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Monday’s Headlines: ‘What is Up With All These Flip-Flops, Mayor?’ Edition

It's the same old story with this mayor and his chief adviser, Ingrid Lewis-Martin. Plus other news.

12:00 AM EDT on September 25, 2023

Look at all these people having a great time in public space. We can’t have that.

A huge story blew up over the weekend — and, alas, it's the same old story with this mayor and his chief adviser, Ingrid Lewis-Martin, playing the roles of villains.

We'd been working on a story late last week about how City Hall was having second thoughts about the Department of Transportation's excellent bike boulevard plan for Underhill Avenue in Brooklyn — an approved plan that was already watered down to appease car drivers. (We were working on the story after hearing buzz after Patch published that bikelash classic last week, a story that made contradictory arguments: the Vanderbilt open street is so popular that businesses that no one is visiting nearby Washington Avenue ... where business owners complain there's too much traffic ... which we thought means, um, that people are visiting Washington Avenue.)

In any event, were onto something: According to the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (which runs the open street), "A vocal group of individuals campaigning to preserve privileges for drivers is now targeting Open Streets on Vanderbilt Avenue and street safety improvements on Underhill Avenue, including the Bike Boulevard.

"The first casualty of their campaign is the Underhill Bike Boulevard," the group continued. "At a time when it was nearly completed, all work was stopped."

Then the group made a shocking revelation: "The mayor confirmed to us that his office is reviewing the project based on opponents’ complaints." (The group doesn't think the mayor will listen to the vast majority of supporters, so it's started a petition.)

The latest flip-flop is all following a very tired script for this mayor: The Department of Transportation conducts years of public outreach, designs a safety plan that has a majority of local support, begins implementation with the mayor's blessing, then business or anti-pedestrian interests call City Hall and get the mayor to reconsider.

He followed the script on McGuinness Boulevard, on Ashland Place, Willoughby Avenue, and, most recently, on Fordham Road, a story we broke on Friday (the Daily News, the City and Gothamist followed).

Sometimes the mayor's flip-flop doesn't even stand up to basic scrutiny. As Hell Gate reported last week, the businesses that supposedly need to "Keep McGuinness Moving" don't even use the dangerous roadway. Not that that persuaded the mayor.

For now, it's up to local electeds in Prospect Heights to fight a battle for road safety and pedestrian space that they thought they'd already won, as Streetsblog Deputy Editor David Meyer pointed out on Xwitter.

We'll have more coverage this week. Until then, here's the rest of the weekend news:

  • Here's another reason why cities should strive to be car-free and transit-rich: Cars are increasingly a financial burden on the people who can afford them the least. Car companies promise freedom, but they deliver only shackles. (NY Times)
  • The MTA's free bus pilot on one route in each borough has begun. But remember, people, if you get a free bus ride, you don't get a free transfer to other buses or the subway. (NY Post, NY Times, amNY, plus a Richard Davey op-ed, Gothamist)
  • Speaking of the MTA, we have a lot of respect for Transport Workers Union Local 100 President John Samuelsen, but we honestly don't know why he keeps trashing congestion pricing, when the money raised by the central business district toll will fund better transit and more service that will help his members — as well as improve air quality and reduce the congestion that he complains about in this New York Post story.
  • At the same time, TWU Local 100 Vice President J.P. Patafio collaborated on a Daily News op-ed with Riders Alliance Executive Director Betsy Plum that pointed out that congestion pricing could be a boon for bus riders.
  • There was another lithium-ion battery fire. (amNY)
  • Streetsblog has long defended street vendors, but now that cyclists aren't sharing the Brooklyn Bridge footpath with pedestrians, the bridge has a lot more vendors, as the Post showed in its weekend story. Margarita, anyone?
  • The E-Vehicle Safety Alliance is hosting another of its meetings where group members say a lot of right things, but also a lot of completely wrong things about street safety — and local politicians nod and promise to rein in cyclists, when we all know the problem is reckless drivers, rogue moped riders and unsafely designed streets that prioritize the fast movement of cars. In any event, the meeting will be on Wednesday night, per The Village Sun, which is becoming the house organ of the new bikelash.
  • Almost on cue, we learned of more carnage over the weekend: Our friend, local political public relations man Jacob Priley, was critically injured by a driver on dangerous Fifth Avenue in Park Slope. He works at Berlin Rosen, the public policy PR firm, but was most recently chief of staff for state Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal (NYDN). There's a GoFundMe page to help with medical expenses.
  • Getting back to the EVSA, I mentioned the group in my very sage Village Sun op-ed about what we really need to do to make streets safer. The story mentioned the deleterious role the tech companies play in making streets less safe, even as Crain's was revealing yet another e-bike company trying to make money off the booming delivery business.
  • We also found it interesting that a much-hyped effort by the City Council to rein in reckless drivers will end its three-year pilot in complete failure, yet only Streetsblog and Gothamist bothered to cover it. Looks like a job for the assignment editors of the major city dailies.
  • And if I can get back to my favorite topic (me!), I have to hand it to myself for once again earning that 52nd spot on City and State's "Transportation Power 100" list: On Sunday, I reprised my "criminal mischief" bit for a hilarious segment on NPR's "Weekend Edition." It's worth a listen, so I embedded it below:

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