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Car Culture

Thursday’s Headlines: Car Culture Myth-Making Edition

12:05 AM EDT on September 15, 2022

White power. Image from “Auto America: Car Culture 1950s-1970s: Photographs by John G. Zimmerman” (Rizzoli)

We couldn't help but be appalled at Rizzoli USA's forthcoming hagiography of car culture, thanks to the company's tweet which featured a lot of white people sitting around planning a future that has been destructive to our planet, to our cities and to the most vulnerable.

The New York-based (!) publisher bills its "Auto America: Car Culture: 1950s-1970s" as "A glorious and nostalgic celebration of a defining period in American car culture — the 1950s to the 1970s, the golden age of Detroit’s icons of the road — when automobile design was at its peak and the car itself was synonymous with a vision of success in America. ... The book celebrates the automobile’s central place in American culture during those decades when the timeless silhouettes of classic cars ruled the roads."

There's no question that many talented people worked in the car industry during that period. But that period is also synonymous with a number of developments, many directly involving the car, that have been disastrous for our neighborhoods, our cities, and our planet. A short list? It's a cycle that begins with suburbification, which led to under-investment in cities and created car dependence which led to inequities and the starving of transit and the construction of highways, which led to pollution and climate change, which adversely affects low-income residents and people of color.

The books promotional images make it clear who was behind these changes:

And it's not as if there isn't a far better (and growing!) bibliography that covers the excesses and failures of that era, including the just-released "Road to Nowhere: What Silicon Valley Gets Wrong About the Future of Transportation" by Paris Marx, who was interviewed by our own Kea Wilson yesterday. Here are our other favorites:

So let's hope Rizzoli has a major flop on its hands when the book is released on Oct. 18.

Until then, here's all the other news from Wednesday:

    • Hat tip to amNY for continuing its deep coverage of the grocery delivery issue.
    • Speaking of good reporting, Hell Gate had a major scoop by deconstructing Mayor Adams's first veto in January: It benefitted the owner of his favorite swank club, Zero Bond.
    • A big taxi fare increase is coming. (NY Post)
    • The Staten Island Advance followed our big scoop last week about the Adams administration's failure to create a Council-approved camera-enforcement programs on school buses — and City Hall declined to answer reporter Erik Bascome's questions about it, so he had to quote our quote from the mayor's press shop. Weird!
    • Those 7 train announcements by the Mets broadcasting team have been officially launched. Put it in the books! (amNY)
    • A scooter rider was critically injured by a hit-and-run driver. (NY Post)
    • Mayor Adams's "City of Yes" agenda is moving forward, Planning Commissioner Dan Garodnick told business leaders, Crain's reported.
    • And, finally, we loved filmmaker Dean Peterson's video about illegal police parking and the agency's dysfunctional handling of 311 calls, but could not believe that he didn't even refer to Streetsblog's award-nominated and -winning coverage of illegal police parking and the agency's dysfunctional handling of 311 calls. Come on, Dean, call us!

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