Bill de Blasio and the Narcissism of the Windshield Perspective

Most New Yorkers don't own cars. They lose time with their families because their bus home moves at walking speed. They fear for their lives while biking in traffic. It's a different city than the one the mayor experiences, ferried from place to place in an SUV.

De Blasio told reporters from Gothamist and DNAinfo he was unaware of Marty Golden's placard abuse. Image: NYC Mayor's Office
De Blasio told reporters from Gothamist and DNAinfo he was unaware of Marty Golden's placard abuse. Image: NYC Mayor's Office

If you haven’t read it yet, Bill de Blasio’s interview with reporters from the late, lamented Gothamist and DNAinfo is worth your time.

In it, the mayor speaks at length about policing, education policy, and the intricacies of housing components in specific development projects.

Then the subject turns to transportation…

Take an educated guess: what percentage of city residents own cars?

I never hazard guesses. I will say the obvious: much less than almost any city in America. But I don’t know the final answer. Do you want to tell me?

45 percent, roughly. Can you take a guess what their median income is?

I can not guess, will not guess.

It’s $85,000 per year. The median for New York City is around $50,000.

Alright. I’ve learned something new today.

This isn’t arcane policy trivia. The share of car-free households in the city has basically remained constant for at least as long as de Blasio has been an elected official. A passing familiarity with the city’s car ownership rate is essential to understanding why good transit and safe streets for biking and walking matter so much in New York — for millions of us, driving is not an option.

The income of car owners, meanwhile, figures heavily in the debate over congestion pricing, which de Blasio insists on calling a regressive tax. His own MTA board appointees, Veronica Vanterpool and David Jones, have produced research showing that congestion fees would generally be paid by well-off motorists while the beneficiaries of the revenue would generally be less affluent transit riders. Yet the mayor remains willfully ignorant.

De Blasio told the DNA and Gothamist crew that he won’t hazard a guess as to basic demographic facts about his constituents, but when it suits him, the mayor doesn’t withhold wild guesses and misinformation, even when he’s addressing a huge audience.

Speaking on WNYC recently, the mayor framed congestion pricing as a “problem” because, “between Brooklyn and Queens, almost five million of the eight and half million New Yorkers, overwhelmingly they would pay this additional cost.”

Most households in Brooklyn and more than a third in Queens don’t even have a car. And only a small fraction of people who do own cars regularly drive into Manhattan below 60th Street. We’re talking about four percent of commuters who would be affected (and the number of commuters is itself smaller than the whole population). The most fully-developed road pricing plan, meanwhile, is projected to draw more revenue from Manhattanites than residents of any other borough.

Why does de Blasio assume that every single person in Brooklyn and Queens will pay a congestion fee? Well, one reason might be that for years, he car commuted from Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan. De Blasio campaigned for mayor as an outer borough motorist who drove himself to meetings everywhere. He assumes that everyone would pay the congestion fee because he sees himself paying the fee.

Other New Yorkers have to lose time with their families because their bus home moves at walking speed. They have to choose between paying a transit fare to get to work and putting food on the table. They have to fear for their lives while biking in traffic, and put up with abuse from placard-waving state senators.

It’s a different city than the one the mayor experiences, ferried from place to place by police escort, conducting business in the backseat of an SUV.

  • Vooch

    BdB ‚the progressive’ and Marty Golden the corrupt primitive are in agreement

  • Toddster

    Once again, De Blasio is no different than Trump. Just as Trump’s administration is pushing through a tax plan that takes for the poor to give to the rich, De Blasio is insistent on protecting the wealthy motor class at the expense of the poor.

  • Mister Sterling

    How was the 45% figure calculated? Is that 45% of NYC families have a member who has a car? Because it can’t be 3.6 Million car owners.

  • J

    It’s households with access to a car, I believe.

  • J

    Calling Bill de Blasio a progressive is laughable.

  • r

    The only person who calls Bill de Blasio a progressive is Bill de Blasio.

  • J

    Wow, so De Blasio is either making policy & political rhetoric from a place of extreme ignorance, or he is lying through his teeth. Now, at least his education of the facts is a matter of public record.

  • Komanoff

    HH’s that own cars, per U.S. Census. There are borough breakdowns. It’s basic stuff. You can find it in the Incidence tab of my BTA spreadsheet starting at Row 559. I’m sure there are easier-to-find sites w/ same #’s.

  • Vooch

    true – how about ‚the self described progressive‘ ?

  • JarekFA

    It’s policy by anecdote. Many people, sincerely, believe that undocumented immigrants are a criminal problem and one can conceptually make a rational linkage (they broke the law to get here, what else would they do) that has absolutely no basis in fact, data or reality (if someone’s ability to remain in the US is connected to not ever running a foul of the law, stats show, that’s a strong incentive to be law abiding).

    So, he drives everywhere. Many of his senior people drive everywhere. That’s the normal. An e-bike; that’s for deliveries. And they’re reckless and dangerous since so many people have had near misses (myself included!). But the stats show they’re safe!. Near misses aren’t crashes. And what’s completely foreign to him, is that, ebikes are great for mobility for seniors! I mean, I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. Every time I see a senior trying to and struggling to navigate their boat sized Cadillac or Lincoln on the neighborhood streets of Brooklyn, I’m always thinking — wouldn’t it be better for them to be on an e-bike instead? Like you don’t need that big ass car to go 5 blocks to the pharmacy to get your pills.

  • reasonableexplanation

    FYI, there are about 2 million cars registered in NYC as of 2016.

    There are a bit more than 3 million households in NYC (as of 2015).

    Some households have more than one car.

  • reasonableexplanation

    I’m pretty sure republicans call him progressive, or communist, or whatever.

  • ohnonononono

    It’s vehicles per household. The data comes from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). The exact wording of the question as of the 2016 survey is: “How many automobiles, vans, and trucks of one-ton capacity or less are kept at home for use by members of this household?” About 55% of New Yorkers who answered the ACS said “None,” 32% said 1, 10% answered with 2, etc etc.

  • Komanoff

    I guess it’s easier to throw some numbers up and make rough adjustments than to get the precise numbers by googling “BTA spreadsheet,” clicking the link, downloading the spreadsheet and going to the source. Whatever …

  • AnoNYC

    There’s only 2,162,349 automobiles registered in NYC (as of the end of 2016).

    There are 8,537,673 residents as of mid-2016.

    https://dmv.ny.gov/statistic/2016reginforce-web.pdf

  • bettybarcode

    I’ll go even further. It isn’t “windshield perspective,” which sounds pleasantly neutral. It is #WindshieldBias.

  • AMH

    I wonder how many vehicles there are in NYC that are registered out-of-state (it’s a lot).

  • Wanderer

    There is a strain of what I’d call urban populism that focuses on costs to car drivers, rather than the needs of transit users and non-drivers. Progressives need to do better, especially in New York City.

  • AnoNYC

    Probably a meaningful amount.

  • FZ

    Communist DeBlasio. I only use my car to leave the city…One day I hope forever and then you will all be left with ‘the poor’ and the Wealthy ‘progressive’ cancer to pay for the programs and the leeches. Bye..

  • Colin Wright

    Bye

  • Vooch

    you including commercial vehicles ?

  • Vooch

    “Every time I see a senior trying to and struggling to navigate their boat sized Cadillac or Lincoln on the neighborhood streets of Brooklyn, I’m always thinking — wouldn’t it be better for them to be on an e-bike instead? Like you don’t need that big ass car to go 5 blocks to the pharmacy to get your pills.”

    true

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Bill de Blasio Outlines His “Vision Zero” Plan

|
As if on cue, Bill de Blasio today released a plan to reduce city traffic fatalities to zero within 10 years. The paper draws heavily on data and, while some facets would require concessions from Albany and cooperation from NYPD, it’s the most comprehensive and detailed street safety policy released by a mayoral candidate to […]

“Vision Zero,” or Zero Vision? De Blasio Says “Jury’s Out” on Midtown Plazas

|
Bill de Blasio, who adopted an aggressive street safety platform during the Democratic mayoral primary, reverted back to a livable streets skeptic at last night’s mayoral debate. The mayoral frontrunner claimed “the jury’s out” on the city’s popular Midtown pedestrian plazas, which among other benefits have led to dramatic reductions in pedestrian injuries. Republican candidate Joe […]