Big Day for NYC Livable Streets Activism

gans002.jpgPedestrian improvements to Gansevoort Plaza, the product of a community-based process, are now under threat.

There’s a lot on the table today for New Yorkers looking to make streets safer and more welcoming for pedestrians and cyclists. Turnout will be needed at three events, including two meetings where recent improvements are expected to come under fire.

First up, at 1:00 p.m. you can testify at a City Council hearing about strengthening state laws to deter dangerous driving.

Then, in Williamsburg this evening, Community Board 1 will take up the Kent Avenue bike lane in what promises to be a contentious affair. Supporters of safer cycling will need to show up in force to counter the vocal anti-bike lane contingent (details here).

Attendance will also be critical at a public forum to discuss pedestrian safety improvements in the Meatpacking District. Last year, new public spaces in the area reclaimed street space for pedestrians, the result of a painstaking, bottom-up public process. Nevertheless, some business interests want to roll back enhancements to the public realm and are promising to give DOT and Community Board 2 an earful tonight (unfortunately, this meeting overlaps with the Kent Avenue meeting). From Transportation Alternatives:

On January 13th at 6:30pm, we need you to tell the Department of Transportation that you want public space and pedestrian safety. Please attend and speak out at a public forum on Gansevoort Plaza at Housing Works. This is your opportunity to help make this plaza permanent and share your ideas for further aesthetic or functional improvements.

When: 6:30 Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Where: Housing Works, 320 W 13th Street (at Gansevoort and West 4th St)

  • Rhywun

    I didn’t know Gansevoort was temporary.

    I have an idea. Maybe the “business interests” who constantly advocate against pedestrians in America’s densest city should set an example and offer up their own buildings for extra parking space.

  • For what possible reason could these businesses be interested in getting rid of the improvements to Gansevoort Plaza? It’s not like there was parking spaces there beforehand — it was just a mess. Now there is a nice place that invites people. You’d think that would be attractive to businesses. I truly do not understand.

  • These business groups need to pull their heads out of their @$$. If you run a business in New York and you think that the bulk of your customers are coming by car you’re either delusional or you sell tires. I understand that luxury goods are something different and richer people DO tend to be more likely to visit places that offer amenities for parking. But those same rich people are not going to avoid trips to Diane Von Furstenburg because they might get a ticket or have to double park. You know what I’d want if I ran a business? A plaza full of people right in front of my shop. There’s a reason that all the vendors hawk their crap in SoHo and not some deserted street corner in Murray Hill.

  • Shemp

    The businesses in question are restaurants and bars that want untrammeled drive-up taxi access restored.

  • Kaja

    > I truly do not understand.

    Here is why:

    > The businesses in question are restaurants and bars that want untrammeled drive-up taxi access restored.

    This is not productive:

    > These business groups need to pull their heads out of their @$$

    How about instead: They need to be patronized by people on feets and bikes, who don’t pull up in taxis.

    Who comment to the headwaiter and any management types around at how nice the street is outside, and how they’d hate to hear this restaurant worked to rip it up and give it back to taxis.

    I’ve taken to going out of my way to ride to nice restaurants on my bike (note well, I am a pussy bitch who avoids riding when it is cold like it is now). I tie up right in front, and then I spend a bunch of money. You should do the same, in Meatpacking, which admittedly is a place I never go except to scope out the JSK hotness.

  • Streetsblog, in your followup stories, please name the “business interests” that oppose ped improvements. I need to know their names so I can boycott them. I don’t live in the West Village, but I get there fairly often, and I want to make sure those businesses never get another penny of my money. I have a long memory.

  • Kaja

    Your emotional one-man boycott will be less effective than shopping while being a cyclist.

    Dis their politics, while you pay your bill. I’m sure you’ll get an agreeable, polite reply, and I’m sure the tone and volume of their protest will drop, measurably.

    People are very honest about their own interests, and pay attention to the evidence.

  • I’m pretty sure that Mark is not a cyclist, and that there is something to be said for the obtuseness of business owners in these cases. They act like nothing they do to their customers, directly or indirectly, will matter, then express ever greater outrage as they lose business to chain stores—because of thousands of people having an “emotional one-man boycott.” Look at Whole Foods. Everyone knows they are no angels, but the company makes up for it in the public subconscious with marketing and inventory that is tailored to this century, and by running their checkouts like they don’t actually want to waste your time. Other chains (CVS?) may operate exactly as poorly in NYC as their locally owned counterparts but they’re able to blast sophisticated branding at people once they go home and turn on the television, replacing actual bad store experiences in memory with idealized ones in brightly lit, impecable studio stores.

    The sad fact is that businesses anywhere without the benefit of consistently funded national brand uplift have to work twice as hard, but it often seems like they are doing so in the wrong direction. We don’t even know who we’re talking about here—maybe someone can report back from the meeting—but there’s that ridiculous grocer’s association that is suicidal enough to publicly take positions against livable streets and antagonize anyone that supports its policies with a regularly updated weblog dedicated to their regressive positions. It’s incredibly counter-productive for them to do such a thing, but they can’t see past their own immediate driving and parking costs to realize it. So they take their image further into the dirt, such that you can hardly imagine the kind of yuppy archetype that everyone hates but also needs as a customer choosing an independent grocer over WF for a mid-week grocery run. And yet, they blame all their misfortune on the chains, or on the mayor. Sad.

    More information is always a good thing. We should know who these business are, and they should know that we are not happy with the position they have taken. Nobody should have to go in to a NY place of business announcing “hey everybody, I WALKED here imagine that!” for them to realize that that is true of most of their customers. Even for restaurants and bars, I woud bet they get a lot more walked-over (from home or subway) vs. cabbed-over customers than they realize. We’re not and won’t be as visible, but our twenties are just as green.


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