When someone or something becomes controversial, it's either because they're doing something incredibly good or incredibly bad. Either way, they are shaking up popular consensus, challenging commonly held practices and assumptions, saying to people "no, don't go this way, go that way."
This directional metaphor for controversy fits aptly to Janette Sadik-Khan, our city's transportation commissioner.
Since her appointment a few years back, she's installed pedestrian plazas in Times Square, Madison Square, and Herald Square, routed bike routes around town, and reduced the number of parking spaces around town. She is probably the only transportation chief in any major city today (or ever) who has publicly said that the car should take a back seat (pun totally intended) to public or alternate transportation options. If Robert Moses was the quintessential 20th century transportation chief, trying to make NYC a car-centric town, Janette Sadik-Khan is 21st century transportation chief, trying to do the opposite.
Her efforts have ruffled quite a few feathers amongst some politicians and car owners in NYC. For them, bike lanes and pedestrian plazas are nonsense. They don't understand why the streets don't exist completely for them. They think they should be able to drive pollution spewing vehicles anywhere and everything in this town. They don't want this city's transportation infrastructure to change.
But Sadik-Khan does and she's showing the leadership to do it. I think, years from now, people will look back at what she's done and be grateful that our city's transportation policies changed, taking us in a better direction.