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Bill Would Create Point Person for Public Complaints on DOT Projects

Councilmember Robert Holden (Photo: Facebook)

July 13, 2018 By Tara Law

Five city councilmembers, including one from Queens, aim to pass legislation that would require the Department of Transportation to create the position of an ombudsperson as a means to make the agency more accountable to the public.

The bill, introduced by Council Speaker Corey Johnson on June 27, would require the ombudsperson to investigate complaints and monitor comments when dealing with major transportation projects.

Councilmember Robert Holden, (Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood, Woodhaven and Woodside) is the sole Queens councilmember to sponsor the bill at this point. Holden contends that an ombudsperson could have a significant impact on DOT projects in Queens.

Holden said in an interview Friday that the ombudsperson would help to relieve some of the frustration Queens residents have with the DOT.

According to Holden, there are many examples of DOT projects in Queens that would have benefited from having an ombudsperson accessible to the public.

For instance, he said, the DOT should have been more proactive about reaching out to business owners before implementing protected bicycle lanes along Queens Boulevard, or the “Clear Curbs” project in Jackson Heights.

Local residents and business owners have complained about the loss of parking caused by both of these projects, he said.

The ombudsperson could have completed the appropriate community outreach and research prior to the start of these projects, said Holden.

“It’s not a superman— or a superwoman [position],” Holden said. “They’re not going to solve every problem. But at least some of these complaints will be addressed.”

“It remains to be seen how effective it would be, but we have to try something. It’s a step in the right direction.”

The DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg was questioned about the bill in testimony prior to the City Council’s Transportation Committee meeting on June 27.

Trottenberg said that she was open to fleshing out the idea of a DOT ombudsperson at the council.

“We would welcome continued conversation about what creating this type of role at DOT would look like,” said Trottenberg.

She also added, however, that the DOT’s borough commissioners— including Nicole Garcia in Queens— serve a similar function.

Holden responded today by saying that the DOT’s poor track record of responding to the public’s complaints suggests that another role is needed.

The ombudsperson could be independent of the DOT, Holden said, and would therefore weigh in on DOT projects without, theoretically, having a conflict of interest.

He argued that while he respects Garcia, the DOT is clearly not currently able to address transportation projects in the borough with the attentiveness that they require.

“She’s overworked. I can see it,” said Holden of the borough commissioner. “We’re in crisis mode in transportation in New York City, and any help we can give to the DOT should be welcome to that agency and to the public.”

Holden said that the bill is still in committee, and that the ombudsperson role will be more fully fleshed out in the coming months.

Nicole Garcia, Queens DOT Commissioner

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Click for Comments 
j murphy

That’s a great idea …now that the horses are out of the barn…close the door. Too late stupid the damage is done!

DOT official

The new official complaint process will be leaving an angry rant in the comments section of the Sunnyside Post


DOT already has several layers of this, though whether they are effective enough is a good question. Ironically by undermining the borough commissioner system it could actually smooth the path for the agency to more effectively upgrade reconfigure dangerous streets, change parking regulations, and limit traffic in residential areas- as we are about to see here albeit belatedly and after an 18 month process that took far too long.

Bob Holden is, for lack of a better word completely incompetent about most issues, but there may be a silver lining here. If this is like other bills that are more clearly aimed at limiting the DOT’s ability to do its job, it will go nowhere.

John O'Reilly

DOT is the least transparent of all City agencies. Commissioner Garcia at a public meeting in January promised to provide data related to DOT’s proposal to redesign Queens Blvd., pushed me off to a staff member who after two months of my follow up decided DOT was not going to provide the information. The agency is unresponsive to FOIL requests and the website is mostly biased propaganda pieces without real data. An ombudsman would help break down the wall of secrecy that surrounds many DOT projects.

Gardens Watcher

Caught you again fake troll. You can’t even spell my name correctly: it’s Gardens Watcher, with initial caps on both. Loosen up that chin strap on your helmet and let the blood flow to your brain 🙂

Gardens watcher

Here’s the fake Garden Watchers once again. Move Along troll, this is my neighborhood

M Casey

I wrote to the Mayor last week. He shuttled me over to DOT. A very skilled and amiable woman called me to “hear” my point of view, but after a minute or two she broke in and basically, very companionably, told me they are going to put bikes lanes everywhere, they are determined to push car drivers out, they want more people in and because we are a city of islands there isn’t going to be room for personal transport vehicles any bigger than a bike. So, basically suck it up or move. If I could have them in a room, one at a time, for just five minutes each, what I wouldn’t like to say! There are no words foul enough to express my feelings toward them all. They are cleansing the city of undesirable people and pretending they are making the streets safer. I call BS!

M casey

Should be an easy job. People don’t seem to complain much about DOT projects.

M Casey

C’mon. I’ll help you think up your own name. How about “Copy Cat?” No? Alright then, “Brainless.” Or, “DuhIdontknow.” Those are up for grabs. M Casey is taken.


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