Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White to Step Down

White to join Bird as director of safety policy and advocacy; senior TransAlt staffers Ellen McDermott and Marco Conner named deputy directors
Joseph Cutrufo -
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After more than 14 years with Transportation Alternatives, Paul Steely White will step down from his role as the organization’s executive director next month. 

Under White’s leadership, TransAlt’s advocacy resulted in dozens of major victories across New York City, from the launch of Citi Bike and the growth of the city’s network of protected bike lanes, to the expansion of pedestrian plazas and the implementation of Vision Zero. His tenure also brought a lower city-wide speed limit, the passage of the Right of Way Law, and the reignition and successful completion of campaigns to ban cars from Prospect Park, Central Park and Times Square.

“We are leaps and bounds closer to achieving all that this organization has espoused, and Paul has been the guiding force behind this change,” said Adam Mansky, chair of TransAlt’s board of directors. “We’ve witnessed miles of new bike lanes and acres of reclaimed pedestrian space materialize, making our streets not just safer, but saner too. I can confidently say that New York City is a better place to live thanks to Paul Steely White.”

TransAlt has grown dramatically during White’s tenure, from an organization with only five staff and an annual budget of under $1 million in 2004, to an organization of more than 30 staff members working in all five boroughs and a $4 million annual budget. White leaves Transportation Alternatives in its ascendancy, as its mission to reclaim streets for people is heard more and more as a five borough rallying cry. 

The influence of Transportation Alternatives grew beyond New York during White’s tenure with the establishment of the Vision Zero Cities conference, which has been attended by advocates from scores of cities around the world. The fourth Vision Zero Cities conference will take place November 7 and 8, prior to White’s departure from the organization.

Paul Steely White’s dedication earned him the Rockefeller Foundation's Jane Jacobs Medal, which recognizes those whose creative uses of the urban environment build a more diverse, dynamic, and equitable city. He has also earned recognition from the New York Academy of Medicine for his work to make streets safer and healthier, and has been listed among “most influential” lists by both Brooklyn Magazine and City & State.

In November, White will take on a new role as director of safety policy and advocacy at Bird, a last-mile electric vehicle sharing company.

“Small, shared vehicles like bike share and scooter share are in many ways the next frontier for urban transportation. These new modes have begun to bring people onto the streets in ways we couldn’t have imagined when I came to the organization in 2004,” says White. “It wasn’t so long ago that streets in this town were little more than car sewers with narrow sidewalks. I’m proud to say that we helped change not only how streets are designed, but we also elevated the expectation of what city streets can and should be. And even though I’m leaving Transportation Alternatives, I’m going to continue working every day toward that same goal: to make streets better for people.” 

“I’m lucky to be able to leave TransAlt knowing that the organization will continue to rise as a dominating force on New York City’s political landscape. I have no doubt that our talented and committed board, staff and activist volunteers will successfully transform more and more neighborhoods,” White continued. “While I’m proud to have been in this position during so many incredible victories, so much of the credit belongs to the team that I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by. Transportation Alternatives has never been stronger, and I’m confident that the strength of this organization will only grow after I’ve moved on.”

Transportation Alternatives is pleased to announce that Chief Operations Officer Ellen McDermott and Legislative & Legal Director Marco Conner have been promoted to the role of deputy director, and will lead the organization in White’s absence. McDermott and Conner have each been with TransAlt for over four years and have demonstrated success in managing complex matters: Ellen led the organization’s recent transition to a new constituent relationship platform, while Marco has managed numerous legislative campaigns and the organization’s work alongside Families for Safe Streets. Senior Director of Advocacy Tom DeVito, who oversees TransAlt’s grassroots and policy work, will remain in his post where he has played an integral role in TransAlt’s recent success, notably the campaign to reinstate New York City’s speed safety camera program.

“It’s a privilege to have worked with Paul, whose deep knowledge of New York City’s streets is second only to his energy and enthusiasm. I’m grateful for the opportunities he’s given all of us, including me, to be part of the safe streets movement, and I’m honored to take on a new challenge as deputy director,” said McDermott. “TransAlt is as strong as it has ever been thanks to Paul’s leadership, and I look forward to helping guide the organization onward in the coming months and years.”

“The groundbreaking and life-saving successes of Transportation Alternatives, led by Paul, have been realized because of our members and the tremendous dedication of our staff, volunteer activists, and the many individuals of Families for Safe Streets. As this transition takes hold, I am confident that, together, we will continue making New York City a safer place with truly livable and inclusive streets,” said Conner.

White will remain with Transportation Alternatives until mid-November and will assume his new role later that month. Board Chair Adam Mansky has appointed Vice Chair Steve Hindy to lead a search committee for a new executive director. 

TransAlt’s board of directors, advisory council, staff, activist committees and thousands of TransAlt members and supporters thank Paul for his 14-plus years of service and wish him the best of luck in this next chapter.