The Five Stupidest Things Said at Fort Greene’s Town Hall to Protest the City’s ‘War On Cars’

Number 1: There is no war on cars! Cars are everywhere.

The town hall meeting to protest the city's supposed "War on Cars" was a lightly attended affair. Photo: Julianne Cuba
The town hall meeting to protest the city's supposed "War on Cars" was a lightly attended affair. Photo: Julianne Cuba

A Tuesday night meeting dubbed the “Fort Greene Town Hall on the City’s War on Cars” descended into chaos when the safe-street advocates in the room tried to counter lies and nonsense from the automobile zealots.

The meeting originated after locals fought the Department of Transportation’s new citywide pilot program to install loading zones for delivery trucks in a dozen residential neighborhoods — ultimately getting DOT to pull back from the effort in Fort Greene, though the program is still rolling out elsewhere in the city.

Here are five — out of the many — absolutely false things people said during the three-hour town hall:

1. “I have to get rid of my car because you don’t like cars. That’s outrageous. If you want me to get rid of my car it’s almost like you’re trying to take away the middle-class family.”

First of all, no one is being forced to “get rid” of a car.

Second, fewer than half of New York City households even own a car, making this, by far, the city with the lowest car ownership in America.

Even more important, only a tiny fraction of residents — just four percent in the outer boroughs — commute into Manhattan by car, according to Census data. And car owners tend to be higher income than their transit-riding neighbors. Of all outer borough households earning less than double the poverty line, just 2 percent commute via car into Manhattan — a total of 5,000 people, Streetsblog has previously reported.

Streetsblog has even documented what wealthy neighborhoods look like — and that’s empty — when New Yorkers flee the city and take their cars out to the Hamptons or upstate for a long weekend.

2. “As a driver I’m scared of you guys [cyclists]. And I am a very careful driver. People riding bikes have to abide by the rules of the road.”

Former Fort Greene district leader Renee Collymore said that as a driver she's scared of bikers. Photo: Julianne Cuba.
Former Fort Greene district leader Renee Collymore said that as a driver she’s scared of bikers. Photo: Julianne Cuba.

A cyclist has never killed a driver — and, in fact, drivers have killed virtually all cyclists and pedestrians since the dawn of the automobile. Just two hours before the town hall began, a drunk and unlicensed diver killed a 1-year-old girl sitting in her stroller on the sidewalk in the Bronx. And days before that, another out-of-control driver also hopped the curb, hitting and killing a 10-year-old boy waiting for the bus on the sidewalk in Brooklyn. 

Since 2012, the first full year when the Department of Transportation was required to collect such data, seven pedestrians have been struck and killed by cyclists, compared to 1,008 killed by drivers. On average, the pedestrian annual death toll by cyclists is less than one. But roughly 138 pedestrians are killed in the average year by cars in New York City.

Most important: Very few drivers know that the so-called “rules of the road” require them to yield to cyclists and pedestrians. And city statistics show that protected bike lanes make the roadways safer for all users because they make it clearer where everyone is supposed to be.

3. “Please consider the fact that emergency service is severely hampered every time a pedestrian plaza goes in.”

Paramedic Adrienne Walsh said that pedestrian plazas are what slows down emergency response times. Photo: Julianne Cuba.
FDNY Lt. Adrienne Walsh said that pedestrian plazas are what slows down emergency response times. Photo: Julianne Cuba.

Even the notably anti-bike and car-friendly New York Post and CBS News have reported on the truth that it’s traffic — caused by people in cars — that holds up ambulances and fire trucks from getting where they need to be.

“Traffic in New York City is becoming more and more of a challenge for New York City firefighters,” Steve Cassidy, ex-president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, said back in 2016. “Response times matter when people’s lives hang in the balance.” Cassidy lost his job after crashing his city vehicle while drunk driving.

The FDNY is consulted by the Department of Transportation on every street initiative. It is simply a myth that fire officials oppose street safety improvements.

4. “The issue is that is a bicycle part of the transportation system network? I doubt that it is, it’s not delivering goods and services and emergency service and everything else.”

Bikers are very much part of the city’s transportation network, and officials are urging more people to take two wheels instead of four because of the many environmental and mobility benefits of biking. The city’s own recent report shows that taking a Citi Bike is one of the fastest ways to get around congested Midtown.

And as far as delivering goods — cyclists and e-bike riders have died bringing other New Yorkers, including the city’s own police officers, food and other goods via bicycle.

Cities across the globe use electric cargo bikes to keep roadways clear of trucks so that drivers can get where they’re going faster.

5. “New York City was not designed that way for bicycles. We had bicycles growing up. We rode our bikes as recreational. This city was designed for cars.”

This is simply false. The city’s street grid was designed in 1811 — at least half a century before the invention and introduction of the automobile into society.

Overnight parking was not legal in New York City until the 1950s.

And one more for good luck:

6. “Transportation Alternatives is a paid lobbyist organization.”

The pedestrian and bicycle advocacy group, which was founded in 1973 and seeks to encourage more sustainable modes of transportation as an alternative to the car, is actually a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Such groups are not prohibited from doing legislative advocacy work.

Update: After an initial publication of this story, we received the following voicemail at our DUMBO headquarters:

“Mr. Kuntzman, this is Adrienne Walsh. Apparently I made your blog, but of course as usual you have misidentified me and didn’t have the integrity to find out who I was, which pretty much indicates what Streetsblog is all about. So my suggestion would be to either not cite me the next time, or get someone who is an actual reporter. But the lack of professionalism, the childishness, and the lack of integrity is pretty telling.”

Streetsblog had initially misidentified Walsh as a paramedic, not as a lieutenant for the FDNY. This error was based on her identifying herself at the meeting as an emergency responder. We apologize for the error.