Monday’s Headlines: Martin Luther King Day Special

Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.

It’s fitting that today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day because the themes of the weekend were themes the great thinker dealt with repeatedly during his life: entitlement, privilege and inequity.

Two stories really stood out: First, the Daily News seems to have hired Steve Cuozzo as an assignment editor for a two-page spread on Sunday that was headlined, “Get your Citi Bike out of my parking space!” Put aside for a second that while a Citi Bike dock does indeed replace spaces that might be occupied by a car or two for days on end — it replaces it with parking for a dozen or more bikes that get used far more often by far more people. The real issue here is the basic entitlement of car drivers: they buy a car and then expect the city to set aside public space for them to store it.

But many of us want something better with our roadways: open space, perhaps, or thriving restaurants where friends can gather, or even wider sidewalks so parents pushing strollers or people in wheelchairs aren’t pushed up next to mounds of garbage and rats. Or, yes, maybe some bike lanes or dedicated bus lanes so that people can live free of the onerous burden of car ownership — a burden on the buyer and on the rest of us.

But no, the revanchist Daily News piece allows driver after driver to complain about how there’s “no parking” for them. Only in a nation steeped in 100 years of car culture could such a scenario play out: Someone buys a product that is deleterious for all his neighbors, yet demands that his neighbors help him deal with the negative ramifications of that decision. And then complains when they don’t.

The other story of entitlement came from Gothamist, which got into print what we’ve all noticed: That the bike lane that was painted on Centre Street between Hogan Place and Canal Street is being ignored by the judges and court officials, who are parking in it. But Gothamist added a nice detail: The Department of Transportation is reconsidering what it once called a key safety plan that was needed after the Brooklyn Bridge bike lane was completed. [Update: DOT spokesman Vin Barone says the bike lane will be installed this spring. Spring starts on March 21 and runs through June 20.]

Our “favorite” part of the story of entitled judges was the quote from the court system spokesman Lucien Chalfen, likening a bike lane to France’s effort to prevent an invasion by Nazi Germany: “The last time such an intransigent, hubristic and ill-conceived misperception of vehicle movements occurred, the Maginot Line was involved,” Chalfen told Gothamist. “If they really do enforce it, it’s going to be a disaster.”

A disaster? That judges might be forced to take a train or bus? A disaster? That the safety of cyclists and pedestrians might be taken into consideration on a strip where four cyclists and two pedestrians have been injured since 2021? A disaster? That less-fortunate people needing to go to the very courtrooms that Chalfen’s judicial system operates might be able to get there without being caught in epic traffic jams because of all the judges’ cars stealing all the public space? (Including this Manhattan DA scofflaw who later got fired for covering his plate!)

Again, it’s about entitlement: Judges are paid well. And if they want to drive a car to their chambers, that’s their choice. But why does the public need to facilitate that choice when that choice undermines the quality of life of everyone else? And as far as Lucien Chalfen defending the entitled over the less-privileged, well, is that justice … or just us?

At least it’s something to think about this MLK Day.

In other news:

  • Speaking of entitlement, the Post took the side of doctors in their fight over a school that has created car-free space for kids on the Upper East Side, a story long chronicled by Upper East Site.
  • Lawyer Adam White, whose arrest for “criminal mischief” started our editor’s month-long campaign of repainting, unfolding or uncovering scofflaws’ license plates, has sued the city for wrongful arrest stemming from being collared for removing an obstruction on a driver’s tag. And a hearty thank you to amNY for mentioning our role in the fight against plate defacers!
  • The Daily News followed our story late last year about the Harlem development project that got killed and replaced by a truck depot. Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine is saying he’d rather have the housing, but he said that in our story, too.
  • There was a great op-ed in the Times about the paucity of places to pee.
  • We liked John Massengale’s op-ed in the Daily News about how it’s insane that a city that has climate and traffic goals is about to spend $10 billion to rebuild the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway rather than fix the mistakes of Robert Moses that caused a lot of the climate and traffic problems in the first place.
  • We still don’t know why the “Avenue of Puerto Rico” sign was ever taken down on Graham Avenue in Brooklyn. The Daily News tried to shed some light, but failed. Whatever happened, it’s certainly a bad use of resources for the DOT, which failed to meet its legal mandate for bus and bike lanes last year.

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