Monday’s Headlines: Criminal Mischief in the News Edition
12:04 AM EST on December 19, 2022
The big story over the weekend was ... us!
We had mentioned late last week that Gothamist ran a story on our editor Gersh Kuntzman's "criminal mischief" video series on his Twitter account (which remains active for now, unless he goes after Tesla drivers presumably). But over the weekend, the New York Times showed why it's the 800-pound gorilla, thanks to its story on the subject, headlined, "They Dispense Street Justice, One Defaced License Plate at a Time." The story focused on Kuntzman's efforts, including re-painting the scuffed-up plate of an 84th Precinct cop, plus unfolding a deviously crimped plate, and removing a leaf that was covering one digit. (The Times story even mentioned Kuntzman's hit theme song, "Criminal Mischief," though curiously did not link to the song on Spotify. Enjoy.)
That led to an epic rewrite job by the tabloid Daily Mail, which didn't even interview Kuntzman and several times mocked his not-really-that-curious name ("The unlikely hero goes by the name of Gersh Kuntzman..."). But Kuntzman could hardly complain — the British paper referred to him as "an accomplished journalist with a career tracing back to 1989" (which is true if by "accomplished" you mean "breathing").
All the coverage led to lots of fan mail in our inbox and lots of copycat videos that we hope to turn into a short film this week.
Yet despite all the lovely attention, we felt a little disappointed that none of the outlets fully dug into why Kuntzman has become so obsessed with defaced or covered plates — particularly by our law enforcement officers. Yes, all the stories mentioned the arrest of lawyer Adam White for criminal mischief that started this whole crusade, but after that novelty was dispensed with, the reporters basically chalked up Kuntzman's efforts to his typical nuttiness.
In fact, there's a method to this man's madness. Lest we forget, car drivers are required to get plates and insurance because cars are exceptionally dangerous objects that need to be operated in a sound, socially conscious manner, and are regulated by the state because of all the damage they do to our society. The state legislature has created camera enforcement to catch the most reckless drivers, so those who intentionally deface their plate are ostensibly arguing that they should be allowed to driver more than 11 miles per hour above the speed limit. Well, we don't think that's right.
Through Dec. 14 this year, 240 people have been killed on New York City roads, the second most since 2014 through this point in the year. Another 46,608 have been injured. More than 22,000 drivers have tripped city speed cameras 15 times or more this year, yet only 630 or so have taken the required safe-driving course. These are outrageous and shocking numbers.
Here's Kuntzman's latest video explaining all that in a more humorous fashion:
All the coverage will no doubt make Kuntzman insufferable for a few days, but all the new attention to Streetsblog has at least brought in a swell of contributions to our December Donation Drive, so we'd like to thank our benefactors here: Thanks, Nicole! Thanks, Matt! Thanks, Mike! Thanks, Stacy! Thanks, Jared (from the Little Apple)! Thanks, Peter! Thanks, Richard! Thanks, Ian! Thanks, Sanjay! Thanks, Caroline! Thanks, Ivan! Thanks, Luis! Thanks, Merry! Thanks, Elizabeth! Thanks, Lizz!
In other news:
- Fresh from the final of three car-free Sundays on Fifth Avenue, the biggest story of Sunday was the mayor's announcement that he wants to re-imagine the grand boulevard between 42nd and 59th streets into a redesigned roadway that "will prioritize pedestrians, cyclists, mass transit, and the public realm." Before you attack the mayor for waking up on third base and thinking he hit a triple, City Hall was quick to point out that we've heard it all before: "The process will draw on the years of study of this critical corridor ... to craft a plan that will make Fifth Avenue more appealing to residents, workers, and visitors with world-class public space." As Streetsblog readers
well know, the most-recent plan for Fifth was a car-free busway put forward by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio that got promptly shelved amid protests by Mom and Pop retailers like Hermes and Tiffany. That led to a nice proposal from the Fifth Avenue Association (a business improvement district) that did widen sidewalks and add a bike lane, but still left a lane open for car traffic. That half-measure now appears to be a leading candidate, considering the the mayor included the rendering in his press release. But it's still good news that the city is taking its main public space — its roads — seriously. (Gothamist covered.)
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