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Thursday’s Headlines: It Depends on How You Define ‘Equity’ Edition

12:03 AM EST on February 4, 2021

Here’s new Department of Transportation Commissioner Hank Gutman in his first virtual presser.

They say that journalists should never express their opinions, so we will just state a fact: Yesterday, Mayor de Blasio hired a rich, vastly under-qualified White man from the donor class to run the Department of Transportation over a more-qualified woman already in the job.

And then he said the hiring of Hank Gutman would expedite equity from the agency.

Seriously, Mayor de Blasio used the word "equity" or "equitable" six times in describing Gutman or the role he will undertake. (In his own remarks, Gutman used the words five times.) The mayor claimed Gutman's commitment to equity really shined during his role during "the fight to create Brooklyn Bridge Park," which was the most expensive park in the world when it was built and, though open to the public, remains a front lawn for one of the richest neighborhoods in town.

"Hank was one of the leaders of that effort, and there was another effort within that effort, whether that park would be a place that was equitable and for all of Brooklyn, or whether it would be an elitist enclave," de Blasio said. "Hank fought for an inclusive park, even though many didn't want to see it that way. ... And that's one of the central reasons that led me to want him to take on this new role."

Hank Gutman is an intellectual property lawyer, most recently with Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. He is a longtime donor to Democratic candidates. He is not a transportation professional. But maybe that was the point; in installing Gutman at the top of DOT, the mayor said the time has come for "a new approach, not the way we did things in the past ... and [to] go even farther with the Department of Transportation ... as we build a more equitable city."

Streetsblog was all over the breaking story yesterday. Other outlets also covered:

    • The Daily News also pointed out that then-Acting Commissioner Margaret Forgione — a DOT insider who has worked in transportation for decades — could easily have been picked to fill the position for the remaining 11 months of the de Blasio term.
    • The Post and amNY played it straight.
    • And give the Staten Island Advance credit for complete honesty in its lede: That paper hates any rules against reckless driving and hates anything to do with keeping cyclists safe!
    • The Times did not cover the appointment of someone who will be heading a $1.3-billion agency with tentacles that reach into every corner of city life.
    • And Friend of Streetsblog Peter Frishauf expressed his disappointment — in a three-tweet thread:

We'll see how this all works out over the final 11 months of the de Blasio years.

In other news:

    • The DOT wants your opinion on pedestrianizing a tiny part of Broadway in the Flatiron District. (DOT Twitter)
    • David Meyer had a great story in the Post about the naming of MTA’s first ever chief accessibility officer Quemuel Arroyo, a position long needed that's being filled by a great activist and leader.
    • The Suffolk County legislature passed a bill to make it much easier for cops to harass Black kids on bikes. No, that's not the stated purpose of the bill, but that will certainly be the result. (Note to self: in one year, FOIL the arrest records for teen cyclists in Suffolk County.) (Newsday)
    • Hat tip to the Times's Jeffery Mays and Emma Fitzsimmons for pointing out the hypocrisy of how some politicians embraced the "Defund the Police" movement over the summer, but are now quietly backing away from that position.
    • And finally, East Side Council candidate Billy Freeland and Assembly candidate Patrick Bobilin are our heroes of the day — for shoveling out the Second Avenue "pork chop" on Wednesday (but Bobilin has been doing that kind of thing regularly with the UES Mutual Aid group):

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