This morning I woke up to the news that Brooklyn born but Bronx bred and Bedford Park resident of our borough for 58 years, John Rozankowski, PhD, passed away suddenly from natural causes.
John Rozankowski was born in Brooklyn and attended Cardinal Hayes High School in The Bronx and after graduating in 1971 he went on to Fordham University where he spent the next 8 years and obtained his PhD in History. He spent a large part of his life advocating for better mass transit and transportation (among many other issues) in NYC often times giving a voice to the voiceless and giving hope to those who had lost hope in a system that is broken.
Rozankowski was a follower of Welcome2TheBronx for some time and earlier this year contacted us to become a contributor and lend his knowledge and experience to help educate folks on what steps we can take to improve mass transit in the Bronx which, like most outerboroughs, can be abysmal due to the Manhattan-focused system.
In 2010, when MTA board members came to The Bronx for their town hall meeting at Loew’s Paradise Theater on the agency’s plan drastically slash service, John was, as usual, at the meeting. The New York Times said of him, “Some people relied on sarcasm. John Rozankowski took the board members to task for, in his view, valuing “high-tech gimmicks” over basic services. He drew laughs from the crowd as he slipped into alliterative high gear and rolled his R’s to denounce the authority’s “myriad menagerie of mechanical marvels.”
The Wall Street Journal quoted him in March 2012 in an article about the G Train that runs from Queens to Brooklyn. They wrote: “John Rozankowski, a mass-transit advocate and Bronx resident, has written about such “other-borough” transportation problems. “They have been given the shaft all along,” he said. In the Bronx, there are complaints about stations that need to be renovated, subway lines that should run express during peak hours and limited bus service. The lack of service affects economic development, argues Mr. Rozankowski. “That stops businesses from establishing themselves in the outer boroughs because there’s such difficulty of access,” he said. “More people are working in the outer boroughs. If you provide better mass transit you will change the riding patterns.”
In his LinkedIn profile, he wrote:
“I am a community activist living in the Bronx, NYC. My main field of interest is mass transit and I write primarily about transportation issues previously for Suite 101 and now for Sheepshead Bites and Welcome2TheBronx.
In my articles, I demonstrate with historical evidence that the MTA, a public authority, has been a disaster for NYC transportation. The agency is out of touch with the people, holds them and their needs in contempt and is beyond the control of NYC elected officials.
My goal is to initiate a NYC grassroots campaign to get the City to take over its subways and buses directly–without a public authority. NYC needs to go back to the days of the Board of Transportation of the 1930’s and 1940’s. It ran a much larger system with a much higher ridership, built numerous subway extensions–all with enormous public support.
Today, a Board of Mass Transit should include appointees by the mayor, public advocate and each of the 5 borough presidents. In this setup, NYC officials would have total control and the borough presidents would guarantee a mass transit policy which is fair to all of the boroughs–not just Manhattan.
It’s important for me to convince NYC citizens that they can change things for the better.
In addition to mass transit, I have campaigned against the new Yankee Stadium project and against the Kingsbridge Armory mall development. Both projects were hated by the people and against their interests.
I have supported term limits all along and the Living Wage campaign. Recently, I have been active in the Rockaway line reactivation and the Letitia James for Public Advocate campaign.
It’s necessary for the people to believe in themselves and in their own power. If all of my efforts contribute to a revival of civic activism then my efforts will not have been in vain.”
When he said “It’s important for me to convince NYC citizens that they can change things for the better…It’s necessary for the people to believe in themselves and in their own power. If all of my efforts contribute to a revival of civic activism then my efforts will not have been in vain,” he reminded me of why Welcome2TheBronx exists and I continue to go to bat for the underdog and the voiceless and provide them with a voice.
The Bronx, New York City and the world lost a great fighter for the people but let’s not let his work be in vain. Let’s continue the good fight as good citizens. Our deepest condolences go out to his family, friends and loved ones. John, you will be greatly missed along with your signature chutzpah.
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