Tuesday’s Headlines: Make Your Opinion Known Edition

We spotted these kids playing catch in the street in Jackson Heights, thanks to cars being banished — the very kind of scene that people claim they're nostalgic for ("We used to play stickball in the street!") yet freak out when they finally see it. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
We spotted these kids playing catch in the street in Jackson Heights, thanks to cars being banished — the very kind of scene that people claim they're nostalgic for ("We used to play stickball in the street!") yet freak out when they finally see it. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

We couldn’t help but notice that there’s yet another group of self-styled champions of democracy in Jackson Heights claiming it speaks for the ignored supposed majority of residents who oppose the Department of Transportation’s “Paseo Park” plan for 34th Avenue on the grounds — get this — that creating plaza blocks is “dangerous” because the DOT has not done “ANY environmental impact analyses” about the apparent danger that supposedly happens when cars are removed from a roadway.

The group is called “Voices of Jackson Heights” — and it claims that neighborhood residents have not been given “representation.” (Though there’s some irony there, because opponents of the Paseo Park plan also claim that they’ve spoken up loudly at numerous public hearings, so it’s a bit odd to hear people complaining that their voices are not being heard while at the same time boasting how much noise they have made. Our guess is that their voices are indeed being heard; but they are simply losing to more-compelling other voices.)

But to get to the substance of the Voices of Jackson Heights complaint about the supposedly dangerous car free spaces that haven’t been properly studied: there is in fact one major impact statement that the city publishes every day. It’s called NYC Open Data, and it’s a trove of information about the environmental impact of cars on public roadways.

For example, according to that database, there were 99 reported crashes on 34th Avenue between 69th Street and Junction Boulevard in calendar year 2019 (before the city created the open street). Those crashes injured seven cyclists, 10 pedestrians and 36 drivers. But in calendar year 2021, during the hours when the open street barricades are up, there were 23 reported crashes, injuring one cyclist, four pedestrians and three motorists. That’s a drop in crashes of 77 percent and a decrease in injuries of 85 percent.

That’s certainly evidence that the creation of the open street has benefitted  “everyone’s safety and security” — though Voices of Jackson Heights uses those very words to argue against the DOT’s plans to further reduce car traffic on the street.

The safety argument is compelling enough, but let’s not forget that Jackson Heights has among the lowest open space per capita in the city. Its lone park — Travers Park — is great, but it is small. The open street has created a public space amenity in a neighborhood that desperately needs it. Not everyone in Jackson Heights lives in a building with a verdant courtyard — and very few people have access to country houses or cottages.

Conveniently, Voices of Jackson Heights has posted a survey to seek the voices of the neighborhood. Our hope is that the many many supporters of Paseo Park will take a few minutes to fill out the survey and tell the new group how beloved the open street actually is. Then Voices of Jackson Heights may indeed be a truly representative group.

In other news:

  • Nicole Gelinas writes for the NY Post and the Manhattan Institute — both outlets with which we often bitterly disagree (especially on policing). Yet when it comes to demanding that we dismantle all the terrible systems that encourage global warming, she’s on point. You can blame Joe Manchin all you want for, well, being Joe Manchin, but as Gelinas points out in this (badly headlined) Post column, we are all guilty in our own way of not tearing down Car Culture.
  • Everyone jumped on the news that Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine was going to ratchet up the West Side Highway road diet machine again, but Levine was smart enough to hand out a super hot rendering to reporters covering his letter to state DOT. We were on it big time, as was Clayton Guse of the Daily Newsuh,
  • Mayor Adams put transit workers union boss John Samuelson on the Transit Mobility Review Board, which will decide on all the details about congestion pricing later this year. (NYDN, amNY)
  • Speaking of Adams and transit, the mayor defended his decision to cut the hours on two successful busways as listening to “the community.” Which community? Certainly not bus riders. (amNY, Streetsblog)
  • Graphic: R. Kikuo Johnson
    Graphic: R. Kikuo Johnson

    We’ve slammed the New Yorker in the past for its pro-car agenda, as well as for getting financial backing from the maker of one of America’s most violent SUVs, but this week, we offer a hat tip to R. Kikuo Johnson for his bike-to-the-beach cover image (right). Now can he do the Mets next?

  • Of course, the New Yorker reverted almost immediately to form with this piece about how great it’s going to be when all the cars go electric and are perfectly quiet. No disrespect to John Seabrook — the piece is fascinating — but it’s still a product of Car Culture.
  • We went out to cover the ground-breaking of the Portal North Bridge in New Jersey and came away with a bloggy post about Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Gothamist played it straight.
  • A 74-year-old woman was struck and badly injured by the driver of an SUV in Bayside. (NY Post)
  • Media- and pol-whipped fear of crime — not crime itself — is undermining New York’s recovery, argues Bloomberg. Equality Alec had the perfect thread, as always:

  • Even though everyone did previews, some outlets still covered the mayor’s presser on Monday that the city’s speed cameras would — indeed and as promised — begin 24-7-365 coverage starting at 10 p.m. (amNY)
  • That’s two! Another Staten Island cop has been arrested for using fake plates. (Gothamist)
  • Livery cab owners and base operators want more licenses. (amNY)
  • Don’t miss the three-way debate with Reps. Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney and challenger Suraj Patel on Tuesday night (you can catch Jacob deGrom’s return and still catch the best parts) (Gothamist). Patel, the Post says, is surging.
  • And, finally, here’s some great public service journalism from our friend Ben Kabak, who collected some tweets from drivers who were upset that the city’s speed cameras would finally, as of Monday night, be operating 24-7-365. Too many drivers actually believe that driving recklessly is OK and that being held accountable for it is unjust: