In Paris, 80 percent of the bicycles were stolen. Some ended up in Africa and Eastern Europe. But surely that won't happen in a law-abiding place like Gotham.
Citibike, better known as a plan to stock Craiglist with secondhand bikes at taxpayer expense, was supposed to launch last summer, but the software developed by the Montreal parking authority didn't work. In only two years, the Montreal taxpayer funded company and its bike share plan had managed to get into enough financial trouble to require a 108 million dollar bailout. But then the big contracts from Chicago and New York City arrived and in a fortuitous coincidence, the Chicago Department of Transportation intern who wrote up the proposal was hired and given a top position in the company.
Bicycles are one of the obsessions of Mayor Bloomberg and his transportation secretary Janette Sadik-Khan. Khan is the granddaughter of Imam Alimjan Idris, a Nazi collaborator and the principle teacher at an SS school for Imams under Hitler's Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini. The bio of his son, Wall Street executive Orhan Sadik-Khan, frequently mentions the bombing of the family home in Dresden and surviving trying times after World War II. It neglects to mention that the times were only trying because their side was losing.
In 1933, Idris wrote a letter asking why Allah would have chosen the Jews, whom he described as, "the most despicable, repulsive and corrupting nation on earth". It's hard to say what Imam Idris would have made of his granddaughter marrying a Jewish law professor and peddling bikes that no one wants from a nearly bankrupt Montreal government company.
But considering that Imam Idris was at times accused of being a Soviet agent and did some work for Imperial Japan, it seems likely that he would have understood.
In partial revenge, Khan has made many New York streets nearly as impassable as those of her grandfather's wartime Dresden. Bike lanes have turned two lane streets into one lane streets. Infidels sit in their cars and honk while bike lanes go unused and midtown bus lanes sit empty except for the occasional daring taxi driver braving the bus lane camera and the 150 dollar fine.
Don't even think about giving your regards to Broadway, not unless you're on foot, and if you happen to remember Herald Square, forget about it. Times Square is now a giant outdoor plaza where the homeless sleep at night and unlicensed men in greasy Disney costumes shake down tourists for a photo and a few bucks.
Nightly a roar rises from the streets as an island full of people heading home curses Bloomberg until long after the sun has gone down. And from his townhouse on East 79th Street, he sneers at them, having gotten his revenge on the off-island drivers who sabotaged his congestion pricing scheme, borrowed from London's former mayor Ken Livingstone, who just got done blaming America for the Boston bombings on Iranian television.
Of such strange alliances is the technocratic banana republic on the Hudson woven. A Muslim Nazi collaborator's granddaughter oversees the de-car-ing of a city after a plan based around a plan from the tenure of a modern collaborator with Muslim Nazis falls through. Imam Idris might have called it the providence of Allah. But more likely he would have found a way to get his piece of the pie.
Springtime for Bloomberg also means that it's time for the ritual planting of swamp oak trees. Swamp oaks are not your ordinary city tree. Pre-Bloomberg, New Yorkers walked under the peeling bark of the ubiquitous London Plane tree, the dark gnarled branches of the Goldenrain tree and the occasional majestic Silver Linden.
All was well in Gothams curbside arbors, until Bloomberg discovered Global Warming was about to destroy all of mankind and began making the appropriate preparations by planting swamp oaks everywhere.
When I have a chance... to walk down to Lower Manhattan, Im going to sit under one of these sweet gum trees, Im going to reflect in the glade and give thanks for the courage of so many New Yorkers, Governor Pataki had said, while picking out the trees for the September 11 memorial.
Bloomberg issued his command and out went the sweet gums and in came the swamp oaks. New York City joins Chicago in the swamp oak frenzy. The white oak, Illinois' state tree, can no longer be planted in Chicago. It's swamp oaks all the way down as Mike and Rahm prepare for the intemperate apocalypse, the rising oceans and the arrival of hordes of hippos looking for watering holes on the Upper West Side and Hyde Park.
Two years earlier, Bloomberg had warned, "We cannot wait until after our infrastructure has been compromised to begin to plan for the effects of climate change now."
While Bloomberg's preparations included urging businesses to paint their roofs white, planting swamp white oaks and making it impossible to drive a car in Manhattan, they did not include a plan for a major snowstorm or a hurricane.
The snowstorm hit leaving one elderly woman and one newborn baby dead and many stranded. The path to Mayor Bloomberg's East 79th Street townhouse was cleared, but very little else was.
Instead of stocking up on road salt, Bloomberg had spent the spring lecturing New Yorkers on their salt content. But during the storm, the people being treated for heart attacks weren't suffering from an excess of salt in their French fries, but a shortage of road salt and common sense in City Hall.
Two years later, optimists might have assumed that Bloomberg had learned a lesson. Instead he was struggling with the bugs of a useless bikeshare program designed to stop Global Warming coastal flooding in 2080. Every other bus stop was decked out in alarmist government ads urging the people to prepare for a disaster, but that message never reached the billionaire mayor who had authorized the ads, who had bought three elections, but couldn't be bothered to buy a brain.
While Bloomberg was wasting time proposing to put windmills on top of bridges and skyscrapers to stop Global Warming, one of the biggest power plants on the island remained separated from the East River by only the lanes of the FDR Drive and a lot of wishful thinking. When Hurricane Sandy hit, it flooded, the transformer blew trapping workers inside, and the power went out in much of Manhattan.
On the third day of the blackout, with disaster relief nowhere in sight and people getting by on whatever leftovers blacked out stores still had in stock, Bloomberg held another of his press conferences, complete with sweater, broken Spanish and an overly energetic sign language translator, to tell the remaining stores to shut down and stop selling food. New Yorkers briefly debated whether he had gone insane or was just opening another front in his war on obesity.
It's hard to remember that twelve years ago, Bloomberg ran for office promising to be the education mayor. All that was buried under a shower of eccentric schemes and nanny state obsessions. The man who campaigned as a savvy technocrat who could cut through the red tape became the reason red tape was invented.
Mayor Bloomberg never understood good government. He ran the city like a liberal activist, jumping from one crusade to another, building a wall of expensive consultants around ridiculous projects and then ramming them through regardless of the criticism. He bought off everyone using his money and city money. The debt doubled and the problems mounted while he raced off to fight obesity, global warming, gun control and every other gimmicky liberal billionaire crusade.
It's easy to zero in on Bloomberg's fussy nanny state antics. The wars on soda and salt make good copy and so do windmills on bridges, but the real story is not what Bloomberg did, but what he didn't do.
Bloomberg lectured and hectored about apocalyptic Global Warming floods in 2080, but failed to prepare for more basic snowstorms and hurricanes today. He wasted his time on gimmicks like bike shares and swamp oaks, instead of dealing with the structural problems that made the snowstorm and Sandy so devastating.
Twelve years ago Bloomberg ran as the education mayor and took control of the schools. As a symbol of what was to come, he moved the educational bureaucracy into the old Tweed courthouse, a building whose grossly inflated construction costs, more than the Houses of Parliament, had made it a byword for corruption. Gimmicks, chancellors and failures followed in short and long order.
The failure of his education policies still haunts Mayor Bloomberg. It lingers behind all his other gimmicks and a more cynical man might even suggest that all of the stunts, the war on salt, the soda ban, the war on cars and the white roofs and bridge windmills are there as a distraction. Bloomberg would rather that people resent him and be infuriated by his petty nuisances than recognize that he is a failure.
Americans still elect nanny-state technocrats, but they don't like electing failures. And Bloomberg, with his government bikes that don't work, his swamp trees that die by the curb and his plan to defeat soft drinks, is both.
Springtime has come to New York and enthusiastic youths are making off with bike share bikes and tanning on roofs painted white. The sun is shining and even the gloomiest Gothamite has a spring in his step, except for the surly man in the townhouse on East 79th Street. For though the sun may shine and all the flowers may bloom, Bloomberg's last spring has finally sprung.