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Wednesday’s Headlines: Pain in the As-Phalt Edition

Here's a little follow-up on Jesse Coburn's latest investigation. Plus other news.

12:00 AM EDT on October 25, 2023

Photo: Gersh Kuntzman|

Tankers (not exactly like this one) with flammable repaving equipment exploded a few times this year. We asked Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi about it on Tuesday.

Click to read Coburn's story.

In case you missed it, our award-winning investigative reporter Jesse Coburn dropped another bombshell on the somnambulant New York press corps: Three times this year, Department of Transportation tanker trucks toting flammable paving material exploded, injuring one worker and endangering many members of the public.

The story made it clear that the material, called cutback, is environmentally suspect and dangerous — and it isn't even essential, given that many other cold weather cities have found a way to resurface their roads without mixing asphalt with a petroleum product.

But we decided to ask the mayor about it at his weekly "Off-Topic Tuesday" session. The mayor deferred to Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi, who would not commit to phasing out the clearly volatile material. Here's what she said when we asked her to do just that:

We are an unusual city when it comes to asphalt. We're one of the few places where we make our own asphalt and 40 percent of the asphalt that is used on city streets is recycled asphalt. ... And we're continuously looking to improve that mix. It's like cooking: what's the right recipe? Certainly safety is our number one priority. And so we certainly want to modify that recipe for asphalt so it's durable, it's resilient, but number one, it's safe, especially for the workers.

Well, at least she took our question!

In other news from a slow news day on the livable streets front:

  • Late in the day, we put up a vital report about how the anti-bike Parks Department abruptly closed a crucial greenway in Queens without any warning. Imagine trying to build a bike lane that way!
  • A federal judge ruled that excessive traffic tickets isn't enough to deny someone a gun permit. In the case in question, the would-be gun owner had 28 traffic violations, 24 license suspensions and six driver's license revocations. To us, that's dangerous enough — why let him have a gun, too? (NY Times)
  • Sometimes it's illustrative to see the potential damage of a high-speed police chase. The Daily News had a video of a driver who only avoided killing a woman and her baby because he, instead, slammed into a city bus.
  • The Daily News, Crain's and Gothamist followed our story (and all credited us!) on a cop who harassed a Brooklyn man who only wanted to report illegal parking.
  • Sen. Schumer says he lined up more federal money for the Second Avenue Subway (NYDN, NY Post, amNY). And tomorrow, we'll have a letter from Larry Penner.
  • This lawsuit was inevitable after that "Weird" Al Yankovic show, obviously. (Gothamist)

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