Volume 23, Number 7| The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | June 25 - July 1, 2010
Letters to the Editor
Taking rude New Yorkers to a new low
To The Editor:
Somewhere in New York a car or truck is blocking the box — a situation where a vehicle is stopped outside a crosswalk by a red light, blocking traffic. Box blocking is rightfully a traffic violation, but when the police are not around to distribute tickets, pedestrians become rush hour vigilante.
Rather than waiting a moment to allow the offending vehicle to pass through the crosswalk, the city’s most justice-crazed foot soldiers will walk directly in front of the trapped vehicle, snarling at the driver and banging on the car’s hood. Less demonstrative vigilantes will placidly deny access to the crosswalk with the passive-
aggressive act of exercising their right-of-way.
The ire expressed towards box-blockers can be viewed as a constructive act of public shaming; trapped driver taunted by passersby would undoubtedly be reluctant to ever block the box again.
But drivers who understandably calculate that they can pass through the box, only to be stopped short by a sudden traffic jam, are met with as much venom as the daredevils who recklessly try to beat a changing light. The fact that well-meaning drivers are treated the same as the true scofflaws makes me think that false outrage, rather than a desire to punish the guilty, is largely behind our disdain for box-blocking drivers.
The most civic-minded response to encountering a vehicle blocking the box is to let it pass through the crosswalk so that traffic can continue flowing. Pedestrians who prevent cars from continuing through the crosswalk are as guilty of slowing traffic as the box blockers themselves.
The walking public’s preoccupation with being assertive is also apparent when a car and pedestrian meet in a crosswalk while the vehicle is trying to make a legal turn. While some pedestrians will allow the car to pass ahead of them, others will insist on racing across the street, even when the car gets there first. And if a car that is challenged by a late-crossing race walker drives through the crosswalk without stopping, the pedestrian will curse and gesture as if the driver were engaged in a hit-and-run, rather than trying to complete a legal maneuver.
People who cross in front of a car that has stopped turning to let the walkers pass also have some sense of entitlement. Instead of walking briskly, many pedestrians will slow their gait to a shuffle before picking up the pace after reaching the sidewalk: “You’ll wait for me!” is the message conveyed.
I know that drivers can be jerks. But the anger-for-anger’s sake tone expressed by turf-conscious pedestrians conflicts with the communal nature of the city’s public space.
After all, whether we are behind the wheel or hoofing it, we are all New Yorkers. Then again, if that car blocking the box has New Jersey license plates, anything goes.
Buses gone wild
To The Editor:
I’ve lost track of how many traffic studies have occurred in Chinatown, but has anything improved with respect to the Chinese “interstate buses”? They’re all over the place!
I think it’s fair to say that many people think these buses have a right to conduct business on the streets of New York. I disagree with them. The city’s traffic rules require interstate (and intrastate) buses to operate “from an off-street terminal or terminals duly approved by the proper authorities of the City of New York.”
The executive director of the Chinese Progressive Association, Mae Lee, is quoted as saying that the interstate buses “provide a useful service.” But I think it would be a more useful service if the C.P.A. could discover whether or not the proper city authorities actually approved of these buses operating in a neighborhood that already has poor air quality and heavy traffic. If there was no approval, then why is there no enforcement? If, on the other hand, the authorities approved of having bus “terminals” on the streets and sidewalks of such a congested neighborhood, then it begs the question, “Why?”
Black Israelites, oy vey
To The Editor:
I live on Broadway and Spring St. We who live here have had to put up with the “bus bump-out,” wall-to-wall vendors — and now, frequent visits from an army of haranguing Black Israelites. Six hours of racist ranting and raving, amplified by a microphone, make it impossible to keep the hateful language out of our homes.
I’m at a loss to understand how this has been allowed.
Downtown Express welcomes letters to The Editor. They must include the writer’s first and last name, a phone number for confirmation purposes only, and any affiliation that relates directly to the letter’s subject matter. Letters should be less than 300 words. Downtown Express reserves the right to edit letters for space, clarity, civility or libel reasons. Letters should be e-mailed to news@DowntownExpress.com or can be mailed to 145 Sixth Ave., N.Y., N.Y. 10013.