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Monday’s Headlines: Trash Talk from The NY Times Edition

The best story over the weekend was a long feature story in the Times about the "absurd" problem of trash collection in New York City.

File photo: Gersh Kuntzman|

When we did our big story in 2022, this was the lead art.

The best story over the weekend was a long feature story in the Times about the "absurd" problem of trash collection in New York City.

We were happy the Paper of Record dove into the mess, but we still would be remiss if we didn't point out the Times's car-centric framing. The story used the term "trade-off' four times — but never explicitly stated the losers in an exchange that would lead to sidewalks no longer being covered in filth and rats and bags that take up precious pedestrian space. But the paper did hint at the victims of the "trade":

"The Sanitation Department estimates that this plan would take up 22,000 to 34,000 parking spaces — about 1 percent of the city’s total on-street parking," the paper reported.

Is a tiny amount of "taken" parking really a "trade-off" (especially given that drivers didn't have overnight parking until the 1950s anyway)? Well, if you look at the graphic that was featured in the coverage, you can see where that "parking" will mostly be "taken":

The Upper West and Upper East sides will get the most on-street bins.Graphic: NY Times from city data

That's not just a map — it's a flashing warning to Times readers in two rich Manhattan neighborhoods, who will likely be on the barricades protesting the "theft" of "their" parking, even though car ownership rates on the Upper East and Upper West sides are among the lowest in the city (not that the Times pointed that out).

One last note about the otherwise excellent piece by Emily Badger and Larry Buchanan: It unnecessarily editorialized about our prior coverage of this same issue. "It’s hard to say why, over the last half-century, New York never seriously rethought the plastic bag until now," the pair wrote. "Critics blame inertia."

That last sentence linked to Streetsblog's long examination of New York City's absurd trash practices that was published almost exactly two years before Saturday's Times piece. "Critics blame inertia" suggests that Streetsblog's coverage is somehow different from that of the Times, which, like Streetsblog, is an outlet that identifies a problem and examines solutions. Albeit two years later.

Next time, we'd hope the paper could just write, "Prior outlets have been covering this for a long time and have reported ..."

In other news:

  • There must be something in the air because there was a spate of op-eds in support of congestion pricing. The Daily News printed one from from two members of the Traffic Mobility Review Board — bold-faced names Carl Weisbrod and Downtown pooh-bah Kathy Wylde. Streetsblog published an op-ed from MTA Board member and head of the Community Service Society David Jones. And amNY published one from Janno Lieber.
  • Meanwhile, last week, firefighters, whose professional lives depend on their ability to get to fires quickly, came out against congestion pricing at a public hearing on the toll — not because they like congestion, but because a small number are transferred between firehouses during the day, depending on staffing. (NYDN, amNY)
  • Former federal transit man Larry Penner also took up congestion pricing. (Mass Transit)
  • And one final note on congestion pricing: Bloomberg had an absurd tweet that just had to be mocked:
  • Two weekend crashes lacked full information:
    • A family is blaming a long construction project for leading to a crash that killed a pedestrian. (NY Post)
    • This Daily News story lacked a key piece of information regarding the death of a popular DJ and legal moped rider who was killed by a truck driver. The report claims the scooter rider "tried to navigate around an oil delivery truck," but it seems more likely that the truck driver hit her.
  • We liked David Zipper's piece in The Atlantic about the myth that driver error causes virtually all crashes. The bigger problem is poorly designed roads that turn a mistake into a fatality.
  • The Post cherrypicked data to show that lithium-ion battery fires are indeed up since the pandemic. The story oddly didn't mention many changes that the City Council has made to, for instance, ban the sale of uncertified batteries.
  • An AP story about the lack of deaths due to traffic safety work in Hoboken really upset a right-wing commentator — but fortunately, the city's Mayor Ravi Bhalla was on the case:
  • Queens Council Member Shekar Krishnan wants to extend the pool and beach seasons. (NY Post)
  • The Times takes you inside a massive subway repair yard.
  • New rules about how the NYPD can police protests went into effect. (Gothamist)
  • Speaking of Mayor Adams's NYPD, Hell Gate explored what happened when a top official tweeted misinformation about a supposedly soft-on-crime judge.
  • And, finally, we liked this Reddit post that showed the need for congestion pricing, which is a reminder that there was congestion in New York City long before bike lanes. And now there's tens of thousands more cars, according to the census.

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