T.A. stoops to rally at foe’s home
After hearing shouts, Arthur
Schwartz stepped out of his W.
12th St. brownstone and began
offering pastries to a crowd of roughly
50 protesters that had gathered around
The protesters, most of whom were
from Transportation Alternatives, called
on the West Village attorney to “drop the
suit” that, last Friday, resulted in an Appellate
Division court issuing a stay that
blocked the start of the 14th St. busway.
The busway is the city Department of
Transportation’s proposed 18-month pilot
program, in which only buses, threeaxle
trucks and emergency vehicles
could use the major crosstown street as
through traffi c between the hours of 6
a.m. and 10 p.m. The plan is intended
to mitigate any negative travel impacts
caused by the L-train “slowdown” due
to subway-tunnel repair work and, in
general, to speed up straphangers’ commutes.
Schwartz represents a broad swath of
Chelsea and Village block associations
and condo boards that fear that closing
14th St. to cars, vans and small trucks
would force the vehicles onto neighborhood
side streets, causing congestion,
noise and air pollution, and vibrations
from excessive traffi c, among other
Schwartz referred to the protest as
“thuggery” that had nothing to do with
honest political discourse.
Tom DeVito, director of advocacy for
Transportation Alternatives, speaking
shortly before the protest ended, said
the busway advocates will keep up the
“We will keep on fi ghting and not
stop,” he vowed.
PHOTO BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH
TransAlt’s Tom DeVito led the crowd of about 50 protesters in chanting
outside of attorney Arthur Schwartz’s home.
‘Let them eat pastries’ or ‘Let them protest’?
BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
As Transportation Alternatives members and
supporters angrily converged outside Arthur
Schwartz’s home Wednesday evening —
seething that his lawsuit had held up the city’s vaunted
14th St. busway — the attorney tried to make nice
with them…by offering them food.
As the busway backers brandished insulting signs
slamming Schwartz, like “Fake Progressive,” he responded…
by handing out pastries.
“I had been given a bag of pastries by a local elderly
lady I saved from eviction last week,” he said. “So I
gave them out to protesters. Many took them — until
someone yelled into a mic, ‘Don’t take his food!’”
Schwartz had called on local progressive leaders
whom he has supported over the years to stand with
him on his W. 12th St. stoop, including Mayor Bill
de Blasio, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate
Jumaane Williams and City Council Speaker
Corey Johnson. None of the pols heeded his call.
However, a group of local busway opponents and
neighbors rallied to his side.
“I had about 10 people standing with me,” Schwartz
said, “including my longest-time Village friend, Paco
Underhill, an urban planner, David Marcus and Julianne
Bond, Elissa Stein and her husband, Gail Fox,
Michelle Golden and a whole bunch of people I didn’t
know, many whom were 12th St. neighbors.”
Stein is a current member and Marcus and Bond
are former members of the steering committee of the
14th St. Coalition, the plaintiff in Schwartz’s previous
two lawsuits against the busway plan. Fox is a Union
Square community activist.
Asked what he made of the protest, Marcus fumed
at the TransAlt group’s continually trying to shame
the busway opponents for allegedly being “rich.”
“It is beyond comprehension,” Marcus declared,
“that this zealous T.A. lobby — funded with millions
of dollars and staff earning six-fi gure salaries —
should accuse our multicultural multi-socioeconomic
constituency of being the privileged 1%, whilst attacking
an offi cer of the court in front of his home, by
PHOTO BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH
Arthur Schwartz offered pastries to the TransAlt
demanding he cease seeking due process.”
Beforehand, Schwartz had blasted TransAlt for trying
to “intimidate” him by protesting outside his home
— which he shares with his wife and two daughters
— and demanding he drop the lawsuit.
“TransAlt is engaging in a form of bullying,” he
charged, “which is in the tradition of Donald Trump,
and has nothing to do with how we function in a nonfascistic
Democratic society. … Their complaint that
Village and Chelsea residents, active in block associations
are ‘rich’ is demagoguery similar to what we see
emanating from the White House.”
Schwartz also likened TransAlt to the Ku Klux
Klan, saying, “This kind of undemocratic bullying,
reminiscent of how white-hooded zealots would
threaten white lawyers who represented black people
in the South, or dictators who threaten lawyers who
represent unpopular fi gures, needs to be called out.”
However, Norman Siegel, the renowned civil-rights
attorney, said TransAlt was within its rights to picket
the activist attorney’s townhouse.
“On the issue of protesting, it’s a fundamental
right and it’s a neutral principle,” he said, meaning
“grounded in law.”
While some states do not allow protests in front of
people’s homes, according to Siegel, New York does.
“In New York, you can peacefully protest in front
of someone’s home,” he said. “T.A. has the right.
They have to be peaceful, and they can’t block the
Siegel said Schwartz’s likening the cycling and
transit advocates to Trump, the Klan, fascists and
demagogues was disappointing.
“I don’t think that’s an appropriate statement to
make,” he said.
He noted that Schwartz, as someone “in the public
arena,” is going to have people criticize and potentially
protest against him.
“To compare TransAlt to the Klan is inaccurate,”
Siegel said. “Arthur should know better. It’s a First
Amendment-protected right — Arthur should know
as well as anyone — people’s right to protest. And he’s
represented people that protest over the years, and
that’s why I admire him.”
Siegel said he has experienced being targeted by
protesters. In the early 1980s, when he lived in the
Village on Jane St. and was project director of MFY
Legal Services, striking lawyers’ union members protested
outside his residence.
Later, in the 1990s, when Rudy Giuliani was mayor
and Siegel was head of the New York Civil Liberties
Union, protesters picketed Siegel’s Upper West Side
building after he got the Klan a rally permit over Giuliani’s
Regarding the latter demonstration, he told building
management not to call the police and just let it
“I predicted that within an hour they would leave,”
he recalled. “What they wanted was the publicity.”
As for TransAlt protesting outside Schwartz’s
house, not only did they have the right, but the attorney
should not have condemned them for it, particularly
given the times, Siegel asserted.
“In the Trump era, we should be encouraging
people to speak up,” he said, “including picketing and
protesting, expressing their First Amendment right,
not chilling that fundamental right.”
6 August 22, 2019 TVG Schneps Media