Tiger Tales: Andrew Zarins '15
WIMS Away Shadower at NYC Department of Transportation
Interestingly, what makes Commissioner Sadik-Kahn such an effective commissioner for NYCDOT is her lack of patience, high expectations, and grit. The commissioner understands politics and the mechanics of the political machine, and not just any political machine, but the byzantine political machine of New York City. Though some critics have called the Commissioner’s leadership style “alienating,” it seems that the Commissioner inspires tremendous loyalty from her 55 Water Street cadre.
Urban policy and planning work requires a wide breadth of knowledge and objectivity. Though I was unfamiliar with many of the projects and issues DOT was dealing with, I found myself learning quickly and wanting to learn more. I particularly enjoyed learning about an issue in the office and then examining the issue in person outside the office.
A supporter of bike lanes and walkable cities, I was shocked when the ostensibly liberal and progressive residents came out vehemently opposing DOT reconstruction of their neighborhood’s streets to include bike lanes and handicap navigable cobblestones during a community meeting in the Brooklyn neighborhood of DUMBO. Seeing such opposition moves you. As a planner sitting behind a desk, it is impossible to understand and internalize such opposition. Such disconnect is one of the chief agents of insensitive, ineffective, and failed planning.
Because the field of urban studies (policy and planning included) is extraordinarily vast and the array of careers therein is no narrower, I am no more certain now of what I want to do with my career than I was before my shadowing experience. What I did come to realize after spending three days around urban policy workers and planners is what I do not want to do: I do not want to be an urban planner in the technical spirit—figuring out the exact grading of an expressway off ramp or mulling over the load bearing capacity of a crosstown thoroughfare. I am compelled to find my own niche in the world of urban studies, one in which I can be the best I possibly can. I have started specializing my studies more than previously. I am midway through a book called the Power Broker: Robert Moses & the Fall of New York, a seminal work referenced countless times during my time at the DOT and recommended to me on more than a few occasions. Realizing that I am serious about this field and want to pursue it, I am trying to devote my energies to expanding my knowledge of cities and urban structures.
- Andrew Zarins '15
New York City Department of Transportation
Janette Sadik-Khan '82, Transportation Commissioner