Houston Street Gets Tree-mendous New Sidewalks


We’re just catching up to this piece of good news in The Villager last week:

With the Houston St. renovation project on the West Side finally nearing completion, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that the sidewalks between Sixth Ave. and W. Broadway on the street’s south side have doubled in width. And, in an interesting twist, the existing trees were left in place – right in the middle of the pavement. Ian Dutton, vice chairperson of Community Board 2’s Traffic and Transportation Committee, said this was not a mistake by the Department of Design and Construction. "People really expressed concern that trees were being destroyed needlessly in this project," Dutton said. "So I think that was D.D.C.’s way of preserving these trees."

Surprisingly, some people had expressed concern about widening the sidewalks. Dutton said Lucy and Leonard Cecere, who own a building at MacDougal and Houston Street, feared they’d have more snow to shovel in the winter, while Sean Sweeney, the Soho Alliance’s director, thought wider sidewalks could become a "circus," attracting an influx of vendors and performers on top of the vendors who already congregate there under a deal with St. Anthony’s Church.

But Dutton said he believes that only a path needs to be cleared in winter, not the entire sidewalk. "I think it has actually changed the mood of the street," Dutton said of the mid-pavement trees. "It almost feels like a European promenade."… Meanwhile, Councilmember Alan Gerson is still fuming at the Department of Transportation over the project’s having narrowed traffic islands at pedestrian crossings heavily used by local senior citizens. "I am at my wit’s end with this department," he declared at C.B. 2’s meeting last Thursday.

Photo: Ian Dutton

  • mf

    This is in direct contrast to the “traffic calming” at Adams Street in Brooklyn that seems to have reduced the size of the sidewalks by a few feet.

  • ln

    An european promenade, are you kidding? Those trees do not make up for the fact that this street is designed to be an even more dangerous speedway which will allow and even facilitate cars and trucks to continue to maim and kill even more pedestrians and cyclists.

    Right now it continues to be an irresponsible illegal construction site which has already killed 3 cyclists and untold pedestrians.

    A protected bike lane would look very nice next to those trees, wouldnt it?

    Go get ’em Alan Gerson!

  • dbs

    Speaking of which, still waiting for Streetsblog to report on DCP’s Street Tree Planting zoning text amendment!

    The amendment is set for a City Planning hearing on Dec 19 (see page 14 of http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/pdf/luproc/calendar.pdf ) and pending approval of CPC, a City Council vote early next year.

  • John Hunka

    Does anyone know whether permeable or porous pavement was used around the trees? I hope so, since porous pavement is good for trees and reduces water pollution from combined sewer overflows.


  • Hilary

    Those tree pits seem to be smaller than what is required — let alone less than optimum.
    Would have been nice to use some other material or treatment than plain concrete. I mean if it has aspirations to a European promenade…

  • flp

    those trees are gonna be nowed down so fast by the speeding traffic if REAL traffic calming measures, such as bike lanes, are not installed!

    either that or the exhaust from the potential increase in traffic plus overdriving to enjoy the maximum potential of the speedway will kill the tress before they are old enough to look like real european trees rather than just a set of sad, sickly new york sidewalk trees.

  • david

    I live nearby – I like these new ‘stretch’ side walks. Puts plenty of distance between you and the traffic as you walk down Houston and there’s plenty of room for cyclists on the sidewalk too! If only they would do the same on Canal (Where theres about 100x more pedestrian traffic)

  • Ian D

    If only they would do the same on Canal (Where theres about 100x more pedestrian traffic)

    Drum roll please…

    Well, David, meet CATS (Canal Area Traffic Study). At presentations last week, NYMTC presented some possible scenarios to change the traffic and streetscape in the corridor. Nothing is set – they are trying to gauge community reaction to their study. The one scenario that would leave a lot of street space for other uses, such as possibly extending sidewalks along Canal, is to make Canal St. a one-way street (with Grand St. becoming its opposite-direction pair).

    There are a lot of details to work out, but Canal is projected to be rebuilt (the way Houston St. was) in 2012 and that will be the big opportunity to change the road completely. Make sure you stay plugged in and offer input…


  • flp

    whoah!!!!! make canal a ONE way street with GRAND the opposite direction pair (right where the exisiting bike lane lies???), sounds like a disaster in the making based on some of the arguments made re. proposed one way streets in brooklyn!!! park slopers, chime in here please! wasn’t there a claim that one way streets tend to create faster and, therefore, nmore dangerous traffic? i can see that being the case, but do not know whether any studies, etc. back that up.

  • Clover

    First up – those trees are the existing trees before construction began. They were never moved, and their pits have been ENLARGED. With the smaller sidewalk, the trees used to be right on the edge of traffic, so now they will be more protected.

    The larger sidewalk is fantastic for pedestrians. It may not be 100% perfect, but it is a 100% improvement.

  • Cool! Literally! But New York City has wide sidewalks that Cambridge, MA does not have. No way can we widen sidewalks to accomodate trees, pedestrians and cars!

  • mork


    So the question is, as always, why do we give so much space away to cars?

  • Hilary

    If we really want to create beautiful green boulevards in New York, our design standard should be double rows of trees. It’s not often done in this country, so I was surprised to see it done to great effect in Yonkers of all places.

  • Gerg

    “Cool! Literally!”

    Really? How does this affect the temperature?

  • Davis

    Gee, Gerg, let’s see…

    On the micro level the trees provide shade.

    On the macro level the trees suck a tiny iota of global warming-causing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

    And Fonzie from Happy Days liked trees too.

    Thus, the trees are literally cool.


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