Thursday’s Headlines: We All Scream For (Or in This Case, At!) Ice Cream Edition

By the way, Mister Softee had nothing to do with Operation Meltdown. This is just a photo of an ice cream truck. Photo: Ezra Wolfe
By the way, Mister Softee had nothing to do with Operation Meltdown. This is just a photo of an ice cream truck. Photo: Ezra Wolfe

Just in time for summer, it’s “Operation Meltdown”! Yes, virtually every media outlet covered the city’s announcement that it has seized 34 (NY Times) or 46 (ABC News) ice cream trucks for non-payment of all the tickets they receive when they’re blocking the curb to hawk soft-serve. This being almost-summer — and the topic being ice cream — the local papers outdid themselves (you might say their coverage came with sprinkles and a cherry on top):

The Daily News led with a “rocky road” pun. The Post led with “Freeze!” (though usual tabloid Tennyson Max Jaeger later added a reference to “dough,” which isn’t really an ice cream pun). Katie Honan in the Wall Street Journal was the best in breaking down how the scam worked (though, sadly, no puns). Oddly, amNY went with a vehicular pun. And Gothamist, of all outlets, excoriated all the others for using puns at all.

NBC4 didn’t go for the linguistic swirl, but pointed out that the violations go back to 2009, which makes us wonder whether CBS2 had consumed that soon-to-be-legal pot ice cream when the channel reported, “Ice cream trucks are typically enjoyed for their sweet treats and the smiles that follow, not for running red lights, parking at fire hydrants and blocking crosswalks.” (What world does CBS2 live in?)

It all reminded our editor of the time when he was working for the NY Post when he broke the biggest story of his career: That the Mister Softee jingle actually has lyrics (the story is so old that it’s not online, but the Times’s 2000 version of it is!)

Enough time on Memory Ln. It’s time for the news:

  • An accessibility lawsuit against the MTA is going to trial as a judge rejected the latest efforts by the transit agency to quash it. (NYDN, amNY)
  • Politico’s Dana Rubinstein broke the news that DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg had resigned … from the MTA board, prompting sadness across the web.

  • The Post took a page from @placardabuse and staked out a cop who illegally parked his Maserati (make that his Maseratis!) with a department-issued placard. The cop accused the paper’s reporters of being racists and anti-Semites. What a world!
  • Well, as long as they don’t park their helicopters in the bike lane. (NY Times)
  • Friend of Streetsblog John Massengale published an op-ed in City Limits about how congestion pricing is just the start of the campaign to reclaim our streets.
  • Gothamist takes us back to the days when the High Line was terrible … and great!
  • News12 covered the “dialogue” ride set up by the TLC to allow cabbies to see what cyclists go through on the mean streets. But the coverage erred by suggesting there’s some kind of equivalence between riders of 50-pound bikes going 10 miles per hour and drivers of 3,000-pound steel cages going 35. The whole thing makes you wish Sinead O’Connor was still around to rip up a photo of “the real enemy” (that’s a 1992 reference, kids).
  • Another Friend of Streetsblog, Joel Epstein, has set up a change.org petition demanding that Mayor de Blasio resign so that New York City could have what it needs: a full-time mayor. The petition follows a rare Streetsblog editorial calling for the very same thing.
  • Driver

    It’s kind of unfair to show a photo of a Mr. Softee truck with this story when the offending company is New York Ice Cream, a direct competitor to Mr. Softee.

  • Maggie

    I critique bias in press coverage all the time, but sometimes I worry that Streetsblog focuses on inside-baseball tabloid angles to the detriment of more livable streets coverage. So here are the top priority stories for me today:

    1. Polly Trottenberg’s surprise resignation from the MTA board. Holy crap. What is going on with this? An abrupt loss of an important voice for riders on the board sends a disturbing signal for an MTA that has finally started to achieve some CBTC wins and take a fresh look at ADA accessibility.

    2. Long term. There are 11 years left, according to scientists HIGHLY ALARMED and HIGHLY URGENT warnings for the world to rapidly change paths to a lower-emissions way of life and avert catastrophic property value losses, deadly heat waves, and on and on. So, is the city going to run more than 11 years X 3 August Sundays X 6 hours each day of car-free Park Avenue before that catastrophic path is locked in? How much are NYPD’s near-term personal objectives driving and overriding scientific certainty about the NEED to lower transportation emissions? And if the answer is more than zero, why is NYC’s mayor letting NYPD override any decisions here? We can spend the next 11 years reading first-day-of-Fleet-Week stories about NYPD shutting down bike paths, until the Rockaways are underwater, but there’s a lot of scientific urgency to start running this further up the chain. WHO is making these expensive decisions, where is the accountability.

    3. Ice cream trucks. Cute puns aside, why is midtown curb space allocated to ice cream trucks at all?

  • Ian Turner

    Do we have any indication of why Polly Trottenberg resigned?

  • Gersh Kuntzman

    True. Fixing.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The $40 billion question.

    Perhaps now that her boss and the Governor are in back in frenemy, rug sweeping mode with regard to the MTA, her independent voice had outlived its usefulness.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Here is some bias elsewhere that stuck in my craw. It was on Fox 5 this morning.
    Evidently, in response to the overtime abuse issue, someone vandalized timekeeping equipment at “the MTA.” At Jamaica Station.
    Sounds like the NYC subway and buses are ripping us off and don’t deserve any more funding, right?
    Any labor abuses in the city’s transit system are identified as abuses at the city’s transit system. There were once many, but they were pretty much gone 20 years ago — unless Pendergast and Samuelson, who came in from outside, brought them back.
    But labor abuses on the commuter railroads? That isn’t the suburbs draining city transit for their sinecures. It’s “the MTA.”

  • qrt145

    There is no midtown curb space allocated to ice cream trucks at all: that’s why they park illegally.

  • Gersh Kuntzman
  • Gersh Kuntzman

    You do have to give me a LITTLE time to get all the facts. But you asked for it, you got it: https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2019/06/06/anatomy-of-a-resignation-why-polly-trottenberg-quit-the-mta-board/

  • Rich

    Lol what bike weighs 50 lbs?

  • Larry Littlefield

    My chain and lock are apparently 16 pounds by themselves, plus another lock for the front wheel.

  • qrt145

    Citi bikes weigh 45 lbs, so that’s close. Maybe the electric ones are heavier because of the battery. But yeah, those aren’t your average bike for sure, in terms of weight.

  • Love the photo in the NYT article about Operation Meltdown showing a cop guarding the seized trucks … while parked in the Vernon Blvd protected bike lane. 😐

  • Joe R.

    On #2, unless we have some really catastrophic weather event which wakes people up (think something like Sandy but 10 such storms in a season all hitting major cities), we’re not going to do what we need to in order to avert the worst of climate change. The hard fact is doing so will require more sacrifice than most people are willing to give. Never mind switching the gas car to an electric. You might actually get most people on board with that if the electric costs the same or less, which is going to happen soon. Rather, you’re going to ask people to drive a lot less, period, and better yet not even own a car. Even in places with great mass transit that’s often a hard sell.

    Now let’s look at some other stuff. A lot of people enjoy going on vacations. They often fly. Well, they would have to mostly give that up. To reach our goals we’ll have to severely limit air travel. That means maybe everyone gets a voucher for at most one short haul flight annually, and only a few long haul flights in their lifetime. Once you use them up, no flying unless you buy a voucher from someone who doesn’t intend to use it. Of course, if we had the foresight to have built a national high-speed rail system after 9/11 the impact of this would have been greatly mitigated but we didn’t.

    Now let’s look at buildings. Better put on a sweater in winter, and just deal with sweating in the summer, because until we replace coal and natural gas generation with 100% non-fossil fuel sources we’re going to have to cut down on power use. Those fossil fuel plants need to be shut down within the next 5 years, better yet right now. Home owners can mitigate this by installing solar panels but that option isn’t available for the apartment dwellers who comprise the bulk of NYC’s population.

    Finally, we have food. A lot of fossil fuel is used to make food, and a lot of greenhouse gases are emitted by the means of making that food, namely raising farm animals. That means a lot less meat, and in general less food, period. Sure, most Americans can do with a bit less food but we love our meat.

    The good news is in the short, medium, and long term we have ways to reverse the impacts of these sacrifices. The sooner we get renewables on the grid, the less we’ll need to reduce our electric use. If commercial fusion becomes viable by 2030 as some are predicting, problem solved. We’ll just have electrify everything not currently fully electrified, like transport and food production.

    We can replace short/medium distance air travel with HSR within the next decade if we make it a national goal. We can replace local car travel with bikes, buses, subways, commuter rail. In the longer term, we may have maglevs running in evacuated tubes at a few thousand mph which span continents, even oceans, but neither of us will likely see that in our lifetimes. So that pretty much means most optional long-distance travel will be history. However, in the scheme of things that’s a minor sacrifice.

    The bottom line though is the level of sacrifice needed in the short term is beyond what I see the population willing to put up with. I’m almost hoping for a catastrophic event to wake people up for good.

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