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Wednesday’s Headlines: Union Square Flim-Flam? Edition

12:51 AM EST on January 27, 2021

Do you see any cars on this apparently decamped Union Square East (aka Broadway)? Photo: Marvel courtesy of the Union Square Partnership

No guts, no safety.

How Streetsblog covered the original Union Square announcement — apparently too excitedly!
How Streetsblog covered the original Union Square announcement — apparently too excitedly!

Forgive us for getting so excited last week about the Union Square Partnership's $100-million plan to add 33 percent more public space to the park and to rein in car drivers. We suppose we looked at all the car-free renderings and were so impressed that we thought for a moment that the Partnership actually had guts.

Fortunately, the business improvement group set us straight yesterday.

On a Zoom call to discuss the nuts and bolts of the plan, the Partnership's Executive Director Jennifer Falk opened — opened! — by shooting down anyone's excitement over a car-free Union Square (excitement created by the very renderings her organization trotted out last week).

She admitted she was tamping down enthusiasm after some stakeholders grumbled when many media outlets (guilty as charged!) gushed about the car-free vision put forth by the agency's designer, Marvel.

Then Deputy Director Ed Janoff showed a previously unseen rendering of Union Square East with cars where none appeared in any of the other renderings. It felt like a bait and switch. It might not be, but it sure felt like one, given that all of the renderings in the original proposal show Union Square East without cars.

"We are an organization that represents the property owners, the business owners and the residents, who are also interested in circulation of traffic in and around the neighborhood," Janoff said, adding that the  original renderings would make Union Square safer for the throngs of pedestrians that pass through it. "So if [the car-free streets are] something you hate and don’t want to see, just know that we will have much more detailed conversations. … This is a launching point for these kinds of conversations."

So forgive us if we want to take back everything nice we ever said about what we thought was a revolutionary plan to get cars out of Union Square. We apologize for thinking that the Partnership really had guts to take on the entitled car-owning minority. We're sorry if we’re left to feel that the car-free Union Square plan will remain on that launching pad, failing to lift off, if the organization that created it won’t even fight for it. Serves us right for hoping that a wealthy business improvement group would do what our own government hasn't done: boldly save our city from the danger, pollution, noise and congestion of cars.

In other news:

    • Attention every candidate for every race in the primary on June, 2021: Bike and bus lanes are a winning campaign issue! Everyone who covered the Transportation Alternatives poll (Streestblog, NY Post) pointed that out. But for some reason, too many candidates can't get their head around it, as we reported in our Brooklyn council roundup earlier this month.
    • Our friends (and police union water carriers) at the New York Post will fight this every step of the way, but Andrew Yang electrified the mayor’s race with an NYPD residency requirement proposal that's based, in part, on Streetsblog's reporting. A majority of cops currently live (and spend their money) in the suburbs. Last year, Yusuf Abdul-Qadir, the director of the Central NY chapter of the NYCLU, made the clearest argument for residency requirements in the history of cops.
    • Fare hikes were delayed, but they are coming, obviously. The MTA told state lawmakers that they are losing $5 million a day (wait, how did that become our fault?!). (NY Post)
    • The Times did a nice job on its long-awaited bike parking story, but it failed to point out that a big problem is a city rule that requires "maintenance partners" for bike corrals and bike shelters — which is why we have so few of them.
    • Fans of the Gowanus Canal will be pleased to learn that a barge full of toxic muck sank ... releasing that toxic muck back where it belongs: at the bottom of the fetid corpse of water. (NY Post)
    • Jurist prudence: A judge mocked car "worship" in a ruling supporting COVID lockdown restrictions. (NYDN)
    • Speaking of Union Square, the MTA says it probably won't be able to make the Union Square subway station accessible. (The City)
    • Tribeca is all in a twist over skateboarders. Really? (Tribeca Citizen)
    • Former federal transit man Larry Penner is upset that the DOT never secured a key federal grant for bus service in The Bronx. (Parkchester Times)
    • And, finally, we hope you listened to us about the weather report yesterday. Proof of our infallible trick knee is from yesterday's headlines:
trick knee weather report

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