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Bollards

NYC Finally Cracking Down on Security Barriers

10:19 AM EDT on October 9, 2006

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. 

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