talked about tonight is going to get magnified.”
Holden agreed with constituents’ concerns, echoing a talking point of Senate Republicans this summer who argued that the bill opens the door to fraud and ID theft. He cited reports from Washington state and New Mexico, where similar bills were passed, that they had caused individuals to apply for the identification based on falsified proof of residence.
He went on to give the other side of the argument, which was confirmed by a Stanford University study, that by reducing the amount of undocumented immigrants that are driving without a license helps reduce the likelihood of hit-and-run accidents, thereby improving traffic safety and reducing overall costs for drivers.
“But I didn’t really buy that whole thing,” Holden said.
The councilman continued by encouraging constituents to call their local representatives to put conditions on the bill.
“We can put restrictions on it. I said that you have to establish that you’re a resident of New York state for a certain amount of time. The more successful states had said you have to be resident for three years or five years in New York state,” said Holden.