Steve Cuozzo columns about street reclamation are usually so divorced from reality that we’ve been letting him go unchallenged for a while. The insanity is usually self-evident.
His latest screed against the 34th Street busway is no different. It’s got all the usual fearmongering (“be afraid,” is the mantra), contradictions (in one breath, DOT is “advancing the project in secrecy,” in the next, it is meeting with the local BID and community boards — how secretive!), and lack of concern for anyone who rides a bus or walks.
There’s one hallucinatory claim in today’s Cuozzo column that just begs to be debunked: the idea that giving more space to transit and pedestrians constitutes “reckless disregard for consequences to one of the world’s great shopping and business districts.” Because, as we all know, what makes Midtown Manhattan special isn’t the walkable blocks or terrific transit access — it’s the unfettered ease of driving through town.
Cuozzo can’t muster any sources to go on the record and bolster his assertion, unless you count his coup de grace — David Letterman’s reference to the Times Square plazas as “a petting zoo.” Maybe that’s because the actual representatives of those great shopping and business districts strongly support the street reclamations in Midtown.
Here’s Dan Biederman, director of the 34th Street Partnership, in an interview with Streetsblog last summer:
- “In general, we think that the DOT’s initiative of adding more public space to roadbeds is very much the right answer.”
- On the pedestrian plaza planned for 34th Street: “We are supportive of some added space for pedestrians between Fifth and Sixth.”
- On deliveries: “The past history on Broadway is that DOT finds ways to deal with that. I’m hearing absolutely no screaming or yelling about how the Broadway boulevard is killing this or killing that.”
There’s also this response Biederman gave to the Times when asked about the idea of a large-scale bike-share last December: “Almost every one of the mayor and the transportation commissioner’s innovations in the area of street life have been good for New York.”
In an interview with Streetsblog San Francisco in 2009, Times Square Alliance President Tim Tompkins had this to say to skeptics of street reclamations:
Pedestrianization of a former roadway is a mixture of art and science. There are people who have studied this — you know, what do people do in public spaces — and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It has to do with design, management, the nature of the space, what’s going on around it. So it’s not an easy thing to get right. One of the great things about this commissioner and mayor is that they’re willing to experiment and see what happens.
The positions of Midtown’s business leaders are not difficult for a columnist like Cuozzo to track down. Who exactly is being secretive here?