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30 Rockupy All Streets

December 6, 2011

Sadik-Khan has been called powermad, but the fact that all she’s really doing with all that power is painting some streets green and putting out some lawn furniture in Times Square is actually a testament to her tremendous restraint. – Bike Snob

Harry Smith’s NBC profile of Janette Sadik-Khan is, in my opinion, a mere footnote in the often insane narrative that is reporting on New York’s changing streets.  In his seeming quest for controversy, Smith can not cajole anything remotely scandalous out of Sadik-Khan; there’s simply nothing in there that anyone at the Observer or City Room can exploit for page views.  If this piece on the low-rated Rock Center with Brian Williams signifies anything, perhaps it’s that the controversy surrounding Janette Sadik-Khan and the “bikelash” is finally in its last throes.

On one side Smith presents Bloomberg, who describes Sadik-Khan’s job security in his administration, and “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz.  On the other side the story features sound bites from a few drivers, an image of Marty Markowitz on a tricycle, an an interview with Louise Hainline demonstrating her bike counting technique from within her multi-million-dollar penthouse.  There isn’t a single politician, academic, or traffic engineer who appears on camera to dispute Sadik-Khan’s accomplishment which tells me that the city’s new way of looking at the streetscape is an indisputable success, even if Brian Williams would rather see a golf course in Times Square than witness the hoi polloi lounging at cafe tables.

It’s interesting that an anchor named Williams cues up a story by a man named Smith by commenting on Janette’s “exotic” last name, but in a country with a president named Barack Hussein Obama, this commentary reveals more about Williams’ narrow world view than it does about Sadik-Khan’s work and philosophy.  Welcome to 2011 New York, Brian.  May I introduce you to Hoda Kotb?

The piece has the tinge of sexism that tends to accompany Sadik-Khan in any media mention.  Smith describes Sadik-Khan as “brash,” “imperious” and “impeccably dressed, terms which are not typically used to describe powerful men, except in the occasional puff piece.  Hopefully the need to reduce powerful women to how they’re dressed and the way they ruffle the establishment’s feathers is also in its last throes.

As for Louise Hainline’s brief appearance, I agree with Streetsblog’s Ben Fried in his assessment that “the average person watching at home probably came away thinking that training a spy camera on a bike lane from your apartment is not the behavior of a well-adjusted adult.”  Bike Snob is less kind.

So, overall I’d give this piece a B.  It’s certainly more thorough than something you’d see on Today or the Nightly News, but Frontline it is not.  The fact that this piece may come and go with little more than a few random write-ups on blogs like this is probably the most significant thing about it.

One Comment
  1. Lois permalink
    December 7, 2011 10:04 am

    Does Louise realize how crazy she looks? Does she care? The world is moving on, lady. So should you.

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