Monday’s Headlines: It’s a Great City … When All the Cars Leave Edition

Friend of Streetsblog Kevin Dann sent over this picture of a nearly car-free Grand Army Plaza. Photo: Kevin Dann
Friend of Streetsblog Kevin Dann sent over this picture of a nearly car-free Grand Army Plaza. Photo: Kevin Dann

Happy Memorial Day. We couldn’t help but notice all the chatter this weekend about how wonderful the city is when all the rich people take their cars away for the holiday weekend.

State Senator Jessica Ramos of Queens obviously noticed the phenomenon, reminding us via Twitter that politicians who care only about parking are basically saying they only care about the well-to-do.

Contrast that to what Council Member Ben Kallos and others experienced when they tried to use the city’s ferry system this weekend. As chronicled by the News and the NY Post), the would-be passengers complained of long lines and crowded boats — evidence that those of us who don’t have cars are treated as second-class citizens by our entire transportation infrastructure (and evidence that amNY should have buried its front-page story on how awesome the ferries would be during the weekend). And don’t forget that an LIRR derailment made it impossible to get by rail to the Hamptons and beyond all day Saturday.

Oh, and it’s no better for cyclists or pedestrians, as the New York Post pointed out over the weekend. The Tabloid of Record became the latest outlet to slam Mayor de Blasio for not doing enough to stop the carnage on New York City roadways. Yes, the paper that still employs Steve Cuozzo complained that deaths are up 22 percent this year vs. the same period last year.

Taken all together, it seems clear: the solution is fewer cars all the time, not just on holiday weekends.

Now, to jump off the soapbox, here’s the rest of the weekend’s news:

  • We were happy to see Clayton Guse at the Daily Newsuh follow our story about a lawsuit initiated by the family of dead pedestrian Sherena Hundalani. The more attention paid to deadly street design and poor enforcement, the better. (NYDN)
  • The LIRR says its failed Memorial Day weekend service will be restored in time for all those people to come back to town from the Hamptons on Monday. (NY Post)
  • Thanks to Politco’s Dana Rubinstein, we know why last week’s MTA board executive session went so long. That’s what happens when two board members go at each other’s throats!
  • Former DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo offered an epic Twitter thread about that time 10 years ago when then-Mayor Bloomberg and DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik Khan did something truly revolutionary — yet seems so far away, even in today’s Vision Zero city.
  • Want to see a car in flames in Queens? We all do! (NY Post)
  • Lime will add more dockless bikes to the Rockaways this summer. (Gothamist)
  • And there was more carnage in Jamaica. (NY Post)
  • Here’s a reminder that cities tend to design safe roads only in wealthy neighborhoods. (The Conversation)
  • And in case you missed it, State Senator John Liu talked to the Queens Eagle about his “distracted walking” bill.

The Streetsblog staff is off today. We’ll return, tanned, rested and ready, on Tuesday morning.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Too bad there was a total absence of conflict during the prior 25 years as the MTA ran up all the debts that have left us in this situation. Just sweet harmony, and sweeping under the rug.

  • Kevin Dann

    So glad to hear Streetsblog making Memorial Day memorable by such a full–throated call to true democracy! We must never forget that it began as “Decoration Day”; let’s decorate the streets and sidewalks (and waters too!) today and every day with our brave, brazen, and beautiful bodies and souls, and send those monstrous SUVs packing!

  • Larry Littlefield

    Speaking of Governor’s Island, the unfair situation I predicted when the city took it over as a park with no revenue generating activity to fund it — unlike the Presidio in San Francisco — is coming to pass.

    I predicted it would become an exclusive sanctuary for the better off, due to a pay ferry, funded with money drained from the rest of the park system. The only recreation option the poor have. The equivalent of the highly subsided ferry system as the buses used by the less well off go downhill.

    http://r8ny.com/2009/01/30/governors-island-nightmare/

    Back when I was at City Planning, when the first of several failed plans for Governor’s Island was being framed, there is one nightmare I hoped would be avoided. That at the urging of groups such as the Municipal Arts Society, the island would be parkland alone, and would not have revenues to support its maintenance. And therefore it would drain the budget of the NYC Parks Department, the most under-funded service (relative to average spending) in the New York City. Wealthier New Yorkers would continue to have decent park and recreation facilities, because they would pay for them themselves, in fees and “donations.” But poor and working class New Yorkers, who (unlike suburbanites with their private yards) rely on public parks for leisure and exercise, would lose out. And meanwhile, Governor’s Island would become the preserve of those affluent enough to afford an unsubsidized ferry trip, so the affluent would benefit from those Parks Department tax dollars, now diverted to Governor’s Island, but the less well off would not

    Well, for many years there was no charge for the ferry. But there is now a charge for ferry to get there, with the fig leaf of a few free trips before noon in the morning on weekends, so we can pretend we are still the “fairest city in America.”

    Why doesn’t someone call up the members of the Municipal Art Society Board, who drove the narrative than anything other than a park for “all the people” was an “insult to New York City,” and demand that they put up the money to make the ferry free all the time, out of their own pockets?

    All kinds of crap like this going on. We used to donate to the local park, which I figured freed up money for parks where people didn’t have the money to donate. Then, as debt and pension and UFT costs soared, the city proposed “taxing” those donations to use in other parks. A con. So I stopped donating. Maybe at some point, we’ll donate to a park in a poor neighborhood direction — but then the city will just cut it our funds for that park.

  • kevd

    its only a “bad thing” in that the free parking is a subsidy to the better off and were it not so heavily subsidized, we could have better cycle and transit lanes and might even push greater transit access to popular summer home locations (catskills, bershires, VT).

  • Larry Littlefield

    I think we’ll have overnight parking permits eventually. Not for the reasons we might want, though that will be used to justify the policy. Desperation for revenues.

  • @Larry Littlefield – There is no “the Streetblog point of view,” why even type such a thing? My own point of view is that the only reason having a car handy for out-of-town trips is easier or cheaper than renting is that the ease and cost is dumped onto public space at public expense. You’ve been on this website long enough and often enough to have seen that argument substantiated several times over.

  • Jacob
  • kevd

    Here’s a schedule for you wife to read next time.
    It even says were the ferries leave from.

    https://govisland.com/visit-the-island/ferry
    If it saves us one of your long-winded narratives, all the better.

    *Edit*
    JFC – the ferry is FREE with an IDNYC.

  • NYrByChoice

    I don’t understand the ferry mess? Doesn’t the A train take you to the Rockaways?

  • NYrByChoice

    As an SUV driver I’m highly offended

  • NYrByChoice

    Or move the Nassau County,,, a remaining slice of real America.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Houston. Cheaper.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Wonder if Google is funding.

  • Larry Littlefield

    So, have I once again committed the crime of bringing up something under Omerta? Or did I miss the full public discussion of adding a charge for the Governors’ Island ferry, perhaps ending in a statement like this one…

    Yes adding this charge is a meaningful step, and people have a right to be concerned. But due to circumstances it is necessary, and a cross subsidy remains in effect so some people can go there free during times when the ferry is underutilized. And we can guarantee this is not the first stop on a slippery slope, free access will remain, and we will not will we need to divert more resources from the rest of the park system.

    When people are being made worse off in some way, I want either a theory of why it is fair (ie congestion pricing we are charging for the exclusive use of a valuable and overburdened resource) or an admission.

    As we possibility head into a period of scarcity due to past deals and a reduction tax revenues from Wall Streets global pillage, government by what we can quietly get away with is not what I want to hear. That’s how we got deferred maintenance on the subway. That’s how the Administration for Children’s Services is the first agency cut every cycle.

    For a decade, I’ve been thinking (hoping) that perhaps through some financial devil magic my fears from a decade ago were unfounded. But they never went away.

  • 6SJ7

    So how is someone with a family supposed to travel out of town for vacations, visiting friends and relatives, etc?

  • Larry Littlefield

    The cost of rental cars is an issue. We’re saving money by not having a car, but it’s too close for comfort — even with not a lot of trips. A charge for on street parking would reduce the affordability for out of town trips overall.

    Basically, the cost of rental cars in Brooklyn is uniquely high, even allowing for the high cost of real estate in NYC.

  • 6SJ7

    High rental car costs related to insurance issues also. Many rental cars carry out-of-state plates for that reason.

  • 6SJ7

    A NYC parking fee would end up being a nightmare. My home has a driveway so it wouldn’t affect me directly but what about when I go to other neighborhoods for my job, medical visits, etc? The streets are maintained with NYC tax dollars so to say that they are ‘free’ is incorrect.

    In many parts of the outer boroughs a car is a necessity. Particularly in eastern Queens and all of Staten Island.

  • 6SJ7

    Vehicle owners may be a tiny bit better off than the average New Yorker but I’m sure the people driving around in 2008 Toyotas are not well-off. Besides NYC needs better-off and well-off taxpayers. Why punish them.

  • kevd

    Do you imagine Im a mafia member?
    WTF are you talking about “omerta?”
    Your only “crime” here is repeating yourself and quoting yourself ad nauseam.
    Please try to get a grip, and read the schedule. it’s all there in black and white.
    And I repeat, with an NYCID, it is 100% free of charge at all times.

  • Larry Littlefield

    It is my observation that in this town, bringing up certain things is akin to breaking a vow of silence.

    As for repeating myself, I don’t think I’ve said anything about Governor’s Island between when I wrote that post 10 year ago and yesterday. I guess that is repetition, technically, but still.

  • kevd

    There are numerous of examples of private foundations taking over park upkeep in well off areas, while city defunds park generally and those in poorer neighborhood fall into disrepair.
    Your inability to read a ferry schedule is not such an example, however.

  • kevd

    MNRR to New Haven or New Rochelle will cut your rental cost by more than half – and get you past most of the traffic.

  • AMH

    The streets were amazing on Monday. I made a few trips on my bike and didn’t once fear for my life; I wanted to keep riding all day. If congestion pricing even comes close to thinning traffic like this, it will be incredible.

  • @6SJ7 – You do realize that you’re talking about a city in which the majority do not own cars, yet travel out of town for vacations, visiting friends and relatives, etc.?

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