Wednesday’s Headlines: Mr. Mayor, This Needs to Stop Edition

Have you been loving how we have been bashing Mayor de Blasio for four straight days? It all started when the mayor came up with this crazy plan to curb placard abuse by building more free parking for cops, which we thought was dumb because we all know that free parking dramatically increases the chance that someone will drive to work — which is bad.

So we started running the license plates of police officers’ private cars, first in Carroll Gardens, then at eight other Brooklyn precincts and then yesterday at a bunch more in Manhattan. We found that roughly 40 percent of cops are have two or more tickets for speeding or running red lights. That’s also bad.

We asked the mayor why he would want to encourage bad drivers to drive more, but he blew us off. So we started running more plates. And we found some really serious stuff, which we reported today. And we’ll have more tomorrow. Which means this story isn’t going away any time soon, Mr. Mayor.

Now, the news:

  • Remember Brooklyn pedestrian Evaristo Mercado, who was run down and killed the other day? Well, it turns out the driver, Mark Smith, tried to pass himself off as a witness to the crime, not the perpetrator, the Daily News reported. The plan didn’t work, and Smith was arrested.
  • Don’t click on this unless you want to see a rat stuck inside a MetroCard vending machine. Well, click on it to read Max Jaeger’s great lede. (NY Post) Gothamist’s story did not beat the Jaegermeister.
  • Lots of outlets covered the big underwhelming appearance of track legend Usain Bolt pitching a new scooter company that has the same name as him. (NY Post, amNY, NY1) Our story mostly focused on the scooters themselves.
  • President Trump’s failure to fund the Gateway tunnel project is a really bad thing. (NY1)
  • Damn that humble humanist Vin Barone at amNY — he beat us to a story we were about to get to: How the Financial District wants Mayor de Blasio to limit cars in Lower Manhattan.
  • Gov. Cuomo doesn’t only want congestion pricing — he also wants to tax second homes in New York City to fund transit. As people with only one home, we think that’s great. (Curbed, NY Times)
  • Thanks to the growing popularity of e-bikes, which need to be charged, the future of bike-share is likely a hybrid of docked and dockless. (Forbes)

And, finally, here’s a bonus photo of Friend of Streetsblog Vin Barone heading off to his next assignment on his Motobecane.

If amNY reporter Vin Barone ever dies on his bike, please use this photo of him preparing for a ride from City Hall on his Motobecane. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman. 3-12-19
Photo: Gersh Kuntzman.
  • A reader

    It’s amazing how you can take such important and well done investigative journalism and make me sympathetic to the administration by being such an egotistical asshole. That takes serious skills Gersh. Kudos.

  • Larry Littlefield

    About 25 years ago, back before I understood what NY’s public employee unions are with regard to social (in)justice, I was asked to come up with a transportation idea for Staten Island.

    I knew that many people who lived there were either public employees or small business owners who worked at dispersed locations in the other boroughs, not in the Manhattan CBD, so mass transit wouldn’t work. So I suggested dynamic carpooling.

    Based on the technology available at the time, I suggested that drivers and riders touch tone into their phones the zip code where they lived, the zip code where they were going, and when they were leaving, and a computer would match them and dial them into a conference call to arrange the trip. The drivers would use analog GPS (maps)
    for the pick-ups and drop offs.

    The riders would pay a little more than a transit fare, with a quarter going to service provider and the rest to the driver, to offset the cost of their vehicle. The riders would
    be able to get by with no car or one car rather than two, saving money.

    To overcome the chicken and egg problem – everyone could find a match if everyone was doing it, but not if it started small, I suggested NYC public employees, and perhaps some other unions (construction, telecom, health care) as a base. Pension money could be invested in the start-up. And ONLY those drivers willing to bring along two or three people who lived near them and worked near them would get parking placards.

    That, however, would have meant doing something FOR the city, not TO the city, and by having to share the public employees would be the equivalent of the serfs. Silly idea.

    Today the transit system, the housing authority, etc. are falling apart, pension costs are set to soar even more, and we aren’t even facing the financial disaster that will be the custodial care of the anti-family seniors of the 1960s generation. And the City of New York is going to invest in parking garages (perhaps tearing down housing) so the political/union class doesn’t have to share transportation realities with the serfs?

    I’ll say it again – take more parking away from the serfs instead. Give the unions the joy of treating the serfs like serfs. At least, net, the number of vehicles would not go up, because other people would have to give them up.

  • Komanoff

    So what *exactly* happened to your 1990s idea, Larry? Whose suggestion/ask led you to work on it, and what was their reaction?

  • qdpb

    Like every dumb car-based idea it probably eventually went nowhere. Gotta applaud the unions for not “investing” their pension money in the “start-up”.

  • Larry Littlefield

    It went about as far as everything I did at the Department of City Planning. Nowhere.
    The Giuliani Administration was incoming, and word came down from six or seven levels above that they wanted to come up with ideas for Staten Island, which had been threatening to secede. So I wrote that one up.
    It might have made it up two levels. The consensus was it was a great idea in theory, but people wanted to believe themselves to be in the middle class, and that meant having their own cars, not having to ride with strangers — even neighbors and fellow union members.
    I sent around that suggestion elsewhere over the years, and generally got the same response. I suggested it to MetroNorth as a way to allocate parking at their train stations. They wrote back and said it generated a lot of discussion, but (in so many words) train riders think of themselves as having a premium service, not as serfs. I even sent it along to Google when they asked the public for suggestions as to what to do next. They went with self-driving cars.
    Remember the views of the generations that have been in charge. The minority started riding bikes and transit in the 1970s. The majority and the leadership? They just didn’t get it.

  • John

    Diblasio has no real authority or control over the city. He is beholden to the unions, police, and special interests.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The U.S. — a nice place to run someone over in your SUV, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

  • Wilfried84

    This NPR story envisions carbon free cities. Spoiler alert: this will require dense development, pedestrianizing much of the city, limiting cars in favor of transit, and “charging for the right to drive on [the streets].” Where have we heard that before? Mr. Mayor I-Care-About-Climate-Change, are you listening?

  • Larry Littlefield

    So I guess the NYC pension funds won’t be in on the Uber and Lyft IPOs either.

    I think my suggestion — people earning a few bucks making trips they would have made anyway to offset the cost of their vehicle — is more viable in the long run than people trying to earn an entire living driving other people around. That requires enough inequality for low paid drivers and high spending riders, rather than both in the middle class.

    But I never expected the “middle class” would be hiring people to clean their houses either, something I would never consider. So there is that.

  • Komanoff

    Thanks for the fuller story, Larry. You provided every bit of info I was wanting. I really appreciate it.

    Obviously, in today’s app world it should be far easier than in the 1990s to pool commuters, whether it’s just to the train or all the way to the CBD. And perhaps some of the idiotic but all-too-real stigmas you described have dissipated somewhat. Maybe you should dust off your earlier idea and look for tech partners + v.c. to create a matchup commute service in time for the hoped-for startup of NYC congestion pricing in 2021. LMK if I can help.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I’m not sure anyone needs me to suggest it now, 25 years later, but if you know someone who might be interested and who would like to talk to me, that’s fine. A couple of differences from what they might assume.

    1) I proposed a fixed fare. The assumption was that the driver would be making the trip anyway, so the only extra effort was the drop off and pick up. That could be the same for a group of NYC public employees commuting from Dix Hills to Brooklyn as it would be for a trip to church within Dix Hills.

    2) Because a carpooling system would be a natural monopoly — to match trips it would make sense for everyone to be on the same system — I proposed it as a non-profit, a Dynamic Carpool club. The firm providing the App would be hired by the club as a service provider. I suggested 25 cents a ride.

    3) The idea wasn’t to substitute for transit trips in the city, but to expand getting around single occupant vehicles to the kind of areas most people now live. But for it to be worth the riders’ while, they would have to avoid owning a car (or an additional car) to begin with, saving the variable AND fixed costs, not just saving on gas. So there had to be a guarantee of a ride.

    I suggested the club include working members — perhaps second career folks at the end of their working life — who would collect a quarter for each ride the people they were responsible for used the service. In exchange, they would agree to be on call for some hours and provide the trips that were not matched, even if that meant going out of their way.

    The working members would market the service on the Tupperware model — home parties — and show people how to use the service. I assumed working people, working poor, and aging seniors trapped in the suburbs and not driving well, not tech-savvy young adults. If there had been apps, I probably would have proposed different interfaces for different types of people.

    5) Other driving club members would be limited in the amount they could earn to the IRS assumed cost of their vehicles. I suggested that they should be considered “casual sellers” sharing their vehicles, not professionals, and thus that the income not be taxable, and they would not require special licenses or insurance. Just like any other carpool drivers.

    Of course those who had bad driving records would not be allowed to drive for the club, and those with a history of violent crime would not be allowed to rise.

  • Komanoff

    Thanks, Larry. I don’t know of anyone, offhand, but I’ll keep you in mind if I cross paths w/ someone else who’s similarly smart and dedicated and into the concept. Best, Charlie.