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Car-Free Streets

Thursday’s Headlines: Defend Open Streets Edition

The Willoughby Avenue open street is one of the best-used and least-controversial in town. The neighborhood has fairly low car ownership. File photo: Gersh Kuntzman

The Department of Transportation — the same agency that eliminated the Willoughby Avenue open street in Fort Greene for about six hours back in February — is now seeking feedback on the car-light roadway between Fort Greene Park and the Pratt Institute in Clinton Hill.

The survey (click here to fill it out) seems to push back on the tiny group of area car owners who have been attacking the open street by reminding them that the mile-long space was a Covid-era initiative "to reinforce priority for pedestrians and cyclists, while balancing local vehicle access needs on the corridor."

What could be wrong with that? Well, everything, of course, if you believe the unsigned letter being circulated in the neighborhood, which makes some outrageous (and demonstrably false) claims — and even argues that the open street has destroyed the "tranquility and beauty" of the formerly car-filled cesspool:

As Streetsblog has reported, Willoughby Avenue works so well as an open street because it has restored the tranquility and beauty by banishing cars. And that's been the formula at the city's other standout open street, on 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens, where the absence of cars has made the roadway safer, popular, great for kids, better for people with disabilities, more joyous, more equitable, and historically reparative.

So fill out the survey and set the record straight about a great public resource: one of just a few miles of roadway where cars are not welcome.

In other news:

    • The Times finally took a look at the talk of a "gas tax holiday," which we wrote about a few days ago.
    • Sometimes there is such a thing as a free lunch: OMNY free-ride pilot proves so popular it's likely to become permanent. (amNY)
    • Meanwhile, our own Dave Colon teased some interesting news out of the MTA board meeting: back-door boarding, which is seen as a key to speeding buses, is stalled again. (Streetsblog)
    • And Julianne Cuba pulled out the motor vehicle-related news from the Legal Aid Society's report on the NYPD's apparent racial bias. (Streetsblog)
    • "Hamilton" this ain't: A play about Robert Moses is making its way to Broadway. (The New Yorker)
    • Pandemic stress has turned many drivers into road ragers, according to the Wall Street Journal. Too bad the car-loving business paper didn't bother to see that there is a solution to the problem of too many cars and badly designed roads: fewer cars and better designed roads.
    • The MTA is spending the not-insignificant sum of $50 million to buy more security cameras to reduce fare beating. At 88 stations. (NYDN)
    • We had to admit to having a real chuckle over the Times's story about where a casino might open in New York City. The story was fine, but reporters Dana Rubinstein and Luis Ferré-Sadurní allowed Bally's Chairman Soo Kim to say — unchallenged — that Manhattan is a bad place for a casino because “it’s not the easiest place to get in and get out of.” (Our old man editor would have made us put in a paragraph about how Manhattan is served by four commuter rail lines, two ferry systems, bridges with bike lanes, taxis, more than a dozen subway lines, buses, express buses, SBS buses, and lots and lots of sidewalks.)
    • Help wanted: Subway operators. (NYDN)
    • We linked to this a few days ago, but now it's becoming more likely that President Biden will use the Defense Production Act to help mining companies get federal funding for the dangerous and environmentally unfriendly extraction of lithium, nickel and graphite, cobalt and manganese. (Reuters)
    • Divide and conquer: The fight to help parents with strollers get on city buses is now pitting moms and dads against people in wheelchairs rather than uniting them against the common enemy: a transit agency that doesn't do enough for either group. (amNY)
    • Growing up in New York City is good for your brain. (NY Times)
    • And, finally, don't forget that both Final Four bouts in our annual March (Parking) Madness contest are live and awaiting your vote. First, here's the 84th Precinct of Downtown Brooklyn against the 110th Precinct of Elmhurst, Queens. And in the nightcap, choose either the 41st Precinct of Hunts Point or the 24th Precinct of the Upper West Side. Polls close at noon on Friday.

— with Eve Kessler

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