Memo to Chris Quinn: New York Voters Like Livable Streets

Christine Quinn is not known as a politician who shies away from shying away, but it might be time to ditch her public indifference toward NYC DOT’s street safety and public space program.

If you were chauffeured around by NYPD in a giant SUV every day, you might be "agnostic" about street reclamations too. Photo copyright ## Hirsch##.

Monday evening, the Times reported on a Times Square Alliance study that, Great Recession notwithstanding, shows booming growth since 2007. Currently, the district “contributes one-tenth of all of the jobs in the city and $1 of every $9 of economic activity,” to the tune of $110 billion per annum — 11 percent of the city’s economic output.

Rosemary Scanlon, an economist who has lived in the city since 1969, said the numbers seemed plausible because the area was filled with tourists. Ms. Scanlon, the interim dean of the Schack Institute of Real Estate of New York University two blocks from Times Square, said that earlier studies had shown that people who came to the city for Broadway shows and museums stayed two nights or more, on average, and spent significant sums while in the city.

She said the effects of the transformative power of redevelopment may be most visible west of Times Square, where Larry Silverstein and other developers have built luxury apartment towers in places where no market for them previously existed. (The study gives Times Square credit for spawning all of that construction.)

But the most convincing evidence Ms. Scanlon offered was the newfound respect paid by New Yorkers. “I’m hearing people saying, I know this sounds nuts, but I had some out-of-town visitors and I took them to Times Square,” she said. “I find myself saying, I want to walk you down there and I want you to see this.”

Though the Times doesn’t mention it, “this” refers at least in part to the public plaza installed in Times Square in 2009, a project that transformed the “crossroads of the world” from a gridlocked nightmare to a place people want to be. Judging from the fawning Quinn profile in Elle magazine, however, the back of the “Chrismobile” may not offer the best perspective.

She supported Mike’s move to extend term limits, which paved the way for his third term as mayor, as well as his unsuccessful attempt to institute “congestion pricing” to make motorists pay more to enter parts of Manhattan. But she blocked his pet plan to build a sports stadium over the West Side rail yards. As for his controversial “nanny initiatives,” she agreed with the smoking ban in city parks but is agnostic on the no-salt thing and the proliferation of bike lanes and the weird tables he set up in the middle of Broadway, transforming the street into an ad hoc (some might say ugly) plaza.

So business is booming thanks to the plazas, the new bikeways are preventing needless deaths and injuries, and New Yorkers have embraced the policies. When 64 percent of Democratic primary voters favor bike lanes, why should a frontrunner in the mayoral race feel “agnostic”?

It’s probably too much to ask of city journos to own up to the manufactured skepticism or apologize for the unbridled nastiness with which they greeted Bloomberg’s signature public space initiative, or for a fashion magazine to grasp the difference between regulating salt and keeping people from being run over. But the smart money is on the pol who recognizes a good thing when she sees it.

  • Anonymous

    I agnostic on supporting Quinn until she gets some religion on safe streets.

  • It’s amazing how dated and out of touch that Susan Dominus piece about Times Square feels.  And it’s only from 2009!  It almost reads as if it’s a piece from 1875 questioning the future of Alexander Graham Bell’s newfangled telephone.

    The bad news for innovators like Janette Sadik-Khan is the short-term tide of criticism they face as they push for change.  The good news is that history typically proves the critics wrong.

    Christine Quinn would be wise to get on the right side of history as soon as possible.  Most of New York is already there.

  • Ex-driver

    Yeah, tables are so weird. Me like cars better! Go Quinn!

  • guest

    This is a bizzare post. Is Streetsblog/Transportation Alternatives really going to war with Speaker Quinn, who was an outspoken supporter of congestion pricing and risked serious political difficulties ramming it through the Council? CP was the holy grail of the TA/Streetsblog crowd before it went down in flames in Albany and you all adjusted your sites a little lower to focus on putting Home Depot patio furniture in Times Square.

    Quinn was a critical champion of CP. She took big risks carrying it in the Council and (I promise you this) is still feeling the political aftershocks of asking her members to vote for a plan that was unpopular in large parts of NYC (don’t believe your own BS, I’m a supporter of CP and I promise you it was wildly unpopular outside of the Park Slope Co-op belt).
    Quinn is an extraordinarily thoughtful and capable public servant who deserves more respect than she gets from the left.

    Also, I’m sorry. But “business in [in Times Square] is booming because of the pedestrian plazas?????” You must be smoking some of what used to be solde in Times Square before the Disney stores and lattes showed up. Business was booming long, long, long before JSK showed up. The Times Square renaiscance goes back to the Koch administration.

    Again, the livable streets advocates (like many fanatics on the right and the left) prove to be their won worst enemies.

  • > Quinn is an extraordinarily thoughtful and capable public servant who deserves more respect than she gets from the left.

    Isn’t Quinn running as a Democrat? If “the left” is such a bother, exactly what political philosophy does this extraordinarily thoughtful politician claim?

    > Again, the livable streets advocates (like many fanatics on the right and the left) prove to be their won worst enemies.

    Yet here we are making remarkable progress on the streets year after year. It’s only when elections roll around that flacks crawl out from under their rocks to tell us how irrelevant we are unless we swear fealty to, in this case, their weird countess of parking.

    But I have to ask. Have you decided to believe that the livable streets movement is fanatical left or right? It’s been called both, of course, and we owe a lot to a certain 1%-er. What does a Quinn supporter think, other than that we are awful people if we question your candidate? I would love to know. Is Livable Streets supposedly with Occupy Wall Street or Billionaire Bloomberg? And which brand of crayons do you like to draw with the most?

  • Barnard

    guest, fyi, Streetsblog and Transportation Alternatives are two separate, independent organizations. It’s not one group; they’re two groups.


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