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Car Culture

Monday’s Headlines: Jay Leno Can’t See the Damage He Does Edition

12:05 AM EDT on April 27, 2020

Don't buy a used car from Jay Leno. The one-time (like, one time) funnyman was on "Real Time with Bill Maher" the other day to tell a few jokes and promote the latest season of his retrograde, climate change denying CNBC show, "Jay Leno's Garage." In between trading bons-mots with his fellow fossil, er fellow fossil-fuel-burning pal, Maher, the lateen-jawed geared somehow forgot that all that Detroit muscle he owns has an outsized role in destroying the planet.

Of the coronavirus, he said, "L.A. seems remarkably cleaner because planes are not flying." Planes? Sure, but let's not forget what's in that garage, Jay. It was a classic example of what car drivers do: deflect responsibility for their place in all this destruction.

We mention cars because even though there are very few of them on the roads right now, the city is going to be a much worse place — far more cars, far less transit ridership, few of the nervous newbie cyclists continuing to commute on two wheels, pedestrians endangered by the hundreds — if the city doesn't plan ahead. Our editor did a lousy job explaining that the other day, but since he ran that ham-handed column, a number of outlets have covered the coming carmaggedon (West Side Rag, Gridlock Sam Schwartz in the Daily News, The Atlantic, and even Council Member Brad Lander in an epic Twitter thread.

The mayor is being asked about his planning effort fairly regularly, but he has triaged his brain to only focus on the near-term disaster — a decision that will itself be disastrous. Indeed, Bloomberg reported that automakers are hoping that a newly germaphobic public will stop riding transit and buy cars instead. That's not good.

Indeed, when the mayor announced on Sunday eight new panels to start the planning process for saving the local economy (amNY), he listed his key sectors: small business; larger business; public health and health care; arts, culture and tourism; labor; nonprofits; and social services. Left out? Transportation! Of all the things to not plan for! Naturally, Doug Gordon had the perfect tweet:

https://twitter.com/BrooklynSpoke/status/1254432967960801281

Now, to the news. First, a section of coverage of the Council's hearing last week to replace the NYPD's failed open-streets pilot program with something real. In case you missed it...

    • Streetsblog set the tone, pointing out how little the NYPD, and its subordinate agency, the DOT had to offer towards implementing the Council mandate.
    • Gothamist and its sister outlet WNYC took the same line.
    • Bklyner accurately depicted the two agencies as "absolutely disinterested" in finding a solution, but put the blame where the buck stops: "The objection to opening the streets to pedestrians and bicyclists seems to come from the top – our Mayor."
    • And it's official: The mayor has lost the New York Times, which editorialized on Sunday in favor of open streets. "The mayor ... didn’t extend the [initial pilot] program beyond the initial 11 days, saying it was not a priority. It should be. The city should be opening up whole avenues and blocks."
    • It led to Council Speaker Corey Johnson threatening the mayor that he would take up the issue with Big Dog Excelsior Car Guy (NYDN). Our second-day story mentioned that, too, but also added in our latest song parody by our satire troupe, the Speeders.

And in other news:

    • Here's what happens when the mayor is driven 11 miles from his mansion inside a park to get to another park so he can walk around with his wife. (Darren Goldner via Twitter)
    • Remember that whole L-train controversy? Well, the work that was originally supposed to cause the end of civilization as we knew it has been completed. (NYDN, NY Post, WSJ, and amNY, which had the best headline)
    • Gotta hand it to Kevin Duggan at the once-great Brooklyn Paper. He got a scoop that the city was cracking down on a new e-scooter company that no one had even heard of. Good get!
    • Gizmodo had a full-throated piece supporting congestion pricing!
    • This is horrible: A cop riding to work on his motorcycle died after he was rear-ended by a speeding car driver on the Cross Island Parkway (NYDN). Another speeding driver killed two in the Bronx (NYDN), and a third speeder killed a woman in Staten Island (NY Post).
    • Thieves are targeting e-bike-riding delivery workers during the pandemic — which is bad under normal conditions, but worse now, when these struggling workers are putting their lives on the line to deliver food. (NYDN)
    • Car thefts are still up during the pandemic. The NYPD blamed the bail-reform law (well, in the Post, at least), but the real partner in crime is that most cars are sitting in the same place for days on end, giving thieves plenty of time to case the joint.
    • No one's riding the mayor's ferry system but it's survived the budget axe that he's swung everywhere else. (Gotham Gazette)
    • Two-way tolling on the Verrazzano Bridge took another step forward. (SI Advance)

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