Thursday, April 08, 2010

More Bad Pedestrian Ideas

Kermit the Mayor is at it again-this time with a proposal for more pedestrian malls in every nook and cranny. As the NY Post reported yesterday: "Motorists, beware -- there are more pedestrian plazas on the way. City officials, pleased with the success of the traffic ban in Times and Herald squares, yesterday asked community groups to submit smaller-scale ideas to expand the program around the city. The Department of Transportation is asking nonprofits to focus on neighborhoods such as Murray Hill and the Upper East Side, as well as Astoria, Queens, and Borough Park, Brooklyn. The plaza have been criticized for taking space from motorists in an already-gridlocked city and handing it over to pedestrians."

Now this is truly crazy on at least one level-it is an example of a disjointed, almost schizophrenic, policy approach. All over Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx-and Staten Island it goes without saying-the city has encouraged car dependent retail development. This kind of economic dcevelopment policy is a direct threat to the viability of the more eco-friendly local shopping strips. The best current example of this is, of course Willets Point, a project that will generate around 80,000 car trips every day in the center of the Queens highway grid.

But wait, as contradictory as the two approaches do appear to be, there is more actual similarity than at first glance. As one keen eyed observer tells the Post: "Cutting off more streets would be annoying for many drivers, I'm sure. I think New York is already suffering from gridlock bad enough," said Mikayla Gilbert, 32, who was sitting in a pedestrian plaza in the Meatpacking District."

All of this is being done-as per Bloomberg usual-without any kind of community or environmental review; or, heaven forbid, any economic impact analysis for neighborhood commerce. But we thought we'd let our good friend Steve Barrison of Sheepshead Bay and the Small Business Congress rant a little on this cockamamie idea. Take it away Steve:

"MORE pedestrian malls, more traffic, more back ups, more pollution from the traffic caused by less roadway to move the vehicles. This is anti economic development and anti-commerce 100%! The Hassle Factor grows under Blooomie...this is not SEATTLE! Anybody home there at DOT in City HALL?

While the Mayor fills his 2 millionth pothole there is fanfare! WHY? Maybe if we repaired the streets properly we wouldn't have so many potholes. The planning itself by DOT and traffic flow is full of many potholes. Urban Traffic Planning 101 dictates one of the ten commandments of Traffic planning: NEVER GIVE UP ROADWAY IN A DENSE URBAN AREA, as the number of vehicles and people do not decrease and we always need to move them.

Whenever you reduce roadway there are always consequences because the cars have to go somewhere and we have a congestion problem in NYC that is aggravated by consistent anti-car policies that make the problem worse and at crisis levels for commerce and emergency vehicles too! The concept of pedestrian malls in an urban area has been abandoned across America except in limited circumstances.

Generally the local small businesses and main street benefit more from the added excitement in the mix having vehicles, than not having them. The tourists and walkers love it but their perception is tainted as "non drivers." Since the overwhelming majority of New York City residents don't drive or own cars their viewpoint is more like a Disney main street than real life hard working mom and pop shops in reality.

Lastly, since this is NYC and not Seattle, and we probably have more than twenty times the population in a small geographic area we cannot afford to lose any more roadway. The future economic balance and survival of our city depends on efficient traffic flow. This administration has led us down a dangerous path of reducing: traffic lanes, highway access, parking spaces on and off street, and safe productive traffic flow in all 5 boros. The buck stops somewhere, right Mr. Mayor? Even if DOT is sadly in a Disney traffic world.

Here back in the BIG city reality is clear. The Times Square experiment from any driver's view, simply pushed the traffic all around squeezing the pressure elsewhere. The same mistake from this non driver fantasy world can be seen at Herald Square. (Shootings over Easter at both locations!) Do we really need to create more street hang outs? Who is out of touch here? The time has come for real knowledgeable experienced traffic planning, based in the real world of today's NYC small business community, not designed on a computer or with the model of a city 1/20th the density and population of New York.

Ask us in Small Business who have our lives invested here on every local shopping street in all 5 boros what we need, not some traffic office planner who never drove a delivery truck here, or a car everyday or a cab right here in our fair city. You want more pedestrian malls; then there are many places you can visit. But we cannot help address a congestion issue, cried about for eight years now and then continue to make traffic flow worse with new congestion causing policies introduced each week! This is plain contradictory, hypocritical nonsense. Our leaders must stop this crap and start practicing the idea of thinking before they announce more ideas that make living in NYC more difficult for others; even if you don't drive, you benefit from the goods and services and economic effect of vehicles as part of the essential engine of our city."