A Response to the Post’s Bike Coverage (and a Marcia Kramer Sighting)

Streetsblog editor emeritus Aaron Naparstek gave us a heads up about some letter writing to the Post he did earlier today. He also sends word — and a photo — that Marcia Kramer was out on Prospect Park West this afternoon in preparation for her next piece on the improving safety of NYC streets. Aaron says he did get some time on camera, on his cargo bike with son Saul (who’s almost four, if memory serves). Sounds like great TV to me — we’ll see if they make the final cut.

On to the letter writing:

I wrote a letter to New York Post reporter Sally Goldenberg this morning in response to her awful coverage of last night’s Community Board 6 meeting on the Prospect Park West bike lane. (You can find reasonable coverage of the same issue at the Daily News, Brooklyn Paper, Brooklyn Spoke, How We Drive and Streetsblog).

Marcia Kramer
Details at 6 and 11. Photo: Aaron Naparstek

I’m generally not a big fan of the letter to the editor. It feels like a pretty lame, powerless way to try to get one’s point across. But with the New York City bike lane backlash now in full effect and outlets like the New York Post and CBS2 apparently feeling completely unleashed to attack NYC DOT’s bike projects, I think New York City bike advocates need to start getting in touch directly with the editors and reporters who are responsible for crappy, dishonest coverage of bike issues.

Here’s why: Sally Goldenberg and her editors are probably very nice, normal people who generally want good things for their city, their community and their kids. As members of the city’s placarded class, the press often has a hard time relating to people who use bikes as transportation in New York City (like politicians and police, members of the press have parking placards and have a tendency toward serious windshield-perspective). Maybe they don’t know anyone who uses a bike for transportation. And they don’t see any bike dealerships sponsoring their coverage. And they are eager to poke holes in Bloomberg these days. And DOT’s bike and public space projects are one of the more visible, physical manifestations of Bloombergism. And we all know the bike coverage generates crazy pageviews. So, fuck ‘em. There’s blood in the water. Attack.

So, I want to try to start getting in touch with the Sally Goldenbergs, Marcia Kramers and Tony Aiellos of the world and letting them know that: Hey, cyclists are not freaks. We are not an abstraction. We are not outsiders or enemies or “the other.” There are tens of thousands of us and we are real New Yorkers with jobs and kids and, yes, some of us even drive cars too. All of this new bike infrastructure really matters to our daily lives. The way that they cover bicycle and transportation policy issues in New York City actually matters. We need them to start doing responsible, accurate, honest journalism.

So here’s the letter I wrote to Sally this morning…

Read the rest over at Naparstek.com.

  • fdr

    Once again Aaron has decided that Steisel’s hooker scandal is relevant to the PPW debate. Haven’t we been through this already? I guess if Eliot Spitzer had a position on PPW it also would be offset by his scandal. Sally Goldenberg can be forgiven if she stops reading after that first sentence.

  • Aaron, that is a great letter, thanks for penning something so eloquent.

    I wonder if those with such loud voices like Marty and NBBL and all these reporters you are reaching out to, understand how dangerous their flippant attitude towards cyclist safety is. We are already marginalized, drivers know the NYPD will not do anything to deter dangerous driving around peds and cyclists. If it becomes commonplace that safety is spoken with such disregard, the public will follow suit. I feel they are already, and it has become more aggressive out there, with drivers trying to “teach lessons” about laws they incorrectly believe exist.

  • Dunkin Dave

    They keep describing Steisel as a former Deputy Mayor and Sanitation commissioner. Is that relevant to PPW? If so, then it is also relevant that he got caught up in this hooker scandal while serving as a city official.

  • Mike Epstein

    “Marcia Kramer was out on Prospect Park West this afternoon in preparation for her next piece on the improving safety of NYC streets.”

    I really hope this reflects Ben’s dry sense of humor: her reporting has utterly ignored street safety in favor of NIMBYism. Next up, no doubt: the NIMBBLs.

  • Lois Carsbad

    Norman Steisel is a private citizen and property owner on PPW, nothing more, nothing less. As such, he should be granted no more of a voice in this matter than anyone else.

    If he uses his former position to create influence outside of his background in sanitation, then his public behavior is fair game.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr

    I think Aaron’s point is incredibly well said – and restrained – for the amount of anger some of us are having at the media for getting facts completely wrong and giving a voice to people who do not totally represent the community (especially ones who do not see any value in the great strides our city is making and ignoring logic).

    Remember back in the summer of 2008 when all the networks were getting folks all riled up over the SummerStreets program? They were virtually guaranteeing gridlock and imagining all kinds of problems and drops in business on the Saturdays it took place. I was interviewed by a very nice Don Dahler at CBS for their morning show talking about my Ciclovia films and after my segment was over when the mikes were off he essentially said it was gonna make moving about the city nearly impossible those days.

    Of course NOW that SummerStreets is a big hit and has minimal disruption compared to the amount of people it makes happy, all the news stations can’t get enough of it. Every year showing people having great fun and the newest wrinkle (pools on Park Avenue!) Never a mention or a follow up on how they were so wrong and misguided to try to rile people up with fear mongering that was not a reality. There is NO accountability.

    And so it goes. The PPW lane will become permanent. It will go on to be a great thing. But the Marcia Kramer’s of the world will continue looking to try to get people upset.

  • Norman Steisel is a private citizen and property owner on PPW, nothing more, nothing less. As such, he should be granted no more of a voice in this matter than anyone else.

    If he uses his former position to create influence outside of his background in sanitation, then his public behavior is fair game.

    That’s really the heart of it. At the City Council hearing last month, he was allowed to jump the line of speakers and talk for half an hour while other speakers were limited to five minutes. The ostensible reason for this is that he is a former city official. If that is relevant, so are the circumstances under which he left public office.

  • fdr

    Steisel’s hooker scandal did not happen “while serving as a city official.” It happened in 1997, several years after he left city government. Read the article that Aaron linked to. The only thing “public” about his “public behavior” was that he was dumb enough to solicit a hooker on the street. There is plenty to criticize about his arguments, his arrogance, and his sense of entitlement without getting down in the mud.

  • fdr

    The circumstances under which he left public office are that his Mayor, Dinkins, lost. That was in 1993. His hooker arrest was in 1997.

  • Geck

    Steisel has discredited himself by his sordid relationship with a shady group of NIMBYs who provide disinformation in an effort to undo a massively successful and popular safety improvement.

  • da

    I propose a cultural exchange.

    Park Slope Neighbors could invite NBBL on a joint bike ride down PPW (and back up 8th Avenue so they can experience the contrast).

    In return, NBBL can take PSN on a car ride along PPW. Maybe Veronica Moss can come along for the ride.

  • Lois Carsbad

    If we were talking about sanitation issues on PPW and Neighbors for Better Garbage Cans enlisted their next door neighbor and good pal Norman due to his background in sanitation issues, I think that deserves some respect and that his scandal would be off limits.

    But he’s not acting in that capacity. He’s using his former position as a back stage pass to Borough Hall and the City Council to gain the system in his favor on an issue to which his professional background has, at best, a tangential connection. He’s not some disinterested consultant, but rather a property owner with a vested interest in the outcome. As such, his history is fair game.

    Aaron’s point is not to focus on the scandal entirely, but that The Post, in quoting him over transportation experts or even one single person who represents the 57% of PPW residents and 80 – 90% of Park Slope residents who favor the project, is doing more to trivialize this important issue than Aaron’s offhanded mention of Steisel’s donut run.

    This project is making the neighborhood safer. The Post owes it to the communities they purport to serve by serving up some sort of balance in their coverage and not quoting a man who represents himself and himself only.

  • Jon Stewart Mill

    Steisel’s arguments on behalf of NBBL are so far-fetched as to make his Dunkin Donuts story sound plausible by comparison.

    A shrewd strategy, but 14 years late.

  • JK

    Great letter Aaron. I hope you and everyone else in the Slope also find a minute to write Brad Lander a letter expressing appreciation for his common sense and desire to actually represent and lead his community. I’ve never met Brad, but his work on the PPW lane comes across as incredibly sane and thoughtful. It’s a nice contrast to the the coverage that the Post and CBS 2 are unleashing. This comes across as a classic NYC political vendetta by an old political guard, which is angry that their prerogatives, and power, are being threatened. Ugly stuff, which reflects poorly on them.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Well, I try not to get personal. I try to look at policies and the actions of groups — when not banned from doing so.

    But in any event, everyone missed Paul White’s interview on Gothamist yesterday. It’s just great.

    I think the opponents have succeeded in making a lot of us very mad. Me in particular, as I believe the whole bike thing is the only thing going right — and is likely to be for some time. I’m outraged that someone wants to take it away.

    But Mr. White presents a more upbeat view.

    http://gothamist.com/2011/01/21/paul_steely_white_transportation_al.php

  • Larry Littlefield

    “This bike lane on Prospect Park West is important. It provides me and my wife — for the first time ever — with a safe, convenient way to take our kids to the park, to school, to synagogue, and to our kids’ friend’s house in Windsor Terrace by bike. If the bike lane weren’t there, we’d be driving our car all over the neighborhood and spending lots of time looking for parking spots (or double parking and blocking traffic). Or we’d be spending money on car services. Or we’d be biking down 8th Avenue and PPW in 45 m.p.h. traffic, literally, threatening the lives of our children. Or we’d be biking on the sidewalk on PPW, annoying the heck out of pedestrians, which is what we used to have to do sometimes.”

    Right. As I said, they have mad a lot of us really angry. I got to ride on 8th Avenue while the bike lane was not plowed, and got a little reminder.

  • JK

    Nicely done by Paul of TA in Gothamist. One thing, there is zero new about people getting hysterical about bad cyclists. This isn’t just because there are more cyclists. These eruptions have happened repeatedly. They even made a movie about the draconian 1987 Koch bike ban — which proposed banning cyclists from Madison, Park and 5th (31st to 59th street) from 10am to 4pm. What’s new this go round is that the forces of anti-cycling hysteria appear to have a personal axe to grind and enough money and political power to engage in a more organized, and broader spectrum of attacks on cycling, and cycling supporters.

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE7D8123EF930A15754C0A961948260

  • @JK

    “pm. What’s new this go round is that the forces of anti-cycling hysteria appear to have a personal axe to grind and enough money and political power to engage in a more organized, and broader spectrum of attacks on cycling, and cycling supporters.”

    I tend to agree, and in the past, people like Weinshall and Steisel would would make a few calls, and have gotten their way. I honestly think the Internet, by letting us communicate and organize quickly, is making that a lot harder.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Interesting history in that article.

    “In 1981, 399 collisions between bicyclists and pedestrians were reported throughout the city. The number grew to 707 in 1985, and last year it declined to 640. In 1985, two people were killed in accidents between bicyclists and pedestrians, and 24 were killed in accidents that involved bicycles and motor vehicles, according to Leland T. Jones, a spokesman for the Mayor. Last year, three people died as the result of bike-pedestrian collisions, and nine were killed in accidents between bicycles and motor vehicles, Mr. Jones said.”

    It sounds like they used to keep track of this stuff, back when the city was as broke as it is going to be going forward. It also sounds like there were many more collisions and deaths back then, when motor vehicle deaths of all sorts and homicides were also more common. In any event, bicycle collisions with injuries should be tracked.

    Reliving the 1970s is NOT going to be fun.

  • joshua gelfand

    Good luck getting the post to change its’ style of reporting. See how they have been massacring teachers lately? Or anyone with a pension? Good luck trying trying to tame populist fervor

  • Ongoing lies and distortions favoring cars instead of sensible transportation are typical and related to the battles against big tobacco:

    Big Tobacco & Climate Change Deniers as Nonsensical Points of Confusion
    32000 Scientists http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Py2XVILHUjQ
    To help support Climate Denial Crock of the Week
    Go to
    http://climatecrocks.com/

  • The natural services that support human life (and most other forms) are rapidly being depleted by people moving about in heavy machinery.

    Mayor Bloomberg has stated explicitly that 1 billion people will die from smoking by mid-century 2050 AD.

    The mortality projection is much worse for the unabated extreme environmental destruction caused by people moving about in heavy machinery far beyond the concept “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot”; more like they paved paradise and destroyed civilization.

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