The 2010 NYC Streetsies, Part 2

Nadir of the Year – Transit Division: This vote wasn’t even close. Low points don’t get much lower than the worst service cuts in a generation. In June, more than a dozen New York City Transit bus lines were eliminated, service was reduced on dozens more, trains started to run less frequently, and platforms got more crowded.

Photo: Aaron Naparstek
Photo: Aaron Naparstek

“Success has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan,” the saying goes. The lineage of these service cuts is long and includes governors, mayors, and scores of legislators — the decision makers who borrowed to the hilt, rejected full funding packages, and flat out robbed from the transit system. So far, none of them have paid a political price.*

Nadir of the Year – Street Safety Division: As of this month, there are laws on the books that let New Yorkers look up local data on hate crimes, domestic violence, and arrests in schools. When it comes to traffic enforcement and the safety of their streets, however, New Yorkers are still in the dark.

A bill requiring the release of data on traffic crashes and summonses stalled in the City Council after high-level NYPD officials refused to back the measure at a hearing in April. Interested in finding out which parts of your neighborhood are badly in need of traffic calming or better enforcement? The police don’t want you to know. “This information is only valuable to those with the training, knowledge and experience to understand its context and interpret it correctly,” testified Chief of Transportation James Tuller.

NYPD's James Tuller tells the City Council why his agency doesn't want to release readily available information about street safety. Photo: Noah Kazis

His predecessor, Michael Scagnelli, begged to differ, telling the Council: “I strongly believe that one way to help reduce traffic injuries and fatalities on New York city streets is for the NYPD to make traffic injury, fatality and summonsing data open and available to the public.”

Urban Abomination of the Year: Four nominees faced off in what turned out to be the most hotly contested people’s choice category. All were united by an abundance of traffic-generating, city-decimating parking. What was it that put the subsidies for parking at Flushing Commons over the top? I think it mainly has to do with timing.

In a year marked by shrinking budgets and transit cuts, the City Council and NYC Economic Development Corporation doled out $3 million to subsidize driving and keep parking cheap at Flushing Commons. The same amount of funding could have covered all the bus service that Flushing lost in 2010.

Biggest Setback: In April, NYC DOT was presenting plans for continuous bike routes on First and Second Avenue from Houston to 125th Street, including protected lanes in East Harlem. In June, the city said it would only build protected lanes up to 34th Street this year, and the commitment to completing protected lanes uptown was suddenly in doubt. In between, Stephen Goldsmith took over as deputy mayor for operations.

Biggest Loophole: It turns out that even if you enact a law that directs specific taxes explicitly to transit, the governor and the state legislature can swoop in and spend it on other things. With Albany facing huge structural deficits, the lack of a locked box for transit revenues cost the MTA $160 million and was a direct contributor to this year’s service cuts. Andrew Cuomo will have the power to close the loophole for as long as he’s governor.


Best Encapsulation of Albany’s Views on Transportation Policy: In August, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver flew to Rochester, where he accepted a lifetime of free parking from Mayor Robert Duffy (now Lieutenant Governor-elect).

The winning entry from our ## contest##: "Thanks, Bob, but I’ve never had a problem finding an open parking spot in Downtown Rochester. I mean, look at this city. It’s #$!%ing dead."

The reason for the gift? To show gratitude for $12 million in state assistance that Shelly helped arrange for Rochester’s South Avenue Garage. Said the Speaker in his acceptance speech: “For there to be any growth in job creation, there must be a strong foundation of infrastructure that supports economic activity.”

The Five Wrongs Don’t Make a Right Award: An officer with the Ninth Precinct refused to write up an accident report for dooring victim Rodney Seymour. Then, feeling peevish, the cop slapped Seymour with two summonses for riding an improperly equipped bicycle. The truck driver who doored Seymour did not receive a ticket. While Seymour was at the hospital getting checked out, someone stole his bike.

Most Delusional Renderings: Forest City Ratner released drawings of shiny, happy people milling about the temporary plaza that will be situated between its new arena and the twin traffic sewers of Atlantic and Flatbush. Not pictured: The oceans of surface parking on the other side of the arena.

A kid with a balloon strikes up a conversation with a kid on a bike, in one of many chance encounters that will never actually happen on Forest City Ratner's arena plaza.

Requiem for a Bike Lane: After many years of service, most of the Father Capodanno bike lane was hounded out of existence by Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro, Council Member James Oddo, and the Staten Island Advance.

*Does Pedro Espada count? I would argue that Pedro paid dearly for orchestrating the coup, his corruption scandals, and being an all-around embarrassment to the Democratic Party. The campaign to unseat him did not focus on his obstruction of bridge tolls.

  • Larry Littlefield

    This snowstorm response can be considered another nadir, because abandoned cars and buses blocked the streets and plows, hurting emergency response and leading to several potentially preventable deaths.

    That’s the difference between this blizzard and other blizzards as far as I can see — more abandoned vehicles.

  • China’s Jan 1 small cars sales tax includes a new plan for Beijing with bikeshare

  • The Father Capodanno bike lane will not die in vain! Please take a moment to sign our petition for greater safety improvements for all who travel along the corridor:

  • Moocow

    How can a car owner abandon a car in the middle of the street? -Screwing neighbors who may need emergency response vehicles? Why not enact maritime salvage law? There was a town car laying crosswise on 6th and 14(?) in the Slope from early in the storm, til well after the avenue was clear. If you car can’t move, in this urban environment and you feel you can’t stay with it, then you risk some opportunist who can move it, taking it. The street clearing was entirely hampered by legal and illegally parked cars. They were all way more dangerous than some GD bikelane. .

  • NotifyNYC NYC OEM
    Report abandoned vehicles blocking streets to 311. Provide the address of the closest building, intersection, or block.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “How can a car owner abandon a car in the middle of the street?”

    I’m telling you it’s the story of the storm. Stuck cars, buses, taxis and emergency vehicles blocking the plows. It’s what made things worse than in 1996.

    Basically, if I were to drive to my neighborhood right now, there would be absolutely nowhere to park. All the street parking fills up on a normal night, but there are would-be spaces filled with six feet of piled up snow. Where are all the cars that would normally be in those spaces?

  • BicyclesOnly

    Larry’s not kidding. Here’s some footage of just a few of the blockages I saw on Monday. Really gives the lie to the claim by some that *bikes* are useless in the snow:

  • JamesR

    BicyclesOnly, what steps did you take to allow you to ride in the kind of conditions we’ve had over the last few days? A mountain bike with studded tires? I’m impressed.

  • All Blond

    Guys, none of you listen TV interview on channel 1 on 12/28/2010 with Sanitation department guy.
    He clearly stated that for entire NYC he got only 64!!! plows.
    I remember storm during Rudy time.
    On our street 3 plow was running one after another every 20 minutes.
    Do not remember exact number but Rudy said that he have some 12 hundreds plows and emergency vehicles clearing streets and pushing snow out of the way.
    I am telling you guys, Bloomberg going to run this city into a ground before we have any chance to stop him!

  • Moocow

    This storm seems to have been a perfect medium to highlight the senselessness of car storage on urban streets, and what a blight and danger they are, just sitting on the street not moving.
    The city shouldn’t have to worry about it, I am pretty sure they couldn’t handle what was handed them anyway, it was a hefty storm. Hey, you abandon your car, in the middle of a thoroughfare, then you have forfeited your car.
    Now the streets are clear-er and cars are back to rushing and honking and double parking and throwing that slushy goo al over. All as one walks around the snow piles that make only the car drivers life easier. This storm is such a good showcase of what we as city dwellers give over to the private car.
    Okay, I’ll take a breath now…

  • All Blond

    This storm is only indication of how bad city managed by Bloomberg team.

    That could be worse if we got something like Catrina but it is not to far fetch for NYC see something like that in very near future…
    Hope that new mayor will do better.

  • “Surly Pugsley Complete” seems to be a great snow bike with wide low-pressure tires though expensive.

    Biomega’s “Brooklyn” BMX type concept bike seems fun with small really wide wheels.

    Google “studded bike tires” etc. for ones that are available even from Amazon; Danish “Nokian Hakkapeliitta” seems to be highly recommended; there are even instructions for making studded tires youself.

    The cold is good!

  • RT @CarConnection : Paris To Test Banning Gas-Guzzlers (Yes, SUVs!) In City Core


  • All Blond Eyebrow

    Disagree. SUVs people too. Have feelings. How will Paris plow grand boulevards without SUV? Bloomberg is totally ruining Paris too with selfish millionaire feelings!!!

  • J. Mork

    Lowering CO2 emissions sounds good, but is an SUV bad if every seat is full? Then it’s basically a bus. A carbon tax is a much better idea. Then people only use an SUV if makes (relative) sense for the job at hand.

    Also, as that article mentions, London allows low emissions vehicles for free. Why? I thought it was a congestion charge. Low emissions vehicles somehow cause less congestion?

  • Cycling in the snow, whether it be with 700x20c slick tires, or some crazy studded mountain bike tires, can only be described by two words: Fun and safe. Unfortunately, we are forced to share space with a certain class of road users who failed high school physics class, and don’t understand the relationship between mass, friction, and velocity.

  • JamesR, nothing special about my bike tires, they’re puncture-proof, hybrid-width tires. Here’s a picture.

  • Larry Littlefield

    As for the service cuts, I continue to assert these were not doomsday.

    I fear a real doomsday. Or a creeping stealth doomsday through deferred maintenance. You know that’s what the pols want. No “decision,” no publicity, no announcement, consequences worse the longer you live or remain in NYC.

    History repeats as if we are lemmings.

  • vnm

    Take a deep breath everyone! For about a 24-hour period or more, probably 90% of the motor vehicles in this town were blessedly immobilized. I’d love to see a study showing how much air quality improved for all New Yorkers.

  • Joe R.

    “Cycling in the snow, whether it be with 700×20c slick tires, or some crazy studded mountain bike tires, can only be described by two words: Fun and safe.” ( Jeff #16 )

    Although I didn’t ride since this mess started ( don’t want to get the bike full of slush ), everything you say is true. In fact, thin tires work great in snow/slush. They cut right through it! Stopping can get a little dicey if your rims get wet, but it’s common sense to allow extra stopping distance in snow anyway.

    I’m loving the albeit temporary improvement in air quality which occurs every time a major snowstorm hits the city. It could be like this all the time if only we had the political will.

  • Of the vehicles that are on the road, compliance with the speed limit must be approaching 100 percent. No one seems to be doing much more than 15 mph, although I haven’t gotten a look at any big arterials, except Flatbush Avenue. I’d like to see how the traffic injury rates these past few days stack up against the norm.

  • #20 Joe R., Yes, studded tires aren’t necessary, but they “seem” to be something great to have especially on those surfaces where it would be nice to have an “edge”. In any case, you can always walk when things are not working out; something you can’t do with cars!

    And, going through snow and slush it seems that skinny tires have less friction.

  • Yes!

    Why are many European carmakers now planning to build electric vehicles? Because many European cities are widely expected to ban high-emissions vehicles from their city cores over the next decade–perhaps even vehicles with any emissions at all.

    “I’m sorry,” Baupin said on RTL Radio, “but having a sport utility vehicle in a city makes no sense.” He suggested that Parisian SUV owners replace their sport utilities with vehicles that are “compatible with city life.”

    (Though not much of a fan against electric cars, small hybrid human-electric mobility makes a lot more sense.)

  • TheCityFix
    Best of 2010: Tech Innovations for Transit

  • Net-zero travel uses vehicles small & light & easily moved by human power

  • @joestiglitz A large-scale public-investment program would stimulate employment and growth and a lower national debt


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