Friday, February 12, 2010

Bloomberg Be Jammin'

Mike Bloomberg has decided that nothing succeeds, well, like failure-and he has given the green light to the Times Square gridlock mess that was the brainchild of his brainless Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn. As the NY Times reports, in an understated lede: "New York’s ambitious experiment that closed parts of Broadway to vehicles last spring will become permanent, city officials said on Thursday, even though it fell short of achieving its chief objective: improving traffic flow."

Even with the the Bloombergistas keeping their own score, this effort of the mayor to posture as some kind of climate change guru fails to pass the smell test: "But traffic speeds slowed on many crosstown streets, as well as on Eighth and Ninth Avenues, according to data from more than 5,700 test runs conducted by the Department of Transportation. There were some improvements, but they mostly missed the city’s targets. Traffic along Seventh Avenue, for example, moved 4 percent faster, but the city had hoped for a gain of up to 17 percent."

But with a furor already manifested over the fudged city crime stats, can we really accept these numbers? As Senator Liz Krueger told the Times: "“I find it disturbing that nobody outside of the mayor’s office got to take a look at the data or the report before the decision was made,” said State Senator Liz Krueger, who represents the Times Square area. “It leaves one with the suspicion that they didn’t want the public to have time to take a serious look.”

What boggles our mind, however, is the fact that all of this has been done without the benefit of any environmental review-and we don't consider the books' cooking of DOT as any sort of due diligence. For a bistro to get even one additional outdoor table, a traffic study and environmental assessment is needed-and that's as a prelude to a ULURP application. But for the mayor the turn the city's main thoroughfare into a pedestrian mall we get environmental squat!

And listen to Bloomberg's failure=success rationale: "Mr. Bloomberg, however, declared the project a success, emphasizing the improvements to pedestrian safety and foot traffic, along with the aesthetic enhancement to an area once associated with exhaust and gridlock." Is he kidding, or has he been sucking too long on an exhaust pipe?

This is all part of the mayor's congestion pricing scheme-and remember that he wanted to implement that grandiose F-U to motorists also without the benefit of an EIS. The NY Post's Steve Cuozzo captures the Bloomberg hubris: "Some day, maybe by Mayor Bloomberg’s seventh term, City Hall might find the money and smarts to landscape and accessorize Times Square’s repellent asphalt plazas so they don’t look quite so much like prison yards. Until then, 8 million of us are likely to be stuck with the ghastly public "amenities" thrust without public review upon the Crossroads of the World. Bloomberg appears inclined to keep the butt-ugly loitering grounds, even though, as the Times reported last week, the traffic-busting scheme that was the main reason for installing them appears to have flopped."

But do you think that the naked emperor cares one wit? Not when he is surrounded by so many lackeys and sycophants: "Voices quick to howl over the least perceived blemish on the urban fabric have gone mute. Where’s the outrage from esthetically attuned City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden? Or the Municipal Art Society? The normally energetic Times Square Alliance rolled over for the DOT blitzkrieg. So have Times Square real estate kingpins, hotel operators, retailers and restaurateurs who publicly say they find the plazas just dandy, but say the opposite privately. They lie for good reason: most have business before city agencies and are loath to alienate Bloomberg’s enforcers."

This is the kind of democratic process you get when you allow the city's richest man to buy, bribe and threaten his way into a third term-Rudy Giuliani could have only have wished that he had Bloomberg's ability to parlay great wealth into an unaccountable political power. And with the city council busy thinning the herd of its thieves, we think that it's unlikely that they will have the time or energy to give this proper oversight-even if the speaker was so inclined.

But our new public advocate is raising his voice-and perhaps the comptroller who knows a thing or two about traffic will also decide to weigh in on this. As the Times points out: "Several city officials — including the comptroller, the public advocate and the chairman of the City Council’s Transportation Committee — all said on Thursday they would review the city’s findings. “Too often we have seen this administration decide for the people, instead of engaging them in the process of making our city better,” Bill de Blasio, the public advocate, wrote in an e-mail message. “I believe that while this project has some benefits, we cannot make such a fundamental change to Times Square without first giving the community a greater say in the process.”

"Giving the community a greater say." What a unique concept; and after eight years of community non involvement on so many different policy fronts, why should we expect a change? Who will step up and finally state the obvious: "the King is in the altogether, But all together the all together, He's all together as naked as the day that he was born..."