Today’s Headlines

  • Brodsky Says MTA Has Cash to Delay Fare Hike (News)
  • Rep. Fossella Vows to Fight Verrazano Toll Increase (News)
  • Hemmerdinger the ‘Right Man’ for MTA Post (Second Ave Sagas)
  • Mayor Announces Plan to Cut City Building Emissions (Newsday, Brooklyn Eagle)
  • Second Taxi Strike Deemed a Flop (Post, AMNY)
  • School, Community Board Want Light at Intersection (News)
  • Police Officer Turns Self in After ‘Road Rage’ Shooting Death (NYT, News)
  • October One of the Warmest on Record (NYT)
  • California Fires Burn Out of Control (NYT)
  • Georgia Blames Endangered Species for Water Crisis (NYT)
  • Unlikely Challenges to Proposed Coal Power Plants (NYT)
  • Larry Littlefield

    You will soon start hearing that the MTA is broke, that dedidcated tax revenues have crashed, that long promised improvements will have to be delayed. Borrowed money earmarked for the capital plan may be spent on short term needs, creating a bigger hole for the future.

    Remember then all these people calling for tax breaks, fare discounts, pension improvements, etc. over the past few years. And don’t believe them when they say things have changed due to circumstances beyond their control. There are no accidents in state government.

    I’d say remember when you go to vote for state legislature, but we don’t have real elections.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Riders would take fare relief in a New York minute over a long-stalled paint job, said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign.”

    This has been going on for 15 years. The money for the long stalled paint job was borrowed.

  • edg

    It was only a matter of time before an undercover NYPD officer murdered somebody. They act with complete impunity, don’t identify themselves as NYPD, and act like thugs.

    I had a Metro Card that got bent in my pocket a few weeks ago, and was trying to unbend it, when some guy grabed me by the arm, and asked me what school I go to (I was at Columbia). Now, you tell me what your reaction is to a man grabbing your arm in a subway station. Him and a “friend” then took the card out of my hand, and pushed me over by the vending machines and asked me where I was going, etc., without ever bothering to tell me they were cops.

    I was flustered, and they asked me why I was so nervous. They made me give them my ID; I know that’s the law, so I did; he saw me take my credit card out at the same time, and he demanded that too. He then proceeded to ask me my weight; when I asked why, he got really angry and menacing, and started ranting about how us Columbia kids think we know everything. The cop eventually told me to “get out of his subways” and when I asked why, a third cop (this time uniformed) came over and threatened to arrest me with trespassing.

    As I was leaving, he said “I hope you make it” (he had made me reveal I had a meeting at NY Presbyterian in 10 minutes).

  • Grammar Matters

    If I heard you say “Him and a friend then…” I wouldn’t believe you went to Columbia either. You have my sympathy nonetheless.

  • Spud Spudly

    Yeah, like the average cop knows squat about grammar.

    But I’ll give him credit for clearing the subways of Columbia students. 🙂

  • ddartley

    edg: Why do you think they stopped you in the first place? Were they looking for someone? Or is there something suspicious about bending a metrocard?

  • Spud Spudly

    Bending a MetroCard at the right spot is purported to be a way to defeat the system and get into the subway for free.

  • Jonathan

    The sad and unnecessary death of Jayson Tirado should remind everyone why it’s a bad idea to knock on cars or shout at people in cars when they drive like idiots. I have read several posts on Streetsblog from people who acknowledge that behavior; do they now realize the consequences?

  • steve

    Jonathan, you’ve got to be kidding. A cop goes on a rampage, so no one is supposed to ever confront a hostile or aggressive driver again? In other words, let the “idiots” (as you call them) take control of the roadways because of the possibility they may get violent if confronted. That’s the NYC of 1977, not 2007. I’m not going back. You go back to your hidey-hole.

  • Jonathan

    Steve, My impression has been that people who posted regularly on Streetsblog were doing so because they realized the power of working together as a group toward a goal of livable streets (to use one formulation). I believe that the free exchange of ideas and suggestions on how to achieve that goal, in a milieu where other like-minded people could also contribute, in order to shape policy on all levels toward promoting livable streets (and a more healthy environment, natch), is a lot more effective than confronting individual thoughtless drivers one-on-one.

    And I’ve also noticed throughout my entire life that people react pretty poorly to being confronted or being told what to do. I have also noticed that folks who are engaging in aggressive behavior are especially likely to react in negative ways toward hostile behavior directed toward them, and will also perceive even mild reproaches as being hostile.

    Now, I can make guesses about what kind of private misery afflicts people who engage in road rage or aggressive driving, but I’m not a psychiatrist and I can’t treat it. I do not believe that I can time my reproach or words of counsel to synchronize exactly with what might be described as a “teaching moment,” when the aggressive driver is receptive to listening and will hear me out and change his or her behavior accordingly.

    So when I read the sad story of someone who ignored the consequences of reproaching aggressive behavior and was unjustly shot to death, it thought it would be a good idea to point out the hazards for people who admit to doing the same thing.

    I would risk my life to save my family or protect my country, but not because some jackass cut me off in traffic. Martyrdom is overrated.

  • Steve

    Jonathan, the dichotomy between protecting country and family on the one hand (worth taking risks for in your view) and asserting one’s rights in traffic (not worth taking risks for) breaks down when you are traveling with your family in traffic and not encased in a ton of steel and glass. Yes, I could get a car or to stick to mass transit and then my family’s safety would not be in tension with the whims of “jackasses,” but I refuse to do it and I should not be forced to do it.

    I also think it impoverishes our civic culture to have the mass of people afraid to engage in robust, spontaneous public discourse over how we treat each other in the streets. I believe the main reason motorists behave dangerously and aggressively is because they imagine themselves in a social vacuum where “anything goes” as long as the police don’t catch them. Confronting motorists with the fact that their convenience-driven choices seriously danger others is a crucial means to challenge this mindset. If it’s OK to tell a person resting their package on the subway seat next to them to move it so I can sit down, isn’t it OK to tell the driver forcing us out of the bike lane into traffic to move? Back in the 1970s and 1980s, people were afraid to ask for the seat; now they are not. Call me utopian, but I’m envisioning a NYC in the 2010s where pedestrians and bicyclists are not afraid to tell motorists to stop doing unsafe things. The only practical way to get there is for pedestrians and bicyclists to do it.

    Please understand that there are many, many more important things to me than asserting my rights in traffic. But when I’m in traffic and someone thoughtlessly endangers me or my family, I make them aware of the consequences of their actions–lawfully, and as courteously as I can. Turning the other cheek in that circumstance is just as much a form of overrated martyrdom as asserting one’s rights, but has the added disadvantage of encouraging the inappropriate behavior. I think the majority of motorists who have been called out on their misconduct have a sense of shame if not guilt and think twice before doing it again. Yes, there are a few violent individuals out there like the undercover cop Sawyer who will kill you as soon as look at you if you confront them. And there are without doubt “danger signals” such individuals may give that should certainly be heeded, no question. However in a city the size of New York there will always be those individuals, who may attack, without warning or provocation. Living one’s life as if everyone you encounter is a potential assailant may marginally diminish one’s risk of being assaulted, but if everyone adopted that ethos it would ruin so much of what I love about NYC.

    The fact is that is that a motorist kills a pedestrian every other day in New York City, and a motorist kills a bicyclist 20 times a year, while incidents like the Sawyer-Tirado shooting are far more rare. The real danger are motorists who drive more as if they are playing a video game than “pointing and shooting” a deadly weapon through a pedestrian-rich urban environment of millions, not guys like Sawyer.

  • Jonathan

    Steve, thank you for your well-reasoned response. I especially like that you brought the family-cycling thing up at the start; I don’t bike regularly with my family, and I appreciate your bringing that point up.

    The flip side of my argument is that my increasing personal unwillingness to challenge motorists while biking has, I think, made me a better and less aggressive biker. Really aggressive riding does provoke in me a fine-feeling adrenaline rush, but lately I have come to believe that that kind of chemical imbalance is astoundingly inappropriate for anybody participating in traffic, especially someone on a bicycle. For me, aggressive behavior includes confronting other people, even in polite and gentle tones, so I just forswear the whole thing and concentrate on riding along in one piece.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    To support Jonathan’s arguments, let me share a story from my reckless college days.

    I was crossing the Champs-Elysees, which was not nearly as romantic as it sounds. A driver had done the “I don’t know how to brake” move and stopped in the middle of the crosswalk. As I walked behind it, I gave it a whack on the trunk. Definitely not enough to do any damage, but enough that the driver would hear it.

    He heard it and got out. I never would have thought that a guy that big could fit in a Peugot that small. He was easily a foot taller than me, and I’m average height.

    I started yelling at him, but in what I thought was a respectful big-city kind of way, using the formal pronoun. After a minute I realized that not only was he using the informal pronoun (a sign of disrespect in situations like this), but he was saying “Tu veux que je te casse en deux?” – “You want me to break you in two?”

    Since he was capable of breaking me in two, and was clearly beyond polite discussion, I made a face-saving gesture of exasperation and stalked off. He was probably just blowing off steam, but who knows? Maybe he would really have tried to break me in two if I’d stayed to argue more.

    This city, just like Paris, is full of nut cases, and many of them have guns. There’s a big difference between a rational plan to bring shame on people who behave badly and randomly provoking them. Motorists who cut me off drive me nuts, but I’m not about to die trying to make them see the light.

  • Hilary

    I wonder if there could be an auxiliary force established to “enforce” the bike lanes. The police auxiliary have no real powers (or weapons), but their uniform is effective and they can call in the police to make an arrest. They rarely need to. In the case of the bike lanes, the force could carry cameras and collect data. That should be enough.

  • Jonathan

    Hilary, New York City has already adopted your idea, but they call them Traffic Enforcement Agents. See http://snipurl.com/nyctea

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Hilary, New York City has already adopted your idea, but they call them Traffic Enforcement Agents.

    I see your point, Jonathan, but the TEAs are paid, full-time officers, while auxiliearies are unpaid part-time volunteers.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NYPD_Auxiliary_Police

    I think Hilary has a good idea here. Does anyone know how much latitude auxiliary police have in deciding when and where they patrol? If so, it might be worthwhile for some cycling advocates to volunteer for bicycle patrol.

  • Jonathan

    Angus, good point. The auxiliaries are organized by precinct and have their own captains and lieutenants, so I suspect the best way forward is to talk to the CO of the auxiliaries in one’s local precinct and ask for more bike patrols in a specific area.

  • Steve

    I appreciate the responses and don’t intend to tell anyone else what to do. I might well take a different approach to traffic if I was not the gender and size I am. My reaction to Jonathan’s initial comment reflects my perception that he was giving general advice that everyone should avoid asserting rights in traffic because of the possbility of getting shot for doing so. I still disagree with that advice. To explain why involves some history.

    Gwowing up in the 1970s on the Upper West Side, the city truly seemed to me to be “full of nut cases,” as Angus puts it. Court decisions requiring treatment of persons with mental illness in the “least restrictive environment” resulted in a flood of hard-core, lifelong-institutionalized MI patients onto the streets. Many of them were settled in single-room occupancy housing on the Upper West Side. Many more of them simply lived on the streets or in the subway system. Given stereotypes about mental illness and violence, especially back then, perceived members of this population were given a wide berth.

    Of course the real threat of violence (and the only source of violence that I expereinced) was not from de-institutionalized MI patients, but rather from other teenagers who wanted my money. The potential for violence just beneath the surface of everyday urban social intercourse was confirmed by the blackout in ’77. Then we got the the likes of Bernie Goetz thrown into the mix.

    Fear of social engagement was the symptom but also a reinforcing cause of this urban decay. I can recall the the trick when riding the subway was to never meet eyes with another passenger or let them know you were looking at them, but nonetheless to surreptitiously check out each passenger shortly after they the car to determine whether they presented a danger. I rode my bike because it felt safer than taking the subway, and you can bet I didn’t go around asking motorists to make way for me.

    What a difference from today! There are a lot of factors behind the transformation–in particular, moving out a lot of poor people and moving in rich ones. But a key index of the transformation was people’s willingness to begin to socially engage and as necessary confront each other. I have vivid memories of neighbors on West 93rd St. running out of their homes to yell at people who were dumping trash in the street, pissing against buildings, or failing to clean up after their dogs. Mores on the subway and buses have changed too, with seniors asserting their right to the seats and people beginning to call out graffiti and other inappropriate behavior.

    I think NYPD deserves thanks for reducing violent crime in the city over these decades. But from a quality-of-life-in-the-streets perspective, there is no substitute for the willingness of citizens to act spontaneously. I would love to see Hilary, Angus and Jonathan riding in a bike-mounted auxiliary police force, clearing out the the surly parents, limo drivers and others who block the bike lane. But my point is that it’s not necessary. People can do it themselves. Indeed, fielding auxiliary officers with a badge but no gun and minimal training can increase the potential for violence, as seen in the recent tragic shootings of P.A.s Marshalik and Pekearo. leaving aside the potential for violence, I think that authority to enforce the law is an awesome and difficult responsibility and should not be given out to volunteers without very careful and extensive training.

    I know that face-to-face confrontation is not for everyone; I don’t always enjoy it myself. (Luckily we’ve got these open-source shaming websites like uncivilservants where you can do it anonymously!). But hopefully my overlong post will lead folks (at least, folks sho read it) to consider that remonstration of fellow citizens is a normal and healthy part of urban social interaction and has a role to play in bringing about the “livable streets” that we all want.

  • And if you are looking for missing people or shelter theres a forum for San Diego:
    http://forum.signonsandiego.com/forumdisplay.php?f=156

  • What’s with the exterior doors spam?