Tuesday’s Headlines: Listen to the Community Edition

This is what idiocracy looks like. Brooklyn Community Board 2's executive committee last night.
This is what idiocracy looks like. Brooklyn Community Board 2's executive committee last night.

So, Commissioner Gutman, is it “safety first” or “listen to the community”? And what “community” anyway?

Here's the plan. Photo: DOT
Here’s the plan. Photo: DOT

New Yorkers who care about road safety got another reminder on Monday night that a tiny minority of car owners will continue to stand in the way of safe streets for all, as Brooklyn Community Board 2’s executive committee voted 6-2 against a single-block protected bike lane that would connect existing (and heavily used) bike infrastructure on Flushing Avenue and Sands Street so that thousands of cyclists a day can get to the Manhattan Bridge or DUMBO without getting hit.

The board said it acted as it did to preserve 14 (fourteen!) parking spaces on Navy Street. One board member said that those spaces were needed because 16 percent of the residents of the Farragut Houses nearby own cars.

Which means that 84 percent don’t.

Admittedly, it’s a fraught conversation: the roads are supposed to be for everyone, and a small minority of people shouldn’t be steamrolled without being heard, as CB2 member Brian Howald articulated in an epic Twitter thread:

But at the end of the day, who should the city serve: Thousands of people (cyclists, pedestrians and, yes, motorists) who want to get around safely, or 14 people who want to store their private car in the public right of way for free? It’s a no-brainer, but we’ll be asking DOT Commissioner Hank Gutman next time we see him.

Besides, as Friend of Streetsblog Dave Abraham pointed out, that stretch of roadway didn’t have parking for almost a decade:

The subtext of the vote was the predictable argument that people who own cars need their cars, while people who commute to work on bikes are just spoiled weirdos. But which group is the entitled oppressors?

In other news:

  • Speaking of the need for bike lanes, Mayor de Blasio and Senator Chuck Schumer announced a competition to create a climate change center on Governors Island. Who needs a climate change center when the solutions are so obvious: reduce driving by reducing space for driving. (amNY, with a picture of de Blasio driving … a golf cart)
  • Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was in town on Monday to hype his excitement about the Gateway Tunnel project, but he didn’t want to address the elephant in the room: Gov. Cuomo, who doesn’t want to pay New York’s share of this vital infrastructure project (NYDN, NY Post, amNY, Gothamist). The Times went with an odd question-mark headline, as always.
  • State Senator Zellnor Myrie and Assembly Member Diana Richardson sued the NYPD (and Mayor de Blasio) for the way cops allegedly pepper-sprayed them and brutalized them with bikes during a George Floyd protest last year. (NY Times)
  • Even our shameless old man editor was embarrassed at the write-up he received in being named the 57th most-important person in transportation by City & State. “World War I had Hemingway, the Vietnam War had Neil Sheehan, and the War on Cars has Gersh Kuntzman. The Brooklyn-based scribe reinvented himself from a hard-boiled tabloid editor to an Upton Sinclair of transportation.” Somewhere, Hemingway, Sheehan and Sinclair are rolling in their graves (with the Pulitzers that Kuntzman never won). Friends of Streetsblog Tom Wright (17), Danny Harris (19), Sam Schwartz (22), Sarah Kaufman (32), Betsy Plum (41), Jaqi Cohen (42), Charles Komanoff 46), Nicole Gelinas (58), Eric McClure (70), Debbie Marks Kahn (73), Janette Sadik-Khan (89), Quemuel Arroyo (95), Terri Carta (98), Courtney Williams (99) and Dan Rivoli (100) also made the VIP list.
  • City & State also covered how horrible it is to be a disabled subway rider in this town.
  • Let’s make it a threefer: City & State also wrote about Gov. Cuomo’s foolish plan for Penn Station.
  • It’s behind a paywall, but Newsday covered the ultimate entitlement protest of truck owners who are complaining that they can’t drive on the beach in Amagansett anymore.
  • Apparently Council Member Farah Louis was involved in a car crash on Monday, though few details were available (PoliticsNY). Louis has opposed many street safety initiatives in her central Brooklyn district, and did not get the StreetsPAC endorsement in her re-election campaign.
  • We kinda wish our former colleague Ben Verde had asked one simple question about his Park Slope development story: “Why does this project need so much damn parking?!” (Maybe we trained him wrong?) (Brooklyn Paper)

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A grassroots effort to improve safety on extra-wide 111th Street in Corona yielded a DOT plan for a road diet, better pedestrian crossings, and a protected bike lane this spring. Then two members of Queens Community Board 4 stymied the proposal, at least for the time being. To keep the project moving forward, Council Member Julissa Ferreras has organized two neighborhood […]