Marty Golden Would Have Gotten Away With Impersonating a Cop, If It Weren’t for That Meddling Cyclist
Who do you believe? Brian Howald, who has nothing to gain from saying that Golden used his parking placard to impersonate an officer. Or State Senator Marty Golden, who has everything to lose.
State Senator Marty Golden has been in damage control mode since he was caught using a bike lane to bypass traffic in his chauffeured Cadillac. Golden’s PR strategy consists primarily of publicly insulting and intimidating the person he bullied in that Brooklyn bike lane Monday night, Brian Howald.
Howald, who was riding on Third Avenue and refused to clear the way by vacating the bike lane, says Golden flashed a parking placard, claimed he was a police officer, and threatened to take Howald to a precinct for standing his ground. When Howald figured out the placard didn’t belong to an officer and tried to get a picture of Golden’s face, the chauffeur took evasive action, driving against traffic and blowing two red lights.
Golden has been extremely tightlipped since then, refusing to talk to most media outlets, including Streetsblog. His public statements rely on two core assertions: He did not impersonate a police officer (which by the way is a criminal offense), and Brian Howald is a crazy, aggro cyclist. Golden is betting that by evoking the well-worn image of hotheads on bikes, he can get people to overlook a case of serious misconduct by an elected official.
On Tuesday, Golden spoke only to NY1, claiming that on the night in question, his car was in the bike lane to avoid blocking the box. He said Howald needs to “get a life” and that “if he’s doing it to other drivers — other vehicles — he is leading towards a cyclist road rage.”
On his Twitter account the next day, Golden continued the attack, saying Howald took “personal responsibility for the policing of traffic” and “unnecessarily escalated this situation and created an unsafe environment for all involved.” That was followed by this swipe:
In a review of Mr. Howald’s social media, it is evident that this is not the first time he has aggressively engaged a motorist on a New York City street. I do however hope that it will be his last. (3/3)
— Senator Marty Golden (@SenMartyGolden) December 13, 2017
Two stories are being told from different perspectives, but this isn’t Rashomon. One account has internal consistency, a logical arc, and hard-won credibility. The other does not.
Brian Howald gave the same detailed telling of events in different conversations with multiple news outlets. He was accosted by someone in a car who demanded that Howald cede street space he had every right to occupy, a situation that will ring true to anyone who has biked on New York City streets.
When Howald asserted his right to be in the bike lane, the car occupant pulled out his badge of authority — his parking placard — said he was a cop, and threatened to haul Howald to a police precinct. After realizing the threat was empty, Howald tried to identify the perpetrator by taking pictures of him and his vehicle. He eventually succeeded.
Because Howald’s pictures indisputably show Marty Golden in the passenger seat, Golden can’t pretend it wasn’t him. What Golden can do is deny he committed a crime and impugn Howald’s character to discredit the allegation.
Golden’s story, meanwhile, is a jumble. He told NY1 his chauffeur was in the bike lane to avoid blocking the box. But Howald’s pictures show Golden’s car in the bike lane mid-block between 14th Street and 15th Street. If the driver only entered the bike lane to get out of the way of cross traffic, shouldn’t he have immediately merged back into the motor vehicle lane instead of driving further down the block in a bike lane?
The rest of it makes even less sense and relies on negative cyclist stereotypes to do the heavy lifting. Howald, equipped only with a bicycle and a phone camera while facing Golden in his multi-ton Cadillac, purportedly worked himself into a “cyclist road rage” (or it was all part of Howald’s masterplan to foment mass “cyclist road rage” via social media, it’s not really clear) and “unnecessarily escalated this situation and created an unsafe environment for all involved.”
The implication seems to be that merely by taking pictures, Howald forced Golden’s driver to run red lights. A proper, non-road-raging cyclist would have meekly stepped aside and let the Cadillac continue on down the bike lane. Then none of this unpleasantness with the placard, and the threats, and the reckless driving would have happened.
Golden, with his history of speeding and red light running, is hiding behind the classic New York City trope of the angry street cyclist, the aggressive “kamikaze” willing to take crazy risks for a strange, unfathomable cause.
If Golden can get people to hold that image in their mind’s eye, they won’t perceive what’s happening here: A powerful man caught in the act of abusing his authority, trying desperately to evade consequences by attacking the person who outwitted him and posted evidence on the internet for everyone to see.