Gene Russianoff is staff attorney and chief spokesman for the Straphangers Campaign, a New York City-based public transport advocacy group that focuses primarily on subway and bus services run by New York City Transit.[1] At the same time, Russianoff has also served as a government reform advocate for NYPIRG.[2][3]

Photo taken outside New York Public Library of Gene Russianoff awarding the Pokey Award to the M42.
Photo taken outside New York Public Library of Gene Russianoff awarding the Pokey Award to the M42.


Russianoff is a graduate of Brooklyn College and Harvard Law School, and has worked for New York Public Interest Research Group (Straphangers Campaign's parent organization) since his graduation from Harvard Law in 1978. In 1983, he was a Revson Fellow at Columbia University.


Gene Russianoff has agitated for subway commuters since about 1980. He lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn.[4]

Since 2002, he has promoted in coalition bus rapid transit for New York City. BRT—whose current New York City version is called Select Bus Service—gives buses priority, resulting in greater speeds and reliability at much lower cost than new subway lines. To further awareness of the need to provide better bus service in New York City, Russianoff and Transportation Alternatives annually bestow "uncovered" Pokey and Schleppie Awards to the slowest and least reliable bus routes in New York City. The 2013 "winners" were the M42 and M50. They were clocked at 3.4 miles per hour (5.5 km/h), a rate described as slower than a lumbering elephant or a wooden row boat.[5][6]

As a government reformer in 1988, he lobbied successfully in coalition for New York City's campaign finance law, now a model for Campaign finance in the United States[7]

Over two decades, Russianoff helped win major improvements in the law. For example, the law now provides greater incentives for city candidates to seek small contributions from city residents; and also limits contributions from individuals doing business with city government. However, his coalition is still seeking greater restrictions on influence peddling by "bundlers."[8]

Russianoff's work also helped result in the creation of the New York City's Independent Budget Office, which provides non-partisan financial information on budget matters.[9] and the annual mailing of several million multi-lingual Voter Guides at city election time.[10]

The multilingual voter guides and a new City conflicts of interest code[11] were ratified by the voters in 1988 as part of a package of reforms proposed by a charter revision commission that year. In the following year, the IBO[12] was included in the 1989 proposed charter revisions and ratified by the voters. In February 1988, New York City enacted a campaign finance law.[13]

Currently, he co-chairs the NYC Transparency Working Group.[14]

Since he developed Parkinson's Disease in his mid-50s, he has spent time lobbying for alternatives to Access-A-Ride, an M.T.A. service he claims is "lousier than the subways and buses.” [15]


Russianoff was awarded the 1994 Public Service Achievement Award by the National Board of Common Cause given to those "who by force of imagination, initiative and perseverance has made an outstanding contribution to the public interest." He was a Charles H. Revson Fellow at Columbia University in 1983.[16] In 2010, he received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Brooklyn College Alumni Association.[17]

New York 1 News named Russianoff a "New Yorker of the Year" in 1997 for his successful coalition work to win unlimited-ride MetroCards.[18]


  1. ^ Haberman, Clyde. "For Voice of Straphangers, a Journey Without Stops". The New York Times. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
  2. ^ Russianoff, Gene. "Elections fixes for the next mayor". NY Daily News.
  3. ^ Breznick, Alan. "40 Under 40".
  4. ^ Gootman, Elissa. "A Day Without a Train". The New York Times. Retrieved October 10, 2010.
  5. ^ "M42 and M50 win Pokey Awards as city's slowest bus routes M42, M50 city's slowest bus routes".
  6. ^ Groups in the coalition include the New York City Transit Riders Council, Riders Alliance, Transportation Alternatives, and Tri-State Transportation Campaign.
  7. ^ Purdum, Todd. "Council Leaders Draft a Compromise Bill on Campaign Financing". The New York Times. Retrieved January 28, 1988. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  8. ^ Chan, Sewell (May 24, 2006). "N.Y. Lobbying Bill Ignores Hole, Critics Say". The New York Times. Retrieved May 24, 2006.
  9. ^ Firestone, David (September 7, 1995). "Another Court Orders Mayor To Create Budget Office". The New York Times. Retrieved September 7, 1995. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  10. ^ Russianoff, Gene. "With Question 6, New Yorkers Can Say Yes to Voter Information". The New York Times. Retrieved November 7, 1988. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  11. ^ "1988 NYC Charter Revision".
  12. ^ "IBO - Independent Budget Office".
  13. ^ Purdum, Todd S. (January 18, 1988). "Council Leaders Draft a Compromise Bill on Campaign Financing". The New York Times.
  14. ^ "NYC Transparency Working Group".
  15. ^ Dwyer, Jim. "Only Thing Worse than the Subway? Not Being Able to Ride It". The New York Times. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
  16. ^ Common Cause. "Common Cause 1994 Public Service Achievement Awards". Archived from the original on February 18, 2014.
  17. ^ College, Brooklyn. "BCAA". Retrieved 2010. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  18. ^ Perez-Pena, Richard (December 11, 1997). "New Fares Bring Transit Gadfly In From the Cold". The New York Times.