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Monday’s Headlines: MLK in Current Events Edition

Politicians will spend today at various events honoring Martin Luther King Jr. But none will honor him as we think is most fitting ... with these MLK-themed headlines.

12:00 AM EST on January 15, 2024

Dr. Martin Luther King, seen in this photo-illustration, would likely have seen road violence as an issue of basic rights.

All of the politicians will spend today at various events honoring Martin Luther King Jr. But none will reflect on King's broader legacy in a we think is fitting: By looking at the transportation news through a social-justice lens that reveals the inequality that still cleaves our city.

Top on King's list would be road violence in low-income communities of color. Here's a map of all the cyclists and pedestrians injured in the city in 2023:

Map: Crashmapper

Because there are so many pedestrian and cyclist injuries and fatalities, it might look like the injuries are distributed evenly. But drilling down, the statistics show that since 2022, six of the 10 most dangerous neighborhoods for pedestrians are among the poorest neighborhoods in the city (it would be 10 of 10, except that many pedestrian injuries happen in wealthy neighborhoods in Manhattan thanks to its huge numbers of pedestrians).

Now let's turn to what you might have missed over the weekend — and how MLK might have seen it:

  • A woman was killed in The Bronx as she tried to cross Melrose Avenue at E. 157th Street (the Post and Daily News had horrific video). The crash is the latest reminder of the link between justice and road violence. According to the Census, the area that comprises Bronx Community Board 1 is roughly 97 percent Black and Latino (far above the 48.5-percent citywide average), yet according to NYPD crash statistics mapped by Transportation Alternatives, the neighborhood has the fourth most-dangerous roadways, with an injury rate nearly double the citywide average. Last year, there were 1,230 reported crashes in the neighborhood, injuring 748 people, including 72 cyclists and 121 pedestrians.
  • The Times Metro section, which doesn't write nearly often enough about the plight of delivery workers, at least wrote about recent efforts to memorialize those lost on the job — an issue of basic workplace safety that would definitely draw MLK's interest today.
  • We once expressed admiration for Andreas Malm's book, "How to Blow Up a Pipeline." Well, the Times interviewed him on the eve of the release of his new book, “Overshoot: How the World Surrendered to Climate Breakdown." Climate change, too, would be one of Martin Luther King Jr.'s issues today, given that it will fall much more harshly on impoverished communities around the world.
  • Senseless death: Road violence claimed the life of Joseph Zadroga, a hero to 9/11 victims in New Jersey. (NYDN, NY Post)
  • Making public transit better is a key part of respect and dignity for its users. And congestion pricing promises to do that. So naturally the conspiracy-minded Post found a way to suggest that MTA cameras on toll-exempt roadways are some "back door" way of instituting congestion pricing there. It's a foolish notion, which even the paper admitted in an aside that should have caused this story to be spiked, "The state Legislature would have to amend the law to expand the congestion toll to other locations."
  • Also on the list of basic human rights should be a place to sit, as the Daily News Editorial Board pointed out in an editorial that followed our own coverage of the issue.
  • There's a poisonous, addictive substance being sold at gas stations ... but the Times focused on energy drinks.
  • King was always enraged by police misconduct — at the March on Washington, he pointed out that there could be no freedom "as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality." Well, misconduct complaints against police are up. (Gothamist)
  • Speaking of the NYPD, there are more complaints about mistreatment of reporters at 1 Police Plaza, including a nifty Nick Pinto reference to the Soviet-era Intourist, the bane of behind-the-Iron-Curtain travelers. (Hell Gate)

We're off today, but will be back tomorrow. Please honor the full legacy of Dr. King. Here's Public Advocate Jumaane Williams's take on it:

On Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it’s important to look beyond the sanitized quotes and characterizations to see Dr. King the activist, the agitator, the radical. Through that revolutionary lens, it is easier to see the ongoing struggle and the need to take it up. Because today the Black community can vote – sometimes – and we can go to public schools – sometimes – but the "freedom" of the King dream is far from achieved.

Right now, as it has been since the days of Dr. King, our community is still trapped between the very real street violence in our neighborhoods and the too-often oppressive overpolicing ineffectively deployed to combat it. And also far too often in today’s political environment, we see leaders who would exploit that tension rather than work to resolve it. We should be wary not to follow those leaders who claim their own purposes should stand in for ours.

We are not a singular speech, we are a conversation. And that conversation, which stretches back as far as the marches Dr. King led, is critical as we continue the work to upend the same unjust systems those marches opposed.

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