NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- There was a contentious hearing Tuesday on New York City's controversial pedestrian plaza program. One city councilman demanded that the Department of Transportation get back to basics and fix basic infrastructure.
The DOT has put a pedestrian mall in Times Square, installed traffic islands in Borough Park that make it difficult for fire engines to get to fires, including forcing an ambulance to pull into on coming traffic to get to the emergency room, and in Little Neck put in a traffic island that makes drivers go perilously close to speeding trains to make a turn.
1010 WINS' Alice Stockton-Rossini reports: Councilmembers Want To Get Back To Basics
Now, City Councilman Eric Ulrich, R-Ozone Park, has had enough, saying the agency has forgotten its core mission -- fixing the roads.
"Why can't we just we get back to basics and worry more about paving the roads and the streets than we are about installing bike lanes and putting in pedestrian plazas where communities don't want them?" Ulrich told CBS 2's Marcia Kramer.
"The roads in Baghdad look better than the roads in Queens. I think I have a right to be upset."
The harsh words came at a City Council hearing on the pedestrian plazas installed by the DOT. Ulrich wasn't alone as several others talked about a belief there is an anti-driver bias.
"There is the view among many with the failure of congestion pricing that now other things are being done to drive car owners crazy," said Councilman James Vacca, D-Bronx.
For their part, DOT officials defended their actions to green the city, but council members didn't get the answers they wanted.
"I'll have to get back to you on data that we collected. I certainly don't have that in front of me," DOT Assistant Commissioner Andy Wiley-Schwartz said, when asked to provide certain statistics.
In the end there were no real answers. Transportation officials said they want to build as many more pedestrian plazas as they can. Council officials responded by saying they want hard data to prove that they're worthwhile.
The 34th Street Partnership and the group Transportation Alternatives were among those saying they support more pedestrian plazas in the city.
Do you think the City Council has a point? Or are you inclined to side with the DOT? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.
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