Meet Janele Hyer-Spencer. This little-known Democrat from Staten Island represents New York’s 60th District in the state assembly. Her constituents from parts of Bay Ridge in Brooklyn and the southeastern shore of Staten Island have competing demands, and she seems very adept at saying no to, well, just about everything.
As far as issues concerning New York City transportation go, Hyer-Spencer represents both the car-heavy areas of Staten Island, a part of State Island with actual rail service and the transit-dependent neighborhoods of Bay Ridge. As you can guess, since she’s now a part of my on-again, off-again profile of politicians who don’t stand up for transit, her record is less than stellar.
She’s in the news today because of a 65-person rally in Bay Ridge that asked the MTA to reconsider cuts to the Third Ave. buses. Since the MTA views those buses as redundant transit options that parallel the R train underneath Fourth Ave., it is planning to do away with the B37, and a handful of handicapped and elderly Bay Ridge residents who can’t negotiate the stairs and don’t have access to handicapped-accessible stations aren’t too happy.
The rally itself was organized by Hyer-Spencer, and State Senator Marty Golden, who recently proposed a pointless Town Hall on the service cuts — but no real solutions to the MTA’s woes &mdash: was in attendance. Coverage of the event was sparse, and we could debate for hours whether 65 people represent a “strong” turnout, as Hyer-Spencer claims. She did claim, however, that the crowd “showed that we will not let the MTA take away this lifeline to our community without a fight.”
So what has she done to help the MTA ensure that this so-called “lifeline to our community” wouldn’t go down without a fight? Well, let’s start with Hyer-Spencer’s biography. Here, she proudly proclaims that she “voting against the MTA bailout.” Why? Because her auto constituents on Staten Island didn’t want to pay higher tolls. I hope those in attendance at the Bay Ridge rally understood that had their gracious host had her way, the service cuts would have gone into effect a year ago.
Beyond that, Hyer-Spencer, in a PDF flyer, has called for the same old, same old. She thinks Jay Walder’s $350,000 salary is too high. She wants the MTA to cut down on managerial compensation. She wants to cut perks at MTA HQ. Unfortunately for her, that’s what the MTA is trying to do, and the agency still has to implement sweeping service cuts. So can we count on Janele to support alternative plans to improve transit in New York City? Of course not!
Two years ago, as the Daily News discovered, Hyer-Spencer would have stopped another pro-transit initiative in its tracks. She was one of the no votes against congestion pricing in 2008, a fact featured on her website. To rub salt into our open transit wounds, she also voted against bus-lane camera enforcement when David Gantt and Co. killed that measure two months after the congestion pricing vote. To make matters even worse, the Daily News highlighted Hyer-Spencer as one of the Assembly reps who voted to reappropriate over $140 million that was earmarked for the MTA to other state causes and later spoke out against the cuts at the MTA’s public hearings. Someone wants to have her cake and eat it too.
Hyer-Spencer joins a long list of politicians in New York State who want to slam the MTA and who don’t want to see their constituents’ buses and subways cut. Yet, when it comes to making difficult decisions that other constituents might remember in the voting booth — Staten Islanders generally do not like the idea of congestion pricing — her support for transit just withers away. So meet Janele Hyer-Spencer, yet another Assembly hypocrite through and through.