Calling all New Yorkers

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The 3rd Avenue Community Benefit Festival. Sunday, 3:00 PM. Photo: JH.

Monday, September 16, 2019. Far weather all weekend, sometimes cloudy, sometimes sunny, wisps of humidity, forecasts of rain (none), temps like Indian Summer, and very nice in New York.

The fair weather brought out New Yorkers. JH made his weekly Sunday trek across the Park to 81st Street and Columbus,  on the block behind the American Museum of Natural History, to  the 79th Street Greenmarket which he refers to as “The Farm.”

The Sunday scene at the 79th Street Greenmarket on the Upper West Side.

On his way home he came upon a street fair stretching from Third Avenue and 66th Street all the way up to 86th Street where all the traffic lanes (except cross streets) are closed and set up with all kinds of booths from Farm to Carnival.

Then, up in Harlem it was the 50th Annual African American Day Parade. It began at 1 p.m. on 111th Street and headed north to 136th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard. The grand marshals were NYS Senator Brian Benjamin, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, NYS Assemblywoman Inez Dickens, Leah Daughtry, organizer/activist and political strategist, Congressman Adriano Espaillat, former Mayor David Dinkins; Melba Moore, Charles Rangel, and Keith Wright.

The successful objective is: community; get out and mingle with the neighbors. And it was a perfect day weather-wise for all.

About twelve-thirty, I received an email with a video from Paige Peterson.  About noon she was taking this photo of her view of the Park and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir when there was suddenly a lot of noise from activity on Central Park West below, and she video’d it.

This was the note she sent with the video:

Teenagers. Young adults. From my window I can hear them before I can see them. A thousand strong. No helmets. Girls and boys careening down Central Park West. It had to be organized … there were so many in the pack. 

I have heard that they gather from every borough, flooding the Bronx River Parkway headed for downtown Manhattan. They weave through vehicles. Defied all traffic laws. Wheelies are obviously the “cool” way to navigate the city streets. Whooping and hollering through the streets. They appear to be feral children. Peter Pan. The Wild Ones. All adrenalin. Chaotic mayhem. 

As a mother it frightens me. As a driver it must be overwhelming; as a pedestrian, fear provoking. As a police officer infuriating. Lawless. Chaotic. Tumultuous. And yet fluid. If I were decades younger I might consider taking the ride with them.

I watched it several times. From the safety of my apartment, it looks like fun, exercise-wise, on a beautiful Sunday morning. I get the enthusiasm and even the joy of being in complete control. 

Bicycles are now a frequent topic of conversation in the city because the re-design of the roadways and the addition of “bike-lanes” has presented new, never seen before pedestrian and automobile problems. Like: crashes, hit and runs, and even deaths. There have been a number of hit-and-runs with the bikes. Bikes getting hit by cars, and also bikes hitting pedestrians (and even killing them). And now the delivery boys (and regular bicyclists) have motorized bikes that can move along swiftly, increasing the Danger Factor.  

The problem is, now that we’re living in a society/culture which is inclined to multi-task. And we don’t watch-out for each other. The natural inclination to move out of the way has become obsolete. Thanks to the cell phone, many people – of all ages – are not watching out.  This is a vast change in human behavior. Many even seem oblivious. The bicyclists have no rules speed-wise, direction-wise, road/sidewalk-wise, traffic-light-wise. And the pedestrians, as well as drivers behind the wheel, have to be more vigilant all the time and from every angle.

Paige’s video demonstrates the point of view of the bicyclist: I’m here, it’s fun, get out of my way. It also demonstrates the increasing dare/danger factor in our daily lives. All bicyclists who assume the dare that danger presents run the risk of injury to themselves or others, or even death. The antidote to running a risk around wheels, is a keen eye. And, when walking or riding among the masses, the “antidote” is exceptionally Good Luck. And maybe some rules for the new travel phenomenon.

Coincidentally, I was reminded of the dilemma of Mayor Jimmy Walker who presided glamorously with much fanfare over the big town almost a century ago, from 1926 to 1932. It was the Roaring ’20s and automobiles (which were still referred to by many as “machines”) were the rage, as well as the thrill and the freedom of the brand new Modern Age.

Mayor Walker in his 1929 Packard 640 Phaeton.

Mayor Walker had a Duesenberg, a very expensive gift from an admirer. According to historian Donald Miller in his wonderful book Supreme City; How Jazz Age in Manhattan Gave Birth To Modern America, the mayor “… was driven to City hall in the mayor’s private car, with a city employee at the wheel. The plan was to continue   conducting business in the backseat (with his secretary Edward Stanton), but Walker, who never learned to drive, was on edge traveling on Manhattan’s densely packed streets, where most motorists treated newly installed traffic signals as courteous suggestions, not legal directives. Clutching the seat in a panic when another  car cut in front of them convinced at every intersection that a collision was imminent he found it impossible to focus on the business of the city.”

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

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