Streetfilms: Good Riddance to Wasted Asphalt

Before Streetfilms were called Streetfilms, Clarence Eckerson and Streetsblog Publisher Mark Gorton identified Grand Street, with its expanse of asphalt forcing pedestrians to the margins, as a prime spot for space reclamation. Now home to a conniption-inducing parking-protected bike lane, check out this 2005 vid to see why Grand was due for a livable streets makeover.

Visit the old New York Streets Renaissance page for more goodies from the Streetfilms vault.

  • Too bad the sidewalk wasn’t widened… that would be the best change for Grand Street, and so many others around the city.

  • While I love the new Grand Street bike lane, the widened sidewalk would have been a cooler final design.

  • Rhywun

    Yeah, narrow sidewalks are a big problem all over, but especially in lower Manhattan. I just walk in the street as often as possible–maybe they’ll see it and get the message.

  • I certainly agree with the thrust of the video, and think it does a good job of dramatizing the mis-allocation of public space in NYC. But that last soundbite — “let the local community control what happens on their street” — I’m not sure I’m down with that (and I expect Mark has a more nuanced view as well).

  • If you don’t give pedestrians enough space they end up spilling into bike lanes not improving things very much. With expanding sidewalks an implementing traffic calming you can make things safer for bikes (cars won’t try to pass them willy-nilly) and pedestrians. Of course, the best is expanding the sidewalks and giving a bike lane.

  • downtowner

    Damn!
    Bicyclesonly beat me to it with the objection to “let the local community control what happens on their street”.

    Why let people who live and work in a community decide what goes on in front of their homes and businesses? God forbid we have democracy. Next people will want to decide what is taught in their schools or demand referenda on term limits. Can you imagine letting these riff-raff getting their way over the whims of us elitists here on streetsblog?

    Forget about community control. Forget about community empowerment. Forget about participatory democracy. Forget about people power.

    Let the bureaucrats decide! Let the politically-connected commissioners decide (if they have enough time to stop writing campaign checks)! Let the paid self-interest groups with their narrow agenda decide! Let people from one borough dictate what happens in front of MY home! Who doesn’t love fascism?

    Can you imagine? If we “let the local community control what happens on their street”, the Grand Street bike-lane fiasco might be eliminated and Grand Street would return to its expansive former self as shown in this video, not to be congested with parked cars, congestion, bike lanes no one use – as it currently is.

    Wait!. But that is what we here wanted. Oh, dear. But who cares if our dreams are a failure?

    Down with democracy! Long live bureaucracy and narrow agendas! Mussolini got the trains to run on time. The Transportation is doing a fine job emulating Il Duce.
    Keep up the good work!

  • Can you imagine? If we “let the local community control what happens on their street”, the Grand Street bike-lane fiasco might be eliminated and Grand Street would return to its expansive former self as shown in this video, not to be congested with parked cars, congestion, bike lanes no one use – as it currently is.

    I think we’d have to go back and look at traffic counts, but I used to work right near Grand Street several years ago (before the bike lane), and I remember it being pretty heavily congested, particularly during rush hours but not exclusively. It’s true that the western end has always been less congested than the stretches further east, but I still don’t think that this video is typical.

    Forget about community control. Forget about community empowerment. Forget about participatory democracy. Forget about people power.

    NIMBYism is not community empowerment. But even if it were, a community should not have the absolute say in what goes on in its area. Sometimes community convenience needs to be sacrificed for the greater good – in terms of things like safety. In this case, the city government was right to overrule the locals’ parochial convenience concerns to improve safety for residents, workers, shoppers and people passing through the neighborhood.

    Note that I’m not talking about things like Bob Moses sacrificing the respiratory health of Bronx residents for the convenience of drivers, or Chris Lynn keeping the traffic moving while pedestrians get mowed down on Queens Boulevard. On issues of safety, the community should have a reasonable veto power – but that doesn’t extend to unreasonable safety concerns such as “subways will bring crime,” or “those bikers almost killed my friend Gladys one time.”

    I think it’s interesting, though, that the 2005 recommendation was to widen the sidewalks. I agree with the other posters that that would have been a better use for the space than the bike lane. Are there still plans for Grand Street to become a one-way westbound feeder to the Holland Tunnel?

  • Ian Turner

    Downtowner, I’m all in favor of community control. Does that mean that since the free queensborough bridge passes through my community, throwing off insane quantities of highly toxic substances, that my city council member should be able to unilaterally toll the bridge? I would very much hope so, but evidently community control only applies to some things.

    Also, please substantiate your claim that “politically-connected commissioners” are “writing campaign checks”.

  • “Who doesn’t love fascism?… Down with democracy!” And a Mussolini reference!

    Squealing like a stuck driver.

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