Eric Adams at the Oonee Launch: I Will Stop ‘The Culture of Can’t’ in this City
We don’t know what kind of mayor Eric Adams will be. During the campaign, he said a lot of the things that members of the livable streets community like to hear — which is what earned him the StreetsPAC endorsement, no doubt. But he also says some wacky things (like how he wants to take his first three paychecks in Bitcoin, or how it’s no big deal that he parks his car on the sidewalk). Over the next few weeks, we hope to get the full measure of Eric Adams, so we started by simply listening to the man as he cut the ribbon on a bike parking pod created by Oonee, a company whose products — and CEO Shabazz Stuart — are no stranger to Streetsblog readers (coverage of Thursday’s event is here). Dispensing with prepared remarks, Adams spoke more or less off the cuff for about five minutes, and painted images of life in this city that were so vibrant that we thought we’d share them in full (Mayor de Blasio was not on hand, by the way). Now, one caveat: Adams’s remarks on Thursday were before an extremely friendly crowd of cycling and sustainability advocates; we have no idea what Adams says when he addresses board rooms full of real estate executives or when he’s seeking campaign donations from the city’s wealthiest. Here’s what the future mayor said:
How do we come together to solve real problems? Shabazz, I remember the conversation we had — I met him at an event and he put this idea in my head. I got back to the office and I said, “I saw amazing young man. Let’s get together and hear his idea.” But also think about Eric [McClure, of StreetsPAC] and everything we talked about years ago. Eric approached me one day and he put in my head, this whole concept of decreasing speed limits, and I was like, “Are you serious?” And he did a video [of speeding] and it just took on steam.
And a few days ago, I sat down with a young man who had a different opinion about policing. And it was a very healthy conversation that just took on a life of his own. But it wasn’t contentious. I sit down and talk to people. That’s a revolutionary idea in a space where everyone believes they have to be right to make someone else wrong. We don’t have to be that way. We could learn so much just sitting down and say, “I want to seek to understand so you can be understood.” And the reason we’re standing here today is because I sought to understand. The reason we decreased speed limits in the city is because I sought to understand. The reason we’re going to live together in our city is because we’re going to seek to understand.
I don’t care when people complain about me, call me names because in the long run, we are going to learn to live together. That’s it. We’re going to learn to live together. It’s going to be sometimes painful; we’re gonna sit in a room with folks that we traditionally would rather not sit in the room. So it’s going to be painful. We are in a growing moment. We’re about to give birth to what it’s like to be in a city as diverse as New York, so we were going to go through growing pains. But it’s a great moment to feel growing pains because once outside, we’re going to be amazing people.
I don’t know if Shabazz mentioned one group or not, but one of the most significant organizations is Good Company Bike Club. Waking up the African-American and other communities of colors to the experience of biking. Why is that significant? Anyone that’s part of the bike movement would tell you that when you try to do infrastructure, bike lanes, in communities of color, you get a lot of pushback, because people are saying, “You’re coming in and not talking to us when you’re doing it.” And so this club has become the ambassador to those communities. When we want to change people, we have to get on the ground. You will never be a good shepherd if you don’t hang out with the sheeps. And Good Company Bike Club — young, African-American professionals that are really engaged in bringing people to the place. Look, you don’t meet people where you are! You have to meet people where they are, and take them where they want to be. If you meet people where you are, you will never be able to reach them and bring them to where you want them to be.
Hercules, my staffer, rides all the time, part of the riding movement. Ryan Lynch [also a Borough Hall staffer] rides all the time. I’m on my bike all the time. So we we don’t just talk about it. We’re like the Hair Club for Men guy. We are clients of this movement. So having a bike club like this is crucial.
I believe New York City is the hub of innovation. Let’s get back there. Let’s be unafraid to try something new. We become so stagnant as a city. We have a culture of can’t and a culture of failure. Think about what Shabazz went through just to do this. It was unbelievable. People started out saying, “No, no, no.” We have a “Culture of no” in this city. It’s time to have a “Culture of yes.” Embrace failure — that’s healthy — so that we can get to the place that we want to get to because failure is part of that process. we want to be a city of innovation, a city of ideas, no matter how crazy they may be, you will find a solution to those ideas. This city can tackle some of your most pressing problems by having that combination of creativity and diversity.
At this point, Adams returned to some talking points about the new Oonee Mini unit, which can securely store six bikes in the space usually occupied by one full-size car or SUV.
We don’t have nearly enough bike parking spaces. I think Transportation Alternatives pointed out this in one of their studies, that there are 116 car parking spaces for every one bike parking space. We need to change that scenario. People are afraid that your bike is going to be stolen. As Shabazz mentioned, one in four families [have been affected] and that’s hard-earned income. It costs a lot. And we want to make sure that we can have secure parking in the city. And many of those at risk are those who have delivery men and women who use their bikes to deliver that food. They lose their bike, they lose their income in the process.
So we know the DOT is planning on 10,000 new bike parking spaces, but that’s by the end of 2022. The movement is here now! We can put it on a fast track. We need to get it done right away. That’s why we are going to partner with folks like Shabazz to get it moving forward in a more rapid pace. And you can see just by looking at this group we have here, the diversity of this movement, and folks are excited to be here and being a being a part of what we are attempting to accomplish.
And it’s not like it’s not growing. This this movement is growing at a pace that is unbelievable. DOT’s own numbers: There were 1.8 million more bike trips in 2020 compared to 2019, a 33-percent increase. And one solution solves a multitude of problems. We have childhood diabetes and obesity? How about allowing children to ride to school safely? We have seniors needing to see doctors? How about having safe spaces for seniors to be comfortable riding in our streets and then stopping off and interacting with each other? So biking is an amazing way of bringing our city together. The more infrastructure we build, the more likely people will use bikes in a real way. Best example? the Brooklyn Bridge bike lane — we have witnessed 88-percent jump in average daily bike crossing over the bridge. A vision was put out there to realize. People thought it was impossible it was done and people are using the Brooklyn Bridge bike crossing. and I’m just so happy every time I cross it. It’s just a great experience to do it on that separate lane.
He came back to Oonee.
And so there’s we have other Oonee hubs that were put in place. We did the rollout over at Atlantic Avenue. We’re going to continue to do the rollout. It’s imperative that we continue to make it happen. So I think that we’re creating a model that will be utilized citywide — and we must make sure we go into those non-traditional communities: East New York, South Jamaica, Queens, Jamaica Avenue subway station, Sutphin Boulevard, Flatbush Avenue, Canarsie, Rockaway — those areas where transportation is not there, the infrastructure is not there. We can use this to park your bikes to get on the subway, the bus. Building out that infrastructure — instead of a disconnected infrastructure, a unified infrastructure.
Then he went off on a tangent about his old job as a cop.
So I am just really happy to be here on many levels: number one, as a platoon commander, this was my precinct. I watched this precinct. We used to drive down here and we used to see the place filled with crack pipes. We see a high level of crime and violence. I remember a few years ago [Rep.] Carolyn Maloney spent the night over in the park fighting to say, “We need a park in this community” and putting a million dollars and moving this initiative forward.
I remember spending time here walking through the neighborhoods and watching this rich startup community that’s coming here [in gentrified Williamsburg]. It’s a great place, folks. Don’t let anybody kid you. This is a great great, great borough. And a great, great, great city. Just as 9/11 couldn’t stop us — we got up on 9/12 — COVID isn’t going to stop us. We’re getting up again and we’re going to show this country how to run cities the right way.