Billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis’ bid to gain the Republican nomination in the New York City Mayor’s race ran into a challenge in a debate against his rivals, former MTA Chairman and former deputy mayor Joe Lhota, and Doe Fund founder George McDonald, who squared off on a number of policy disagreements, chief among them how to handle the city’s notorious traffic jams.
The first of the night’s two transportation questions came from Marlene Peralta of La Prensa, who asked the candidates if they would reopen Broadway in Times Square and Herald Square to car traffic.
Lhota said he wouldn’t want to bring back car traffic immediately after taking office, but would evaluate the plazas — “make sure traffic moves, why lights aren’t in sync,” he said — before making a decision.
Catsimatidis said he would re-study the Times Square plazas and meet with nearby communities. Echoing Anthony Weiner, he said reducing sections of Broadway to one through car lane has negative impacts on emergency response. McDonald, who said he would keep the plazas, jumped in with a rebuttal: “There’s no place an ambulance or a fire truck can’t get by,” he said.
Catsimatidis opposed congestion pricing, saying it would “punish the outer boroughs.” Calling the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge toll “ludicrous,” McDonald repeated his endorsement of the Move NY “fair toll” plan, which would add tolls on free bridges to Manhattan and reduce them on bridges linking other boroughs.
As for whether there should be more fewer red light cameras in the city to catch violators, McDonald said there should be more, especially near schools, while Lhota said, “There should be more; not many more.” Catsimatidis said there should be more, as long as they are not used primarily as a revenue-generating scheme.
And as far as building on the city’s waterfront with worries about storm surges, Catsimatidis said that while the city should continue to develop its waterfront, the East 91st Street waste transfer station, a component of the effort to spread the burden of trash facilities and truck traffic more evenly throughout the city, should be reexamined due to environmental risks in the event of a flood.