Tuesday’s Headlines: Polly Owns This One Edition

Monday's vigil for Ernest Askew.
Monday's vigil for Ernest Askew.

He broke it, now she owns it. We’ll be hearing a lot more today about the mayor’s long-overdue announcement that he’ll stem the tide of cyclist deaths with a new NYPD enforcement effort and a new cycling safety plan from the Department of Transportation. The NYPD has done periodic crackdowns on illegal parking and bus lane blocking, so clearly there’ll be a brief period of stepped up effort against rogue drivers.

But the key part of the announcement was more vague, with the mayor claiming he had “charged the Department of Transportation with developing a new cyclist safety plan to make biking in our city safer.” (The Post had coverage.)

So with 15 cyclists dead so far this year, the half-time, would-be president mayor is calling in his loyal relief pitcher: Polly Trottenberg. What will her “plan” be? When will we hear it? Tune in later.

For now, here’s today’s headlines:

  • As the mayor made his announcement, scores of cyclists were holding a vigil for cyclist Ernest Askew in Brownsville. Borough President Eric Adams, State Senator Zellnor Myrie, Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel and activists mourned with the victim’s aunt and older brother. Meanwhile, Make Queens Safer called on NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas Chan to resign for being “MIA” during this and past crises. “Isn’t there anyone in [the NYPD] that knows anything about cycling?” the activists asked (rhetorically, of course).
  • The Daily News added lots of solid reporting about Monday’s 15th cyclist death, including a quote from the cement truck company owner blaming the crash on “too many cyclists on the road.” (The Post had some good coverage, too, focusing on victim Devra Freelander, a respected artist. Gothamist did not update its story very smoothly.) Meanwhile, the same paper reported that New York is on pace for the lowest number of murders in decades — so, how about we convert all those unneeded homicide detectives to vehicular homicide detectives, Mr. Mayor?
  • So the DOT spent years trying to figure out how to fix the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, causing so much outrage in the process that the mayor appointed a special panel … which has now apparently thrown out both of the DOT’s proposals. So much for agency morale! (Brooklyn Eagle) Here’s a reminder: Just tear the thing down.
  • Streetsblog‘s Dave Colon and amNY‘s Vin Barone are competing to see who will be the Bard of the Busway. Colon focused on the poor bus service on 14th Street thanks to a judge’s ruling barring the city from starting the bus-and-truck-only route, while Barone covered Monday’s pro-busway rally.
  • Gotham Gazette newcomer Noah Berman, who gamely listened as our grizzled editor downloaded all his “life lessons” before a delayed City Hall hearing the other day, has published a piece about breaking the car culture.
  • Bike Snob Eben Weiss took on his Bronx neighbors with a Letter to the Editor of the Riverdale Press that called for a bus lane. Streetsblog has his back on this issue.
  • A writer for CityLab rode around on a scooter a lot, thanks to a monthly rental plan from Bird.
  • Our old-school editor offered the Daily Beast a not-so-fond remembrance of those times when he failed to stop Donald Trump in the first days of this century. (Subscribers only)
  • And in case you missed it, amNY’s Pulitzer-worthy cartoonist Jimmy Margulies reminded us all how lousy most bike lanes are:

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Here’s a reminder: Just tear the thing down.”

    Especially this year, I’d rather have the trucks on the BQE. There is nothing that can be done about local deliveries, which have to happen. But you don’t want the trucks delivering into the city or passing through it to the rest of Long Island on local streets.

  • Jacob
  • Blwndrpwrmlk96

    I support a tunneled section of the BQE from Atlantic Av to Columbia Heights. I’m cautiously optimistic a cut-and-cover method would work on Furman St, without conflicting with the subway lines underneath. This can also give way for some unique re-imaginations for the cantilevered section in Brooklyn Heights (e.g.: multi-leveled esplanade, etc…)

    As for the trenched section in Carroll Gardens, I would love to see that capped and converted to parkland. It has been done in other US cities, yielding only positive benefits. I think my two proposals are feasible in terms of keeping trucks on the BQE where they belong, cleaner air, and providing much needed parkland. Everything must be done to avoid a “Big Dig” scenario…politically, because, once again, the mayor’s handling of this is beginning to look unwieldy.

  • AMH

    The only thing is, if you break down all loads into tiny vehicles, you have a LOT of those vehicles. I would really like to get almost everything except for last mile delivery back onto rail.

  • Larry Littlefield

    And unless one is willing to build a bunch of big rail yards in NYC, tearing down stuff to do it, the last mile starts in New Jersey or Staten Island.

  • Joe R.

    We have the two NYC airports, don’t we? If we are to combat climate change, air travel must be dramatically reduced, to the point we’ll only need one NY Metro airport. That should be Newark since it has the best rail connections. We shut down LGA and Idlewild, and we free up all the space we need for two huge freight rail yards. The only other thing you need is a freight rail tunnel from NJ to get across the river.

  • Joe R.

    That’s the problem. The larger numbers of “safer” vehicles will overwhelm any safety benefit. Also, more vehicles means more traffic delays, which is a large contributor to frustrated drivers who cut corners to save a few seconds, endangering people in the process.

    In addition to that, you have the added costs of breaking up large loads into smaller ones, and paying all those extra drivers. That will make this expensive city even more expensive. More smaller vehicles has always been a bad idea.

    Start using cabovers instead. That will save a lot of lives.

  • Joe R.

    I’ve always been puzzled as to why deaths caused by motor vehicles aren’t counted in the homicide statistics. To those who say they’re “accidents”, well, if I’m carrying a gun and it accidentally discharges, resulting in a death, that would certainly be counted in the homicide statistics. No reason to treat vehicular homicides any differently.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The rail industry is a dinosaur. Even intermodal freight moves at 30 mph, and spends an average of 24 hours in a yard before a container or trailer is put on a truck.

    Double stack is somewhat cheaper, but much slower to load, unload and move — especially on a single track, with trains waiting at sidings for those passing in the other direction.

    Someone should think about why we don’t have a national conveyer belt system with individual electric-powered flatcars moving independently around the country, carrying trailers and containers. The railroad industry, however, is still is in downsize and cash cow to survive mode.

    But regardless, at some point someone with a crane would have to lift those off and put them on trucks.

  • Andrew

    I support a tunneled section of the BQE from Atlantic Av to Columbia Heights.

    Paid for by whom, exactly? Tunnels are expensive. Tunnels that carry vehicular traffic are even more expensive.

    And remember that congestion pricing is going to take a huge load off of that section of the BQE, which currently carries a lot of traffic from southern Brooklyn to the toll-free bridges. Once they are tolled, a lot of that traffic will shift to the Battery Tunnel (or to transit).

  • Joe R.

    I agree. Even if we didn’t move to individual electric flat cars like you mentioned, the busy freight rail systems should have been electrified for decades. The eventual return on investment is huge. The reason they never electrified is the next quarter mentality of today’s CEOs. Electrification would be a net loss for the tenure of any CEO, and nobody wants to be that CEO. End result is we spend a ton more on operating costs, such as fuel and locomotives (i.e. a diesel locomotive generally lasts about 20 years, but electrics easily make it to 40 years, often much more).

    A system of autonomous electric flatcars is just what we need. They can be routed intelligently, hook up into long trains for much of their journey, then continue independently when needed. One minor issue though would be braking. If they can connect and disconnect to a train en route, each car will need its own compressor and independent brake system. It will also have to be completely electrically operated (i.e. no air hoses to connect when cars couple and uncouple). Operationally, this probably isn’t much different than platooning autonomous cars bumper to bumper on a highway, except you only need to control one variable, speed, since the track already provides inherent steering.

    But regardless, at some point someone with a crane would have to lift those off and put them on trucks.

    Or reactivate industrial spurs whenever possible, at least for customers getting large bulk deliveries regularly. No reason bulk loads like sand, cement, gravel, etc. shouldn’t move all the way to their final destination by rail.

  • JarekFA

    They’ve analyzed the tunnel alternative as not viable. Insanely expensive and a lot of underground complications (including the massive water tunnel).

  • Banet

    Unfortunately cut and cover it will not work on Furman Street. Norville building anything directly and road level on Furman Street. Running in the length of Furman Street, directly underneath Furman Street, is it 6 foot tall sewage pipe. Anything built under or directly on Furman Street would require relocating that sewage pipe. :-/

  • Banet

    Actually, if you’re carrying a gun and it accidentally discharges and kill someone it very likely would NOT be considered a homicide. Much more likely it would be considered involuntary manslaughter.

  • Joe R.

    OK, but it would still count in the murder statistics, wouldn’t it?

    Along those lines, I’m still wondering why the 9/11 deaths were never officially counted in the 2001 murder statistics. Those were certainly homicides.

  • Banet

    Fair enough. I guess those statistics are supposed to be anyone shot and killed, not people who died and the perpetrator was convicted of murder.

  • qrt145

    I don’t know about NYPD statistics, but CDC, on its cause of death reports, clearly distinguishes between “accidental discharge of firearms”, “assault (homicide) by discharge of firearms”, “intentional self-harm (suicide) by discharge of firearms”, and “discharge of firearms, undetermined intent”. There is also a “legal intervention” cause of death, which includes injuries inflicted by the police; those aren’t classified as homicides in the CDC stats. Similarly, “operation of war” is also not classified as homicide.

  • Joe R.

    Yes, I recall seeing that. And it’s good they do, especially as ammunition against gun control advocates, since the primary category which is the impetus for gun control, namely “assault (homicide) by discharge of firearms”, is much smaller than the total number of people killed by firearms (i.e. over 60% are suicides, actually). I’m guessing legal intervention also includes gun owners who killed in self-defense, not just the police.

    I would like to see similar breakdowns for deaths caused by motor vehicles as to causes. Those might driving while impaired, failure to yield, distracted driving, mechanical issues, excessive speed, and so forth. Nevertheless, deaths caused by motor vehicles, at least in cases where motor vehicles kill those not inside them, should be counted as murders. I also find it amazing how lots of politicians, particularly Democrats, are radical gun control nuts but just dismiss motor vehicle deaths, even though more people die in this country from the latter rather than the former. We should have motor vehicle control instead of gun control in this city. It would save a heck of a lot more lives. The bigger irony in all this is that is there is actually a constitutional amendment giving us the right to keep and bear arms but last I checked the constitution doesn’t guarantee the right to own or drive a motor vehicle. You wouldn’t know it though with people like our Mayor or Governor, or the people on the Community Boards.

  • Blwndrpwrmlk

    It will need special funding as a capital project from the federal government, just like the Kosciusko Br (which is a compilation of funding from NYS and Fed, except Local).

    In any event (even if no cars are present), that cantilevered section needs to be replaced as the rebar and concrete has been under constant stress for nearly 50 years. NYCDOT has resorted to simply patching exposed rebar sections rather than re-pouring concrete.

    The Gowanus Expwy is another highway that needs major rehab, which has been virtually untouched since 1954, except for minor touch-ups.

    I don’t forsee any easy or inexpensive solution, but this section of the BQE sorely needs to be addressed, and should be treated as a construction priority. And should be done via the design-build method.