You are here: Home Communications Pressroom News Former NYC Traffic Commissioner Sam Schwartz ('Gridlock Sam') to Serve as Inaugural Ted Kheel Transportation Fellow at Roosevelt House

Former NYC Traffic Commissioner Sam Schwartz ('Gridlock Sam') to Serve as Inaugural Ted Kheel Transportation Fellow at Roosevelt House

Sam Schwartz, author, engineer, veteran public official, and renowned expert in sustainable urban transportation policy, will serve as the inaugural Theodore Kheel Visiting Fellow in Transportation at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College. This fellowship, made possible by the Nurture Nature Foundation, is named for legendary attorney and mediator Theodore W. Kheel, who died in 2010 at age 96. Over his 50-year-long public service career, Kheel helped resolve simmering labor disputes in New York City, helping to mediate more than a dozen transit contracts and to end the 12-day transit strike in 1966. He was known as a gifted peacemaker, creative problem solver, and civic visionary.

The Kheel Fellowship will honor Kheel's life and legacy by bringing eminent scholars and professionals to Roosevelt House to focus on the creation of balanced urban transportation systems, using New York as a case model. As the first fellow, Sam Schwartz began a semester-long fellowship on January 30, leading students in study, research, and off-campus site visits to explore his ideas for sustainable traffic and transit solutions for the modern city. Under his guidance, students will have the opportunity to deepen their understanding of environmentally responsible urban transportation, collaborating with Mr. Schwartz on his upcoming book on the future of driverless cars in congested cities.

Mr. Schwartz comes to Hunter with a wealth of experience in the field of urban transportation. An alum of the CUNY system - he earned his BS from Brooklyn College - he began his career as a NYC taxi driver in the early 1960s, eventually ascending to serve as New York City Traffic Commissioner under Mayor Edward Koch, and then as First Deputy and Chief Engineer of the newly organized NYC Department of Transportation. He has written scores of professional papers and several books, and is widely known for his beloved weekly traffic advice column for the New York Daily News. His moniker, "Gridlock Sam," derives from the term he coined to describe the frustrating phenomenon of the intersectional traffic jam.

Mr. Schwartz is president and CEO of Sam Schwartz Engineering, a firm specializing in local, national, and global transportation planning.  Among his most notable recent projects have been major consulting roles in the reconstruction of the World Trade Center, the construction of the Second Avenue Subway, and the planned BQX streetcar connecting Brooklyn and Queens.  He is also working on the modernization of LaGuardia Airport.

During his fellowship at Roosevelt House, Mr. Schwartz will serve as a practitioner-in-residence, helping to inspire students to study urban transportation policy at Hunter and advocate for the creation of a balanced transportation system for American cities.

"We could not be more pleased to be welcoming one of New York's leading traffic and transportation experts to launch a fellowship named for the late, extraordinary Ted Kheel, and made possible by the foundation he created," said Hunter President Raab. "Just as Ted Kheel epitomized responsible transportation solutions for the late 20th century, Sam Schwartz has built brilliantly on that vision to help create a sustainable system for navigating our city-and many other urban spaces-into the 21st century. We know that Sam will bring a wealth of knowledge and learning opportunities for our students at Hunter and look forward to working closely with him as he mentors them-and the rest of the college community-on this vital aspect of our lives."

"Hunter enjoyed a long and immeasurably important relationship with Ted Kheel," President Raab added. "Committed, as he put it, to 'change the way New Yorkers think about the environment,' his Nurture Nature initiative not only launched but generously funded our Institute for Sustainable Cities, which still does extraordinary, cutting-edge work in his name.  So we feel particularly honored that his children have taken his commitment yet another step forward by funding the Kheel Fellowship." In 2010, Hunter awarded Mr. Kheel an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in recognition of his lifelong impact on New York City.

Commented Harold Holzer, the Jonathan F. Fanton Director of Roosevelt House: "Having had the privilege of working closely with Sam Schwartz on several transportation and historical projects over the years, I know first-hand how bravely he tackles seemingly insurmountable transportation challenges, and how brilliantly he devises achievable solutions. He is a visionary engineer and a natural teacher, and we look forward with great anticipation to welcoming him to Roosevelt House to guide our students and illuminate our public."

"We can think of no one better qualified than Sam Schwartz to carry my father's name, vision, and ideas forward to a new generation of New Yorkers," said Robert Kheel, President of the Nurture Nature Foundation. "My father was committed to creating a sustainable transportation system. He believed such a system was critical to the future of our cities, and should be thought of as a fundamental service, like police protection and trash removal. He was also a great supporter of education, as a means of addressing problems and preparing for the future. Sam has more knowledge than almost anyone else in this country to put to the service of these goals. We are pleased and proud to be supporting the first Theodore Kheel Fellow and look forward to his contributions to my father's legacy-and to the public policy mission of Roosevelt House and Hunter College."

Commented Mr. Schwartz: "I am truly honored, and frankly humbled, to serve as the first Theodore Kheel Fellow at Roosevelt House, and to begin working with Hunter College students on studying and advancing key innovations in transportation policy. It is a particular privilege to be associated with two names for which I have so much respect: Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose sense of social responsibility and policy advocacy set the standard for the 20th and 21st centuries, and Ted Kheel, a negotiator, civil rights leader, and transportation authority who was among the first to recognize the connection between social equity and transport policy.  In a 1969 New York Magazine article, he wrote: 'Transportation is as much a civil rights issue as housing and education and jobs.' Almost a half-century later, a nucleus of planners and engineers are final reaching that conclusion. I am hoping my fellowship can offer scholarly research that, among other things, advances his keen observation."

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