Wednesday’s Headlines: Back to the Future Edition

Bedford Avenue, as it is (left) and as it could be. Images: Transform Your City
Bedford Avenue, as it is (left) and as it could be. Images: Transform Your City

We got an email from Friend of Streetsblog Zach Katz on Tuesday that really took us back. See, Katz has just founded Transform Your City, which is a platform for activism that, among other things, is pushing for the city to pedestrianize Bedford Avenue, which he said is picking up steam after the death of pedestrian Benjamin Berger on Oct. 4.

Katz reminded us of our own 2007 story that reported on an earlier effort to pedestrianize Bedford.

Fifteen years and not a single inch has been reclaimed.

Katz said decades of failure was why he created Transform Your City.

“We can’t keep fighting street by street, block by block,” he told us. “The problem with the way activism has worked up until now is that people create standalone websites, which takes a ton of time and effort, and frequently results in them running out of steam.”

Indeed, here’s the “car free Bedford” website that we wrote about all those years ago:

Error! Error! This is no way to get change!

To Katz, every car-free street campaign is essentially the same: “business goes up, collisions go down, air quality goes up, noise pollution goes down, etc.” so he wants Transform Your City to help activists scale up safe streets advocacy.

He’s right about one thing: These block-by-block fights are so draining of limited activism resources. And all the fighting sometimes pisses off the very allies we need — like on Bedford Avenue, where Council Member Chi Ossé is already getting impatient with how impatient his constituents are getting over his apparent lack of urgency on Bedford Avenue (he has declined to talk to us about what he wants DOT to do, by the way):

We’re going to stay on this story because DOT needs to do something with Bedford, where it once had a bike lane, but allowed a powerful neighborhood constituency in Williamsburg erase it (oh, and that same constituency won’t allow Citi Bike into the area either, as you can see from the hole on the bike share system’s map):

Hmm, that's interesting.
Hmm, that’s interesting.

In other news:

  • The day began with a Times exclusive on the economic success of the city’s Open Streets program, especially the restaurant offshoot. It was honestly refreshing to read a Times story that finally accepted that there is a better public use for the public space along the curbline beyond allowing car owners to store their private purchases there. Apparently, money talks in the Times newsroom. A host of outlets followed the news, which the DOT touted with a press conference on Doyers Street in Chinatown:
    • Clayton Guse played it straight. (NYDN)
    • So did Ben Brachfeld at amNY.
    • Gothamist‘s Michelle Bocanegra and Gwynne Hogan at least tried to explain the report.
    • Streetsblog‘s Julianne Cuba found a way to insert the report into the current debate over how the City Council will define the Open Restaurants program.
    • David Meyer obviously got pretzeled by his editors into writing a convoluted piece about how more car-free space is controversial because New Yorkers supposedly are terrified by crime on the subway. (NY Post)
  • Besides, how bad can the subway be if Mayor Adams is riding it? (NY Post)
  • Speaking of crime in the subway, Documented had a good scoop: The MTA is telling its contractors to not pay mostly immigrant cleaning staff the prevailing wage that the City Comptroller told them to pay.
  • Again, on crime and the underground: After a great column on the demagoguery of crime, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman penned a paean to the subway system as a subscriber-only exclusive.
  • Politico had a nice scoop about Mayor Adams’s plans to eliminate environmental review on housing projects with fewer than 200 units.
  • So, 15 climate activists got arrested for blocking traffic yesterday, but drivers can congest the city all day and all night, fouling our air, injuring our neighbors and keeping our kids from leading independent lives without punishment? Doesn’t seem fair. (amNY)
  • Two Mercedes drivers committed hit and runs — but one was caught (NYDN). The Post had video of one of the crashes, which the paper billed as “shocking” when it actually isn’t at all, given that there are close to 300 crashes per day in New York City.

  • Fix the gap: Riders with disabilities sued the MTA for not making the platform edge safe. (The City)
  • Busy Nicole Gelinas wrote about public plazas for Vital City.
  • By the way, gas prices aren’t really that high, our friend Charles Komanoff pointed out:

  • Here’s why we haven’t created more resiliency despite the warning 10 years ago from Sandy: We have a bad system, says Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. (Gotham Gazette)
  • DOT should really put in a loading zone on East 12th Street, if only to stop being reminded of it by Choresh Wald:

  • Word War Too: Sorry, Lingo Starr, but puns have a very welcome place in newspaper headlines. (Gothamist)
  • And, finally, we won’t get to call him “Guse from the Newsuh” anymore, as Clayton Guse of the Daily News has become the latest escapee from our so-called “hometown paper” to WNYC. Guse’s move follows City Editor Stephen Brown’s ship-jump two months ago:

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