Monday’s Headlines: You Call That a ‘Car-Free Earth Day’ Edition

"Car-free Earth Day" was anything but on Berry Street in Brooklyn. Photo: Mark Gorton
"Car-free Earth Day" was anything but on Berry Street in Brooklyn. Photo: Mark Gorton

We already knew the city’s “Car-Free Earth Day” event on Saturday would be underwhelming and a paltry substitute for what this city needs: a real effort to periodically eliminate car use and show New Yorkers how much better their lives would be if all the cars disappeared for a day (or a week or a month …), and we could all enjoy safe streets, efficient bus service and grand public spaces.

Instead, we got a sort-of car-free event on about a dozen streets (most of which were already car-light open streets anyway), with all sorts of unnecessary programming.

We don’t need programming — we need permanents. We don’t need circuses — we need car reduction.

All across the city, there are great open streets that limit cars half the day. And residents are using those streets, even without jugglers or face painting. Look at Vanderbilt Avenue in Brooklyn — the local neighborhood group took away cars and now people gather and meet their neighbors on a cement median. It’s not exactly the Spanish Steps, but people don’t need anything fancy beyond a safe, car-free place to gather.

In fact, in this context, one might conclude that city-sponsored events like “Car-Free Earth Day” are actually counterproductive to the goal of ridding our public space of the noise, violence, hostility, pollution and sheer geometric problem of cars. Once-a-year events have the air of the city fathers patting us all on the heads, saying, “There, there. You got your block party for a few hours on a Saturday. Satisfied? Now, let’s bring back all the cars so the city can get back to doing business.” The fun of “Car-Free Earth Day” is presented like a holiday, not the every day.

And would it have killed the city to get rid of all the stored vehicles on its Car-Free Earth Day streets? On Berry Street, people were trying to play, but they still had to surrender the entire curbside lines to parked cars — meaning about six people got to claim valuable public space for free all day as hundreds of others wanted to enjoy the day.

We count seven cars on this block. Photo: Mark Gorton
We count seven cars on this block. Photo: Mark Gorton

With efforts like these, we will simply never change the culture around car use in this city.

So you can imagine what we were feeling when we tweeted this during a Saturday ride over the Triboro Bridge:

In other news from a busy weekend:

  • Hat tip to New Yorker writer Zach Helfand. In his magazine-y think piece about the lasting impact of the subway shooting, he wisely quoted a psychologist who reminded, “We are still in more danger every time we get into a car.” It’s something all reporters should remember when writing about dangers in our city. NY Mag also looked into this:

  • Speaking of those dangers, an unlicensed, allegedly high driver of a Jeep (with his two kids in the car) slammed into a motorcyclist in Brooklyn, killing him. The driver was arrested. Interesting, however, that the Daily News knew the car’s license plate, yet failed to point out that it has been slapped with three camera-issued speeding tickets and three red-light tickets since May, 2020. The victim was a beloved EMT. (NYDN)
  • A car thief stole a woman’s car … then ran over her! (NYDN)
  • And a driver of a new Dodge was not arrested or ticketed after he ran over a pedestrian outside a Queens mall, critically wounding her. Like the Daily News above, the Post had the car’s license plate, but didn’t bother to report that the driver has blocked bus lanes or fire hydrants four times, and gotten a red-light ticket in just six months. (We like pointing out these horrific driving records as evidence that authorities know there are dangerous drivers out there, yet always seem to wait until someone is killed before acting.)
  • Total felonies are down in the subway, but felony assaults are up. Guess which fact got the Post headline?
  • Like Streetsblog, the Post and Gothamist covered Mayor Adams’s $900-million investment in the Streets Master Plan.
  • We often write about abandoned cars junking up our streets, but two Queens pols want to clean the waterways of junked boats. (NY Post)
  • Speaking of Council proposals, Brooklyn Council Member Shahana Hanif will introduce legislation for a full city composting program. (The City)
  • And, finally, the NYPD is seeking information on a horrific crash on Friday in the Bronx. According to police, a man stole a flatbed truck that had been parked in front of a lumber yard on White Plains Road at around 8:15 a.m., then sped away and slammed into a man who was standing next to his own parked truck roughly two minutes later. Police put out the video below and are asking anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-8477 (TIPS). The victim in the crash remains in critical but stable condition, police said on Sunday night. The Daily News also covered it.