Transcript — Episode 28: The Problem With Public Meetings, Part 2
Doug Gordon: Hey, everybody. There’s some language in this episode that may not be appropriate for all listeners.
[Announcer: Breaking news. Welcome to a special edition of The War on Cars. We take you now to a church basement in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where a public meeting on bike lanes has erupted into violence.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, man: Did you just threaten to beat his ass? Because that’s what it just sounds like. You just threatened to beat his ass?]
Aaron Naparstek: Welcome to The War on Cars.
Sarah Goodyear: Yeah, for real, The War on Cars.
Aaron: We’re fully into combat now.
Sarah: Yeah, I guess so.
Doug: Yeah, this is a new level. I was not expecting this.
Aaron: This is a special episode of The War on Cars. I am Aaron Naparstek, here with my co-hosts Sarah Goodyear and Doug Gordon, who survived—survived the legendary Meeting of the Ninth Street Bike Lane.
Doug: Now legendary. And not everybody has heard about this meeting, perhaps, but many have.
Sarah: Yeah, so Doug, maybe you could explain what happened in that church basement, and what was happening in that clip we heard.
Doug: Sarah, it’s really hard to talk about.
Sarah: [laughs] Oh my God!
Aaron: We should even just back it up a step more.
Aaron: And explain that on Wednesday, September 25, a couple of days ago, we recorded an episode on public meetings. And, you know, how activists and advocates and people who are trying to make change in their cities should approach public meetings. And then hours after that recording session, our co-host here, Doug, attended a public meeting that went rather off the rails.
Doug: Oh, it went completely—I’ve been to upwards of 12,000 of these meetings in the last 10 years of doing advocacy, and not one of them has even come anywhere close to being as nutty, as just off the rails crazy as this one.
Aaron: So let’s just try to explain in a very bare-bones objective way, like, what this meeting was about, why it was happening, who was there.
Doug: I’ll try to give the really quick …
Aaron: Yeah, quick and dirty.
Doug: Great. So Ninth Street, Brooklyn. Really wide street. Has a long history of problems. There have been children killed on that street dating back to at least 2004, most recently in 2018, there was a horrible crash that killed two very young children, injured their mother, who was pregnant and then lost the baby. It was terrible, awful.
Sarah: And the driver in that case ended up committing suicide.
Doug: It was a tragic case all around. After years of urging the city to fix this street before more people died, more people died. And so I organized a rally in March of 2018 in front of the Park Slope YMCA. There were a series of public meetings in response, and the street finally was redesigned to have protected bicycle lanes on both sides of the street.
Aaron: Why did you organize a rally in front of the Park Slope YMCA of all places? For our international listeners.
Doug: Right. For people who don’t know, the Park Slope YMCA is a daily destination of our mayor Bill de Blasio, and I had decided rather than follow the normal practice of advocacy where people issue press releases and give statements to the press, we would just take the fight to de Blasio’s door and urge for change that way. And it got a lot of press attention and it worked.
Aaron: So the city came in and pretty quickly built these protected bike lanes along a pretty significant chunk of Ninth Street.
Doug: I gotta jump in. It was pretty quick, but it was six months. And that’s quick.
Aaron: Yeah, quick by New York standards.
Doug: That’s quick by any city’s standards. And there were public meetings to present the designs. So this wasn’t like a middle of the night, we’re just gonna do this. I mean, not to mention the fact that the precipitating incident for this particular installation was covered by every major news outlet. So there was plenty of attention given to this. So that’s the setup.
Sarah: Why this meeting? Why now?
Doug: Well, okay. So there have been, not surprisingly, a group of people who live on or near Ninth Street who have been upset with the changes. And I think a few months ago, they actually held a meeting in a different church basement and very few people showed up. And in fact, some advocates showed up and kind of just, like, shut it down, basically. And this time around, they decided to hold another one, and they put up fliers—because there’s always a flier, as there was in the last episode—that introduced the specter of what if ambulances and fire trucks couldn’t get to your house as it was burning down because of the bike lanes on 9th Street? Come to discuss. And that got a lot of attention, and brought people out to this meeting.
Sarah: I think that we should post, along with the show notes, pictures of Ninth Street. Ninth Street is an incredibly wide street, even after these bike lanes have gone in. The idea that a fire truck couldn’t go down it is really kind of strange and ridiculous. But anyway …
Aaron: People have been fighting over Ninth Street for, like, 12 years. The first advocacy I did was actually just trying to get painted bike lanes on Ninth Street, and many of the same people who showed up to oppose those bike lanes were at this more recent meeting too. I mean, I recognize some of the faces.
Doug: Yeah, so this meeting happened and I decided to go to it, as did a lot of other people. And I don’t actually think people were expecting it to be quite as big, because the last meeting they had on this had been a total dud. But I showed up to this meeting right when it started, at about 6:30, and there were news cameras there from a couple of major local networks. There were other reporters there from radio and print and online. And the room was packed. I mean, I think when it started, there were well over 70 or 80 people there. It might have gone up to 100 by the time it really started. It was pretty big.
Sarah: From my understanding, this thing started pretty much as these things do with someone getting up and introducing the issue and making the beginning of a presentation. But it sounds like things got very weird, very quickly.
Sarah: Doug, since you were in the room, maybe you could explain.
Doug: Right. So the meeting was introduced by this woman, Myra Manning, who lives, I believe, on Ninth Street, and gave a quick, like you said, summary of where we are at and what had happened. And then she gave the floor over to this man, John Halpern, who I had never seen before, and introduced him as a documentarian, I believe a climate activist. I know she introduced him as a climate activist, someone who had done all of these kind of really cool, radical activist projects in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. I think he scaled one of the Brooklyn-to-Manhattan bridges—I’m not sure which—to protest something. Like, a real sort of like radical, lefty, artist guy.
Aaron: But he’s also a meditation instructor.
Aaron: So very chill guy.
Doug: Yeah. And so he got up, and she said that he was gonna show a film. And so before that happened, he got up to introduce himself and give a sort of preamble to this film.
Aaron: All right, so let’s listen to that. This is John Halpern introducing the meeting on Ninth Street.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, John Halpern: The people of Transportation Alternatives are not as alternative as they want to present themselves. Their funding comes from the likes of billionaire Steve Ross, a crony of Jeff Epstein and an elite group of backers.]
Sarah: Okay, yeah. Wait, wait, wait. Stop. Stop.
Aaron: So did people get—should we just repeat that to make sure people got that?
Sarah: Yeah. He said that Transportation Alternatives, the big pedestrian and bike advocacy organization in New York City, is not as alternative as they’d like people to believe, and they’re funded by a billionaire crony of Jeffrey Epstein, the infamous pedophile.
Aaron: Which, by the way, was first of all, just fact checked. Like, Steve Ross of Related, the big real estate company, does not fund Transportation Alternatives.
Doug: No, he does not.
Aaron: But, you know, if he wants to, I’m sure that, you know, that would be fantastic, perhaps. But he does not.
Sarah: Okay, so this is just a level of bizarre conspiracy. How did people react?
Doug: People were pissed. I mean, I think somebody yelled out, and other people did. Like, you know, just people started laughing.
Aaron: Well, here. Roll the tape.
Sarah: Let’s hear it.
Aaron: Roll the tape.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, John Halpern: The one percent are using.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, audience: [laughs]]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, John Halpern: You wanna clown around with me?]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, audience: That’s a bunch of shit, man.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, John Halpern: You wanna clown around with me?]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, audience: Sit down. Come on, guy.]
Sarah: Did he get up on a soapbox at this point?
Doug: He gets up on a chair, on a folding chair and is yelling and pointing his finger. “You want to clown around with me?” And you can hear someone else saying, you know, “You’re accusing people of being associated with,” I think that he continued to say “A pedophile.” And then there’s all this crosstalk and, like, that set the tone for the meeting. That was it.
Aaron: That’s your—that’s your introductory remarks for the meeting.
Doug: It was really odd.
Sarah: So here’s the thing. Like, what is weird to me about this is that this Ninth Street bike lane has somehow turned into something that gets sucked into the general miasma of conspiracy theories and, like, nasty innuendo.
Doug: It’s the Pizzagate of bike lanes, really.
Sarah: Right. It’s like Comet Ping Pong.
Doug: Right. It was so strange.
Aaron: We’ve noticed this before, though, right? Like, we’ve had these bike lane fights, like the famous one in Brooklyn was the Prospect Park West bike lane fight. And I remember when that one was happening, you would hear people basically pulling talking points that essentially Republicans were using to fight the Obama healthcare legislation, which was very much in the news at that time. It was like, Republicans would say, “You’re not gonna shove Obamacare down our throats.” And then you would hear, like, the next day at a community meeting, “You’re not gonna shove this bike lane down our throats.” It’s like this stuff that’s in the atmosphere somehow finds its way into these …
Doug: Into a church basement.
Aaron: Into church basements.
Doug: It’s very strange.
Aaron: So this guy Halpern showed his film at the meeting, right?
Doug: Yeah, and Sarah’s whole thing about this idea of, like, this conspiratorial feeling that’s out there was really kind of the premise for this film.
Aaron: Well, so what was it about? Like, what did he show?
Doug: He starts this film and the title card comes up. It’s called Betrayal on 14th Street: A New York Story. Now I was really confused because here we are talking about Ninth Street. We’re at a church on 10th Street on Eighth Avenue in Brooklyn, and I’m wondering 14? What is 14th Street? Where—what does this have to do …?
Aaron: There’s nothing going on on 14th Street.
Doug: So it wasn’t about 14th Street in Brooklyn, it was about 14th Street in Manhattan.
Sarah: Which if you’re not from New York, is really just a world away.
Doug: Yeah, I mean, for where we were, it’s a solid half hour on the train. And basically, it showed—what he was theorizing was a conspiracy by the city of New York to, as Aaron said, jam a bus lane down the community’s throat. The movie was so strange, I’m almost at a loss for words. He very cynically used footage from the die-in that we had talked about on a previous episode, and showed footage of family members and friends holding the names of some of the 15 cyclists who had died by that point. And at that point, I, who was there as a somewhat dispassionate observer, kind of lost it in my brain. I’m like, that is offensive to put these people’s names in there. Like, get their names out of your frickin’ film. It was gross. Like, I’m still—so it was so fucked up. It was so fucked up.
Aaron: Okay, so three thumbs down for John Halpern’s film.
Sarah: Okay, even though two of us haven’t seen it.
Doug: Rotten Tomatoes? Zero percent.
Aaron: 10 percent.
Sarah: Then the film, and what happens? Because like you say, you got kind of angered by this.
Aaron: Yeah, let’s get to the part where Doug gets beat up.
Doug: Okay, everybody’s pissed off at this point, because this meeting started at 6:30 and we are now going on seven o’clock on a weeknight and you’re wasting a half hour of it talking about 14th Street.
Aaron: Okay. Okay, so John shows his film. And then Myra Manning, who’s functioning as the moderator of this community meeting, she steps up and sort of gets the meeting started.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Myra Manning: One of the problems with this is that there was no survey, there was no feasibility study done.]
Aaron: Basically, Myra’s introducing the set of issues, but she’s doing it in a very biased way. She’s saying, like DOT came in …
Sarah: Biased? She’s lying. She’s saying there was no studies done. I mean, come on!
Doug: Yeah, she said there was no, I think, feasibility study, no surveys, no notification. The best part is how she says they put in these two different bike lanes.
Sarah: Yeah, one of them is going in one direction and the other one is going in the other direction on a two-way street.
Aaron: And again, this is a street that’s been studied for, like, 12 years.
Doug: And look, also it connects to Prospect Park, a natural destination for people to go on bicycle. So, like, this was not an illogical place to put a bike lane especially, as we said, given the very violent history of the street.
Aaron: Okay, so people start responding to Myra’s very “biased” quote-unquote moderating of this meeting.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, man: I don’t think you’re being a moderator.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, man: This isn’t an introduction. It’s an argument.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, man: If you want to be a moderator, you get the respect that a moderator deserves.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Myra Manning: Excuse me, I’m giving the introduction.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, man: That’s not an introduction!]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, man: We need a new moderator.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Doug Gordon: Literally not a thing that you just said is correct.]
Doug: Okay, that’s me.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, woman: Do we get a 15-minute video?]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, man: I mean, we were quiet for all that nonsense.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, man: One at a time.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, woman: Let’s just listen.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, man: Did you just threaten to beat his ass? Because that’s what it just sounds like. Did you just threaten to beat his ass?]
Sarah: Yeah. Wait, wait, wait. Who threatened—who threatened to beat whose ass?
Doug: So there was at some point some guy standing there, jeans and a T-shirt, a little bigger than me. And I was standing close to him, and he said something to the effect of like, “We’re gonna take this outside.”
Sarah: But you, Doug, you weren’t intimidated by that. Am I right? Is this …?
Doug: Something snapped.
Sarah: Okay. [laughs]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Doug Gordon: I have attended …]
Doug: That was me starting to come in right there.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, audience: [disgruntled talk]]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, man: Oh, that’s assault! Somebody arrest him!]
Sarah: Wait, wait, wait. Okay, Doug, what happened? Is this the part where you get up to the front of the room?
Doug: Okay, so I’m gonna roll it back just a little bit. So a few of us sitting there watching this looked at each other and all said, “We got two choices here. We should all walk out. That would be one option. Or we should all get up there and we should just take over the meeting.” Because it wasn’t being run by anybody. And look, not surprisingly, it’s not easy to ask people to just stand up, and I just kind of lost it and I got up there. And what I had planned to say was basically like, “Well, if you’ve got a 10-minute movie that you want to show, I got a 10-minute something that I want to show.” And I stood up there and was waving a piece of paper, because I had brought with me the names of the people who had died on Ninth Street and had planned to read them. And I started to do that. A bunch of people just kind of got in my face. One of these kind of burly dudes told me to sit down and said, “This is not your meeting. This is not your meeting.” And I just kind of said, like, “I just want to talk,” you know? And you can kind of hear me repeating the same thing over and over again. And then at some point, John Halpern, the filmmaker, shoves me, and you can hear one man standing up saying, “That’s assault! Someone arrest this man for assault!”
Aaron: Okay, yeah. Let’s play it. So here’s the part where Doug gets shoved and it goes—it really goes nuts at this point.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, audience: [disgruntled talk]]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, man: Oh, that’s assault! Somebody arrest him! Somebody arrest this man for assault!]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, man: Shut up!]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, woman: You guys are acting like babies. I feel like I’m in kindergarten.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Doug Gordon: [(Reading victims’ names)] These are people who were killed on Ninth Street by drivers.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, man: Who cares?]
Aaron: Who cares?
Doug: So someone yelled out, “Who cares?”
[ARCHIVE CLIP, audience: [disgruntled talk]]
Doug: And then other people were yelling, “Who cares? Their parents care.” We’ll post the video, but what I was saying was—I read the names of these kids, some as young as one year old, and also a 41-year-old man as well, who have been killed on Ninth Street.
Aaron: Yeah. And Victor and Juan, they were like—that was the first thing I ever got interested in with bike advocacy.
Doug: Yeah, these are two little boys, 10 and 11 years old, were killed on Ninth Street.
Aaron: 2004 or 5.
Doug: When a turning truck driver ran them over. These kids lived on Ninth Street, and they were like half a block from home. And what I said, which is not clear in the video, is “Where are your fliers when those things happen? Where are your fliers talking about the dead children who have been killed?” And I think I went on to talk about, you know, the unborn baby.
Aaron: Well, and then they were very clear in their response. Who cares?
Doug: Who cares?
Sarah: Who cares?
Doug: Right. And then there was one gentleman who I remember very clearly standing up in the middle who stood up as incensed as anybody I’ve ever seen and just pointed a finger at somebody and said, “Who cares? Their parents!” And it was just so clear that the empathy gap was just so separate from the people who are pro-status quo and the people who are saying we are here to discuss a safer street. And so at that point, I walked off, basically. Yeah, we can let it play out.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Doug Gordon: You call yourself a climate activist? That’s garbage! That’s absolute garbage!]
Sarah: Point Doug!
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Doug Gordon: This is enough. This is enough!]
Doug: If it wasn’t quite clear, that was the point at which I walked off.
Sarah: I actually saw the video. Somebody posted it on Twitter shortly after it happened, and I was just playing it over and over again, standing in the middle of this, you know, sidewalk and just thinking like, “Oh my God, go Doug! Yes! Yes!” Like, I was so happy and proud of you for standing up in that situation. But then I also just get super emotional and sad that we hold life so cheap. You hear people talk about, oh, children, and unborn children and born children and whatever. And, you know, but the reality is, who cares is really the philosophy of the United States of America when it comes to people’s lives. Who cares? How much money can we make off of it? Who does it inconvenience? It makes me so angry I can barely stand it.
Doug: I mean, and that was part of why I brought that list with me to the meeting, because you go to these meetings and you hear all these stories about people who are almost hit by bicycles, or even people who are but who live to tell the tale. And I’m always so angry when we go to these meetings and nobody actually sits there and talks about—maybe your DOT talks about KSIs, you know, people who have been killed or seriously injured, but it’s this dry statistical stuff. Nobody actually says, “These are the people who actually got killed here, and this is why we are here.” And something about the tone of this meeting and the conspiratorial notions of Jeff Epstein funding groups and all this stuff. It was so offensive to me, to these babies, to these parents who have to live with that loss for their entire lives. That some asshole is saying there’s a conspiracy at the DOT to take away parking spaces. You know, fuck you! Like, we’ll put a disclaimer at the top of this episode. But I was so enraged, and I just felt like—you know, it’s funny. I didn’t go into the meeting thinking that I was going to do that. I did have the list, and I was gonna politely read it. But at that point, I was just like, “Fuck it. Let’s go.”
Aaron: And one of the really interesting ironies of this entire thing is that literally eight hours before this meeting took place, we were sitting in this very recording studio talking about public meetings. And, you know, Doug had gone to a meeting in a neighborhood in Brooklyn called Fort Greene and brought back some tape and we talked about it. And one of the things we were talking about was sort of like the need to be diplomatic.
Doug: You know, Aaron, I remember it as if it’s our last episode.
Sarah: Look, this is a time to use diplomacy in the war on cars, right? Like, you know, you need to read the room, and you need to have compassion for the people in the room. And you need to actually enter into this kind of discussion in good faith. And just walking in and saying “Get rid of your cars” is stupid. I believe that the diplomatic corps can play a role, and I think this is a place where the diplomatic corps maybe should be deployed, rather than the armed forces.
Aaron: What happened in the eight hours between our, like, you know, pushing for people to be diplomatic and connecting with their community.
Doug: Okay, couple things. First of all, maybe …
Aaron: Empathizing with people at these community meetings, and then, like, a full almost brawl.
Doug: No, I think the difference is, at the point in which you go to a meeting and they’re talking about pedophiles and Jeff Epstein and a conspiracy, and then it’s just—I think I just rose or descended to the level that was there in the room that night. And I was just—and I also think, look, to be very honest, this is my backyard. I led the protest in front of the YMCA, and confronted Mayor de Blasio directly a day after two children had been killed. And the thought that these bike lanes could somehow be ripped out and people were collecting this information to go talk to their elected officials and all that stuff, that influenced my thinking. And because it was so off the rails, I jumped in like that.
Aaron: So I mean, I had this notion. So this group on Ninth Street, they’re really pretty marginal. I mean, they’re clearly able to muster, like, 20 people in a room, and they can get some press and some cameras in the room, too, but they have no real political support right now in the city. And one of my feelings at this meeting was like, you know, what if an anti-bike lane meeting happened in a sweltering church basement and no one showed up to put it on social media, no one showed up, no one showed up to fight with them. No one showed up to turn it into a big story. And they just—you know, 20 people just sat in a church basement and talked about how much they hate bike lanes.
Doug: But that would be great if it was just those 20 people, but nearly every elected official sent a representative from his or her office.
Aaron: Yeah, but they kind of have to. But, like …
Doug: But they don’t. And they said they’re gonna have meetings. They said they had already had meetings with some elected officials. And the irony is that what it takes to get a bike lane or a pedestrian plaza or a curb extension even, is a dead person and lots of political organizing. What it takes to rip those things out are the secret meetings, the meetings that advocates are never privy to, the guy who can call the mayor because they used to, like, drive to work together. I don’t know. Like, they used to be neighbors. The people who vote in large numbers, baby boomers. Those are the people who get the secret meetings that they’re saying we do. It’s this huge act of projection. That’s my fear in these settings if you don’t send someone.
Aaron: It did feel like one really solid thing came out of this kind of confrontation. On the one hand, I felt like it gave these guys too much attention. Like, they’re really so marginal. But this confrontation that took place at the meeting really helped just highlight how marginal they are. Like, the fact that, like, this video was shot and it was posted on social media and other media picked it up, and you got to see them talking about, like, Jeffrey Epstein and all this other conspiratorial stuff, I think that’s really valuable, actually. That people really got to see, like, why should any city government official listen to these people? They’re not operating on a kind of like, sane, rational, good faith basis.
Sarah: Yeah. And I think actually that there is—you know, that what Doug did in his Old Testament prophet kind of way is to, you know, bear witness, and to not allow these lies, you know, to go unchallenged. And that was really, really important. And it is important to say the names of these people who die in the dozens and hundreds, because we do listen to these loud, marginal folks who try to stop improvements because it inconveniences them a tiny bit. You know, I think it’s …
Aaron: We sometimes elect them as president, even.
Doug: [laughs] Gosh. Well, I mean, it’s not for nothing that there really was that sort of like Breitbart-Fox News-Trump conspiracy theory stuff going on. And, like, the actual human beings, you know, whether it’s babies in cages at our border or babies being killed on our streets, are just lost in these people’s minds because there’s some larger conspiracy going on.
Sarah: Right, because of—it’s QAnon. I mean, it’s just bizarre.
Aaron: I’m very interested in this question of, like, when to use the diplomacy that we urged in the last episode versus when to use the armed forces that we seem to be urging in this episode. Like, how do you know which approach is correct?
Doug: Well, I think there’s a lot of answers to that question. One is, if you’re there, you have to read the room, right? So in the Fort Greene example from our last episode, the room was pretty quiet and respectful. In this version, it wasn’t. And so you can match the tone of that meeting. And I will say that the really weird thing that happened in this meeting is that almost immediately after I took the floor like that and interrupted and read the names of these kids and these people who had died and had people shouting my face and got shoved, it then forced a more respectful meeting. It actually turned at that point. They got a new moderator who was not unbiased by any stretch, but they then started to follow a little more like, “We’re gonna raise hands and we’re gonna call on people.” And then what ended up playing out is that a lot of very dispassionate, very intelligent, safe streets advocates and local people from the community who supported the changes were allowed the opportunity to say, “Here are the statistics. Here’s what happens when you put it on a bicycle lane. It gets safer for all users, including drivers.” So in this case, I guess it worked.
Aaron: So I mean, a thing that I really liked about this meeting? I did like that these folks were confronted so viscerally with how wrong they were.
Aaron: How bankrupt. How, like, their Jeffrey Epstein stuff was nonsense, their fact-free arguments were fact free. You know, you’re not just gonna be allowed to say that stuff. And I do feel like we have these, like, urgent crises that are, you know, interrelated underway in New York City and all over the place. In New York City, it’s like we have all these fatalities happening on our streets. We have a transportation system that’s being crushed by automobile dominance, a transit system that’s collapsing. We have climate change on our doorstep. We’re a city that’s, like, right on the ocean. And they’re just—like, this meeting felt like people in a certain way were approaching the issues with the urgency that they actually deserve, you know? That it was definitely strident. It was unpleasant. It was awkward. I felt uncomfortable watching the people fighting on the video, and I honestly felt a little embarrassed for Doug. I was like, “Oh God, you know? This is, like, terrible.”
Doug: You were inside my head immediately after this happened. Absolutely.
Aaron: But this is—we’re in an emergency. Like, we need to be moving quickly on this stuff. And I think these kinds of people who are opposing bike lanes, who are preventing cities from doing the development that they need, who are bolstering fossil fuel industry and sprawl and automobile industries, these people need to be defeated. Just fucking defeated outright. Like, in the political arena. Hopefully not, like, with pushing and shoving and violence and shooting and all this.
Doug: I want to be very clear: I did not push back.
Aaron: You didn’t push anybody.
Doug: And nobody else who was on our side got physical in any way. I want to be very clear about that.
Aaron: But I think this is like the posture now. It’s like we need to politically defeat these guys and really, like, put them away.
Doug: I also think we need to send a message to the elected officials who do show up or do see the news coverage of this stuff, that you have to stop listening to these people because they are out of arguments.
Aaron: You have to stop. Why are you sending people to their meeting?
Aaron: Why are you—why is the city DOT sending people to this meeting? It’s nonsense.
Doug: Well, and that was the nutso thing about this. So the city sent their bureau commissioner for Brooklyn—a very nice man, very smart man who works really hard to make our streets safe, and he sat there just very patiently watching. And at almost no point did anybody say to him, “Hey, buddy, you’ve got the stats. You can tell these people that the streets are safer now, and what the injury statistics are.” He was asked at one point, but by that point, it was like two hours into the meeting. I don’t know if it would have done any good had he spoken up earlier, because like we said with sort of like the healthcare-Trump-Breitbart analogy, these people don’t want to hear stats that conflict with their priors. They just don’t.
Sarah: Yeah. I mean, they’re not making reality-based arguments, they’re not making evidence-based arguments, and they’re not living in a reality-based world. And I do think that, to a certain extent, it would be great to be able to ignore them. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have leadership in this city or in many other cities, or certainly in this country, that is willing to engage in a reality-based conversation about what needs to happen in order to preserve some semblance of civilization. So, you know, I mean, I think we have to fight for it. And I think as much as I advocate diplomacy and I do think it’s—you know, these things have to work together. And I think you use diplomacy and you use force—and not physical force, obviously, but you do have to fight hard and be tough and stand up for the right thing when these destructive lies are put out there. You have to stand up and stand for what’s right.
Aaron: All right, folks. That’s it. That’s enough. Use diplomacy if you can. Try not to let things get too kinetic. Thanks for listening to The War on Cars. Remember to rate and review us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts from. That helps people find us. You can write us, email us, send us audio clips at TheWaronCars(at)gmail.com.
Doug: As always, we want to thank our top sponsors, including Charley Gee of Human Powered Law in Portland, Oregon. The law office of Vaccaro and White in New York City. Huck and Elizabeth Finne, Lee H. Herman Jr. and Timothy Buck. If you want to support us, go to TheWaronCars.org. Click “Donate“, and you can contribute on Patreon. Hopefully we won’t have to use that money for my emergency room visits, but we’ll see.
Aaron: Yeah. But definitely your therapy bills and maybe some Xanax.
Doug: Perhaps. We also want to thank the journalists who provided us with the video from which a lot of that audio came, including Jake Offenhartz at Gothamist. We also want to thank Brian Howald, who’s an activist here in New York City.
Sarah: This episode was recorded by Marcus Dembinski at Brooklyn Podcasting Studios and edited by Matt Cutler. Our theme music is by Nathaniel Goodyear. Our logo is by Dani Finkel of Crucial D. Designs. I’m Sarah Goodyear.
Doug: I’m Doug Gordon.
Aaron: I’m Aaron Naparstek. And this is really The War on Cars.
Doug: It’s getting physical out there.