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De Blasio May Give In To Staten Island’s Bizarre Open Streets Revolt

12:01 AM EDT on May 12, 2020

Front Street at Canal Street on the Staten Island waterfront. Photo: Vince DiMiceli

Staten Island drivers just can't give up a single freakin' roadway.

The borough's leader Jimmy Oddo took to Twitter last week to claim that opening a short stretch of redundant Front Street on The Rock's North Shore to pedestrians is hurting local businesses — even though the liberated stretch has just two storefronts, both of which are still accessible to car drivers!

Last week, as Mayor de Blasio launched his open streets plan — which began with just seven miles in five boroughs, but will eventually comprise 100 miles — the city declared Front Street between Edgewater Place and Canal Street closed to thru car traffic, though the road remained available for local deliveries and other local drivers.

But that didn't stop Oddo, who says the businesses, both on Front Street and inside the Urby apartment complex, are suffering.

The Staten Island Advance got on the story, quoting the owner of Pastavino, a restaurant at Urby, who claimed (without showing receipts) that his business has plummeted since the roadway was opened up to pedestrians last week. He claimed that the recreational space has "made it nearly impossible for delivery drivers to drive in and out of the restaurant," which is simply not accurate.

It is true that drivers headed to Urby from the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge can no longer take the "short cut" down Front Street, but sharing the street by no means cuts off the area from the rest of the neighborhood.

Urby still has a direct connection to nearby Bay Street and the Downtown neighborhood of Stapleton — a neighborhood de Blasio has pointed out has been particularly hard-hit by the coronavirus — via Prospect, Wave and Water streets.

Urby, a waterfront residential and commercial development, is on an portion of Front Street where cars still own the road. Photo: Vince DiMiceli
Urby, a waterfront residential and commercial development, is on an portion of Front Street where cars still own the road. Photo: Vince DiMiceli

A good portion of the now-shared street, a popular fishing spot for locals thanks to its unfettered access to the upper harbor and spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline, southern Brooklyn, and the Verrazzano, is being used for parking for workers building the new train repair shop for the Staten Island Railway near the Clifton Station.

During a visit to the location on Monday by Streetsblog, workers were spotted moving supplies for the construction job from storage areas on the waterfront side of Front Street without having to deal with cars that typically speed down the strip while bypassing busy Bay Street, Stapleton's commercial district.

Asked about the push to reopen the street to traffic during his Monday press conference, de Blasio said he would take into account feedback and that he was "definitely concerned about those businesses" — though it was unclear if he knew that the businesses are not actually cut off from their customers who drive.

The same street was in the news back in 2018 when workers were ordered by the city to fence-off the waterfront area, angering anglers and kayakers who frequented the strip. Those complaints led to the city taking down the post that had been put up for the new fence.

Front Street is known for its easy access to the harbor and spectacular views (beyond the trash-strewn shoreline). Photo: Vince DiMiceli

And back in 2014, Oddo argued that three new traffic lights the city installed on the street were unnecessary, and demanded they not be turned out. He won that battle, and to this day, just one set of the three lights — those right in front of Urby at Prospect Street — are working.

Front Street is also home to one of the speed-reducing cameras that has been marked with a yellow ribbon by lead-footed vigilantes attempting to warn their brethren to hit the break lest they get a ticket in the mail. Streetsblog put up additional yellow ribbons on the strip so that drivers would observe posted speed limits rather than speed in places where they did not see a camera.

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