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April 1

De Blasio To Announce Car-Free Lower Manhattan Today!

The NYPD has erected temporary barricades on West Broadway to prevent southbound drivers from entering the new car-free zone. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Please note: This story, posted at 12:01 a.m. on April 1, was an April Fool's satire.

The signs all say "Walk."

Mayor de Blasio will announce today the creation of a massive pedestrian zone in Lower Manhattan — effectively making the area below Chambers Street off-limits to cars and trucks.

The announcement is expected this morning at 10;30 at the intersection of Chambers Street and West Broadway, where the NYPD hastily erected a bollard barricade late on Sunday (photo above) in anticipation of the change in city policy. A source at City Hall, who was permitted only to speak on background, said such barricades had also been built on Greenwich Street to prevent cars from going below Chambers. Similar barriers have been set up on St. James Place and South Street near the Brooklyn Bridge to prevent similar driving on the East Side.

"The time has come to reclaim our city from cars and break the car culture," de Blasio's prepared remarks say, according to the City Hall source. "It's a small step and I ask New Yorkers to give it a chance. You can still drive all the way across the city from your home to your gym — unless, that is, your gym is below Chambers Street."

In the coming days, barricades will be erected on Warren, Murray, Albany streets and Battery Place to prevent drivers from entering Lower Manhattan through Battery Park City. Drivers will still be permitted to use the FDR Drive and West Street, but they will not be allowed to exit the roadways below Chambers on the West Side or the Brooklyn Bridge on the east, the source said.

Delivery trucks will no longer be able to enter the zone, but the Department of Transportation will create space on the edge of the vehicle-free area for the unloading of goods, which can then be delivered via cargo bikes on existing roadways or handtrucks on the sidewalk (no wider than four feet).

The move follows similar street restrictions in numerous European cities, such as London, Oslo, Madrid and Barcelona.

Mayor de Blasio has long resisted calls to follow the lead of other world capitals, so it is unclear what motivated the mayor to change his mind. A source in city government told Streetsblog that the mayor was still smarting from a recent exchange with a reporter who accused him of not being a pedestrian.

"Something changed in him that day," the City Hall source told Streetsblog. "It was like, 'They say I'm not a pedestrian? I'll show them I'm a pedestrian!' Funny thing is, he still doesn't walk anywhere, except from the car to the front door."

Indeed, the mayor is sometimes a pedestrian. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Indeed, the mayor is sometimes a pedestrian. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Indeed, the mayor is sometimes a pedestrian. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

As word leaked out about the mayor's plans, world leaders shared their support.

"Es maravilloso!" said Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena, touting better air quality and a 30-percent increase in business revenues increased since cars were banned from large segments of the city center. "I have shared our success with Señor de Blasio and I am glad he is seeing what can be achieved when you take cars out of public spaces."

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