When the Wall Street Journal got an aging member of its editorial team on camera to talk about New York City’s new bike share program, we thought the hysteria over Citi Bike had reached its peak of wackiness, with nowhere to go but down.
“Look, I represent the majority of citizens,” Dorothy Rabinowitz declared of her opposition to the program. (Meanwhile, back in the real world, 72 percent of New Yorkers said they supported the program when polled last year.)
Planes Trains and Automobiles
When it comes to bike lanes, the Bloomberg administration and its trinominal Department of Transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, doesn’t back down.
Whether it means facing down her predecessor, Iris Weinshall, and husband Chuck Schumer over the Prospect Park West bike lane, or enduring the tabloids’ volleys over Citi Bike, the administration can be counted on to be a reliable ally when it comes to bikes.
Buses, though, are another story.
Street Fighters Too
Michael Bierut is one of the most renowned designers in the world. As a principal at Pentagram, he has created logos, identities and campaigns for everyone from United Airlines to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Citibank to New York and The Atlantic, Saks Fifth, Princeton and Yale, even Walt Disney and The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, for which he designed an updated “doomsday clock.”
Still, one of the greatest typographical minds of our time could never make sense of the city’s parking signs.
“On the occasions I drive and try to park on the street, I tend to get as confused as anyone,” explained Mr. Bierut, who lives in Westchester and normally takes Metro-North into the city. “I have received many tickets and been towed twice. I am so paranoid now that I will park in a garage for even a 15-minute errand.”
Perhaps now he can start parking on the street again.
Planes Trains & Automobiles
One of the more unusual sides of the city’s response to Superstorm Sandy has been the ingenuity of the transportation and planning wonks that help us get around this giant metropolis. It is not only the speed with which the MTA recovered, but also what it and the city’s Department of Transportation did in between. Creating bus bridges to replace flooded subways, launching new ferry lines, creating special subway shuttles.
Today, Mayor Bloomberg and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan announced yet another innovation, a second ferry for Staten Island. The Rockaways already has one, and now the city is looking for an operator to serve the hardest-hit sections of Staten Island’s south shore. With widespread destruction, many locals’ lives have been interrupted, forcing them to leave behind their homes and cars. The new ferry service is seen as a lifeline between Great Kills and Manhattan, for those struggling to get to work and beyond.
Just before Hurricane Sandy hit, everyone was busy stocking up provisions to weather the maelstrom. Following the storm, there was a scramble to to find more to eat as stores were empty and restaurants closed. This is a city of gourmands, after all. For the city officials who were responsible for guiding the city through the disaster, this was no exception.
While we were compiling our oral history of Hurricane Sandy, Joe Lhota mentioned that even in the worst of the storm, he had managed to keep his daily dietary regimen intact. This got us wondering: what was everybody eating while they scrambled around getting the city ready and helping it recover? Here is what the protectors and providers of the city had on their plates and in their pockets.
When Hurricane Sandy came ashore, it fell to the city’s leaders and the thousands of workers at their command to secure our coasts, to rescue those trapped by water and without power, to help the city rebuild. The Observer spent Monday and Tuesday talking with New York’s top public officials about Hurricane Sandy. These are their experiences in their own words.
Joe Lhota, chairman and CEO, Metropolitan Transportation Authority: I have an app on my iPad that monitors hurricanes on the East Coast. I have always lived on the water. I always watch the app. So when I first got involved in this—it was long before it even hit Jamaica—I knew when it started as a tropical storm, and a hurricane, and a tropical storm, and then a hurricane again.
Joe Bruno, commissioner, NYC Office of Emergency Management: We follow the weather very closely this time of year as it comes off the tip of Africa, or wherever it develops. This particular storm came out of the southwest of the Caribbean. At 11 a.m. on October 22, we saw a tropical depression. At that point it’s just a depression, and you don’t know much about it. By 6 p.m., it was upgraded already to a tropical storm called Sandy. It continued to strengthen during the next day, and we kept track of it as it moved across Jamaica.
Last week the city’s Department of Transportation (in partnership with the fed’s Department of Transportation) unveiled new LOOK! crosswalk decals and bus banners to remind pedestrians and drivers to pay attention to each other while making their way across the busy cityscape.
Now the department, along with the Taxi and Limousine Commission, has unveiled new stickers that will adorn the doors and windows of the city’s 13,000 cabs. They implore occupants to “LOOK! for cyclists.” These are accompanied by a new 30-second spot in everybody’s favorite ad-viewing venue, Taxi T.V.
Street Fighters Too
What are you looking at?
When it comes to crossing the street, the city’s Department of Transportation hopes the answer is oncoming traffic—and not your smartphone or your beautiful European model boyfriend.
As any good three-year-old could tell you, always look both ways before crossing the street. But harried, hurried and distracted New Yorkers (and perhaps not a few New Yorkers) are ignoring the rules they learned in preschool, so the department has launched a new campaign to nudge as all into paying more attention when crossing the street.
Street Fighters Too
Janette Sadik-Khan, the sui generis city transportation commissioner, was standing on 51st Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues as rush hour was just starting last week. Rather, she was standing at the intersection with 6½th Avenue, her latest asphalt confection. The pedestrian passageway was designated and demarcated about two months ago, connecting up a series of plazas running from here to 57th Street. Ms. Sadik-Khan was out for her first official stroll.
“It’s kind of a secret garden, one of the new secret spaces we’ve helped create; we’ve got 500 of them in the city and we’re trying to connect people better to their surroundings, make the city that much nicer,” Ms. Sadik-Khan said.
She gazed up at the cute little green street sign one of her construction crews had installed. “6½th Avenue” it read, like a sign on any other corner, though it, along with five others along the seven-block passageway, are the only ones in the city bearing fractions. The commissioner looked down and smiled. “It’s like Harry Potter,” she said. “The 9¾ platform. Or Being John Malkovich, with the 7½ floor.”
“I love it.”
Former mayoral hopeful and social media lothario Anthony Weiner once infamously declared to Mayor Bloomberg over dinner that his first year in City Hall would be spent “tearing out your fucking bike lanes.”
It is a prospect that terrifies urban planners and bike advocates, who worship the public space rejiggering championed by current DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. Mr. Weiner is obviously out of the running, but some other mayoral candidates have expressed concern about these streetscape changes, as well, most recently Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who called the commish a “radical” recently. But would he really go through with it?