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Car-Free Washington Place? Not in My Driveway, Say Residents

1:25 PM EST on March 7, 2008

A rendering in section of NYU's proposal for a pedestrian-only Washington Place, between Washington Square Park and Broadway.

Earlier this week, Community Board 2 in Greenwich Village held a public meeting to get feedback on NYU's proposal to pedestrianize Washington Place, part of a larger plan to improve public space in the school's core campus. Nearby residents aren't happy with the number of cars that park in the area now, but (surprise!) they don't want to do what's necessary to improve things, either. A tipster sends along this recap:

Tuesday night's CB2 meeting on pedestrianizing Washington Place turnednasty. There were about a dozen or so residents speaking decidedlyagainst restricting car access, including a couple folks who infused alot of hostility to the entire discussion. Even though residentscomplained that it was being used as an NYU parking lot, they also lovedthe fact that you can always make great time speeding down thisincredibly wide street.

Even the idea of taking away parking to plant trees seemed controversialto this crowd; they preferred the space to be taken from pedestrians.They were very hostile to the NYU presenters, and belligerent to thehalf dozen or more folks who thought more space for pedestrians was agood idea.

I hope this was simply a case of them hating the messenger (NYU) but notnecessarily the idea of giving more space to pedestrians. Still, therewere a lot of motorheads in the room. There was, however, a good showingon the pro-pedestrian side: George Haikalis, Barry Benepe, T.A. and afew others were there to fly the flag. Still, it's disappointing tothink that this is the community that closed the leg of Fifth Avenuethat used to run through Washington Square Park many years ago. Seemslike the Jane Jacobs legacy was lost on this crowd.

The full plan, called NYU Plans 2031, consists of an array of measures intended build the school's central campus within its existing footprint, while simultaneously improving the public environment. A full, up-to-date explanation, with renderings, is available in this PDF.

"NYU realizes that the pedestrian experience in their core area is not very pleasant," says Ian Dutton, vice-chair of CB2's transportation committee, who spoke favorably of the pedestrianization plan. He notes that most of the cars on this stretch of Washington Place are usually circling for parking, and that if full-on pedestrianization doesn't happen, NYU will most likely take other measures to improve the streetscape, like a greening program and adding street amenities.

Image courtesy of NYU

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