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Mayor Adams Once Praised Eighth Ave. Sidewalk Expansions He Now Wants to ‘Relook At’

Adams praised the sidewalk extensions while literally standing in them back in 2022.

Photo: Benny Polatseck/Mayoral Photography Office|

Mayor Adams sang the praises of the Eighth Avenue sidewalk expansions in 2022.

Mayor Adams once praised the sidewalk extensions on Midtown's crowded Eighth Avenue that he now wants the city to "relook at" in response to the concerns of area theater operators.

"The vast majority of the people on Eighth Avenue [are] on either two feet or two wheels," Adams told reporters at a Oct. 30, 2022 announcement he held literally inside one of the painted pedestrian areas to tout the city's work on the corridor and at intersections across the five boroughs.

"These upgrades and the intersections we are upgrading are going to reduce the risk of traffic violence on our streets, these are real projects with real results," Adams added at the time.

But Hizzoner sang a decidedly different tune last week when he told reporters he was "a little concerned" about the years-old revamp that reduced Eighth Avenue from four lanes to two to make room for people walking. He also fretted over car congestion and the "overuse" of mopeds and bikes in an area where pedestrians and cyclists outnumber drivers 9-to-1.

Painted sidewalk extensions give people extra room for walking on busy Eighth Avenue.Photo: Jackie Zamora

"Eighth Avenue has been narrowed down to two lanes, and if someone is double-parked it turns into one lane, and there the community says this is having a major impact, so we need to relook at what we’re doing over there," Adams said last Tuesday.

Adams's change of heart on the project apparently arose from a walkthrough he did with Broadway theater honchos two weeks ago. The stage bigs have long staged theatrics against moves to curb driving into the busy district, including the stalled congestion pricing plan. However, some three-quarters of theater-goers travel there by foot or mass transit, an industry report found in 2022.

Pedestrian injuries have dropped by 30 percent on Eighth Avenue since the Department of Transportation began installing sidewalk extensions there in 2016. Adams specifically promoted the expanded sidewalks and thanked area pedestrianization proponent Christine Berthet in his 2022 remarks.

Berthet, who co-founded the pedestrian advocacy group CHEKPEDS and co-chairs the Transportation Committee of Manhattan Community Board 4, was taken aback by the mayor's comments last week. The extra sidewalk space made the pedestrian experience "so much more comfortable," she said.

"If there’s a car double parked, there’s the police that should be doing something about it," Berthet told Streetsblog. "We’re not going to change the design of an entire avenue to allow drivers to behave in an illegal way."

Of Adams, Berthet said, "Maybe at the time he was just reading a prepared statement and he didn’t believe any of it. We don't know."

Eighth Avenue in the past had as many as six lanes for motor vehicles — despite 88 percent of people in the area traveling on foot and squeezing into 30 percent of the space, according to DOT surveys of the area.

The city began narrowing the bustling avenue's space for motor vehicles under former Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2017, eventually expanding sidewalks on 20 blocks from from 31st Street to 51st Street to safely accommodate the crowds that often dangerously spilled over into the roadway.

Mayor Adams has established a pattern of bowing to the driving class on numerous marquee projects like McGuinness Boulevard, Fordham Road, and Ashland Place — a far cry from his comments back in 2022 and commitments to biking and walking on the mayoral campaign trail in 2021.

"Our streets are different ... today, it’s not just a car-only, a car-centered environment," Adams said at the Eighth Avenue press conference nearly two years ago. "How we use these streets is really going to determine how we’re defined as a city."

City Hall declined to comment.

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