Monday’s Headlines: The Times is Printing Pornography!
As Potter Stewart once said, we know it when we see it: The NY Times’s Sunday piece on the joy of driving in pandemic New York might be the most revolting car porn since Ford v. Ferrari.
You may have noticed from our many posts since well before the current crisis, people who care about our city have been struggling to get our public officials to give us more than crumbs of public space — i.e. the fraction of space between buildings that is not given to cars. Every bulb-out is a battle. Every bike lane requires months of community board complaints. Every lost “parking space” is like a national catastrophe for some people. But still, livable streets activists sometimes win, clawing back a few feet of roadway from car drivers and car-storers.
And during the pandemic, people are literally dying because the city’s public policy has long put cars over people.
But here comes the Times Metro section to celebrate what a great joy the pandemic has been for drivers! In the ultimate form of windshield perspective, reporter Michael Wilson drove around our current automotive Eden and likened the paradise with words that would make the Almighty blush.
“The coronavirus,” Wilson writes, “has transformed the experience of operating a motor vehicle in the city. It has accomplished what years of debates over road improvements and congestion pricing and toll increases could not.”
Yes, he means that as a good thing.
The writing was horrifying enough, but the article came complete with videos depicting the open roads as lustfully as John Donne once described his lover’s naked body.
Literary references aside, the danger in such pro-car propaganda is clear: it’s not merely a pop song about an adolescent boy and his “Little Deuce Coupe,” but a warning shot to any politician who tries to take the T-bird away. The Times has issued its declaration: we love the open road and we’ll fight for it when this is all over. But we ask Metro Editor Cliff Levy again: Who, exactly, is this coverage for, given that a tiny minority of city residents own cars?
In other news:
- Our old man editor went on a fact-finding mission to a few of the new open streets on Saturday and came home to grouse about “all those damn young people” hanging out in front of all the bars in Park Slope — and sure enough, the Post was yelling at the same clouds. That’s why the mayor needs to create more space for restaurants and bars to operate safely, as Streetsblog reported last week.
- Bus speeds are up 15 percent during the pandemic — and the MTA knows why (hint: there are fewer cars!). (NYDN)
- Now that the mayor’s Streetcar Named Gentrification seems dead, residents of The Bronx are calling for something that could really help commuters: a cross-town light rail that would cut horizontally across the borough’s mostly north-south subway lines. (Welcome2TheBronx)
- Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer went where the mayor simply won’t go: anywhere on a bike. (Brewer via Twitter)
- Those heroic workers who are cleaning the subways in the middle of the night are, as you might have guessed, low paid. (NYDN)
- Streetsblog contributor Aaron Short (we see you, Aaron!) had a broad overview of how the MTA will try to restore confidence and ridership when this is all over (Commercial Observer). On the same topic, Alon Levy says we wouldn’t need to worry so much about transit if we would follow the lessons learned in Asia (Pedestrian Observations).
- And, finally, Doug Gordon tweeted a short video of why we’re going to need more bike lanes, not fewer, when this is all over. (Via Twitter) And his “War on Cars” co-host Sarah Goodyear also made a great point about how Robert Moses’s perniciousness is rearing its ugly head again, thanks to the city’s ban on beaches. (Via Twitter)
Grand Army Plaza. pic.twitter.com/nkEqggfISc
— Doug Gordon (@BrooklynSpoke) May 17, 2020
Opening New York State beaches like Jones Beach while city beaches stay closed pretty much means people with cars get to go to the beach while the rest of NYC residents don’t.
— Sarah Goodyear (@buttermilk1) May 16, 2020