Streetsies 2019: The Dumbest Thing Mayor de Blasio Said This Year
As Streetsblog readers know, we mark the end of the year with our annual Streetsie awards for the best and worst people, projects, ideas and efforts in the livable streets movement. We’ll be rolling out our year-end awards every day until New Year’s Eve, so sit back, look back, and enjoy…
People liked to mock Mayor de Blasio as he pursued the presidential through the Iowa cornfields, but Hizzoner occasionally waxed eloquent on the campaign trail, especially buttressing his argument that “America right now is not working for working people.” MSNBC host Joe Scarborough was so impressed with de Blasio’s performance in a June debate that Scarborough pronounced him “a street fighter!”
But back at home, de Blasio stuck his size 12S foot in his mouth regularly, prompting our annual end-of-year award for his biggest gaffes. And the nominees are …
At a press conference in November, the mayor dismissed Streetsblog’s voluminous reporting of ineptitude by NYPD officers, who do not seem to understand basic traffic rules and frequently show up at crash scenes and write flawed, toothless or victim-blaming reports that cause anguish to the injured.
Other outlets such as City Limits and Gothamist have filed their own reports on such incompetence, but de Blasio disputed that there was even a problem when we brought it up.
“I respect you are doing advocacy journalism. God bless you,” he told our atheist editor. “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.’”
“Worldview?” “Facts?” Talk about shooting the messenger. Even if the mayor doesn’t get it, we hope that our reporting catches the attention of NYPD’s new Transportation Bureau chief, William Morris, and that he begins drilling the force on basic rules and procedure.
‘If you asked 100 people on the subway’
On NY1 Inside City Hall on Nov. 12, interviewer Errol Louis asked the mayor about Gov. Cuomo’s plan to put 500 more cops in the subways, even as people were taking to the streets to protest the arrests of churro vendors and harassment of youths of color. De Blasio defended the idea, telling Louis that it is the desire of the people.
“I stay very close to the people of this city in lots of different ways and I spent a long time representing people at the grassroots level, City Council School Board, guarantee you, let me go on a train and ask – you know – 100 New Yorkers on a train do they want to see more consistent police present for their safety, I’ll say 75, 80 percent would say yes,” he said.
There is no groundswell of straphanger support for the 500 extra cops, which is enormously controversial. Nor will the extra revenue the MTA will get from far-beaters even come close to paying for their salaries. One thing is certain: The mayor did not ask 100 people on a train for their opinion before speaking for them.
‘I am a pedestrian’
At a February press conference announcing a pedestrian-safety plan, de Blasio would not commit to breaking the car culture by asking drivers to make sacrifices such as putting some streets or even some small regions of the city off-limits to automobiles. He also declined to strongly support congestion pricing. But the mayor — who famously insists he must drive to work each day in an SUV (albeit a hybrid one) — claimed in a now-famous back and forth with Streetsblog Editor Gersh Kuntzman that he is a pedestrian:
Streetsblog: You’re not a pedestrian. You’re not a cyclist, very typically, Mr. Mayor —
Mayor de Blasio: I’m a pedestrian often, Gersh, respectfully —
Streetsblog: With all due respect —
Mayor: Respectfully, Gersh and I are going to have a fight. I have been a pedestrian, a lot, Gersh. You got to give me that.
Streetsblog: But more recently…?
Mayor: I still walk, Gersh.
Streetsblog: The plan does not call for —
Mayor: They have not taken away my right to cross the street and walk the streets. Continue.
Streetsblog: I will continue.
When we see him hoofing it regularly so that he can get a granular, street-level view of the city he runs, then we will concede that he is a pedestrian.
‘It’s not cars. It’s buildings’
On April 19, in his weekly session on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show, the chauffeured mayor downplayed vehicles’ role in producing the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. The context was his introduction of a bill mandating greener buildings.
“The number one challenge we have when it comes to emissions that cause global warming is our buildings,” de Blasio said. “It’s not cars in New York City, it’s buildings.”
He was just wrong. The Environmental Protection Agency says the transportation sector is the single largest contributor in the United States to greenhouse-gas emissions: 29 percent. It’s even larger percentage in New York State: 47 percent.
‘de Brainless’ helmet laws
In early September, goaded by driver-centric WCBS reporter Marcia Kramer, de Blasio told reporters that the city’s rash of cycling deaths had him considering implementing a helmet requirement for Citi Bike users.
“I’ve thought about that,” he said. “And that’s something we are talking about inside the administration. I think it is a really valid issue.” The mayor followed that up by telling reporters that licensing cyclists was “also a valid discussion.”
Of course, the idea that helmets make cyclists safer flies in the face of research, even that done by the mayor’s own Department of Transportation, which stated in its 2017 bike-safety report that “the growing number of cyclists on our streets is a likely contributor to the positive changes in cycling safety.” And DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg has said that helmets would undermine that by reducing cycling and curtailing the safety in numbers effect.
We don’t know if the mayor was just parroting Kramer, but our reporting never did discover any “valid discussion” underlying this thoughtless kneecapping the Citi Bike expansion.
The myth of unsafe e-bikes
Confronted in April with evidence that only nine pedestrians — out of 11,000 reported injured on streets last year — were hit by an e-bike rider, de Blasio doubled down on the idea that e-bikes are a major safety concern.
“I would simply say we’ve got a class of bicycles that go, or e-bikes I should say, that go way too fast, where there’s plenty of evidence of them being used in a manner that’s reckless, that doesn’t conform to the way all the other types of transportation work,” the mayor blathered. “In other words, a car, a truck, a motorcycle, they’re on the street, they follow all the traffic rules, if they don’t it’s very clear what happens, you know, a bicycle in a bike lane – this has been, to me, the mode of transportation where we’ve seen a lot of recklessness, a lot of going the wrong way down the street, a lot of speed at levels they shouldn’t be for very closely packed areas – it’s a problem. … I appreciate the question, but I’m just not going to stop saying I think it’s a safety problem, and a lot of my constituents think it’s a safety problem.”
Earth to mayor: A lot of your constituents not only think, but see with their own eyes, that the drivers of cars and trucks, especially oversized SUVs, don’t follow all the traffic rules, and it is these reckless drivers, not the largely immigrant workers pedaling with someone’s dinner, who are the menace on our streets.
‘You don’t see cars on the sidewalk’
Also in April, de Blasio took a page out of President Trump’s playbook, when he chose to believe his own perception about safety rather than the facts.
“You see e-bikes go up on the sidewalk … but as a part of their practice, and going the wrong way on the street as part of their practice. I’ve seen it, plenty of times, it’s been reported to me by lots of my constituents,” de Blasio told reporters. “You don’t see cars drive on the sidewalk a whole lot, or go the wrong way down the street a whole lot as a matter of course, some do it and they caught a lot of the time, or God forbid there’s an accident.”
Fact check: Cars do this too — and do it more — and actually kill people when they do. Plus, de Blasio’s own cops consistently park on the sidewalk — all the time — and get away with it. The mayor’s comment about never seeing cars on sidewalks was so awkward given the placard-abuse crisis that it quickly earned its own Twitter hashtag: #CarsOnSidewalks.
And the Streetsie goes to…
They’re all bad in their own special way, but de Blasio’s kind words about helmet laws clearly are the worst: Not only would mandatory helmets make cyclists less safe, but it would kill Citi Bike, which remains a crucial, yet entirely unfunded, part of the public transportation network — and part of the livable, sustainable future that the mayor has vowed to usher in.