Jan. 21, 2015 By Christian Murray
When he’s asked the tough questions, he typically doesn’t duck for cover.
What are your thoughts on 5Pointz? Private property, he responds.
Does it make sense to build over the Sunnyside Yards? Absolutely not.
Do you believe in term limits for community board members? Of course.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who darts from event-to-event, isn’t known for hedging his bets. Instead he is direct, fast on his feet, and very self assured.
It is this self confidence that leads him to release an annual self assessment—or report card—every January. It is a rare concept, since few– if any– other council members do it.
“I like people to know what I’m doing,” Van Bramer often says, who believes that his constituents have the right to know. “I don’t ever want anyone asking ‘What does he do?””
The 15-page report states in large font: “16,554 and counting” referring to the number of constituent cases Van Bramer and his staff have handled during the five years he has been in office. Furthermore, it says that in 2014 he served on six committees—including as chair of Cultural Affairs and Libraries–and had a “95.3% attendance record.”
Van Bramer said that he has laid the groundwork for a number of Long Island City projects that will come to fruition this year.
Construction of the Hunters Point Library, which has been bogged down in red tape, is expected to begin this spring. Citi Bike, which has been plagued with problems, will finally be coming to Long Island City, and a segregated bicycle lane on the Pulaski Bridge will be built.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood, which he funded to the tune of $750,000, is expected to open in Court Square this year—its first branch in Queens.
“Many of these unveilings could all happen at once…which would make for an exciting time,” Van Bramer said. However, he couldn’t predict with certainty the timing of these events.
“We don’t have a firm date as to when Citi Bike will be here…but I expect to have the bikes here in the warm weather,” Van Bramer said. He said that there will be 10 docking stations in Long Island City and Queensbridge with more than 1,000 bikes.
The construction of the segregated bike lane on the Pulaski Bridge is expected to begin in the first half of 2015, he said, with completion toward the end of the year. There have been delays, he said, but he has been assured of this timetable by Dept. of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.
Van Bramer said that 16% of constituent calls involve transportation issues–from public transportation to signage on streets.
He said that in 2014 he helped combat problems such as the dangerous traffic conditions on Center Blvd and 5th Street. He said that he applied pressure on the DOT that led to stop signs going up on Center Blvd at 48th and 49th Avenues–as well as made sure that 5th Street was converted to a one-way street with speed bumps.
“People are concerned about the safety of their kids and families,” Van Bramer said. “There are two parks, two schools and thousands of people who live nearby.”
Van Bramer is a staunch supporter of Vision Zero and was an early advocate for the arterial slow zones on Northern and Queens Blvds. Furthermore, he sponsored the “Justice for Hit and Run Victims Act,” a law that recently went into effect that imposes a lofty civil penalty on drivers who flee the scene of an accident.
Van Bramer said that he continues to push ahead with quality of life issues. He said that a dedicated crew of workers are cleaning sections of Long Island City through the Doe Fund.
The Doe Fund program started in Hunters Point in 2013 and was expanded to incorporate a wider area in 2014. It was brought to Dutch Kills last year. Van Bramer said that it’s proven to be a success and he plans to continue funding it.
Van Bramer, who was named Majority Leader at the beginning of last year, said that the position allows him to be a better advocate for the district. For instance, he said, he was in a better position to be able to reach out to the administration in December to let it be known that the Pepsi sign should not lose its place on the “Landmarks Preservation calendar.”
Van Bramer is politically ambitious and does not hide it. He said that he will definitely run for city council one last time in 2017. He would not comment if he had Council speakership goals in mind—or whether a city-wide office would come after that.
“The council speakership was determined over a period of a few weeks [Dec. 2013] so it is way too far away to start thinking about that,” Van Bramer said. “And then another four years after that…anything could happen by then.”
For a full copy of Van Bramer’s report, Please click here