Monday’s Headlines: The Latest from our LAPTOPS Edition

We finally heard from DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg over the weekend, who was (as always) thrust into the unenviable position of having to defend as bold actions undertaken by her boss that are, in fact, the opposite of bold.

It came in the form of a Daily News op-ed that heralded what a great job Mayor de Blasio is doing handling the transportation challenges of coronavirus. But Trottenberg’s op-ed started with a flawed premise that mirror’s de Blasio’s cracked worldview: “We are facing unprecedented challenges on our city streets [with] decreased driving combined with increases in cycling citywide,” she wrote (emphasis added).

Only someone working for Bill “Drive Me to the Gym” de Blasio would see decreased driving and increased cycling as an “unprecedented challenge” rather than a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Indeed, if there’s any “challenge” facing Trottenberg, it’s to justify why her boss is doing so little to seize the crisistunity before them — to do more than a) add short temporary protected lanes in two stretches that are long overdue for the permanent kind and b) carve out four short, car-free portions of roadways in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn. (It’s pretty paltry, as the Architect’s Newspaper showed when it compared what other cities are doing.)

She did indeed, seek to justify her boss’s inaction, eventually building to a crescendo of condescension (emphasis on us added … by us):

I know some members of the advocacy community have been openly disappointed by these first pilot treatments. A couple of miles of streets citywide, they say, is not a big enough commitment to meet this moment. I ask them to consider the challenges that all city agencies on the front lines — not just at home with laptops — face at this moment. We will continue to do all we can transform our streets, but as this virus continues to take its toll on us all, please remember that city employees are not an inexhaustible resource. We must be able to go the distance while continuing to serve the public during these terrible and uncertain times.

We’ll let Trottenberg’s readers determine if she’s done enough. Our reporting suggests otherwise (and the advocates with the laptops agree).

In other news:

  • Speaking of Trottenberg’s limitations, hourly service begins today on the Staten Island Ferry. (NYDN)
  • A day before Trottenberg’s piece, the Daily News ran Alex Armlovich’s op-ed arguing that de Blasio had created a paltry amount of public space.
  • On the same topic, the Staten Island Advance’s car-loving columnist Tom Wrobleski was at it again, this time arguing that creating more space for pedestrians is a waste of time and definitely should not be continued after the crisis. It’s always funny how fearful Wrobleski is of this particular mayor, who is astounding in his inability to break the car culture. “I always have in the back of my mind how these ‘pilot programs’ or ‘temporary measures’ quickly become permanent. Hey, it was a good thing that the street was closed to traffic. Let’s keep it that way permanently. I wouldn’t put that past this mayor or this Department of Transportation, would you?” Wrobleski wrote.
  • The Wall Street Journal is the latest outlet to notice how quiet the streets are. We did it last week.
  • In what could be the definition of unnecessary travel for a Manhattan resident whose well-appointed mansion is in the middle of a city park, Bill and Chirlane got driven to Prospect Park so they could have a walk. (Ben Max via Twitter)
  • In case you missed it, Dana Rubinstein had a fun story about Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton, who has recovered from coronavirus (Politico). One door closes, another opens: MTA Chairman Pat Foye has coronavirus (NY Post).
  • More reckless driving, this time in Manhattan. (Powera66 via Twitter)
  • Meanwhile, the subways are still packed. (NY Post)
  • Rhode Island and President Trump backed off on severe restrictions against travel by New York residents, but, hey, let’s follow the guidelines anyway: stop going places! (Gothamist)
  • And, finally, here’s a bit of fun from the Urban Cycling Institute — a visual metaphor for how difficult it is to get approval for a bike lane:


One City, By Bike: Huge Opportunities for NYC Cycling in the de Blasio Era

Jon Orcutt was NYC DOT’s policy director from 2007 to 2014. He developed DOT’s post-PlaNYC strategic plan, Sustainable Streets, oversaw creation of the Citi Bike program, and produced the de Blasio administration’s Vision Zero Action Plan. In this five-part series, he looks at today’s opportunities to build on the breakthroughs in NYC cycling made during the […]