NYC Finally Cracking Down on Security Barriers

Security5.jpg In the aftermath of September 11th, concrete and steel barriers sprouted like  mushrooms around big buildings in New York City. It almost seemed to me to be a kind of status symbol. You knew you worked in an important building if your landlord had hardened it against truck bombs.

The barriers were often ugly and almost always stole vast tracts of sidewalk space from the public. Meanwhile, their security benefit was usually questionable. While annexing public space from the city’s pedestrians the bollards did absolutely nothing to prevent a rental truck filled with explosives from rolling freely into Midtown (a camera-based congestion charging system like London’s might help with that, however).

Jeff Zupan of the Regional Plan Association raised the issue here on Streetsblog in July with his short photo series of sidewalk-blocking bollards (here and here). He also wrote an excellent essay, Bombs, Barriers and Bollards for the RPA’s Spotlight on the Region newsletter.

Five years after September 11th, the City has responded. Saturday’s New York Times reports:

After evaluations by the New York Police Department, the city’s Department of Transportation has demanded that many of the planters and concrete traffic medians known as jersey barriers be taken away. So far, barriers have been removed at 30 buildings out of an estimated 50 to 70 in the city.

Officials found that the barriers obstructed pedestrian flow and, in the case of planters, often ended up being used as giant ashtrays. Counterterrorism experts also concluded that in terms of safety, some of the barriers, which building owners put in of their own accord, might do more harm than good.

"Wherever possible, we want to avoid the appearance that the city is under siege or unwelcoming," Iris Weinshall, the city’s transportation commissioner said in an e-mail message.

Photo: Jeff Zupan. 

  • Will the planters outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal go as well? Those are some of the worst – not only are they ugly and huge, but they are so close together that it’s often difficult to squeeze between them to get to and from the building or pass by on 42nd Street.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

LIRR’s Brooklyn Bunker: More Extreme Than NYPD Counterterror Guidelines

|
Security barriers mar the Atlantic Terminal sidewalk. Image: Noah Kazis. Brooklyn’s new Long Island Rail Road terminal opened earlier this month to generally positive reviews for its airy interior. Outside the station? That’s an entirely different matter. The Brooklyn Paper called the "sarcophagus-sized slabs of stone" on the sidewalk — which nearly come up to […]

Making NYC’s Streets Safe for Hydrants & Pay Phones

|
Bollards are hardened steel, concrete or stone posts buried into the pavement of city streets and sidewalks. In Northern European cities you see bollards all over the place. They are used to make sure that if a motor vehicle accidentally jumps up on to a sidewalk, pedestrians are protected. Bollards are a kind of urban […]

How Many Obstacles Does It Take to Stop NYPD Sidewalk Parking?

|
This is the generous new sidewalk extension at the five-way intersection of Washington Avenue, Park Place, and Grand Avenue in Brooklyn. Here you can see bell bollards protecting the added pedestrian space between Washington, on the left, and Grand on the right. I live around the corner, and I can’t say enough about how much […]

Where Can Bikes Fit Into the Urban Cargo Delivery Market?

|
New York City should be an ideal place to ship cargo by bike. It’s dense, space is at a premium, traffic regularly ensnares delivery trucks, and customers demand near-instant delivery. Despite its advantages, pedal-powered freight delivery has remained a niche operation. A panel at a conference on last-mile freight delivery hosted by the University Transportation […]

Eyes on the Street: Vernon Boulevard Gets Bike Lane Barriers

|
Biking in western Queens is getting a welcome upgrade. The two-way bike lane on Vernon Boulevard has not had any type of protection from traffic since it was installed in 2013. The lane was frequently obstructed by drivers who used it as a parking spot. Now, DOT is installing barriers along the bikeway to keep cars out. The project received the most […]