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Monday’s Headlines: The Fire This Time Edition

12:04 AM EST on February 27, 2023

We certainly share the safety concerns of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, which, the Daily News reported yesterday, is ringing alarms about the danger to firefighters presented by lithium-ion batteries.

We don't want any firefighters injured ever. Which brings us to our topic today: Forgetting about an existing, long-standing, far more serious problem just because a new problem has come along. We agree lithium-ion batteries are a concern, but one that the city is already taking many steps towards fixing.

So let's not forget the clear and present danger to firefighters: just getting them to and from the fires themselves. The Daily News's deep dive into the battery "problem" didn't mention a single firefighter injured from the power packs — yet  according to the city's own database, FDNY ambulances were involved in 87 crashes last year, injuring 30 and killing two. Other FDNY vehicles (including fire trucks) were involved in another 48 crashes that injured 12 more people.

So that's 135 crashes injuring 42 people. So that's the problem we know about — and we should fix it.

The problem is, the destructiveness that 3,000- to 20,000-pound motorized vehicles have wrought is like the white noise of American life, something that can be blocked out and forgotten as new threats and challenges show up.

We saw this from the New York Times the weekend. On Sunday, the paper thankfully devoted three pages for a wrenching story on undocumented immigrant children toiling in low-paying, dangerous jobs across the U.S. (including Edwin Ajacalon, a 14-year-old food-delivery cyclist who was killed by a speeding driver on Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn in 2017).

The ages of the child workers mentioned in the Times story ranged from 12 to 17. None was 18 or older — which is appropriate, given that that's the minimum legal age prescribed by U.S. child-labor laws.

But the Times is far less rigid about age statistics when it wants to downplay road violence.

As Streetsblog contributor Charles Komanoff reported in December, the Times keeps identifying guns as the leading cause of deaths of “U.S. kids” — but that's only true if you consider "kids" to be aged 19. In fact, more children from newborns through age 17 die from motor vehicle crashes in the 50 states than firearms.

Is gun violence, like fires from lithium-ion batteries, an essential problem that our society must confront? Absolutely. But we have an ongoing problem — road violence — that we simply aren't addressing in this country. (The Financial Times even had an article about it over the weekend.)

In other news:

    • Remember, full LIRR use of Grand Central Madison starts today, which Gothamist spun as a $200-million service gift to suburban riders. (amNY played it straight)
    • The DOT has been very very precise in telling reporters that it hasn't decided whether the repairs to the Brooklyn-Queens will leave the roadway with three travel lanes or just two. Well, now that indecision has delayed the repair project. (amNYBrooklyn. Eagle)
    • Read what author Stephen Crane had to say about bikes in New York City in 1898. (The Village Sun)
    • "Look four knew job," reads the sign for this DOT sign-painter. (NY Post)
    • Pump up the tires — the Bergen Bike Bus starts on March 1. Visit for info.
    • The weather-obsessed Post is writing about a possible three-inch snowfall ... in the suburbs ... like it's the Blizzard of '88! The city is expected to get less than an inch, if it gets anything at all, through Tuesday. Oddly, Gothamist tried to horn in on the Post's territory, though covered its bets with a picture of a rainstorm. (Our prediction: the only flakes will be in your cereal bowl.)

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