Last time Councilmember Laurie Cumbo made the news, she was defending the hurt feelings of people of who beat up strangers on the street, on the grounds that they suffer justified “resentment” against “Jewish landlords.”
Now, CM Cumbo has found a new constituency to represent: motorcycle crews that stage drag races, rev their engines loudly and pointlessly, and otherwise perform dangerous stunts.
Yesterday the Council voted on a package of legislation in support of Mayor de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” plan, which is meant to eliminate traffic-related deaths in New York City. Most of the bills passed with either near or total unanimity, and their scope, despite the revolutionary rhetoric of Council leadership, is fairly noncontroversial: establishing work zones on bridges, fifty dollar fines for failure to yield right-of-way to pedestrians, etc.
Intro 167, a law “in relation to prohibiting certain stunt behavior with vehicles,” expands existing rules forbidding drag racing to include obnoxious driving tricks such as pulling “donuts,” “burning out” after spinning the back wheels, and popping “wheelies”…all the stuff that fans of the “Fast and Furious” franchise think makes for a great weekend, but which doesn’t fit the “Vision Zero” image of the city as a place where no one gets hurt, ever. The law prescribes a maximum punishment of sixty days in jail and a $600 fine for a first offense.
Laurie Cumbo nonplussed her colleagues when she voted against Intro 167 on the grounds that motorcycle “club culture” is popular in her Fort Greene neighborhood, and that the law would (unfairly?) criminalize an enjoyable activity.
We may recall that the last time New York heard about motorcycle club culture, it was when a crew of several dozen bikers chased a SUV up the West Side Drive last September, beating up the driver near the GW Bridge bus terminal following his unsuccessful attempt to escape the gang after a minor fender-bender. The biker club culture was held in such contempt after this incident that Councilmember Julissa Ferreras fired a member of her staff who commented, on her personal Facebook page, in support of one of the riders.
Well, maybe Laurie Cumbo likes bikers, or is a closet libertarian and hates helmet laws, etc. But that doesn’t explain her bizarre reasoning that Intro 167 is racist. “I would hate,” said CM Cumbo, “to see so many young people of color in prison for activities that are happening over the summer.” Cumbo has thus taken the principle of disparate impact to a level of absurdity that possibly no one has ever imagined—or twisted it so much that it isn’t even a question of “disparate impact," just “any impact.” Her argument appears to be, This law may be broken by people of color, therefore I cannot vote for it.
Cumbo then noted that many of these bikers like to go to Jones Beach. This may be true, but it is not clear how it pertains to the law in question, as Jones Beach is not in New York City. Perhaps CM Cumbo is not aware of the geographical limits of the five boroughs, or perhaps she does not comprehend the jurisdictional reach of the Council, but Intro 167 will not cover any vehicular behavior in Nassau County. It is worth noting, however, that there is a long history of illegal drag racing out by Jones Beach, and it remains a popular weekend destination for motorcyclists, if a general search of message boards is roughly accurate.
Knockout game aficionados, biker crews who can’t resist burning rubber preparatory to a fierce midnight drag race on a hot summer night…who knew that Laurie Cumbo, the founder of an art museum, would fight so vigorously on behalf of the demimonde? I guess everyone needs an advocate!