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.

  • “It’s clear that opponents are more interested in obstructing a new public space than in making it as good as it can be.”

    As much as I personally like the idea of closing off the easternmost portion of Astor Place and turning it into pedestrian space, it’s this kind of painting the locals with a broad brush that prevents me from fully supporting Streetsblog’s position.

    Anyone who has come across the fair-weather denizens of Little Red Square who, literally, live on benches and play amplified music as late as 2 am, should understand the concerns of residents to add to public space that encourages, or even welcomes this kind of 24/7 activity. Is there a better solution? Maybe. Maybe not. But that’s certainly no justification to paint anyone who doesn’t embrace Streetblog’s position or this particular design as obstructionists.

  • Holly

    Seems like it would be good for local businesses. My husband and I live in Union Square and he works in SoHo, and I’m a Japanese food lover. You would think we would be in the area all the time walking through and shopping — but no. Astor place is pretty ugly. Who wants to walk around there, across those huge (under-utilized) roads, with confusing traffic patterns that make crossing annoying. I think making it pedestrian-friendly is a fine plan.

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