Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

Wait, what?

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It’s pretty simple: After delaying publication of the statistics, change the parameters of victory to meet reality and then declare victory. Bloomberg certainly took a page from Bush’s book in that one with the closing of Broadway through Herald and Times Squares. Southbound traffic slowed by 2% while northbound sped up by 17% – largely due to the fact that Sixth Avenue doesn’t cross Broadway any more – meanwhile, crosstown traffic is much worse than before, as it picked up all the slack.

The project, Mr. Paaswell [interim President of City College] said, “serves the public good, but it doesn’t necessarily reduce congestion.”

Which public? Bloomberg has an answer:

The Times Square Alliance, a business group, surveyed residents and office workers and found that about 75 percent were “satisfied with their experience” in the area, up from less than half in 2007. Although some property owners objected to the design of the plazas, asking that the furniture and pavement be replaced, the majority of businesses said the plazas should be continued.

“It’s shifted the paradigm for what a street and sidewalk experience is supposed to be like in New York City,” said Tim Tompkins, the president of the alliance.

Ah, the tourist public and their vendors. Why am I not surprised? It’s Bloomberg. We need more Disneyland Malls!

Now, I’m all for not building major thoroughfares through city parks, but not having major thoroughfares through major thoroughfares strikes me as rather odd. Then again, I had problems with Bloomberg’s other ambitiously major plan for city streets, which was arguably more successful, even if counterproductive at times.

But to me, this is a poor substitute to plans Bloomberg dropped the ball on that would have had the greatest possible effect on the traffic in Manhattan: Plans like Congestion Taxes, a la London, or simply banning private automobiles during the day, a la Beijing. There simply aren’t enough buses, trucks, taxis and liveries – in short, commercial traffic; the kind that drives business – to create the type of congestion the city’s streets see in Midtown. A lot of it comes to private cars, and so if it’s odd to make so many concessions to them when there’s plenty of other viable means to shuttle private individuals.

Such talk, however, might frighten Bloomberg’s yuppie electorate, and we can’t have that. In the meantime, I bike through Midtown without seeing a lick of difference – well, except for the fact that I’m forced to use Seventh Ave now.

Fucking Pussies

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What is wrong with Lower Manhattan as a site to hold the Khalid Shiekh Mohammed trial? Mayor Bloomberg cites cost overruns in security upgrades. Seriously?

Several points bear asking. First of all, why does it cost $1 billion to secure Lower Manhattan for one trial? It cost $75 million for Obama’s inauguration – and that was with a flood of almost two million people!

Second, why would NYC foot the bill? It’s a federal trial. Let the feds pay for it. Actually, while they’re at it, let them bail out the state, too, so we don’t have to keep cutting city services, damnit.

Third, what’s with the obsession that terrorists are reactionary when it comes to doing such attacks? Why would they work on our schedule – you know, when security is tightest? We could have pipebombs in the subways now. Isn’t the whole point of terrorism to attack when least expected? We spent years checking people’s shoes and missed a guy lighting his underwear on fire.

Fourth, what’s with the obsession over security in the first place? We’re never going to be totally secure against any and all attacks. Never. Not with our entire GDP locked up in military expenditures and security details. Not with airport enemas and subway strip-searches. We spent years checking people’s shoes and missed a guy lighting his underwear on fire.

Fifth, doesn’t this needless delay further harm our rule of law? We have these trials because all people – even foreign nationals – are created equal and are afforded the rights of due process. To say that this is a special case not only weakens our moral standing – KSM is less than human yet is a superhuman criminal mastermind – but proves to the world that everything enemy propaganda says about us is true: We don’t believe our own values, we’re inconsistent and aggressive, and more than everything else their attack was effective.

The best of all possible messages we could impart is that we are secure enough in our values that this can be dealt with by our justice system as it is, such that we are not turning it into a kangaroo court where he is found guilty not by the evidence submitted but by the popular vote of an angry populace whipped up by a cynical propagandist media. We want a trial, not a stoning, and we have a federal court just for that purpose right in downtown Manhattan.

Good God

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Forgive the time gap between posts.

Unions have a mixed history in NYC as of late. They’re practically the last bastions of real power for the rank and file left in the country (I think the UFT is the only part of the AFL-CIO that isn’t currently being gutted through a complete destruction of its parent industry), but they’re victims of their own success. Read the rest of this entry »

This Looks Familiar

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The state government is deadlocked because suburbanites don’t like taxes (but certainly like their road and utility subsidies, don’t they?), the MTA is cutting service and raising fares to ridiculous lengths (and the comments on that article hurt my faith in humanity), and people are again antsy about violent crime.

For my part, the mood is prevailing on spring student aggression and teacher dispair. Fights have been breaking out on a daily basis in high traffic hallways, two computers were stolen today by students who managed to get their hands on a master key which, along with other petty thefts, foments a possible crime wave a la about this time last year, where teacher laptops and school equipment were being snatched left and right for two weeks of insanity.

I was in a hardware store picking up padlocks so I could secure my equipment now that the door locks were compromised, and when giving the rundown to answer the cashier’s inquiries, the lady next to me broke out in laughter.

“I’m glad I’m not sending my kid to your school!” said this Asian yuppie in high heels.

That’s okay. No other white or Asian mother does. Not one. There’s a reason they call it a ghetto: Nobody who has a choice stays. It’s beginning to feel like the 70s or the 90s in sense that yuppies are having misgivings about the city again and locals are hunkering down.

The thing I hope for at least in the NYCDoE, given the frustrating nature of the current crop and the limited prospects they’re looking at is the promise that we’re only holding the fort until the Bloomberg generation – ie, the generation of students that grew up entirely within the agency that is known as Dead On Education as compared to Bored Of Education – is old enough for high school. Big hope.

Brooklyn Bikers

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Robert Sullivan on the NYTimes argues for bikers to reach a higher level of “civility” to show good faith in Bloomberg’s recent travails concerning favorable bike policies. I agree on principle, but not how he envisions it.

For starters, it’s clear that Sullivan and I are different types of bikers. As in an earlier post I made, I pointed out the different habits of Brooklyn and Manhattan traffic flow and thus biker attitude, and I believe Brooklyn is affecting his view more than Manhattan.

Now, let me get the agreements out of the way: Yes, I do believe the new bicycle infrastructure is succeeding in a number of ways of separating bike traffic and car traffic, and one of the unfortunate side effects is that bike traffic is paired with the much slower (and less regulated) foot traffic. Unfortunately, I would have to disagree in how this came about: Sullivan thinks the bike lanes are a generally good thing. I don’t. Read the rest of this entry »

Why I don’t follow politics lower than Mayor

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Sheldon Silver, D-Lower East Side, has decided to spearhead a move to save the MTA by instituting payroll taxes on employers and add tolls to the East River crossings to the tune of, well, subway fare. Poetic, sure, but consider that the opposition argument that it’s unfairly benefitting Manhattanites (because it’s not like Manhattanites haven’t been paying through the nose in taxes to keep the crossings aloft for all those Bridge & Tunnellers already) has usually been his argument, despite representing Lower Manhattan.

NYC, like all major American cities, has a hate-hate relationship with its suburbs, in that they represent nontaxable people who use city services but live beyond the city line. The first half of NYC’s history, the problem was solved by simple annexation (hey, Queens, you’re mine now) to jurisdiction-ignoring authorities (bridges, bus depots and commuter trains can be considered “ports,” right?).  The problem in most every other industrialized nation is solved by having the ‘state’ basically be the metropolitan area + the suburbs + the exurbs, such that one couldn’t conceivably live close enough to commute to the urban core daily but far enough to avoid paying taxes for it.

Silver, on the other hand, seems to have this sort of relationship with himself, considering he killed previous attempts on a commuter tax as well as Bloomberg’s congestion pricing (cited by Silver that his compatriots, upstate Democrats, complained it was a de facto commuter tax. No shit, Sherlock.) only to devise a plan that could conceivably quadruple-tax NYC for the same damn service.

This is why I would sometimes prefer a benevolent dictatorship. Things that benefit everybody should not be this hard to maintain. Seriously, folks.

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