NYC lagging on public space

Robert Sullivan got a prime op-ed page placement for this paean to PPS’s principles. The irony is perhaps that his research was funded by Saturn, the GM division, and written up for Dwell magazine. Hmm.

The simple and elegant cure for the loss of New York’s inner pedestrian is to open up car-clogged streets and public spaces. Another of Mr. Schaller’s surveys, sponsored by the citizens’ group Transportation Alternatives, showed that 89 percent of people questioned on Prince Street in SoHo got there by subway, bus, foot or bicycle, and that the majority would gladly give up parking for more pedestrian space.

With a million more New Yorkers scheduled to arrive by 2030, true sustainability requires the city — or at least its residents — to make a bold move. Some neighborhoods are already working on it. The Ninth Avenue Renaissance Project, sponsored by a coalition of residents and businesses, has held community workshops on converting Ninth Avenue from Lincoln Tunnel access ramp to boulevard.

The now chic Meatpacking District plans to bring back a space that, since the area was a Native American village, has been a natural gathering place for people without combustion engines: wider sidewalks, public seating and a piazza in the restaurant-surrounded open field of paving stones could be more like Campo dei Fiori in Rome and less a spot for crazed U-turns. In Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the city’s Department of Transportation has replaced parking spaces near a subway station with rows of bike racks.

But these are tiny steps. Boston’s mayor has endorsed converting Hanover Street in the city’s North End into a car-free pedestrian mall. Why don’t we do the same in part or even all of SoHo? In Los Angeles, some traffic lights are programmed to change for approaching buses (a signal in the bus alerts the light). Why can’t the same happen on 14th Street?