Streetsies 2020: The Dumbest Things Mayor de Blasio Said This Year

deblasio streetsie 2020
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You might have heard that 2020 was a tough year, but Mayor de Blasio didn’t make it any easier on himself by doing things like encouraging New Yorkers to pack neighborhood bars right before they were shut down due to a contagious disease tearing through the city.

In fairness, the mayor didn’t make it very easy on himself whenever he talked this year. But tough year or no, some traditions live on, like our annual list of the worst quotes the mayor conjured up when discussing the city’s streets (often with Streetsblog!).

So here it is: the annual Streetsie Award for Worst de Blasio-ism of the year. The nominees are:

Bike to work, if you dare

It’s hard to remember, but back in the early days of the pandemic, when you were making jokes about touching your face and being in crowded spaces, the mayor actually suggested people bike or walk to work.

Of course, after tweeting “Bike or walk to work if you can,” the mayor didn’t do nearly enough to make cycling safer and to reduce the use of cars — and the predictable result was the second-most road deaths of his tenure, including 25 dead cyclists. He didn’t even need to do the thinking in order to make it safe, because people made plenty of suggestions for him that went nowhere, like making the East River bridges more bike-friendly and doing mass rollouts of protected bike lanes beyond the 28 miles that were basically already planned before the pandemic began anyway.

And on top of not announcing new bike lanes or car restrictions, the mayor even found a time to joke about how he wouldn’t bike to work because he didn’t think his bike skills were up up to snuff. We guess he didn’t want to end up like Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who was literally hit by a car driver while he was out for a bike ride this summer.

People’s Improv Mayor

In response to a question about how people should commute to work, the mayor said, “People are going to have to improvise.” Now, he clearly wasn’t suggesting that everyone should take some UCB classes and turn into every woman’s worst date story. Rather, he was encapsulating the de Blasio approach to the streets though: they’re around and people drive on them and I don’t really know what you people want me to do about it.

Months after that statement, it was entirely too late for him to tell people not to buy a car, which was how thousands of people said, “Yes and…” to his improv suggestion.

With such lack of interest in governing city streets, it’s no surprise then, that months after shrugging his shoulders and saying he’d just let New Yorkers cook, the mayor’s own Surface Transportation Council could only get his attention by going public with their complaints that his administration didn’t listen to a single thing they recommended.

We have the worst fucking drivers

New York exceptionalism takes many forms. It’s fun when we all get together and bully some other city for not having the famous slice or not having two pro teams per sport, but it’s not fun at all when people use it to explain why things can’t be better here. So of course Mayor de Blasio had to pick the crappy version of New York exceptionalism, and say that drivers here were so uniquely bad and sociopathic that they would be a menace to an open streets program.

“In California, drivers stop at intersections even if there’s no light or stop sign; they stop when people are trying to cross the street even in the middle of the street,” the mayor said.

The quote wasn’t bad because actual Californians had to tell him he was out of his mind. As it turned out the mayor was right about our horrible drivers, as plenty of pictures of destroyed wooden saw horses at the entrances to open streets showed. But even when he recognized a problem, the mayor didn’t act like he was the mayor and promise to do something about our horrible drivers. He didn’t even use his bully pulpit to say something like, “These terrible drivers should be driven out of polite society,” he just pointed at a problem, called it an impossible situation and used it as an excuse to defer real action.

History in the maki— … haha just kidding, it’s alternate-side parking

This guy and alternate-side parking, good lord.

Allow us to amend an earlier statement about the mayor’s attitude towards being in charge of the streets: he thinks they’re around and people drive on them and the only thing they want him to take care of is alternate side parking. The mayor noticeably perked up any time ASP came up this year, at one point comparing it to Satan, which is unfair because Satan is cool.

He then drove the bit home at the end of the year with the weird tweet you see above where he thought he’d get in on the joke about alternate-side parking regulations by claiming to have a “BIG announcement” and then suspending alternate side parking for a week. It’s asked many times in many ways, but what is this guy’s deal?

Keep waiting for those bus improvements

When Polly Trottenberg resigned from her spot atop the Department of Transportation, she mentioned that she didn’t really talk that often with the mayor. But New Yorkers already knew that by the time she admitted that fact, because a month before the resignation, a caller on “Ask the Mayor” asked de Blasio if he could promise that his administration would actually finish painting the 3.5 miles of busways and 16.5 miles of bus lanes that he promised this summer, and Hizzonner used a lot of words to admit he had no idea how it was going:

I want to give you an update on exactly how far we have gotten. When we announced that, we felt very confident that we could achieve that whole goal and timeline. The truth is, I haven’t gotten a progress report in the last few weeks, so I want to. The last I heard this was moving along very well. There were a couple local issues that were being worked through that still had to be resolved, but overwhelmingly the plan was moving on pace. So let me get you and everyone an update on that.

When a different caller asked him about alternate-side parking regulations, he gave an answer that was three times as long as the bus answer (again what is his freaking deal?).

The next week the mayor told a caller that the city would get 17 out of the planned 20 miles finished, and that the only hiccup was local opposition to the Flushing Busway. But that wasn’t true either. When the year ended only one out of five of the originally announced busways, the Jay Street Busway, was actually finished, while another, the Fifth Avenue Busway, was totally jettisoned.

So sorry, two million daily bus riders. But hey have you heard about how we’re fixing the injustice that is alternate-side parking?

Barricades? What barricades?

“I didn’t see the video” became the mayor’s running catchphrase for every instance of recorded and widely-seen footage of police brutality this summer, an inexplicable and scarcely believable thing for someone in his position to say. A kissing cousin to that head-in-the-sand attitude showed up when reporters began asking the mayor why police were barricading entire blocks, sidewalks and streets, where precincts were located. It was even weirder when the mayor said he was “not familiar with the specifics” about police barricading blocks at a time when it was still happening in August, because in June he excused the practice by saying that if the police were within their rights to set up barricades if they felt threatened by daily street protests.

The ferry is Vision Zero and mass transit

We all know the mayor loves his ferry. He loves that thing so much that he had his motorcade park in a bike lane so he could celebrate a ferry dock opening in Astoria. But like so many instances of love clouding one’s judgment, the mayor perhaps let his ebullience for waterway transportation get the best of him, when he told reporters it was as integral a part of Vision Zero as speed cameras and street redesigns and mass transit.

I would say in my last year, we’re going to double down on Vision Zero, go right back to everything that was working consistently for years. That means intensive enforcement. That means obviously continuing to implement the speed cameras. It means continuing to build out mass transit options which we have done with select bus service and busways and the NYC Ferry and obviously Citi Bike. It means continuing those redesigns of intersections and streets.

The ferry is nice to have around, but the mayor’s insistence that it’s a solution to mass transit and street safety woes just isn’t in touch with reality. The entire ferry system is moving about 11,000 people per day on weekdays, which is far fewer people that ride six different buses that only serve Brooklyn. Hell, 40,000 people rode Citi Bike per day in January, yet bike share gets no public money, while the city spent $82 million on boats alone.

And the winner is … “people are going to improvise.” It’s just the perfect storm: People are reluctant to take transit, people are afraid to bike, people aren’t discouraged from driving so … they “improvise” and buy a lot of cars, drive them recklessly on the mostly open roads and end up with the second-highest road deaths of the de Blasio era.

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