Attorney and policy advisor, Henry Greenidge, joins Alex Roy to discuss lessons learned from the history of automatic elevators and his belief in the future of autonomous vehicles to help address social inequalities.
Alex: So Professor, thank you so much for joining me on No Parking.
Henry: Oh, thank you for having me, Alex. Wonderful to be here.
Alex: So when I was poking around the history of elevators, I was fascinated by this whole discussion of job loss to automation. There is in almost every reference to the history of automation of job loss, discussion of elevators. Invariably, somebody brings up this famous strike right [00:00:30] after World War II in New York City, and it is framed, always the narrative that elevator operators disappeared overnight. When I went looking for the true story, I found only one thing which elaborated on that, and it was your column from several years ago. Could you lay out the true history of what happened to elevator operators?
Henry: Yeah, I appreciate that, Alex, the fact that you found the piece. I stumbled on this issue. [00:01:00] Like you, I am obsessed with autonomous vehicles, and I think about job loss. One night I was up thinking about some topics that we don’t really talk about, and that is how technology can impact the future of work. So I stumbled on elevators, some of the other jobs that I was looking at was token booth clerks, I was looking at toll collectors, but the story of the elevator operator [00:01:30] was really pretty compelling. It really involves around this 1945 elevator strike that took place in New York and really changed the landscape of labor in New York, so it wasn’t just about elevators.
So Alex, you have to think back to that time. It was 1945, this was the end of World War II, and you had these working class people, elevator operators, who were organized, who went [00:02:00] up against systems that were in place. You had the New York City mayor telling them to go back to work. You had over $100 million in economic loss to the city but yet these folks stood their ground, but there’s an argument to be made that they later on paid the price. But I think overall, if you look at what happened there, it wasn’t just that the elevator operators went away overnight, this is something that happened [00:02:30] over time and the triggering event in my mind is really that elevator strike.
Alex: So there was a strike, but there was a negotiation, they went back to work, they didn’t disappear.
Alex: So, what was the timeline of that?
Henry: So they were out for over the course of a few days. Now again, we’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars, the city is highly dependent on elevator operators. This was the way in which people got to work for these skyscrapers. We’re talking about buildings that [00:03:00] many of which did not have escalators. It would pain people to walk all the way up the stairs, it was that big of a deal to do this.
So over the course of a couple of days, there was pressure to meet the demands of these operators. So ultimately, I’m forgetting… 32BJ, 32BJ was able to negotiation on behalf of these workers, they were able to come to terms, and they ended up going [00:03:30] back to work, but what that also said was hey, skyscraper operator, we need to find other ways to not be so highly dependent on labor. I think for the first time, there was the notion of thinking about automated elevators, which had existed up into that point but which were not in use.
Alex: When I looked at the history of the technology of elevators and safety, it seemed clear that the late 19th [00:04:00] century, Otis Elevator had rolled up to sector and acquired a wide variety of sub-technologies, including the double closing doors, doors that had a safety mechanism that elevator would not move unless both doors were closed, which by the way was invented by one of the few and unappreciated black engineers in the elevator industry in the 19th century. We’ll have to do a podcast about that.
Henry: Yeah, we should.
Alex: [00:04:30] So if in 1900 almost all of technologies were in place to completely automate elevators, why were elevator operators ubiquitous for another 45 years?
Henry: Oh, that’s really simple. It’s the same issue that we have today with autonomous vehicles, and it’s the issue of public trust. People could not conceive of a world in which a elevator car would be able to transport them to the floor that they wanted to go by themselves. [00:05:00] Elevator operators had what was considered a pretty complex job at that time. They had to control the speed of the elevator, they had to stop on, they had to take instructions from the people entering the cars, remember what was on each floor, go to the floors, you’re controlling the speed, you’re controlling the direction, up and down. The levers were not as simple as a push button, you had to open the doors a certain way. There was a level of safety [00:05:30] involved, I don’t have specific numbers but this was not a job that was just straight forward in that way. You went to school, you trained, and not only that, it wasn’t just about training you on how to operate the elevator, there was a whole customer service piece. The women that were involved in this line of work went to charm school. So there was a lot that went into it. So to really consider removing that human element and relying on a machine [00:06:00] was just unheard of at that time.
Alex: It also seems as if, well, elevators were an expensive and very long life installation in any building so I guess you must’ve had these legacy elevators, pre-1900, which absolutely required an operator unless you invested, the building owner invested in changing out the hardware and control interfaces.
Henry: That didn’t happen.
Alex: Right, that’s not going to happen.
Henry: That didn’t happen, yeah.
Alex: So those things are going to [inaudible 00:06:29] for decades no [00:06:30] matter what. Then you have the new elevators, which have operators anyway because of the reasons you cite.
So, after the operators went back to work in 1945, how long before they went from ubiquity to under 1%, and how did that happen?
Henry: Elevator operators were still around for decades to come after that. It wasn’t until the 1970s where you had this sharp drop off in elevator operators, and that again, because of escalators, [00:07:00] because of advancements in the technology, because building owners, along with the elevator manufacturers, put in place pieces of technology to help build the trust. They put in telephones in elevators so that if you got stuck, there was someone that you could talk to. There were speakers that emitted music, there were lights, there were things that made people feel more comfortable, which led the way to [00:07:30] more automated elevators. But the operator itself still had a life well beyond that 1945 strike.
Alex: What was the reason that you began looking to elevators? How did that begin?
Henry: It was two-fold. It was up late at night thinking about autonomous vehicles and some of the issues that are barriers. I think the job loss is certainly one of them, and I don’t think we have enough conversation about the impact on jobs for [00:08:00] one, but also more personal. Just after figuring out that this was one of the jobs that had disappeared over time with the advent of technology, I realized just my personal connection to elevator operators and how as a kid I thought this was the coolest job in the world. I would go to Macy’s or ANS and you’ve got the cool gentleman wearing this really cool hat in uniform and they seem to know everything about the [00:08:30] building, they are controlling the destination, they make or break your day. Most of them great personalities, funny, they would announce the floors. So they were a big part of our society for a long time.
I also think that’s what happens when you have technology that can replace people, you lose that human element, which is unfortunate. But for me, those are some of the things that we need to be talking about. We [00:09:00] need to ensure that as we think about how autonomous vehicles are going to play a part in our society. We have full conversations about what that means, and it doesn’t mean we don’t move forward, it just means acknowledging what we lost.
Alex: It is interesting to think about what the transition out of having ubiquitous elevator operators actually meant, because the elevator business today, because of those additional technologies, the intercoms, the phones, the remote, I mean, you could call [00:09:30] it remote control or a remote operation from this guy in the basement. [inaudible 00:09:33] of the speakers, the music, more people are employed today in the elevator business than were employed as operators when the strike occurred, and then the transition happened out.
I was also looking at the, and this shocks me, the escalator was invented after the elevator, which cracked open a whole nother market for vertical [00:10:00] mobility which did not require an operator at all, although apparently because escalator safety is less than elevators, escalators often had to have an attendant-
Henry: That’s right.
Alex: … at the top and the bottom to help people get on and off.
Henry: Who would think escalators are more dangerous than elevators, or at least they were for a particular time.
Alex: Which is almost, I think an [inaudible 00:10:23] to driver assistance versus self driving, in a perfect world.
Now, you mentioned that you saw elevator operators at [00:10:30] Macy’s and ANS, and I remember these stores because you’re a New Yorker-
Alex: … and I’m a New Yorker.
Henry: Apologies to the non-New Yorkers, yeah.
Alex: I feel like there aren’t a lot of people who grew up in New York who end up working the autonomous vehicle sector. What was your path from New York City to working in the autonomous vehicle sector?
Henry: Yeah, it’s so interesting. So I ended up falling into the world of transportation, and unless you grow up playing Sim City or something like that, [00:11:00] this is not the world in which you plan to be in, but I grew up in New York City, very transit-dependent city, grew up taking buses and riding my bike, and aspiring to ride the train as a teenager, always had that in the back of my mind. Went away for school and saw some of the differences. I went to school in Virginia and saw some of the differences where public transit isn’t quite as ubiquitous. Went onto to law [00:11:30] school, found my way after law school, working for USDOT.
At USDOT, Google came to see us, they came to see us to present their new self-driving car. At that time, I want to say this was about 2011, they were testing the Toyota Prius’s, and it absolutely just blew my mind. I realized that if I wanted to stay in transportation, the future to me was autonomous vehicles, and working on issues around climate change. So I ended up doing both, but [00:12:00] fast forward, I ended up going back home to New York City and Cruise was looking for someone to launch their driverless testing operation in the city. It’s something that I’ve been long looking at and jumped at the chance to join Cruise.
Alex: So as a New Yorker interested in transit and mobility, I’ve always been… I guess the shadow of one book has over my thinking this whole time, and that book is, The Power Broker [00:12:30] which, well, for anyone who hasn’t read The Power Broker, it tells the story of Robert Moses who was probably the single most influential person in transportation in New York-
Alex: … in the 20th century. Knowing what you know about autonomous vehicles, what was your thought process? Did you think that the consequences of the poor decisions or the suboptimal decisions of Robert Moses could be solved by a new [00:13:00] technology?
Henry: I did, and to be fair, where I come from, I’ve been in public interest for a very long time. I was in the government for over 10 years, I’ve done federal, I’ve done local, I’ve drank the Kool-Aid, then I spit the Kool-Aid back out. For me, what I looked at was the environment that we’re in and I didn’t see any other way to address some of the challenges that we have expeditiously, than technology. Technology allows [00:13:30] us to cut the line, so to speak, to address some of the things that Robert Moses did to our city. There’s no question there are some good things in the name of infrastructure, but what I also think about is what he did to communities, what he did to families by building highways in the middle of it, by displacing people.
I think that our transportation ecosystem has suffered greatly, people have suffered greatly, certainly economically. I think technology in the form of autonomous vehicles [00:14:00] can get you there faster, in terms of addressing some of those issues, particularly around access, particularly around equity and making sure folks have adequate resources.
Alex: One of the clearest lessons of The Power Broker is that if you tear down a neighborhood, well, when you tear down a neighborhood, you create a physical barrier between communities that remain on both sides. When Robert Moses did this, both on a class [00:14:30] level and along racial lines, and I remember the story in The Power Broker about how he created these bridges that were too low for buses to pass underneath, which locked out people who couldn’t afford a car. Both class and racial discrimination built into infrastructure.
So what do you think autonomous vehicles could potentially do to resolve those issues, even in New York City or anywhere, but especially in New York City?
Henry: Well sure, I [00:15:00] think given that example, I certainly think that the physical being able to travel on those highways where buses cannot. By the way, that is something that I realized growing up when we out to Jones Beach or Reese Beach, we traveled by car, you could not take the bus. As adults when you think about that, being prevented from enjoying something like that in the city, it does have an effect on you. But in terms of what autonomous vehicles can do, [00:15:30] what they do is they remove the biases, you don’t have the human element. Now, you can talk about algorithms but I’m going to put that to the side for a second.
Alex: Oh, I’ve got questions about that.
Henry: But in terms of that example, you can get there by AV shuttle, whereas a bus cannot get there. You can do it by shared ride, whereas a bus can’t get that. You can pool those rides, whereas the greatest example of pooling is buses, but it doesn’t work [00:16:00] with the existing infrastructure. So we’re now at a point where we can tear down this infrastructure. What we have to do is design and invent technology to work around it.
Alex: So when we were talking about doing this episode and trading, well, trading book ideas, you suggested two books. One of them is, Automating Inequality. Tell us about that book.
Henry: So Automating Inequality, [00:16:30] so there are three books I should say, that have done a lot for my career over the last couple of years. These are recent books, and that is one of them. Why, because number one, it calls out exactly what I’m trying to do, but it also gives real world examples of new technologies and how automation can be a good thing but also how it can perpetuate some of the oppression, racism, the biases, [00:17:00] that we have as humans. So we have to be careful. Now, if I’m someone who is bullish on technology addressing our issues, I have to be aware of how that can go south. I think what that book, along with two others do, is they really provide real world examples with research, sound research on what some of the best intentions can do and the negative impact.
Alex: The other book is, Algorithms of [00:17:30] Oppression, which is the software side of that problem, but also opportunity. Can you walk us through that?
Henry: Yeah, so and to be fair, I’ve read these books multiple times some time ago, but what I would say with that one was, I’m not an engineer, I’m not a planner, I’m not what I would consider a techy. But what it did was offer a world in which I could understand the role that algorithms play, [00:18:00] not only that, how algorithms come to be. They come to be because there are people behind them. So whether they know it or not, they can impose their biases on the algorithms. The technology can be neutral but because it’s designed to be a certain way or designed to learn a certain way, it can have negative consequences.
So for that book in particular, and there’s another book called, Race After Technology that is also excellent, what [00:18:30] these books tell you is that people can have the best intentions but if you don’t acknowledge the fact that there are biases and set up systems to rooting them out, they show up in the technology and they can perpetuate the systemic racism that flows through our system today.
So one of the lessons that we’ve learned over time is that our transportation ecosystem which was built on top of the housing system, systematic racism [00:19:00] has been there throughout. There were parties that were complicit in that throughout. Now some, they didn’t actively participate but they didn’t actively work to stop it. So because of that, it was allowed to persist and continue, so that’s essentially what these books are telling us today. If we don’t acknowledge the biases, if we don’t actively work to stop the presence and how they show up in our technology, we risk [00:19:30] perpetuating the racism that me, I’m working to stop, so.
Alex: What’s interesting, I enjoy about your writing is that a lot of people fall clearly in one or the other side of any issue. Can’t work or this will work, but you’re more of a cautionary optimist, it seems. The example you mentioned once was that well, an AV will pick me up, whereas a human [00:20:00] taxi driver might never have shown up. Can you walk us through that?
Henry: So these are real world examples. So what I love about my work is I’m an active participant. I love being mobile, I have a car, I have an electric vehicle, I have a bike, I use subways, all of it, scooters, everything. When I’m in Austin, I love doing scooters. So what I’m saying is, a lot of my experience [00:20:30] is taken from what I observe but a lot of it I see as well.
So I’ve experienced being in black neighborhoods where the Uber or Lyft will not come and pick me up. It’s very interesting Alex, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it but what they’ll do is they’ll drive further and further away from your location, and they’ll try to get you to cancel. So it’s like a game of chicken, it’s like because they don’t want to cancel because they’ve been assigned [00:21:00] the ride. They want you to cancel when you see that it’s taking them so long to get to your location and that they’re driving further away. We shouldn’t have that. So since Uber and Lyft haven’t been able to resolve that issue, here’s an opportunity for autonomous vehicles to actually do that. The software can’t tell you no when it’s been programmed to pick you up where you are, when it’s been programmed to give you that access. That is [00:21:30] what I’m trying to solve for.
Alex: If one can’t resolve racism baked into people or the system, one might be able to innovate around some of it.
Henry: Yes, you might.
Henry: You might, but there are a whole host of things that you need to do to get there, okay.
Alex: Right, it doesn’t address the underlying problem, it only addresses the-
Alex: … consequence of it.
Henry: That’s exactly right. So [00:22:00] what you actually need, Alex, is a comprehensive approach. So it’s not as simple as sitting down with an engineer who’s writing code to an algorithm. It’s making sure that everything around them to support their work is aligned with that mission of rooting out systemic racism.
So there are a couple of things that I think are really important. I think companies as they develop their process, they need to have an [00:22:30] employee-led process for figuring out what racial equity means to them. They need to figure that out as a company, the employees need to lead it, this is not a C-Suite endeavor, that needs to happen. I think that you have to acknowledge the existence of algorithmic bias. I think there are CTOs out there who want their programmers to just code away without saying, “Hey, we need to watch out for this, this is a real [00:23:00] thing.” Some of the larger companies have done that but many have not.
I think you have to hire a chief diversity equity inclusion officer and notice I said chief, I didn’t say director, I didn’t say VP. You need someone who can report directly to the CEO and who can have real conversations about how you can ensure that there are diverse perspectives at the table. Often what happens is that there’s a manager or a senior manager that is designated with this role and it’s not [00:23:30] effective. We see people come in and out of these roles because they are not given the autonomy to do their job effectively.
I also think that these companies need to recognize that just by hiring someone of color to lead these roles, that’s not the end of the work. You actually need to hire external consultants whose work is rooted in research in how to address these issues. So it should not come from within. Yes, you can have an [00:24:00] employee-led process, develop a racial equity statement, but you should not have an employee-led process to help you, to address every aspect of your problem. There are people out there who have done this work for years. Three books that we talk about today, they’re written by black women who are professors, who’ve been in this work for years. So there are experts out there.
I also think there needs to a commitment long term to bring in people diverse perspectives. So yes, [00:24:30] people of color, but people with differently abled, if we’re trying to solve for technologies that don’t address everyone, we need to ensure that everyone is at the table. I think AV industry needs to work together, there needs to be an industry working group on how we can address these issues together and hold each other accountable. Look, I think that can seem unrealistic, [00:25:00] given how competitive the autonomous vehicle industry is, but I think it’s also important. Then a commitment to more research because what we’re trying to undo is hundreds of years of oppression, and you don’t just do that in one checking of the box. So again, comprehensive approach helps you get there.
Then remember that this is really hard. Really, really, really hard, and people don’t want to talk about it and it makes people uncomfortable and all [00:25:30] that good stuff.
Alex: Well, my father always said if it was easy it would already be done. You mentioned earlier the word equity. I’ve heard this word a lot, I had a very interesting conversation years ago with a woman named Dr. Maya Rockeymoore. She, this is going back four, five years to when right after the Ferguson incident, where the young man was killed. This [00:26:00] is quite early in the autonomous vehicle discussion, and I read a column of hers about race, job loss, and automation, and invited her on the Autonocast, my other podcast, No Parking didn’t exist at the time. We discussed how autonomous vehicles might resolve some of these issues even if it didn’t resolve the underlying issues of mobility and freedom of transportation. That was the first time I heard the word equity.
Since then, I have heard this word [00:26:30] used so frequently and in such a wide variety of contexts that I often don’t know what the user means by it. You said something which absolutely reset my thinking. You said that equity is no longer useful as a word. Can you walk us through the word, what it should mean and how it’s been used and [00:27:00] where we should go, in terms of our conversations around transportation?
Henry: Yeah, so first when I’m talking about equity, I’m talking about racial equity. There are so many types of equity, gender equity, socioeconomic status, all of these different types of making sure that people have the right kinds of resources. I also think that there’s confusion between equity and equality. What we’re saying [00:27:30] when we say equity is that in order to get to equality, you have to have equity. Equity says it recognizes that everyone’s situation is different, everyone’s circumstances are different, but when you look at it, when you look at some of the history of what people have been through, you can figure out what is needed and what resources they need to get them to a place where there is actually equality.
But the reason why I say equity is dead is because [00:28:00] it has become an overused term that is not defined. It has become this check mark that people check off in different ways. So if you’re working at a tech company, you can say you have focused on equity by bringing in a senior manager of diversity, equity, inclusion, you can say that, I wouldn’t say that. You can say that when you’re hiring, because you have interviewed a [00:28:30] candidate of color, you have met the equity check mark. The problem with equity is it’s not defined and number two, it’s so triggering that people often don’t want to dig deeper into what it actually means. I think that we’ve seen several instances publicly where equity is being used as the foundation for something but in reality [00:29:00] it doesn’t help you get to where you want to be, which is addressing inequity. So I think we just need to be more specific about how we use the term equity and we probably just need to call things out for what they really are.
Alex: That’s really interesting, if you take equity and equality and replace them with mobility and freedom, everyone says or claims that everyone should be free [00:29:30] but one is not free in an urban environment or any environment where infrastructure does not enable mobility.
Henry: That’s correct, mobility is the ability to move around freely.
Alex: So it’s a trap, a transit desert is a trap.
Henry: So many people have never had that ability. I can speak for black people, we’ve never had that ability. If you think about what is really the backbone [00:30:00] of the civil rights movement, a lot of us think about the Brown Versus Board of Education case, but actually a lot of it is around mobility, a lot of it is about the ability to move around to get economic opportunity. [crosstalk 00:30:15].
Alex: The ability to buy gas-
Alex: … or sleep in a motel.
Henry: … but to-
Alex: Green Book.
Henry: Yes, the Green Book, and but today’s it’s also being able to move around without being worried about police officers pulling you over and what that means [00:30:30] for you, it’s actually very dangerous.
What I tell people, and I always try to put my personal perspective on it because I think it helps a lot of people, but here I am educated, been in the workforce for a number of years, I’ve never been to prison, but yet I’m afraid of doing one of the things I’ve always wanted to do, which is a road trip around the country. I’ve never done that because of fear, because of fear, because of my experiences [00:31:00] being pulled over, because I’ve seen and now we all have seen what happens to black people when they get pulled over. That’s not freedom at all, when I feel more comfortable traveling in another country than I do the United States. Those are the things that we need to work to address.
Alex: Well I know you’re right because I’m sitting on the other comfortable side of that argument and all the stupid stuff I’ve done in cars and got away with [00:31:30] it. That’s a clear indication that what you’re saying is fundamentally true.
So all these cautionary stories, and yet you seem to be an optimist, you still work and invest in the sector. What might go right with autonomous vehicles? I mean, you’ve laid out what might go wrong. What might go right?
Henry: Well number one, I believe in the safety issue. [00:32:00] You know the numbers, 40,000 deaths annually, over 90% due to human error, which means that they are preventable. This is an epidemic, we are losing people when it didn’t have to be that way. We’re losing people because driving is dangerous and people are dangerous behind the wheel. So I think number one for me is definitely safety. One of the things that was interesting in working about Cruise and working at Cruise [00:32:30] is a lot of the folks there had their own personal stories about what made them want to work at an AV company. It was amazing how similar they were, we all are dealing with loss, and loss due to auto accidents that were preventable. So safety of course.
Congestion, yes, that’s important for me, that’s important to cities. More important environmental sustainability, I’m worried about our planet. Climate change is something I’m very passionate about. [00:33:00] The fact that we can reset what we’re doing in terms of transportation, transportation is a huge emitter of carbon, greenhouse gases, sorry. So I love what companies like Zoox and Cruise and those who are fully electric, I love what they bring. I believe that they are a part of a solution. They’re not everything, but I think AVs get you there as well.
[00:33:30] I think the trucking is huge. We move more freight than any other country and we do it better, but our demands are changing. I think the supply chain is changing. I think because there are huge needs in terms of a human capital, jobs, when it comes to the trucking sector, AVs offer a reasonable opportunity to help us address some of these changing needs, so.
Alex: So what are you working on now?
Henry: So [00:34:00] yeah, I’m at Tusk Ventures now, I do focus on mobility, sustainability, and broadband, those are my three passions. I advise clients on some of the things we talked about. How you actually operationalize equity. When you’re seeking to launch in a city, what does that look like? Who do you need to talk to? How do you actually be authentic when you’re doing your public engagement? I think that is a [00:34:30] critical need that a lot of mobility companies are lacking. It’s not their fault, you’ve got programmers that have been trained engineers. You’ve got policy people who have gone to public policy school and they’re often not trained on how to deal with people. So making sure that there’s a place for that and making sure that our clients are aware of how you can go into communities and be authentic. [00:35:00] There’s a number of different strategies, but the teaching listening and how important that is. So those are the main things that I’m working on today. I’m still at NYU as a fellow, exploring the connection between poverty, race, and transportation. Still lecturing different places, keeping myself busy, Alex.
Alex: All right, so surprise [00:35:30] question. Why is it that so many people who work in technology collect analog things, watches, vinyl, why?
Henry: I was thinking about this. I think they feel guilty, perhaps.
Alex: That’s the best answer I’ve ever heard, but really, why?
Henry: There’s a coolness factor. Listen, I’ve never been the cool kid but this is what I can tell you. My dad was a DJ, I grew up with vinyl in [00:36:00] the house, that’s how we listed to music. As soon as I was old enough to buy my own vinyl, I started doing the same thing and I never stopped. Growing up in New York City, you can find yourself in a record shop in a basement somewhere, it’s dark, cold, damp, but you’re still digging for the best music you can find. So that’s just me. As far as the techies, I don’t know, I think it’s a little bit of a fad.
Alex: I agree with everything you say, but I have met a few people and I suspect you’re one of them, [00:36:30] that also enjoy them because the ritual. Technology can never replace ritual, although it can create new ritual. Ritual has inherent value, I feel it when I put a record on the player and it becomes work to have to get up and change between songs. Then I understand the artist in a different way and that I feel brings me closer to the purpose of the art.
Henry: I love that, I had never considered that. [00:37:00] I like to pick up the record sleeve, pull it out, I flip it, put it on the player, cue it up. I mean, it is very much ritual.
Alex: It’s ritual.
Henry: Hopefully there’s a pop, there’s a pop, that pop is everything for me.
Alex: The pop is a echo of who we were the first time we opened a record and the dust fell on it.
Henry: Wow, wow. Okay, that’s deep.
Alex: All right, you also [00:37:30] said that your favorite book is the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Can you tell us the arc of the book and why that is your favorite book?
Henry: Yeah, I go back to this book every so often. It’s funny, my now wife gave me this book and that was one the keys to me figuring out that she was the one I was going to marry, because it just meant that we saw life very [00:38:00] similarly. In the book we follow the young Santiago who’s out to discover his personal legend. There’s so many lessons in that book, but what I love about it is it teaches you that when you’re passionate about something and you love something and you put that out there into the world, the world conspires to make it happen for you. So it’s a book about faith, it’s a book about recognizing that you could search your whole [00:38:30] life looking for something but without truly opening your eyes, you’ll never realize that it was always there in front of you. So that book for me represents the journey that I’m on, the contribution, the impact that I want to make, that personal legend. It reminds me to keep my eyes open, it reminds me to continue to be passionate, and then keep pushing forward.
Alex: Is that why you return to New York and stay here?
Henry: Yeah, it’s a big [00:39:00] part of it, it’s a big part. My family’s in New York, but I think this is where my personal legend needs to be. For those who’ve read the book understand why. I started in New York, I lived in Virginia, Florida, Maryland, but now I’m back and things make sense.
Alex: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Interviewee: I appreciate you having me, I appreciate the opportunity to talk about equity, I appreciate… [00:39:30] I am someone who has worked in mobility for the last 15 years now and my focus was not on equity. It was this realization that if not me, who then? Transportation is just such a fundamental part of success in America. I do view my work as the next phase of the civil rights movement, and it is for everyone. [00:40:00] I speak about black issues but I truly think that equity is something that needs to be addressed for everyone. So I’m just trying to do my part, so I appreciate you having me.
Alex: Well, thanks so much for coming on No Parking, it was really great to hear from you.
Henry: Thanks, Alex, this was a lot of fun.