NYC: April 2004 Archives


Let us suppose you have a chest of drawers that you sorely need for storage space but cannot fit into your small apartment. What to do?

Here is one thought: Why not put it on wheels and leave it curbside in front of your building? Naturally, you accept a theft risk and an obligation to move the chest across the street every few days to comply with alternate-side parking rules.

Absurd, right? You can't just leave personal property on the street.

But what if we call that thing on wheels, oh, a car? Suddenly, it becomes O.K. to gobble up precious public space for your own benefit. Not only that, but on most streets you also need not pay a dime for this storage area.

So begins Clyde Haberman's "NYC" column in today's NYTimes.

While eventually we will be forced to ban on-street parking in New York, presumably starting only with Manhattan at first, it's not going to be easy, not least because of the sense of entitlement fostered for car owners by every city administration for over half a century.

Before 1950 it was illegal to park overnight in Manhattan. Transportation Alternatives activist John Tierney has cited how old photographs demonstrate "gracefully uncluttered streets. Many of the sidewalks were much wider than today's and adorned with greenery."

The city's pedestrian majority, as Police Commissioner Arthur Wallander approvingly observed in 1947, was firmly opposed to ''the public streets being used as garages.'' But the city's politicians had their own cars to park and favors to hand out. So some of the world's most expensive real estate has ended up being used to store hulks of metal, at unbeatable prices.
But of course he's not been alone in encouraging New Yorkers to take back the streets. Two and a half years ago Frank Pelligrini proposed in Time that incoming mayor Bloomberg be so bold as to make his mark by doing the right thing by all New Yorkers.
Banning parking would rev all the economic engines that the city runs on, and eliminate the real source of economic dead weight, namely private-vehicle owners who are just waiting for an excuse to get out of town for the weekend anyway

[image from]

this is as sophisticated as it gets

Ray Sanchez knows what the city won't tell us: No one is really doing anything about subway security. But then, why should we be surprised? The subway isn't the politicians and bureaucrats' thing. They don't use it.

At the same time it hasn't escaped the notice of some of us that there's still talk about entirely shutting down Penn Station and the Main Post Office during the Republican Convention for the safety of hundreds or thousands of treasured Republican plutocrats.

The conductor stood in the cab of the subway car, her door ajar. People have a false sense of security on the subway, she said. "The politicians who never ride the trains are very reassuring, aren't they?"

The New York Police Department is rushing to train 10,000 officers in counter-terrorism in time for the summer's Republican National Convention, but there are transit workers without fire and evacuation training.

"I'm one of them," said the conductor, who has eight years on the job. "You hope common sense is enough to get you through an emergency, but, you know, common sense goes out the window."

And, in the event, the riders too, if there's going to be no direction from "security."

[image from Rachelle Bowden at rachelleb]

serious street theatre: Rachel Corrie remembered on 5th Avenue, March 26, 2003

Barry and I slipped into Manhattan Criminal Court on Monday to show support for our friends and their friends, sixteen defendents caught up in the trial from mayhem (maybe the word "hell" should be reserved for even more horrendous judicial outrages likely still to come).

Thirteen months ago the group had been arrested for a totally peaceful street protest against the war in Iraq, against the continuing war on the Palestinians, and against the death of U.S. human rights activist Rachel Corrie. Ok, some traffic was disrupted on 5th Avenue. Now those arrested that day may be subject to restraint of their liberties during years of probation and, in the words of hanging judge Robert M. Stolz on Monday, they are "facing a possible sentence of up to a year in jail." A year in jail? For blocking cars? For trying to shake their country awake?

Stolz's mention of the serious stakes involved for the defendents followed immediately a thinly-veiled warning to their friends and familiy in the benches: "[This trial] is not for the benefit of Spectators." No, it certainly isn't, but can we know for whose benefit it is being staged?

This trial is an appalling abuse of the courts. We used to think that Giuliani's regime* was outrageous, but to experience an even more serious assault New Yorkers really had to wait until after the reactionary ascendancy which followed the 2000 election, after the misreading of September 11, after the terrorists won the war on terror the day it was announced, and after the totally political decision that New York City would be the site of the Republican Convention celebrating the arrival of the fundamentalists' brave new world.

Normally political protest which involves a police determination that the protestor
is somehow out of order results in a simple violation and the dismissal of all charges, assuming the person arrested does not run into the police again within a designated relatively short period of time, usually a few months.

I can't begin to go into the particulars here of how this judge and this district attorney (Morgenthau's lieutenant, Barry Glasser) have been mishandling the case of the "5th Avenue 16," but let me say that neither party is disinterested, and that the people's justice appears to be just about the last concern of both. Not incidently, aside from carrying an axe which will apparently never be ground enough, Judge Stolz has to be faulted for incredibly slovenly, unprofessional conduct. But then, these are also times which somehow accomodate a George W. Bush presiding over 300 million [or actually 6 billion] of his fellows.

Yesterday morning, for what was expected to be only the pronouncement of sentences, there were at all times a minimum of eight police officers in the courtroom on Monday (one for every ten people in the public seating area) and four of them wore bulletproof vests. I have been a defendent in civil rights cases, I have sat in courtrooms while others were tried for similar "offenses" and I have sat on the jury in one capital case. Never before have I have seen more than two officers in a courtroom, and none were ever wearing vests.

Clearly the City authorities and their directors in Washington are trying very hard to frighten us all into submission and to minimize the potential for the demonstrations and protest which are the only refuge for a people given no effective electoral choices. We can't let our self-appointed governors get away with this. The stakes are just too high. If we fail to stop these police state tactics now, we all will be paying for it for years, if not forever.

Clyde Haberman has written one of the very few media stories on this trial. He doesn't tell us enough, he provides no real context, and he may be trying to be too entertaining, but you'll at least learn that sentencing has been delayed contemplating the impact of new evidence. True justice's hope is that the defendents' lawyer will be successful in his motion for an appeal, but with this judge it must be a distant hope at best.

For more press and other information, including pictures, go to

Surprise! A former federal prosecutor, Stolz was originally appointed Judge by Giuliani, to the Civil Court in 1995. He was appointed to the Criminal Court by Bloomberg in 2003.

[image from Fred Askew]

This page is an archive of entries in the NYC category from April 2004.

previous archive: NYC: March 2004

next archiveNYC: May 2004