Friday’s Headlines: ‘Mr. Barkan Goes to Washington’ Edition

Take Amtrak if you're going to interview Secretary Pete, thanks!
Take Amtrak if you're going to interview Secretary Pete, thanks!

New York Magazine inserted a sly reference to Robert Moses in the headline of its sweet get, an exclusive with Secretary Pete Buttigieg, dubbing the policy-wonk former mayor a “power broker” because of the billions that Washington is lavishing on transportation.

Writer Ross Barkan’s article served up the basics — Mayor Pete’s “ambitious plan to drastically slash traffic fatalities nationwide” — and some gossipy references to Buttigieg’s being “on everyone’s shortlist of possible presidential contenders” and of “talk of a future clash with Vice-President Kamala Harris.” It was classic New York Magazine high-brow and middle-brow fare. A delicious stew.

What was less toothsome was Barkan’s casual references to his own driving, which were rendered without his usual insight. A friend of Streetsblog, Barkan’s career has really flourished since his abortive run for Marty Golden’s Brooklyn State Senate. His copy is everywhere — and rightly so. He has a real voice and a genuine insight into Democratic politics in this town. He charges for his Substack newsletter, Political Currents, and it’s worth every penny of the subscription cost.

That’s why we wish that Barkan (in said newsletter) missed the opportunity to skewer his own privilege:

“A word on the automobile: I like public transit and I like long drives,” says the Brooklyn resident. “If I have a choice, though, between Amtrak or my Hyundai, I’ll pick the latter. Long drives can be clarifying. I’ll listen to music — CD’s if the player is working and Sirius XM radio — and let my thoughts take me where they must. On the D.C. trip, I rediscovered an old favorite, Paul and Linda McCartney’s Ram. Sometimes, as music plays, I’ll partially write articles or stories in my head. A big, traffic-free drive down an interstate relaxes. It’s you, the car, and America, and sometimes that’s all there needs to be.”

It is way too late for rhapsodies about the internal-combustion engine and the “open road” (if there ever was such a thing). The federal government built those highways over the graves of our 19th-century cities, often with the express purpose of disenfranchising the (Black, brown and needy) people in them. And as a self-described lover of cities and their walkability, Barkan fails to see the irony that his driving contributes to the declining walkability of most of America.

Also, there are 39 daily trains to D.C. And you can listen to Ram and get a lot of work done on them.

In other news:

  • Now we are making progress! The MTA took a public stand against placard abuse, confirming (via Twitter below) that any “MTA” or “New York City Transit” placard is fake, that MTA employees and contractors cannot park illegally on the job, and that the agency will take action against such employees or contractors. Now if we could get it to punish the ubiquitous use of “theft vests” …

  • No surprise: All these years later, “broken windows’ still targets low-income people of color, a Daily News op-ed argues.
  • Thanks, DOT! More than a decade later, we’re still holding it in for those street-side pissoirs. (The City)
  • The Daily News does three-byline takeout on Mayor Adams’s removal of homeless encampments from streets and the subway.
  • Polly’s replacement on the MTA Board exits. (amNY)
  • Our old man editor was quite unimpressed by DOT’s “Car Free Earth Day” announcement (Streetsblog) Meanwhile, Kevin Duggan at amNY played it straight.
  • Open Plans is looking for the next generation of livable-streets advocates, hiring three to five college or graduate students this spring for part-time paid internships ($20/hour). The  “Engagement & Advocacy Interns” will work in the field and attend rallies and meetings for two- or three-month stints, starting in May or June, for 10 to 20 hours a week.