EDITORIAL: Mayor Has Some Nerve Disputing Streetsblog’s Facts — And Saying Our ‘Worldview’ is Biased

This was Wednesday, before Mayor de Blasio disputed our reporting and called us advocates with "one worldview." (He's right: The truth is our worldview). Photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office
This was Wednesday, before Mayor de Blasio disputed our reporting and called us advocates with "one worldview." (He's right: The truth is our worldview). Photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

Um, did Mayor de Blasio just call Streetsblog “fake news”?

At an otherwise unrelated press conference on Wednesday, the mayor dismissed our recent reporting of ineptitude by NYPD officers, who do not seem to understand basic traffic rules and have been outed by cyclists and pedestrians on social media after they show up at crash scenes and write flawed, toothless or victim-blaming reports that cause anguish to the injured or shaken.

That spate of recent articles includes:

  • A story about a Queens cyclist who captured on video a car driver running a stop sign and slamming into him, only to have responding officers dispute the need for a failure to yield ticket.
  • That story also included a section about another Queens cyclist who reported that after she was hit by a driver, cops said they couldn’t issue a failure-to-yield ticket because the driver struck the cyclist with the corner of his car instead of the front of his car — literally gibberish.
  • A story about cops who showed up at a town hall meeting on Monday and didn’t seem to understand that they can do something about double-parked cars or right-of-way violations they don’t personally witness (fact: they can).
  • A story about how cops miswrote an official report to blame a cyclist victim — only to secretly amend the report.
  • A story about a Streetsblog reader who was struck by pickup truck driver, who stole his Citi Bike, only to be told by arriving cops that there was nothing they could do.

And those are just the last few days. In the past, we’ve written dozens more pieces — stories that highlight the NYPD’s particular lack of initiative, lack of knowledge and/or lack of energy.

So Streetsblog’s Julianne Cuba asked the mayor about the stories and whether he feels that his officers “are adequately trained in vehicle and traffic laws.” The mayor’s response is telling:

“I appreciate the question,” he started. “I’m not going to assume that those facts are accurate because I haven’t seen any evidence of that.”

He continued:

But I will say to the bigger question – I think there’s been a lot of effort to educate officers on Vision Zero and if you look at the numbers of the increase in enforcement on speeding, on failure to yield in intersections, I mean it’s obviously been a huge uptick. Does that mean we don’t need it more? Of course not. We always have to keep retraining. We also do keep retraining. So, I want all officers to fully understand their ability to give tickets for those offenses.

Point of information: The Mayor’s Management Report says the NYPD is writing fewer moving violations to drivers. Streetsblog also reported in September that the NYPD actually wrote fewer tickets to drivers this year in key categories such as improper turn (down 3.6 percent), talking on a cellphone while driving (down 22.8 percent), disobeying a traffic control device (down 5 percent), red light violation (a separate category, down 1.4 percent), failure to signal (down 19 percent) and speeding (down 1.2 percent).

Nonetheless, the mayor pivoted from his fact-challenged attack on our fact-based reporting to his favorite anecdote-based obsession: dangerous cyclists (who are, in fact, causing injuries in minuscule numbers, city statistics show).

I never shy from this and I don’t care if people like it or not because I hear from my constituents all the time that they care about this and I care about it: if a cyclist also does something that endangers themselves or others, that also should be enforced and it will be enforced. So, we’ll keep educating officers for sure.

Streetsblog’s Gersh Kuntzman was also at the presser and was disappointed to hear the mayor dispute our reporting, which is all based on the mayor’s own constituents’ experience with police officers — more than half of whom live in the suburbs and nearly 60 percent of whom drive recklessly.

And Streetsblog, of course, isn’t the only outlet that writes about inept cops. City Limits did an investigation over the summer revealing that NYPD officers intentionally or ignorantly write failure-to-yield tickets inaccurately so they won’t have to testify in court. And not a day passes without Gothamist adding to the canon.

So Kuntzman asked,

Following up on the question about the officers who don’t know how to write right-of-way tickets, which is actually a very serious issue. My website runs a story pretty much every day about a cyclist or pedestrian complaining about an officer who showed up on the scene and literally did not know that it was right-of-way violation that had led to a crash. How is it possible in this day in age in Vision Zero that rank-and-file officers —

The mayor interrupted,

I respect you are doing advocacy journalism. God bless you. I don’t accept your facts. You’ve said too many things that suggest that you are coming at it from a particular worldview. I’m not saying your facts are necessarily wrong, I just can’t take them from someone who says, “I have only one worldview.”

[Editor’s note: The mayor’s press office put “I have only one worldview” in quotes as if the mayor was quoting Kuntzman, who never used that phrase. Kuntzman later told Streetsblog that he disputed that he even has a worldview beyond the singular belief that his beloved Mets will always leave him disappointed.]

Still, the mayor continued: “What I will say is if someone provides us that information, I want those officers trained. If it ever happens, it’s not acceptable and we would deal with it.”

It does happen, Mr. Mayor. After the press conference, readers of Streetsblog started sending in more evidence of police incompetence.

Philip Leff wrote us, “Inept cops: This summer, a pair from the 90th Precinct blocking the Borinquen Place curbside painted lane, a marked ‘No Stopping’ zone,” he wrote. “Their justification: It wasn’t painted green, so it’s ok to stand. They moved away when I took a picture of their badge.”

Greg Keller, wrote, “Annals of inept NYPD: Part I: Cop refuses to take my statement (threatening me in the process; I’d just been released from hospital with arm in sling after being sent to NY Presbyterian via ambulance),” he wrote, linking to a Gothamist article on the subject. “Part II: ticket given to driver who assaulted me is thrown out because of the information inept cop left out of report that I had repeatedly insisted he include.”

Mr. Mayor, it is ever happening, so please “deal” with it. And please stop shooting the messenger.

Yours,

Streetsblog

P.S. Dear readers, please add your own examples to the comments section under this post.

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