Monday, 4/22/02: Heat Wave

Spring and autumn used to be my favorite seasons in New York City. I use the past tense because we don't seem to have those two seasons anymore. This year we skipped directly from winter to summer in a matter of ten days. Is it just me, or is anyone else noticing this?

clinton street autos
honk, guzzle and burn away
our crisp, clean spring days

It's a bit freaky. On Saturday, April 6 my girlfriend and I went up to Central Park to shoot some video of World Tai Chi Day for a project we're working on. It snowed! It was absolutely freezing. Joanne ended up getting a cold the next day because neither of us had really been prepared for weather like that. Ten days later, Tuesday, April 16, the thermometer hit 96 degrees and the air was stagnant with exhaust and pollen. Actually, the pollen situation was kind of weird as well. I don't have allergies so it's not such a big deal for me, but I don't recall ever seeing quite so much pollen fall so quickly. It's piled up in big heaps along the curbs on Clinton Street. Parked cars were coated so heavily in the stuff that I could walk down the street finger-writing messages like "Tree Sex" and "Plant Sperm" on the windshields of my neighbor's SUV's.

Learn to ride a bike.
Your honking, spewing auto's
turning spring to summer

Needless to say, when the weather gets as hot as it did on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the motorists of downtown Brooklyn go completely bat shit. Same as last week, I heard two more guys blast their horns at each other, screech their cars to a stop, get out and start yelling at each other at the intersection of Clinton and Pacific in the middle of the day.

clinton-pacific
quiet neighborhood corner,
or a boxing ring?

The screwed up thing about this is that during the morning and afternoon this part of Clinton Street is a pretty major thoroughfare for moms, dads, kids and elderly folks on their way to work, school, the subway, wherever. It's not a great spot for a couple of sweaty alpha males hop out of their cars and start swinging. It's as though drivers, ensconced in their cockpit of personal private space, completely forget that their cars are moving through a community's vital public space.

idiot drivers
jump out of their cars to fight
moms walk by with kids

Amazingly, our efforts to do something about this are actually paying off. On Thursday and Friday of last week, Captain Harris and Traffic Safety Sergeant Frias at the 76th precinct posted a gang of police officers under the No Honking sign on Clinton and Pacific to hand out fliers and tickets. There were the two quietest mornings we've had on Clinton Street in a long, long time. I really appreciate the precinct's efforts to help us out. It'll be interesting to see whether a sustained effort to hand out tickets and fliers will have any long term effect.

I also attended a meeting at Borough Hall of the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project. This project has been going on for about two years now and is nearing some conclusions and final recommendations to install various "traffic calming" devices in different parts of Brooklyn. Unfortunately, there are no plans on the drawing board to re-time and better coordinate the rush hour traffic signals on Clinton Street south of Atlantic Avenue. The traffic lights are so obviously discombobulated on Clinton Street, it amazes me that this has not made it into the overall Traffic Calming plan. I'm talking with Community Board 6, the Department of Transportation, Councilman DeBlasio's office, and traffic engineers Ove Arup to see if we can get something done about these lights. I have a feeling that a few simple changes in light timing on Clinton Street on both sides of Atlantic Ave. could solve a lot of our problems here. I'm hoping to get a hold of the DOT's traffic flow computer model to test out some different scenarios.

So, as long as the city has a budget - which isn't much longer apparently -- we can ask cops to enforce the No Honking sign and futz around with the timing of traffic signals. But the bottom line is that we're going to need more radical solutions to really solve our transportation and traffic problems. Tolls on the East River bridges is one good idea I've heard recently. Better bike lanes and a car-free Prospect Park is another good idea. Enforced car-pooling and new ferry services are also good. Not to get too didactic and all, but at some point soon, we're going to have to face up to the fact that our car-centric, cheap-oil-burning, way of life is costing us a lot and in lots of different ways.

hot, angry, selfish
drivers. microcosm of
the planet's problems

-- Aaron