New York: A “Drivers’ Paradise”

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Move over, biker babes. A presumably tongue-in-cheek article in the Observer heralds the "Californication of New York," thanks to the proliferation of automobiles in "young, lifestyle neighborhoods" like Williamsburg, Astoria and Inwood.

According to the piece, a growing number of suburban transplants see auto reliance as a comforting reminder of home.

"I didn't realize how much I missed the car until I had it here," said Lauren Robinson, a 25-year-old dietician with pixie-cut brown hair, a fetching dimple, and a bearded beau who was dutifully loading groceries into her Honda CR-V. The Honda was a relic of her youth in upstate New York, but she had recently brought it to the city after moving from car-hostile Manhattan to auto-friendly Brooklyn. She didn't really need the vehicle, and, theoretically, she could have grabbed a bus to Fairway. But, as she explained, "It's just so easy to jump in and drive somewhere."

"I don't think you need a car," she said, "but I think it's definitely a plus. And it definitely makes me feel more" -- she paused to search for the word -- "well, not like such a city person."

The article says the relative ease of keeping a car almost anywhere outside Lower Manhattan, due in part to auto-centric development and plentiful parking, makes the city a "drivers' paradise." It even gives a wink to that most heartwarming ritual of suburban youth: drunk driving.

Perhaps the real sign of the car culture apocalypse -- the hint that, when it comes to wheels at least, Williamsburg and Winnetka might not be so different after all -- is the sobriety check that cops have set up on Meeker Avenue, near one of the on-ramps to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway ... A floating barricade of police, batons and breath-a-lizers, just like back home!

And what of the costs, environmental or otherwise, of bringing a "four-wheeled friend" to the city?

"It just seems to me, if I stop driving my car, I don't think that's doing anything about the real issue," said Hans, a 31-year-old Williamsburg media guy (and musician, of course) with a receding, Jack Nicholson hairline and Chattanooga drawl, as he eyed his silver Elantra. "I know I'm contributing to it, but the end of the day, I obviously don't feel bad enough about it to not drive my car."

Photo: Love_is/Flickr