LOIS WEISS: Technology, De Blasio Admin Making Us Mindless, Lazy And Dependent
Walk into a modern tower and your proximity badge, phone or iris reader opens the turnstiles and directs you to an elevator that whisks you to the proper floor, no button pushing required.
As you enter your office, sensors kick on lights and temperature controls, air quality filters and even your pre-chosen music. Shades whir up and down, depending on the time of day, while lights dim or get brighter as the clouds race across the sun.
In the bathroom, an electronic door may frost over when you shut it, seats and covers go up and down by themselves, toilets flush, wash water turns on and off, and dryers automatically blow air to dry your hands. A robot vacuums the floors, and others are being invented to wash the windows.
When you need to know anything, you ask a little hand-held device for the answer.
As technology meets lifestyle, the healthy and environmentally conscious workers and residents who are the apple of developers’ eyes are being enabled to take less responsibility for their everyday actions. Yet those same developers are feeling the pinch of Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration's policies.
The city pushes homeownership under the guise that it gives owners a socioeconomic leg up, but it must financially support that homeownership with tax rates lower than anywhere else in the region, then step in to fix what other taxpaying homeowners do themselves.
The administration also helps tenants who don’t pay their rent with free legal services, provides “One Shot” housing court deals to pay overdue rent time and time again, and has frozen rent-stabilized apartment rents two years in a row because tenants say the rent is too damn high.
Without the rent or a higher income, however, property owners and managers cannot fix the small items, such as water leaks, that lead to bigger issues of mold, decay and disintegration in homes, offices and schools.
Take NYCHA, whose city-owned apartments need a staggering $17B in fixes for 328 projects housing 400,000 residents. But the city itself looks to the federal government to provide two-thirds of its $3.2B yearly budget — which is now being lowered. Even the city expects someone else to bail it out of its mess, despite a whopping $84.7B budget, with $25.5B of that coming from just property taxes.
This is the same administration that wants owners of buildings 50K SF or larger to benchmark their energy use or fines them, including those built by local nonprofits under the guise of affordability. In 2018, that number that will drop to 25K SF.
This is the same administration that pays over $200 a night for hotel rooms for homeless tenants — $6K per month — enough for a two- to three-bedroom apartment somewhere in the city.
Many property owners now will not agree to take tenants, many of whom have been trained not to pay their rent, unless the city could commit to long-term payments. The city cannot commit because federal funds are not always available for more rental assistance. What's more, some of those already getting benefits do not bother to pay their fair share and destroy the units, souring building owners on the process.
Yes, there are a lot of things the city does to strip its residents of personal responsibility, and, unfortunately, technology is doing the same thing, even beyond the seamless technological pampering that happens in newly built skyscrapers.
New cars beep if they edge into a yellow line, and beep if a person or another vehicle is too close to the side, front or rear. Confusing signage abounds, yet soon there will be self-driving cars and trucks that can’t read.
Meanwhile, countdown clocks at crosswalks have turned everyone without a limp into sprinters. Walkability can turn pedestrians into the Walking Dead, entitled to be anywhere at any time regardless of the consequences. Pedestrians in NYC can be completely unaware of their surroundings as they listen to headphones and stare into mobile devices as they cross the streets, expecting others to keep them safe.
Bicycle lanes have created the illusion of islands of safety, but they are simply more pulse-racing places for people to pop up unexpectedly as trucks double-park farther into the roadways.
These crossings are a horror of decision-making for bikes, drivers and pedestrians who are often unable to figure out who is going to go where and when. If you think it’s hard for us, imagine a self-driving car.
Until people start taking responsibility for their own actions in all phases of their lives, expect a continuing path toward robots serving the rich in tall towers and green spaces while others are stuck in the mud of decaying housing, deficient schools and public transportation, and all with an unabashed sense of entitlement.