Monday’s Headlines: How to Blow Up a Pipeline Edition

amtrak beauty shot with book
A good read on a great ride.
A good read on a great ride.

Our old man editor thought he’d get away on the Amtrak Cardinal for a few days in West Virginia (which, in case you haven’t read, is awesome), but they kept pulling him back in. The “they” is the anti-safety, pro-car defenders of the status quo who can’t seem to understand that if we are going to change the course of civilization from climate-induced destruction, we actually do have to change.

The backlash came in the form of a particularly juicy letter to the editor in the Daily News decrying our editor’s much-read op-ed a week earlier about how we must transform our streets not only for safety but to save civilization.

“Gersh Kuntzman is the Kellyanne Conway of the anti-car movement,” Marie McCormick’s letter states. “His assessment of street usage is no more than bourgeois phantasmagoria.”

McCormick’s defense of the status quo of pollution- and congestion-filled streets is depressing not only because we sort of like hate to see our editor so publicly thrashed, but because it brings to mind how hard it is to crack any pillars of our fossil fuel economy, even in the face of universal scientific consensus on the urgency to do so. The fight we still must wage (seemingly daily) to build bike lanes to support more sustainable transport modes, for example, is just a small piece of the larger global struggle against climate change, which is the focus of a relatively new book that our old man editor can’t shut up about ever since he read it on the Amtrak.

“People have always been told that we’re fucked, we’re doomed, we should just try to scrape by, nothing will ever change for the better,” Andreas Malm writes in “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” (Verso, 2021). “From the slave barracks to the Judenräte and onwards, every revolt has been discouraged by the elders of defeatism.”

The book’s overall takeaway is that people who protest our current way of life are seen as violent radicals — yet the smoke belching out of a fossil fuel plant or the tailpipe of a 5,000-lb. SUV is seen as “the mark of peaceful normality.”

This “warping,” as Malm calls it, has to do with politics — and newspapers — favoring the status quo. (Others, of course, have pointed this out. Earlier this summer, Friend of Streetsblog Charles Komanoff also reviewed the book and reminded us all, “Rich people cannot have the right to combust others to death.”)

So take that, Marie! And if that doesn’t convince you, watch a great commercial for the perfect vehicle:

Now, onto a broad overview of this busy weekend’s news:DN oath keeper wood

  • It was a banner few days for drunk-driving law enforcement personnel, with the arrest on Friday of NYPD School Safety Agent Radon Jones, 35, for DWI and leaving the scene of a crash in Williamsburg, and the Saturday arrest of Department of Corrections employee Alberto Porras, who was charged with drunk driving and refusal to take a breath test. It’s so common an occurrence that none of the local papers wrote up either case. (Then again, they also had a great NYPD corruption scandal involving a cop who duped would-be renters, as reported by the Daily News.)
  • But the presence of NYPD officers among the Oath Keepers is another story entirely — filling the Daily News wood on Saturday (see photo right and story here). The Oath Keepers, you’ll recall, were one of the groups that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 in hopes of overthrowing the government (if you haven’t watched the Times documentary, you should).
  • The Post billed it as an “exclusive,” but it’s not huge news that State Sen. Mike Gianaris, a longtime burr in Gov. Cuomo’s saddle, opposes the AirTrain.
  • Meanwhile, the Tabloid of Record, for some bizarre and likely hypocritical fake populist reason, is pretending that a “growing number” of New Yorkers oppose congestion pricing. It’s faux-populism because, as Streetsblog reported last week, residents of Manhattan who own cars are much wealthier than their car-less (and transit-using) neighbors. That said, in fairness to anti-toll commenter Bobby Frank Kolin, there should be a Costco in Manhattan.
  • Jose Martinez of The City pointed out that if centrist Democrats (and the GOP) kill President Biden’s infrastructure package, it’s a real poison pill for the MTA.
  • A rider of an illegal moped was killed in the Bronx over the weekend, but the Post continues to refer to such devices as “scooters,” in some bizarre effort to discredit legal, safe and city-sanctioned micro mobility.
  • Speaking of scooters, Friend of Streetsblog John Surico had a nice piece in Bloomberg about the city’s pilot scooter-share program in the Bronx.
  • Ginia Bellafante’s Sunday column was devoted to airing the views of many people about how to “solve” New York City’s congestion problem. It quoted some great people, including “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz, Charles Komanoff and Betsy Plum, but failed to advance the central solution: restrict car use and greatly reduce driver access to neighborhood streets (NY Times). Meanwhile, our friend @jeremyexplains went through the comments with a fine-tooth comb and found that opponents of congestion pricing are generally arguing about other issues:

  • Speaking of the generally car-loving New York Times, the paper that can’t fully reckon with the deleterious affect of cars on great urban spaces is fueling more bikelash, this time in Paris. At the same time, the paper is promoting all kinds of wacky “solutions” for urban transit when, again, the immediate “solution” is expansive networks of car-free busways. (That said, we can’t wait for those battery-powered ferries so that De Blasio’s Folly could at least be clean and green.)
  • Finally, car-loving anti-urbanist Staten Island Advance columnist Tom Wrobleski (whose body of work really is the island’s best argument for secession and annexation by New Jersey) left his car home and decided to take public transit to get around. And he found it … actually OK! Welcome to the war on cars, Tom!
  • Our friend, former federal transit man Larry Penner, is all over this NJ.com story about how New Jersey Transit prematurely junked its equipment, earning the ire of the feds.
  • The Guardian did a broad overview of the yellow cab industry.
  • It’s too easy to only focus on the racism inside the NYPD because cops carry guns (and use them). So we appreciate the Times for revealing the deep racial enmity within the FDNY, too.
  • A few days ago, we wrote about the death of Carina López, killed by a reckless driver in the Bronx. Friends and family have set up a GoFundMe page in hopes of raising money for her burial.

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