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Department of Sanitation

Sunday’s Headlines: World Turned Upside Down Edition

12:10 AM EST on December 20, 2020

This picture is intentionally upside down. Photo: NYC Sanitation

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It's our December donation drive. Your gift helps us do these kinds of important stories. So please click here.

Our old man editor is always telling us that when he was in tabloids, the rule was always, "Never let the facts get in the way of a good story." So, apparently, on Saturday, the NY Times Metro section went tabloid.

"Edward Grayson just led New York City’s Sanitation Department in clearing snow from 6,300 miles of streets: no small feat during a pandemic," read the callout on the surprising puff piece on Acting Sanitation Commissioner Ed Grayson by the usually reliable Corey Kilgannon.

There was one problem with the story: The streets weren't clear for New York's most vulnerable and most discriminated against users: cyclists, pedestrians and bus riders.

Even the smallest modicum (which is a really really small modicum) of research by Kilgannon would have revealed the shoddy job done by Grayson and his budget-battered troops. We posted our first critique of the department on Thursday night, likely just as Kilgannon was getting the bucket to carry one of his editors' water. Our story showed that even a full day after the cleanup began, scores of miles of protected bike lanes were still impassible.

And our story even had a picture of a Park Slope man who got so frustrated with the slow cleanup that he started shoveling the Prospect Park West bike lane himself (there is no way the Times editors missed that story; New York Times editors comprise a plurality of Park Slope residents).

Then, all day Saturday, we were fielding pictures and tweets from all over the city, with complaints from virtually all non-car users, including Corey Johnson:

Here's a smattering (get ready for some serious doom scrolling, #bikenyc):

From The Bronx:

From the Williamsburg section of the Brooklyn greenway (which Streetsblog just reported had tripled its ridership this year):

From the Fourth Avenue bike lane near Park Slope:

From East Flatbush:

From Second Avenue in Manhattan:

From Eighth Avenue in Manhattan:

From Northern Boulevard in Queens:

From Skillman Avenue in Queens:

From the bus-rider's-eye view in Downtown Brooklyn (albeit on Friday):

So, do all those tweets and photos means the Sanitation Department did a terrible job with what was ultimately a routine snowstorm? No, but it does mean that reporters, like those at the New York Times, need to do a better job of investigating conditions in the field before retyping the Sanitation Department's press release, as Friend of Streetsblog Jarek FA pointed out on Twitter:

In other weekend news:

    • Continuing our theme that the world has turned upside down, one of the NYPD's chief spokesmen, Al Baker, wrote a bizarre and self-serving Daily News op-ed about the shortcomings of civilian oversight of the NYPD — this coming one day after the city Department of Investigation released its damning report demanding more civilian oversight of the NYPD.
    • Indeed, that report dominated the news on Friday (after our daily headline digest had been published). So here's an overview of the coverage if you missed it all:
      • Gothamist played up the mayor's weak response to the report.
      • The Daily News's day story called the report "scathing," but then hours later, the paper's editorial board found fault with the report ... for not going nearly far enough (especially when it came to actually assigning blame).
      • The Post played up PBA President Pat Lynch's steaming hot take — that the cops were let down by city leaders, not the other way around. The Tabloid of Record then had and ate its cake by slamming the mayor for not apologizing enough for the very police misconduct that the paper didn't seem to have much of problem with.
      • The Times played up the NYPD failure (too bad DOI hasn't issued a report about the Sanitation Department!).
      • Streetsblog's Julianne Cuba looked at one area that the mainstream media ignored: How the NYPD's Strategic Response Group abuses protesters with bikes.
    • Road rage over parking led to a stabbing on those supposedly cleared streets. (NYDN)
    • The Post is so eager to reduce cycling in the city that it played up the finally filed lawsuit against Citi Bike stemming from crashes in 2019 from faulty brakes on earlier generation e-bikes, a crisis that had been well reported ... last year.
    • And, finally, see that yellow logo in the top right corner of this post? That's our humble ask for donations to keep the lights on next year. And we like to honor our donors in this space. Here are the donors since our last roll call: Thanks, Charles! Thanks, Eric! Thanks, Christine! Thanks, Matthew!

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