There’s No Reasoning With the NIMBYs Opposed to a 14th Street Busway

The West Siders fighting measures to carve out street space for transit and biking simply "don't believe the numbers."

The plan for 14th Street calls for a transit- and deliver-only design on the busiest blocks. A two-way protected bike lane is slated for 13th Street. Image: NYC DOT
The plan for 14th Street calls for a transit- and deliver-only design on the busiest blocks. A two-way protected bike lane is slated for 13th Street. Image: NYC DOT

Unless DOT and the MTA carve out street space for the most spatially efficient modes of travel, the impending L train shutdown is going to unleash a traffic tsunami on the neighborhoods around 14th Street. Without fast, reliable buses and safe bikeways, the streets will be jammed with Ubers for 15 months.

Just try telling that to the West Village residents who turned up at an open house on the agencies’ L train shutdown plans last night.

Along 14th Street, there are currently 50,000 intra-Manhattan L train trips each weekday, according to the MTA, as well as about 30,000 trips on the M14. With the possible exception of 42nd Street, it is the most intensely traveled crosstown route in the borough.

The agencies’ plan calls for a bus- and deliveries-only section between Eighth Avenue and Third Avenue. Transit advocates warn that’s not enough and say the busway should extend east at least to Avenue A to handle large ridership demand on the East Side. On 13th Street, a two-way protected bike lane will also provide space for efficient crosstown travel.

These measures are absolutely essential to keep people moving without the L train and to prevent streets from freezing up in gridlock. But the West Siders who showed up last night wearing stickers that read “Neighbors of 14th Street” and “No Bike Lane on 13th Street” insist it’s the busway and the bike lane that will cause traffic.

Their rationale, as they explained it to me, is that they just don’t believe that a large number of people need to travel on 14th Street.

“We don’t believe the numbers,” said Judy Pesin, one of the leaders of the opposition group, who lives on 13th Street. “We think a lot of people that are coming to 14th Street are coming here because of the L train, don’t want to be on 14th Street, that’s not their final destination.”

To hold this view, you first have to gloss over the fact that up and down the 14th Street corridor there are stores, restaurants, hospitals, offices, schools, and homes that make it an origin and destination for tens of thousands of people each day.

You also have to ignore that the subway connections people make with the L train aren’t going to be less necessary without the L train. People will still have to make those connections when the train stops running.

But Pesin and others simply don’t believe the ridership statistics from the MTA. “We don’t have a comfort level with some of their numbers,” she said, “and we’re very concerned about the traffic ban — the impact on the people living on 14th Street, and the impact of the extra cars going on the side streets.”

If Pesin and her cohort (which appears to include Assembly Member Deborah Glick, who refused an interview last night but told the Villager she’s opposed to the bike lane on 13th Street) actually get their way, it’s going to backfire spectacularly, with worse traffic swamping their streets.

“What this plan aims to do is to prioritize moving the most number of people as efficiently as we can, and that means prioritizing bus movements in particular on 14th Street,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told Streetsblog. “We don’t want [riders] abandoning the bus and grabbing Ubers. That will obviously just make everything worse.”

Also present last night were volunteers from Transportation Alternatives, who passed out valentines encouraging attendees to support the busway.

Chuck Edwards, who lives on 10th Street, told Streetsblog he was disappointed by his neighbors’ harsh reaction to the plan.

“I have congestion concerns, but I think they’re larger, they’re other long-term congestion concerns,” Edwards said. “We’ve got a quarter of a million people that need to be moved around. There needs to be some changes there.”

Manhattan Community Board 4 transportation chair Christine Berthet said DOT needs to come up with strategies to mitigate traffic on side streets. “Maybe you revert some blocks, so that people cannot go end-to-end on one street for the duration of the project,” Berthet said. “We have a crisis here, we need to be in crisis mode.”

  • J

    “We don’t believe the numbers”
    With that Judy Pesin is taking a page right out of the Trump, anti-data playbook.

  • Vooch

    Did those west villagers just relocate from Ohio ?

  • Mister Sterling

    “That’s not their final destination”

    Is that a fancy way of saying “find another way to get to your final destination without touching 14th Street”? Because most people who take the L train as part of their commute work in the Financial District or in Chelsea / Midtown / Hell’s Kitchen. So have we graduated from “don’t come to our neighborhood” to “don’t pass through our neighborhood”? And tell me again, Judy Pesin, why did you chose to live in Manhattan?

  • Village Rider

    Proof positive of the need for DOT to *always* present the biggest and most ambitious version of their plan first. You’ll get fact-free opposition no matter what you do, so why not go big?

  • Fool

    The village is a bastion of institutional racism.

    The GVHPS is the definition of “f you, got mine.”

  • FlamingoFresh

    Well if this is going to be a 15 month scenario why don’t you break it up into segments:
    A) No bus and bike lanes
    B) Bus and bike lanes implemented

    Let them live in their own mess that they chose for a few months. Not sure of the difficulty of running a pilot program with scenario A for 3 to 4 months then switching to scenario B but nothing will shut up an nonbeliever than them actually seeing it with their eyes. This could be a great opportunity down the road to show how the data that is presented at these open houses are valid.

    Of course you run the risk of losing public transit riders for a time being but once scenario B starts up people will begin to flock back to transit. If it’s easy to transition then I recommend a first-hand exposure to both scenarios.

  • Guest

    Well, the Village has certainly devolved from the days when it fought to get traffic out of Washington Square Park! That episode was supposed to have taught us that predictions of traffic armageddon usually don’t pan out the way the fear-mongerers project. I bet if you closed 14th Street to vehicles except buses, bikes, deliveries and pick-ups/drop-offs of people with disabilities and prohibited all thru traffic except buses and bikes, that most drivers would simply avoid the area instead of taking side streets.

  • J

    In many ways the 1960’s protests are the same as the ones today: “Don’t change anything”. In the case of the 1960s, though, the change would have been hugely destructive to nearly everyone in the area, regardless of how they got around, whereas in this case the change is pro-transit and pro-bike, and while it may have some negative impacts on drivers, it has a huge local benefit to people who walk, bike, and take the bus.

  • Guest

    “The agencies plan calls for a bus- and deliveries-only section between 8th and 3rd.” — Do you have a reference for that? Because in no plan have I ever heard anything about their being an exception for deliveries, let alone for pick-ups/drop-offs of people with disabilities — except possibly between 11pm and 5 am. No article I could find online has such an exception either — it is strictly bus-only. I agree that some people in the area may be over-the-top here, but those of us who live on 14th Street (and patronize business on 14th Street) are justifiably concerned that the proposed plan will make 14th Street unlivable.

  • Komanoff

    Exactly.

  • Komanoff

    Why the long stretch to cover the fifties-sixties campaigns/protests to stop the Lower-Manhattan Xpwy and to ram lower Fifth Ave through Washington Sq Park, with today’s NIMBY cloth? They’re fundamentally — almost diametrically — opposite.

    And while I’m at it — why call the busway adn bikeway “pro-transit and pro-bike”? That helps segment and marginalize what’s actually most people who will be disrupted by the L shutdown? We’re the majority, let’s act like it.

  • It’s proof of the need to employ the Bloomberg approach: “we’re going to do it my way; and anyone who doesn’t like it can go jump in a lake.”

  • Vooch
  • 50-year downtown resident

    To paraphrase Mark Twain” “Crying racism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
    When one has no good argument, just sling some nonsensical comment, right?

  • 50 – year downtown resident

    Most of us believe, no doubt, in local control of government, The locals – whom you seek to dehumanize by calling the childish term NIMBY – know what’s best for THEIR neighborhood – not you guys.

    (Btw, this term NIMBY was coined by greedy real estate developers to try to marginalize local community activists. Truly it is said, “You can tell someone’s character by the company they keep.”)

    Most of us, no doubt, also have a suspicion of bureaucrats, including those at DOT. But not the lemmings here on streetsblg.

    I bet not a single commentator here lives anywhere near 14th Street. But you do have your own selfish agenda, don’t you?

    Yeah, Komanoff lives downtown, but in Tribeca. He is so ineffective at getting local change on important issues in HIS backyard that he couldn’t even get DOT to put in a stop sign on Duane and Greenwich, a block from his home, where there were many accidents and near-accidents for years involving children near a park there.
    It took local activists, or as you childishly call them, NIMBYs, to get the stop sign installed.

    Where was Streetsblog and TA in that important struggle? Sipping artisanal lattes in some cafe in Bushwicj?

    We Villagers fought Moses and won – and we shall continue to fight the current crop of bullying bureaucrats who infest DOT.

    As for the rest of the commentators, stay in Williamsburg or, better, go back to your parents basement. We don’t need your 2¢ in the Village.

  • Rex Rocket

    “We don’t have a comfort level with some of their numbers,”

    What kind of language is this? What is a comfort level?

    I wish many crowded street fairs on them this summer, and hope to see their “comfort level” plunge.

  • Rex Rocket

    Ahh, the glory that might have been! Fifth Avenue South! Direct connection to the Lower Manhattan Expressway!

  • JK

    Credit NIMBY Pesin with Orwell Award winning phrase: “We don’t have a comfort level with some of their numbers.”

  • Guest

    The protests in the 1950s and 1960s were not only against highways, but for a positive vision for the future of the neighborhood. Even without Moses’s highway plan, vehicles were still driving through Washington Square Park then. They got the park closed to traffic when no one thought it was possible.

    After they won that one, the same activists fought to get affordable housing built in the Far West Village.

    Today, all I hear from Deborah Glick and many of her constituents is “me, me me.”

  • Charles Siegel

    Most of us believe in local control of government when it is appropriate
    and in more centralized control of government when it is appropriate.

    If a railway line is being built, no one would say that each neighborhood should decide where the railway will be and how many tracks it should have. Its parts wouldn’t fit together.

    Transportation routes generally goes through many neighborhoods, so the decisions have to made for the common good, not made by neighborhoods who only care about their own interests.

  • 50-year downtown resident

    Poor analogy.
    We are not talking about a 1000-mile railroad track. We are talking about a one mile strip of city street.
    People and businesses adjacent to both north and south sides of 14 Street have spoken. They represent several neighborhoods and community boards. Their voice is united in opposition to this boondoggle concocted by a few outsiders.

    Clearly the Voice of the People has been heard. Too bad selfish outsiders with an agenda to promote wish to suppress it for their own personal reasons.

    Pray tell us: what neighborhood do you live in?

  • Guest

    Childish? Selfish? Pot, meet kettle.

  • eastphilliamsburg

    It’s sad that a few dozen self-appointed “activists” are perverting the language of social justice in the service of wanting to exclude outsiders from “their” streets. (Unless I’ve been mistaken, and the Village has really a “sundown town” in disguise all along?)

    It’s sad that the same old anti-bike arguments are being dusted off again and again when they’ve been wrong every single time.

    And it’s even more sad that there are “progressive” politicians who take the word of the privileged, well-connected, and selfish over efficient, effective transit for 400,000 working class New Yorkers who will be affected by the L shutdown.

  • Adrian Horczak

    The locals are against the transit only portion of 14th St and bike lane. How else are you going to move all the people along 14th St? If there’s an option to teleport people to their destinations let’s do it.

  • walks bikes drives

    We are not talking about a mile route, we are talking about a multimile route that transverses the width of the city along the longest crosstown street/route in the borough. It also happens to be a major thoroughfare for the movement of people from Brooklyn, other Manhattanites, as well as locals from the neighborhood. It affects hundreds of thousands of people not just the few.

  • 50-year downtown resident

    ‘multimile route “
    Please, no BS. Facts only. We are not talking about a multi-mile route.
    From 1st Ave & 14th St to 8th Ave & 14th St (where the L trains stops have their manhattan stations) is a mere 1.3 mile.
    The entire length of 14th St is barely two miles from river to river.

    “100,000s of people” = again, more hyperbole in a vain attempt to drove a spurious argument.

    Sorry, good try but no cigar.

  • 50-year downtown resident

    ‘childish” and “selfish” are adjectives
    “NIMBY” is a noun, an invective, referring to a person; adjectives are not.
    Big difference.
    Adjectives are mere descriptives.

    When you personalize someone with a better argument than you, you show your weakness.
    Try going back to your grade school grammar books before you post again, please.

  • 50 year downtown resident

    How long you lived in Brooklyn? Let me guess. Three years.
    Just arrived from suburbia and think you know better than most city dwellers? Why am I not surprised?

    And why do you think your hoary and unsubstantiated contumelies like “privileged, well-connected, and selfish” do not better refer to you and your crew here?

  • Vooch

    The sketches are priceless. You can almost hear Moses telling people how the park will have more green space with the addition.

  • eastphilliamsburg

    Lifelong New Yorker here.

    Yet another thing you’re wrong about, you odious troll.

  • 50 year downtown resident

    “Lifelong New Yorker here”
    Or so you – conveniently – claim.

    Either way, your contumelies and ad hominems don’t bolster your argument, but instead highlight their weaknesses.

  • qrt145

    Says the troll who conveniently claims to be a 50 year downtown reasident!

    I’m still waiting for an actual argument against the DOT proposal.

  • 50 year downtown resident

    “Says the troll who conveniently claims to be a 50 year downtown reasident!”

    Wow, was that really your best and brightest riposte?
    Makes no difference whether I’ve been here 50 years or 50 days.
    I live here and will be affected by this daily. You won”t. Capice/

    Troll?
    Again, more childish name calling by an habitué of this blog who happens to disagree with my viewpoint.

    Nothing like the unified conformity and single-mindedness exemplified in this blog to stifle the brain.
    If someone disagrees with your viewpoint, call that opponent a name, That is the MO here, it seems No discourse, just ad hominems in the place of reason.

    My argument against this proposal has been well described by my neighbors. Try opening up your ears and minds to it, instead of that knee-jerk you seem afflicted with.

    Basically, it is OUR neighborhood that will be affected, not YOURS.
    Community control reigns. I don’t dictate what goes down on your block. Don’t dictate what goes down in mine. Capice?

    Anyway, I am finished with you lot. No way can I convinced the brainwashed. Adios

  • Rex Rocket

    And more playground, a favorite of Moses’s for undevelopable wasteland.

  • Andrew

    In all of your rants you still haven’t bothered to articulate what your actual concern is with the plan. You’ve simply insulted people.

    Transportation planning cannot be conducted on a block-by-block basis. Sorry, it just doesn’t work that way. There are going to be a lot of L riders diverted to other modes, and the street network needs to be reconfigured to work with the new mode split. Perhaps your concerns, if they are real and not just imagined, can be addressed within the context of the bigger picture. Perhaps not, and you’ll have to deal with an inconvenience for a year and change. I can’t hazard a guess, since I don’t even know what your concerns are.

  • Andrew

    No, we’re talking about a plan to provide reasonable alternatives to today’s L riders. Given the heavy usage of the L train as a 14th Street crosstown route, the plan needs to include facilities to accommodate the large increases in bus ridership, cycling, and walking that the 14th Street corridor will see.

  • baconbaconbaconbaconbaconbacon

    Oddly enough, that’s the thing I kind of miss about Grandma Bloomberg.

  • baconbaconbaconbaconbaconbacon

    …and now Saint Vincent’s Hospital is a shining beacon of crass luxury residential consumerism doing nothing to support the surrounding community. If you’re not a billionaire, you can’t afford to live or do business in the West Village anymore.

  • baconbaconbaconbaconbaconbacon

    Chelsea, just north of 14th st.
    We jumped for joy when DOT FINALLY put in the bike lane on 7th ave.
    Would be equally thrilled to see both neighborhoods completely shut down to motor vehicle traffic (residents, deliveries & public transport excluded)

  • Mister Sterling

    Just for that, I have this uncontrollable urge to shit on your block. I don’t divide Manhattan into blocks like it’s the 70s (good block / bad block). Virtually everyone in Manhattan is either going to work, making some sort of delivery, or going home. What the hell does it matter if for 15 months there is more bus and foot traffic on 14th Street? The tunnels need to be repaired. And people have places to be. I lived in Brooklyn for 10 years and I’ve been in Inwood for 13. And I go to “your” neighborhood to eat, drink, and to take the L train.

  • Andrew
  • My Display Name

    Coordinated propaganda posing as journalism. Entitled West-Brooklyn-dwellers with greater space, trendy ‘hoods, can’t wake up slightly earlier for a limited time, they demand special commutes – at the expense of the children whose bedrooms span the entire east-west stretch of 14th St, plus their parents, and the elderly, to be woken up by nighttime deliveries, have a hard time using vehicles to get to doctors appointments, and overall upheaval. This plan would never have been done, without the colonialist schemers who don’t care about the rest of the city or the people who actually live there. There are already bike lanes on the streeets right above and below 14th Street. We love the bike lanes. Plus Citibikes. Buses. Ferries. Other train lines. No excuse to wreck the residents of 5 neighborhoods who actually live there. #HipsterHypocrisy #PeoplewayPropagandists

  • Menachem Goldshteyn

    I suspect you didn’t come here to be convinced either…

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