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Thursday’s Headlines: Shops Ahoy! Edition

Photo: Eve Kessler

Just in time for the holidays, Mayor de Blasio rolled out the latest of his “Open Streets” initiative: “Open Storefronts,” which will allow COVID-strapped retailers to use sidewalks to set out merchandise — but not the curbside spots the public has generously devoted to free private car storage (colloquially known as “parking spaces”). That differentiates “Open Storefronts” from the “Open Restaurants” program, in which the city has allowed eateries to spread out both onto sidewalks and into adjacent curbside space in order to enable socially distanced outdoor dining.

This is about sidewalks,” de Blasio said yesterday in announcing the “Open Storefronts,” although he said that exceptions could be made “when we have a whole street closed off because of the open streets.” 

As Streetsblog reported, “DOT Deputy Commissioner Margaret Forgione said ‘there will be no impact in the roadway,’ and said the onus will be on business owners to make sure ‘pedestrians can keep moving’ (evidence that this program is intentionally privileging drivers over pedestrians).”

Um, Mr. Mayor: Sidewalks and curbs all over the city have been commandeered in a bid to save our foundering restaurants. Is retail somehow a lesser order of business? Doesn’t its survival also merit some adjustment in free private car storage — especially when pedestrians, parents or caregivers pushing children in strollers, and disabled people with mobility assistive devices, jostle dangerously for room on our too-narrow sidewalks? Just sayin'.

Many outlets covered: amNY reported the story straight. Gothamist went all rah-rah, quoting the NYC BID Association calling the measure "an exciting and bold" plan to help small businesses during the crisis. The Post complained that the city "will look like a giant street fair."

In other news:

    • New York State is requiring everyone — yes, everyone — riding in the backseat of cars to wear seat belts. (Newsday, Mid-Hudson News)
    • Paging Moscow Mitch! MTA service cuts could kill almost half a million local jobs — which is why our transit system needs a federal bailout. (NYDN, NYPost, NY TimesNY Times)
    • A “scam artist” subway conductor got a six-figure disability pension while working in law enforcement in two other states. (NYDN, NYPost)
    • The DOT kicked off its annual “Dusk and Darkness” public-awareness campaign in hopes that mere exhortation will stop motorists from killing pedestrians during night-time gloom. Real measures to improve street safety? Not this time ... (SILive, ABC7)
    • How do you get fired from the NYPD? Not by abusing protesters, it seems. Killing your fellow officer in a fiery crash will do it, however. (NYDN)
    • The cop who kneeled on the neck of a man in the East Village during a social-distancing-enforcement arrest resigned rather than face discipline. (NYDN, Gothamist)
    • Finally, China (yes, China!) is trolling us on the MTA bailout question:

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