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Bill de Blasio

Editorial: The Streetsie Award for The Most Objectionable Things de Blasio Said this Year

And the Streetsie goes to…

All this week, we're rolling out our year-end awards, the coveted Streetsies. On Monday, we looked at the best projects of the year (and you can vote to break the tie through Thursday). And yesterday, we looked at reasons for hope for next year. Today is our annual editorial on Mayor de Blasio's public utterances. All our 2021 Streetsie Awards are archived here.

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The Streetsie for "Worst" or "Least Intelligent" or simply the "Most Ill-Informed Thing Mayor de Blasio Said This Year" is one of our most challenging awards year in and year out. Who could forget when Hizzoner endorsed helmet laws (a Streetsie winner in 2019!) or, last year, when he deferred on mitigating the long-predicted carmageddon, saying only that he expected people to "improvise"? Perhaps nothing will beat the Streetsie Award winner from 2018, when de Blasio said it's OK for drivers to stop in bike lanes if they'll only be dangerously blocking the road for a short period — a comment that led to the coining of a legacy term, "The de Blasio Stop."

But what about 2021? Did the battle over Covid help the mayor set aside foolish things, or did he make matters worse? You be the judge. Without further ado, here are the nominees for this year's Streetsie Award for "Most Objectionable Things de Blasio Said this Year":

Why don't I get more credit?

We've known a lot of politicians over the years, and, in truth, Mayor de Blasio is not nearly as thin-skinned as many of his elected or appointed colleagues in government. Generally speaking, the mayor answers reporters' questions as best he can, and when he doesn't know an answer, he will often have his press people get back to the reporter within the same news cycle.

But the mayor is frequently condescending ("Oh, Gersh, Gersh, Gersh...") and he definitely wants more credit than he deserves (again, that's politics). And the latter trait led to this nominee.

On Nov. 5, the mayor made his weekly appearance on WNYC's "Ask the Mayor" show with Brian Lehrer. The city had just flip-flopped under pressure from Fifth Avenue luxury merchants and canceled plans for a busway and bike lane on the fancy retail strip — which was reported not only by Streetsblog, but also in a New York Times that had deep sourcing about how de Blasio had secretly met with a billionaire before scrubbing the road-safety improvement.

But when someone raised the question on the show — "Why are you siding with wealthy real estate developers and turning your back on everyday bus and bike riders who need their fast commutes and safety on our streets? — the mayor said the questioner's facts are "fundamentally wrong." And then he complained of not getting enough credit:

"The fact is," the mayor began, "not only did I institute Vision Zero and we propelled it forward for eight straight years, including during the pandemic, but I'm the person to put busways in place, starting with 14th Street, and then we've expanded them around the boroughs. So, I don't understand the memory problem some people have. ... There was no Vision Zero before me, respectfully. There was not busways before I did this. I'm very proud of it. It's making a huge impact. The decision on Fifth Avenue is a very temporary one. ... The busway is 100 percent happening. I have been very clear publicly. So, you can ask whatever you want, you can say whatever you want, but I really wish for folks who believe in these type of approaches, rather than start with bluntly, a conspiracy theory, start with the fact that we have moved this agenda profoundly, and it's going to keep growing. There's a lot more protected bikeways coming, a lot more busways and select bus service coming. That's where the city is going."

Facts: The busway (already watered-down) may happen, but it'll be under the next mayor. And there was a busway on the Fulton Mall in Brooklyn when Bill de Blasio was still in short pants. And the most successful busway on 14th Street would likely never have happened without the two-year planning before the threatened L train tunnel shutdown. Oh, and one more thing: Bus speeds are down considerably under this mayor.

That guy's a hypocrite, not me

Remember in April, when Council Member and future Comptroller Brad Lander was caught speeding ... a lot? Well, Mayor de Blasio, whose own drivers have been caught speeding, covering up a crash, and running personal errands for the mayor, jumped on the "Lander is a Hypocrite" bandwagon, referring to the Brooklyn pol's longstanding support for street safety measures (sometimes to the point of embarrassing the mayor), saying, "I would characterize it as hypocrisy. Everyone who says they believe in Vision Zero has to live by it."

In other words, "Do as I say, not as I do ... when I'm being driven in my big SUV from the Upper East Side to a gym in Park Slope."

Riding an e-bike is cheating

The supposed Vision Zero visionary was spotted riding a bike just once this year, using a Citi Bike classic to made his way from Gracie Mansion to City Hall in May. But de Blasio made a huge mistake when he exercise-shamed riders of electric bikes — which have proven to be Citi Bike's most-popular way to get around, in addition to being a booming form of sustainable micro-mobility that many experts believe is the key to saving our city.

But rather than embrace electric bikes, or give them a high-profile nod of support from the bully saddle, de Blasio sniffed.

“It doesn’t work for me, man," he told reporters. "If you’re gonna do it, do it, be authentic.’’

Authentic? Tell that to the hard-working authentic delivery workers who kept New Yorkers fed during the pandemic. Tell that to the authentic nurse from Queens who has to get to a hospital on the Upper East Side for her midnight shift. Tell that to the authentic senior who wants the freedom to get around by himself.

License plates for bikes

How we covered bike licensing.
How we covered bike licensing.
How we covered bike licensing.

It's something this supposedly pro-bike mayor simply can't resist: hinting that he might favor some sort of registration or license plate system for bike riders. Typically, the mayor makes such comments after ingesting the bait (usually from WCBS2 reporter Marsha Kramer) when drivers complain about the supposedly reckless cyclists turning our streets into a Wild West that somehow threatens life as we know it.

He did it in May (during his own Streets Week! promotion), and he did it again in November on the Brian Lehrer show.

“I think ideas like license plates certainly need to be considered, because we are going into a new world where more and more people are biking, and that’s great. And in some ways we need to catch up to that reality and that’s the kind of idea that needs to be explored.”

In a follow-up question, Streetsblog asked de Blasio why — just three days into his own Streets Week! — would he even consider a registration system, which has shown to reduce cycling and leads to more encounters between police and cyclists of color. And, in fact, cyclists are subject to the same tickets as drivers — and often receive them.

“This is what I regard as common sense,” the mayor said (after first addressing this reporter as “dear friend”). “As more and more people use bikes, it’s the kind of thing we should look at.”

He added, “I don’t accept the simple orthodoxy” that suggests that bike registration would lead to reduced cycling and therefore less safety for cyclists because of the loss of the safety-in-numbers affect.

“I don’t think that’s proven or even provable,” he added.

Research does indeed show that registration reduces cycling (and other studies show it costs a municipality more to administer a registration system than it brings in in fines).

Of course, by citing his superior “common sense,” the mayor simply put himself in the company of a huge number of men in politics who think their lived experience or perceptions trumps knowledge or science. For example, Gov. Cuomo appealed to common sense when he wrongly claimed in 2019 that his widened Koscuiszko Bridge would eliminate congestion.

Left unsaid in the Wednesday morning discussion discussion was the other danger of registering bikes: racial bias in how rules are enforced against cyclists, especially younger cyclists. As Streetsblog has reported, Black youths are far more likely to be targeted by police for summonses for riding on the sidewalk. And Bloomberg reporter Sarah Holder documented more examples in her deep dive on police misconduct after the mass harassment of black teen cyclists in Perth Amboy.

Too busy to ride the subway

Remember back in January, when your life was one big virus ball of stress and anxiety? Well, back before the Covid-19 vaccination became available, Mayor de Blasio promised the press corps (well, us) that he would ride the subway to show solidarity with essential workers and to also rebut conspiracy theories that the subway was a vector for the disease (it's not).

"I agree with you that it is important to let people know the subways are safe. I like the idea of having a period of time to really emphasize to people that they’re safe by being out there, so I accept that good idea," he said in December, 2020. "We will figure out when the right time to do it is, and we will invite you along."

The mayor did indeed ride the subway in February. Photo: Michael Appleton / Mayoral Photography Office
The mayor did indeed ride the subway in February. Photo: Michael Appleton / Mayoral Photography Office
The mayor did indeed ride the subway in February. Photo: Michael Appleton / Mayoral Photography Office

Well, a month later, Hizzoner said he was still looking for the right time to take the subway, and his reasoning for the delay in being a regular essential commuter was shaky:

“I want to do it quickly, as you can see there’s been a lot going on, but I definitely want to do it,” the mayor said.

Sure, the mayor has "a lot going on," but so do the "every day New Yorkers" that he's always championing. Naturally, we sent our intern into the subway to ask New Yorkers how they can possibly ride the subway every day giving how much they have "going on" in their lives.

“I have to use it to commute, so I don’t really have a choice,” said Sam Howe, who was bemused that the mayor said a busy schedule prevented him from riding the subway.

But the reason this stray comment is a nominee for such an illustrious award is apparent: It is the purest encapsulation of car-loving de Blasio's world view: "I'm busy. I can't be expected to take the subway to work like literally everyone else does."

'I'm thinking of running for governor'

It's laughable that Mayor de Blasio apparently thinks he could get elected to statewide office, given that he is leaving office unpopular in a city where he would need to basically win every single Democratic vote in the June primary against far more popular leaders Jumaane Williams, Kathy Hochul and Tom Suozzi — and still need help upstate.

But this nominee is undermined by the simple fact that de Blasio hasn't said the words, "I'm running for governor" yet. All he's really done is some throat clearing about how great his record is over the past eight years ... which all politicians do. But if he announces a run after Jan. 1, look for his short-lived campaign to be a favorite for the Streetsie Award in 2022!

And the winner of the Streesie for worst thing de Blasio said this year is...

"I'm too busy to ride the subway!"

To see all the other Streetsies this year, click here.

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