Steve Cuozzo Hides the Truth: Midtown Biz Leaders Support Street Redesigns

Steve Cuozzo columns about street reclamation are usually so divorced from reality that we’ve been letting him go unchallenged for a while. The insanity is usually self-evident.

Steve Cuozzo. Photo: New York Post

His latest screed against the 34th Street busway is no different. It’s got all the usual fearmongering (“be afraid,” is the mantra), contradictions (in one breath, DOT is “advancing the project in secrecy,” in the next, it is meeting with the local BID and community boards — how secretive!), and lack of concern for anyone who rides a bus or walks.

There’s one hallucinatory claim in today’s Cuozzo column that just begs to be debunked: the idea that giving more space to transit and pedestrians constitutes “reckless disregard for consequences to one of the world’s great shopping and business districts.” Because, as we all know, what makes Midtown Manhattan special isn’t the walkable blocks or terrific transit access — it’s the unfettered ease of driving through town.

Cuozzo can’t muster any sources to go on the record and bolster his assertion, unless you count his coup de grace — David Letterman’s reference to the Times Square plazas as “a petting zoo.” Maybe that’s because the actual representatives of those great shopping and business districts strongly support the street reclamations in Midtown.

Here’s Dan Biederman, director of the 34th Street Partnership, in an interview with Streetsblog last summer:

  • “In general, we think that the DOT’s initiative of adding more public space to roadbeds is very much the right answer.”
  • On the pedestrian plaza planned for 34th Street: “We are supportive of some added space for pedestrians between Fifth and Sixth.”
  • On deliveries: “The past history on Broadway is that DOT finds ways to deal with that. I’m hearing absolutely no screaming or yelling about how the Broadway boulevard is killing this or killing that.”

There’s also this response Biederman gave to the Times when asked about the idea of a large-scale bike-share last December: “Almost every one of the mayor and the transportation commissioner’s innovations in the area of street life have been good for New York.”

In an interview with Streetsblog San Francisco in 2009, Times Square Alliance President Tim Tompkins had this to say to skeptics of street reclamations:

Pedestrianization of a former roadway is a mixture of art and science. There are people who have studied this — you know, what do people do in public spaces — and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It has to do with design, management, the nature of the space, what’s going on around it. So it’s not an easy thing to get right. One of the great things about this commissioner and mayor is that they’re willing to experiment and see what happens.

The positions of Midtown’s business leaders are not difficult for a columnist like Cuozzo to track down. Who exactly is being secretive here?

34th Street users
The vast majority of people using 34th Street are pedestrians and bus riders. Don't expect to learn that in a Steve Cuozzo column. Image: NYC DOT
  • Larry Littlefield

    The 34th Street business leaders are rational NIMBYs. They understand that through traffic reduces the value of their property and the level of business activity, not increases it, so they don’t want it.

    Cuozzo is being secretive about what he actually advocates — using 34th Street as a through route between Long Island and New Jersey. It’s kind of like Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes claiming they are advocating on behalf of pedestrians or “better bike lanes” rather than double parking or their own aesthetic.

    For someone like me, the extent of lying in politics is really disappointing. Or, to put it more accurately, the limited extent of anything but lying is disappointing. And not just on street use issues.

  • The Letterman reference is even more ironic when you consider that virtually no one from his audience arrives there by car. They’re almost all tourists who walked to the theater through Times Square from area hotels.

    So, on the one hand you have one very rich comedian who jokes about pedestrian plazas and on the other hand you have, well, EVERYONE ELSE.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Outstanding takedown of Cuozzo, who’s a bonafide idiot. Someone needs to print this article, make ten copies and send them via snailmail to the editors at the New York Post.

    Granted, I don’t think the editors at the Post care too much about being honest or accurate but they should at least be aware that they’re being called out on their dishonest scumbaggery.

  • “Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that’s even remotely true!” –Homer Simpson

  • Marcia Kramer’s Eyebrow

    Holy crap – Cuozzo likes purple.

  • vnm

    How does a guy who works at 48th Street and Sixth Avenue not get that Midtown is completely based upon a good public transit network and a reasonably enjoyable pedestrian experience? Maybe he’s part of the small minority of people who drive or are driven to work. If not, his position is even more baffling.

  • Woody

    @vnm, The Police give Press Parking placards — and the State provides plates with a P to indicate Press — to each of the major news organizations in the city. That could make sense. Reporters and photographers covering a fire, explosion, and so forth should not have their cars or vans ticketed or towed away.

    Of course, the top guys grab some Press placards for themselves. Plenty placards are surplus to actual needs (a nice way for the Police top brass and City Hall to stroke the folks at TV, radio, and newspapers) and so are distributed based on rank or clout. For example, for decades we’ve seen lots of Press cars parked around the Time & Life Building, two blocks up 6th Ave from the News Corp, Fox, and Post offices. Note that the Time & Life organization published several weekly magazines, but no dailies, and had no one rushing out to cover a big fire in East Harlem or the like.

    I’m sure it’s the same at the Post and the New York Times. The top rank managers, and management’s favored journalists like Steve Cuozzo, get free on-street parking. Quite a nice perk of power, and how dare we suggest these elites be treated like commoners!

  • Felix

    I made my first trip to the new Times Square a couple of years ago shortly after reading a Cuozzo critical of it. In the piece, he claimed that local business owners were secretly against the changes but afraid to speak out.

    I arrived on a Saturday night and Times Square was packed and lively. I went into a deli ordered a sandwich and asked the manager what he thought of the changes outside. He replied “this is wonderful, they’re doing this kind of stuff all over the city.” He then went on about how great it was for pedestrians and bicyclists.


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