JSK: Plaza Program Will Expand; Gridlock Sam: Backlash Nothing New

Plans for a plaza at Fulton Street and Marcy Avenue, in the first phase of the plaza program. Image: NYC DOT

Last night’s Municipal Arts Society panel, “Shared Streets: Making It Work,” mainly covered familiar ground for those who have been following the city’s efforts to repurpose its streets over the last four years. Participants touted the improved bus speeds along Select Bus Service routes, the safety gains where protected bike lanes have been installed, and the economic boost of pedestrian plazas in Times and Herald Square. Two things jumped out at as noteworthy, though.

First, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan announced that the department will be accepting applications for a fourth round of its plaza program. When you include both the plazas constructed through the city’s capital program and those built on a “temporary” basis with paint and planters, the latest round will bring the total number of plazas in the works up to 50.

Then, former Traffic Commissioner Sam Schwartz offered some perspective on the current media backlash against the DOT and the Prospect Park West lawsuit. “It’s been hard for as long as I can remember,” he said, “and that’s a very long time.” He said that he too got sued, in his case by the parking garage industry over a 1980 plan to charge single-occupant vehicles for entering the Manhattan central business district. He claimed that business leaders were marching on City Hall and taking out full-page ads in the newspapers that read “Commissioner Schwartz, stop fouling up New York.” The word “foul,” added Schwartz, was a replacement on the part of copy editors.

Schwartz also dismissed the particular strain of opposition that has tried to paint improvements to transit and bike and pedestrian infrastructure as elitist. When he was in office, he said, “it was just the opposite argument. It was the poor people that would be coming into the wealthy neighborhoods. So I think this too shall pass.”

  • tom

    Gil Penalosa was the hit of the evening. He made a lot of sense with his approach to the city’s problems: pedestrians first, bikes second, then motor vehicles. After all, everyone’s a pedestrian.

  • J

    DOT has posted the round 3 plaza winners on the website. Looks like winners are in East New York, Brownsville, and Fort Greene, all in Brookln. I can’t wait to see these projects when they are finished, but it is a long design and implementation process.
    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/sidewalks/publicplaza_round3.shtml

    Also, the 2011 bike map is up on the DOT website:
    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/bicyclists/bikemaps.shtml

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

DOT Capstone Report Looks Back, Offers Advice to Next Administration

|
Yesterday, DOT released “Sustainable Streets: 2013 and Beyond,” a 212-page report and accompanying website outlining the department’s achievements over the past six years and providing guidance for the next administration. Last night, Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan was joined by a panel of council members and New York Magazine architecture critic Justin Davidson for a discussion of the […]

Ped Plazas in Low-Income Neighborhoods Get $800,000 Boost From Chase

|
Under cloudy skies this morning at Corona Plaza, elected officials and community members gathered to announce an $800,000 contribution from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation to help fund the upkeep of pedestrian plazas in low-income communities. The funds are going to the Neighborhood Plaza Partnership (NPP), a program of the Horticultural Society of New York that works […]

At Pioneering Ped Plaza, Paint and Planters Are Now Curbs and Concrete

|
NYC DOT’s plaza program hit a milestone today, when officials cut the ribbon on a block of Willoughby Street reclaimed from car traffic between Pearl and Adams Streets in Downtown Brooklyn. What used to be, essentially, a private parking lot for government placard holders, is now the first plaza program project to make the transition from temporary materials to permanent […]

Vacca Watch: At Budget Hearing, Council Calms Down, Focuses on Potholes

|
Call it the case of the missing demagoguery. Yesterday’s City Council transportation budget hearing was less notable for what was said than what wasn’t. Attacks on the city’s proposed parking meter rate increase were largely absent, and the scapegoating of bike lanes and pedestrian plazas that has dominated recent hearings in James Vacca’s committee failed […]

Better Rules for Plazas — It’s Not All About Times Square

|
The City Council heard testimony today on Intro. 1109-A, which would give DOT authority over designating and regulating pedestrian plazas across the city. DOT has carved out nearly 70 plazas since 2008, but its jurisdiction over those plazas remains ambiguous. This matters for a few reasons. The reason that gets all the attention is the made-for-tabloids storyline […]