Janette Sadik-Khan Is O.K. In Robert Caro's Book

94618847 Janette Sadik Khan Is O.K. In Robert Caro's Book

The power biker. (Getty)

The redesign of 34th Street has come in for its fair—or unfair, depending on perspective—share of criticism in the lead up to today’s launch of Select Bus Service on the thoroughfare. One person who would gladly board that bus, so to speak? None other than Robert Caro.

The Observer was interviewing Mr. Caro for an article about infrastructure investment—or lack thereof—in the country and the region. (Read all about it in this Wednesday’s paper.) We were discussing the way the Bloomberg administration has been reshaping the city in the manner of Moses, if on a far smaller scale, which led The Observer to mention the opposition to Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, often compared to “Moses in a skirt.” Mr. Caro said he did not understand all the griping.

“I’ve never met her, but I know people are knocking her,” he said. “But what they should remember is that at bottom, what she’s engaged in is an effort to rescue the city from an over-dependence on the automobile that hurts the city in so many ways.”

During our conversation, Mr. Caro spoke fondly of what the city was, a fabric of neighborhoods and cultures, and what it could be again. It is not clear that New York is returning to those polyglot days—look at the mostly well-to-do neighborhoods bike lanes tend to serve—but Mr. Caro regards it as an improvement nonetheless.

“When Robert Moses came to power, for 40 years, he systematically starved mass-transit, both the subways and the commuter railroads while pouring the city’s resources into highways, into the things that would increase its dependence on the automobile,” Mr. Caro said. “So I do think we would have a more balanced transportation system without him.”

And we’re in the midst of that rebalancing? “Yes, I do believe so.”

mchaban [at] observer.com | @MC_NYC


  1. Jackmorpher says:

    take your bicycle to work, in the rain, pick up two small children, one with the fidgets,and groceries and dry cleaning; or walk to the bus station and wait thirty minutes and take the train after waiting twenty minutes, then repeat in the evening

    i think that the the bike lanes should convert to car lanes when bike ridership is under 5,000  per hour, or when the temperature is below 40 degrees F

    and bikes in car lanes should be crushed into abstract sculpture, with the riders embedded

    and bicyclists need to have license plates and pass road tests and get tickets for illegal lane changes or riding between lanes, and have stroboscopic helmet beacons, and pass a good-manners test

    did i miss the memo where citywide rent-a-bike went down the sewers? maybe CityTime programmers had the contract

    1. Anonymous says:

      Advocating violence against people that have done nothing but ride their bikes?

      “and bikes in car lanes should be crushed into abstract sculpture, with the riders embedded”

       You are scum and this comment needs to be removed by a moderator.

    2. Winter Rider says:

      I think that the car lanes should convert to bike lanes when the temperature is above 40 degrees.

      I’d also like drivers to pass a good-manners test, since all the licensing and road tests have not prevented them from killing and injuring thousands of New Yorkers every year.

    3. “pass a good manners test”

      Well then, you’re the first person going into the crusher.

    4. Anonymous says:

      If you wanted to live in a city which accommodates your automobile-based outlook in life, why not move to Kansas City?  (And don’t just go to Los Angeles because while auto-oriented, it is now so congested that the car doesn’t have much of a future there.)

  2. Anonymous says:

    34th Street has been a congested nightmare for years, and NYC should be applauded for helping to move people across town faster.  The original plan would have moved A LOT more people MUCH faster, and would have made the east 30s into a transit-accessible place.  

  3. J says:

    Saying that  bike lanes serve only well-to-do neighborhoods ignores two important points. First, few would argue that the Bronx is affluent, yet the city has quietly been building an extensive bike network in the southern section of that borough. 58 miles of bike lanes in 4 years in nothing to scoff at. Second, inner neighborhoods are most conducive to biking due to shorter distances, and the most politically in favor of bike lanes. These neighborhoods tend to be wealthier, but always. If DOT was forcing bike lanes on neighborhoods that didn’t want them, we’d have a whole different kind of trouble.

  4. Sunset Park says:

    Only time will tell about JSK’s  legacy.  Moses’ legacy is all around us and NYC continues to grow and prosper.  JSK’s markings are to now cosmetic.  We’ll have to wait on her.  The verdict on him is proclaimed everywhere.

    1. Carophile says:

      Yes, his legacy is commemorated every day with traffic jams on all the highways he built.