Today’s Headlines

  • Bronx Docs Say Respiratory Ailments a Leading Health Threat (News)
  • Thorough Street Plowing Brings Noise Complaints, Discretionary Driving (Post)
  • More Crackdown Confusion: Cops May Not Know Bike Laws, But Cyclists Damn Well Better (L Mag)
  • Speaking of Confusion, Manhattan CB 8 Holds Hearing on Electric Bikes (Our Town)
  • Proposed Apartments for Downtown Flushing to Sport 100 Percent Parking Ratio (Crain’s)
  • Queens Crap Notes Hypocrisy of Bloomberg EDC Retail Development Strategy (via Sheepshead Bites)
  • News Sources Say Cuomo Can’t Find Anyone to Head State Economic Development Agency
  • Police Academy Hangs Bogus Signage to Commandeer Gramercy Parking? (News)
  • MTR Breaks Down the Congressional Threat to Transpo Funding
  • Cap’n Transit Ranks Regional VMT, Ponders Energy Overkill

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Your lead headline, “DOH: Air Pollution is Killing the Bronx,” is grossly misleading.

    The new DOH 2009 Vital Statistics Report referenced in the Daily News article discusses smoking, diabetes, HIV, alcohol abuse and other public health scourges at length but doesn’t even mention the word “pollution.”

    The News article does have “Bronx healthcare specialists” pointing to air pollution as a public health concern, but that’s a pretty slim reed on which to hang a headline, especially since those unnamed sources weren’t associated with the NYC Dept of Health.

    I’ll say it again: NYC air pollution, while still obviously an important issue, is no longer the killer it was decades ago. And that’s particularly the case for motor vehicle emissions. Time to adjust our rhetoric to match reality?

  • JK

    Delay in hiring econ dev boss? Good. How about Cuomo abolish ESDC, and save some money, reduce graft, and reduce the harm from misguided mega-projects and wasteful state subsidies? If the goal is to support good jobs, then stop subsidizing sprawl, build world class rail, transit, roads, bridges and a power grid, simplify regulations to make them easier and cheaper to comply with, and get rid of the endless nickel and dime, taxes and fees that impose high administrative costs. Targeted tax breaks and subsidies are invitation for corruption, and reward politically connected businesses, not competitive ones.

  • Hi,

    Is there any way to verify the claim (linked above, in L Mag) about a 33-year old cyclist having the police kick her bike over, violently cuffing her, and then confining her for 24 hours. She says this happened after being stopped in Williamsburg after NYPD noticed she lacked reflectors on her bike.

    If the story is true, I think we all have cause to be frightened and outraged at our local government.

  • Headline amended, CK.

  • David_K,

    I’d like to hear more details and some confirmation of that story too. but my reading of what is reported in L mag suggests that the cops stopped her for not having a rear reflector and light, and that in response, she fled. If that’s what happened, I’m not surprised by the response although I definitely agree it sounds excessive.

    It is extremely dangerous to flee from cops who try to detain you, whether you are motoring, cycling or walking. It is taken by many cops as a signal that you have some kind of criminal intent, probably are in violation of the law at the time of the detainer (such as carrying a concealed weapon or drugs), and that you just might be a violent criminal or even a potential terrorist. Just think about the mindset of the typical cop and let your imagination fill in the likely outcome if you flee an attempted detainer. Putting aside a Hollywood fantasy scenarios, I can’t think of any circumstances in which it makes sense to flee from a cop’s attempt to detain you. You don’t lose your chance to challenge a wrongful detainer, search, summons or arrest afterward, simply by agreeing to stay with the cop. And if you do try to flee, you can impair your ability to challenge the use of excessive force when you are finally caught, at least in the eyes of some judges.

  • Daily News/Academy parking story: This may be very naive, but I would like to point out that commenters on the News site suggest that a resident who dislikes the Academy, not the Academy itself, hung the phony signs to stir up anger. Don’t get me wrong I hate that cops drive and park their private vehicles everywhere, but I would like to believe that maybe it really wasn’t the Academy. I don’t think it’s quite fair to conclude absolutely that it was the Academy. And in truth, I live around there, and I always see lots of cadets walking and taking transit, sometimes pretty far away.

  • @ JK,

    Abolish the ESDC? Who’ll do Bruce Ratner’s bidding?

  • Eric

    I’m going with Bicycles Only on this. I read the article and she states she got pulled over and fled. I am very skeptical when she states she was declared not guilty and got one day of community service. She either agreed to a deal or was convicted on one of the multiple charges she faced.

  • Interesting, BO. I understood the L Mag tipster to say that she was pulled over, cited, then proceeded to ride away without thinking about it.

  • As we read here, the Academy will be moving to College Point in a couple years – with an enormous garage!

  • Jay

    I would like to echo Charles Komanoff’s comment, with a caveat.

    He said:
    “NYC air pollution, while still obviously an important issue, is no longer the killer it was decades ago. And that’s particularly the case for motor vehicle emissions.”

    While it is not generally killing people, the asthma rates affecting the Bronx are a very real problem for the health and quality of life of many, many children. I agree with Charles that rhetoric linking it to vehicle emissions is counterproductive.

    Far too often, advocates ignore other, larger problems linked to air pollution, while rallying against the trucks bringing fresh vegetables to market. We need more sustained focus on things like dirty boilers, with their billowing black smoke hovering over low-income neighborhoods.

    Sometimes it makes me angry when I hear people jump to traffic and invest all their energy there, while ignoring those dirty heating systems. Especially when those same decrepit boilers are the ones that break down and leave families with no heat during the winter.

  • Jay

    ddartley,

    I was just over walking around Gramercy Park the other day, and almost every vehicle parked at the parking meters around the park were displaying law enforcement placards and the meters were expired. Most of them had placards for the Academy, although there was no signage of any type authorizing this free parking. Some of the placards were from places outside the city (perhaps they came in to offer instruction at the Acedemy? Maybe they were just shopping in the area?), and a few didn’t look entirely legitimate.

    I can understand some frustration from the local residents when the entire neighborhood is taken over like a private parking lot in this way. And given the extent of this parking, the most likely explanation seems that somebody at the Academy made an ill-advised effort to provide more parking near the Academy to “relieve” the impact on the neighborhood.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Delay in hiring econ dev boss? Good. How about Cuomo abolish ESDC, and save some money, reduce graft, and reduce the harm from misguided mega-projects and wasteful state subsidies?”

    As someone who trained in economic development in grad school and then found out how it actually works, I couldn’t agree more.

    Some recent attempts:

    http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/print-edition/2010/12/17/northern-virginia-watches-as-its-goal.html

    “Nearly five years after Northern Virginia leaders banded together to build a homegrown biotech industry, the effort remains without a rudder — or, more accurately, without an anchor. The region is still missing the elusive towering research institution or big-league company that would propel its biotech sector into bigger leagues. A series of frustrations in the past year alone — including layoffs, false starts and lab construction standstills — have hobbled economic development officials’ mission of turning Northern Virginia into a biotech hub. The parade of setbacks calls into question whether the pursuit is still a realistic one.”

    http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2011/01/12/evergreen_solar_to_cut_800_jobs_as_it_tries_to_compete_with_china/

    Evergreen Solar Inc. will eliminate 800 jobs in Massachusetts and shut its new factory at the former military base in Devens, just two years after it opened the massive facility to great fanfare and with about $58 million in taxpayer subsidies. The company announced yesterday that it will close the plant by the end of March, calling itself a victim of weak demand and competition from cheaper suppliers in China, where the government provides solar companies with generous subsidies.

    We’ve seen that people who are paid millions to allocate capital on Wall Street do not do so correctly. So were are going to have low-paid bureaucrats and politicians do it instead? The question is — what new businesses and new types of businesses were missed out on because money was shifted to the sexy or connected favorites?

    New York State pushed massive subsidies on the industry of the 1980s, microchips. We’ll see how that works out. In NYC, a lot of the money has gone to existing Wall Street companies — even as the number of financial companies in NY keeps shrinking and taxes discourage new ones.

  • Peter Engel

    Charlie’s right. While the Bronx has residents with respiratory issues, it’s not because of motor vehicle emissions. That’s practically become a non-issue in the last 30 years. Repeating that canard isn’t going to help anyone who needs it.

  • Charlie, the literature I’ve been reading on air pollution the past few days would disagree with what you say. Levels of pollution have gone down – by about half, on average. Pollution is still a killer, and the costs are still very high. I can’t find numbers for New York City, but in other cities, even ones with fewer cars per km^2 (i.e. most), excess deaths are measured in the hundreds per million population per year.

    The basic problem is that although objectively pollution is down, both our ability to measure it and the cost of human life are up. It’s increasingly clear that even pollution levels within EPA guidelines can be lethal, causing the excess death estimates to be retroactively revised upward.

    Agencies within the US have recently tended to assign cars a fairly small percentage of pollution. Abroad, it’s not the same. I’ve seen figures ranging from 10 to 60% of particulate emissions coming from cars, depending on which developed country is in question.

  • Brad: Thanks for fixing the initial headline.

    Alon: I confined my remarks to NYC. But your points are well taken. Still, even in almost all other cities, cars are no longer a huge source of killer a.p. If you have data/cites to the contrary, please send off-line (kea@igc.org). Thanks.

    Jay: I agree w/ you about dirty boilers being a polluting killer. Though even there, conversions to natural gas from fuel oil, and increased use of digital controls, have reduced the scope of the problem.

    Peter: Thanks for your thumbs-up.

  • Joe R.

    It’s 100% wrong to say pollution from motor vehicles is no longer a major health threat or a quality of life issue. I read something a few years ago which says air pollution causes about 600,000 annual cancer deaths in the United States. Undoubtedly, not all of this pollution comes from motor vehicles. Some comes from dirty oil or coal heating systems. Nevertheless, it’s very telling that I find the air quality during warmer months, when no heating systems are in use, to be so bad I really can’t go out until about 8 PM. It’s as bad as it ever was. It’s a red herring to say today’s cars pollute less. Yes, they do, but they still pollute. Moreover, there are way more of them than 20 or 30 years ago. There are also far more traffic lights than 30 years ago. These cause cars to needlessly idle for long periods. And SUVs weren’t legally required to have any pollution controls at all until 2009. I’ve noticed when walking or riding that I’ll start choking when an SUV passes by. I don’t have asthma or other respiratory ailments. If it has this effect on a basically healthy person like me, then it can’t be good.

    It’s also misleading to compare NYC to places with fewer cars per km. In those places generally people drive everywhere. The passenger compartment of an automobile is not hermetically sealed. It’s loaded with pollution from all the vehicles in front of it. It also emits VOCs from the materials it’s made of. These combine with air pollution is synergistic ways, making the very act of riding in car hazardous to one’s health. This is why excess deaths, even in places with fewer cars, are still the same as NYC. Find a place where people are not exposed to air pollution, and don’t drive, either. I’ll bet excess deaths there are very low. BTW, I define excess deaths as any death with a definitive cause ( i.e. cancer, heart disease, stroke, etc. ). Generally, in the absence of any of those, the average age of death, when organs start failing, will be between 100 and 120 years. In short, environmental/lifestyle factors then are still taking about 30 years off lifespans.

    Besides the health/quality of life issue, particulate pollution causes a film of dirt to be deposited on everything, increasing cleanup costs. And then you have incessant noise pollution from internal combustion engines. Not just cars, but infernal things like leaf blowers. All these factors point to the need to pass laws which ban internal combustion engines from city limits, especially those used in motor vehicles and small tools like leaf blowers. Sure, this will cost. However, dealing with the problems these engines create costs far more.

  • Joe R —

    You write: “It’s 100% wrong to say pollution from motor vehicles is no longer a major health threat or a quality of life issue.” Yet neither I nor anyone else in this thread said that.

    You write: “I read something a few years ago which says air pollution causes about 600,000 annual cancer deaths in the United States.” And perhaps you did. But the U.S. Center for Disease Control, which compiles U.S. vital statistics, reports that in the most recent year with data, 2007, total deaths from cancer totaled 563,000. And of course that’s cancer from all causes: smoking, occupational, chemical exposure, etc., not to mention pollution from coal-burning. How many do you think were from automotive emissions?

    I stopped reading your comment there.

  • Joe R.

    Charles,

    First off, I said the 600,000 figure was from all forms of air pollution, not just motor vehicles. Second, it bears mentioning that the official figure of 563,000 cancer deaths in 2007 can’t possibly include all the people who died from cancer that year. We’re not talking about something like pedestrian or cyclist fatalities here where it’s pretty easy to determine the physical cause of death. Not everyone who dies goes to a hospital beforehand. Certainly most people don’t get autopsies. You could have people where the immediate cause of death was one thing ( say perhaps a severe cold ), but the primary reason they ended up in a weakened condition which allowed something otherwise benign to kill them was undetected, untreated cancer. Not everyone goes to doctors regularly enough to detect cancer. Not everyone goes to the hospital even when they’re gravely ill. That 600,000 figure I gave was by definition an estimate by the people who wrote the report ( which I tried in vain to find ). And I read this report pre-2006 because I found references to it in posts I made to other forums in 2006.

    Even if you only want hard data, 563,000 deaths by your data from all forms of cancer isn’t far off. How many of those 563,000 cancers can be directly traced to either air pollution, or poisoning of the food/water which is indirectly caused by runoff from air pollution? My educated guess is most of them. With strict OSHA regulations, occupational cancer deaths are relatively rare these days. Human beings just don’t “get” cancer, at least not in the numbers we see nowadays anyway, unless there’s a definitive cause. As Alon Levy said, we’re gradually finding that these pollutants are harmful at levels well under the EPA guidelines. Even if, say, “only” 100,000 of those cancer deaths are from air pollution, that’s more than twice the annual carnage from auto accidents-something against which we here at Streetsblog rally all the time. Why isn’t air pollution generating similar outrage? Any way you look at it, it’s a serious health issue.

  • Email sent. Let’s just say I find the 600,000 number perfectly reasonable, if interpreted as total excess deaths from all causes attributed to all air pollution.

  • Joe R.

    Alon, you just rang a bell. I just remembered that the study did in fact say something like 650,000 annual deaths in the US from air pollution by ALL causes, not just cancer. So I got the number right but the causes wrong. Faulty memory of something I read probably six years ago. No idea how many of the 650,000 were cancer, but certainly 100,000+ sounds reasonable here. For comparison, in the EU the estimate of annual air pollution-related deaths was 310,000 according to the wikipedia article on air pollution. The EU is similar in population to the US, but generally has much stricter controls on all forms of pollution than the US. In this context then it doesn’t sound totally unreasonable for the US to have roughly twice as many deaths.