Cracks in the Ice

image of cracked glacier

None other than The New York Times is now running pieces calling cars “death machines,” with references to evidence supporting that long-suppressed point. This is a genuinely new and good thing.

One of the many important facts explained by Farhad Manjoo, the piece’s author, pertains to just how deeply we’re down in this thing.

Despite the quasi-famous effort of Robert Moses to help bankers find ways to reinvest their clients’ surplus wealth* by adding automotive facilities to it, New York City remains, by far, our nation’s least car-dominated major metro area, with predictably good, if counterintuitive, implications for its comparative green-ness.

But, the comparative basis is still very much comparative, after all. As Manjoo explains, even Manhattan is wildly, crazily give over to automobiles:

In addition to the 2,450 acres of roadway in Manhattan, nearly 1,000 more acres — an area about the size of Central Park — is occupied by parking garages, gas stations, carwashes, car dealerships and auto repair shops. There is three times more roadway for cars on Manhattan as there is for bikes. There’s more road for cars than there is sidewalks for pedestrians.

And this holds, despite the fact that less than half of Manhattan’s households own a car!

Something is very rotten in this not-Denmark of ours, and the reality is starting to reek badly enough for it to be catching a few new nostrils, at very long last.


*From Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, p. 730:

Jack Madigan, who had spent weeks trying to peddle Henry Hudson Bridge bonds around Wall Street in 1936, was astonished when previously aloof bankers began inviting him to lunch in their private dining rooms in 1946 — until one, Stewart Becker, president of the Bank of Manhattan, casually remarked over dessert, “You know, Jack, we’ve got more money than good uses for it.” Then he [Madigan] understood. Returning from Becker’s table, he told Moses that the banker was asking to be allowed to buy as much as possible of the next Triborough bond issue — and the bartender’s son [Madigan] added that he would never have to go hat in band to bankers again; from now on, bankers would come to him.