Wednesday’s Headlines: Is Coronavirus de Blasio’s Katrina Edition
Obviously, we’re going to be debating this for a few
weeks months, so we might as well get it out there: Mayor de Blasio’s handling of the coronavirus has provoked a range of reactions from mild disappointment to full-on de Blasio Derangement Disorder.
First, the history: He didn’t want to close the schools, then did. He didn’t want to close the bars right away, so he let them stay open for one last bacchanal — until his inner circle told him he was being idiotic, so he closed the bars and restaurants. He told everyone to stay away from big public gathering places, then worked out at his favorite Park Slope YMCA like it was any other day.
His up-and-down performance so far caused City & State’s Jeff Coltin and Ben Adler to raise the corona/Katrina question that we swiped for our headline today — and that was even before Tuesday’s performance!
At his now-daily press conference, de Blasio suggested that New York City might announce a “shelter in place” rule in the next 48 hours (NYDN).
Reaction was swift: Ben Max tweeted that all the mayor had done was create a panic.
De Blasio puts it out there and says it would beg many questions, such as how some people get food/medicine. He then moves on to other updates. Maybe that helps prepare people for the possibility but seems more designed to create a run on grocery stores.
— Ben Max (@TweetBenMax) March 17, 2020
And Cuomo aide Rich Azzopardi reminded everyone that the Big Dog in Albany would have to grant his permission first.
— Rich Azzopardi (@RichAzzopardi) March 17, 2020
Which prompted more reporters to ask if the cure for coronavirus was really going to be yet another de Blasio-Cuomo feud (NY Post). But Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa slapped that down:
no, we are not.
I am clearly communicating information in real time to the public to avoid panic or confusion –the same information that has been communicated with city hall on an ongoing basis.
— Melissa DeRosa (@melissadderosa) March 17, 2020
Meanwhile, still on the negative side, it’s unclear if the mayor has fully thought through what happens when homeless students can’t go to school and must take classes online from their shelters … where there isn’t good internet service:
Here's something I just learned. With the NYC schools closed, many are moving to a "home learning" program that relies on internet capabilities. However, a vast majority of the shelters which house the 114k homeless students across NYC aren't hooked up to the internet.
— Rick Paulas (@RickPaulas) March 17, 2020
And, of course, the NYPD is still ticketing cyclists for minor offenses:
NYPD out here giving bikers tickets during a fuckin crisis. pic.twitter.com/GVWEqANAld
— Josmar Trujillo (@Josmar_Trujillo) March 17, 2020
Even Stephen Colbert snarked on Hizzoner for going to the gym the other day. (Gothamist)
On the plus side, the mayor announced the end of pooled taxi rides, though he left a loophole for “real couples,” as Jake Offenhartz of Gothamist reported:
De Blasio just signed an executive order banning all Uber/Lyft pools. One customer per ride, unless you're a couple. And it has to be "real couples," mayor says.
— Jake Offenhartz (@jangelooff) March 17, 2020
That news deeply troubled our own Lothario, Dave Colon, who has long championed the use of transit in dating, but now worries that the mayor is judging the “realness” of his commitments.
The mayor also announced the long-awaited suspension of alternate-side-of-the-street parking (NYDN), which we normally would criticize, but in a crisis, the last thing we need is more people cruising around looking for parking. That said, it’s amazing how much time government agencies devote to the concerns of car owners during a crisis (NY Post), yet don’t have the time to consider basic improvements to road safety for non-car owners (Streetsblog).
In other news:
- The plunge in transit ridership is far more massive than originally revealed — and now the MTA is lobbying Washington for a bailout (NY Times, NY Post). President Trump has been talking about a public bailout for the airline and cruise industries, so why not for public transit?
- The MTA is also prepping its workers for a curfew, though none has been announced yet. (NY Post)
- Times architecture writer Michael Kimmelman offered what we hope won’t be the obituary of the great American city.
- The MTA’s paratransit service, Access-a-Ride, was in the news a lot yesterday. The Daily News reported that a popular pilot program that gives some customers unlimited on-demand trips for $2.75 will continue. And Politico reported that some vulnerable Access-a-Ride customers are still riding in pooled vehicles, despite the coronavirus.
- And, finally, let’s have a tiny bit of fun today:
Quarantine day 6. pic.twitter.com/er652Oy3Ki
— jamie (@gnuman1979) March 16, 2020