Tomorrow: Tell CB 2 You Want a More Pedestrian-Friendly Astor Place

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The Astor Place project would return asphalt to pedestrians and create a welcoming environment to -- gasp! -- sit and eat lunch. Image: DDC

If you can’t make it to Brooklyn for the Prospect Park West forum tomorrow, there’s a Manhattan livable streets effort that needs a show of support.

The reclamation of Astor Place, years in the making, would transfer thousands of square feet to pedestrians, and lay the foundation for a great public space to take shape between the East Village and the NYU district. It’s also reportedly under fire at the community board level. Manhattan CB 2 is voting its recommendation Thursday night, and sources say that a handful of opponents are organizing a “campaign of fear” to influence the decision, reminiscent of the one cooked up against improvements on Prince Street in 2008 (remember the mimes)?

It’s clear that opponents are more interested in obstructing a new public space than in making it as good as it can be. One straw man is the supposition that, if street space is rededicated for use by the general public, the area will be overtaken by corporate events (as opposed to being dominated by cars, which is presumably preferable). Another argument that’s been made against the new pedestrian plazas goes something like, “If the place is nicer, people will have lunch there and leave their wrappers littered around.”

Absurd as it may be, there is a chance that such piffle could carry the day. The local community boards are generally supportive of the project, but have already shown a tendency to waver on amenities like public seating. A few rational voices can help inject common sense into the discussion and stiffen the spines of those who’ll be voting.

If you’d like to help, Thursday’s meeting will be held at 6:00 p.m. in the gym at Grace Church School, 94 Fourth Avenue.

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