In the past week, the DOT has revealed details about two bold new plans to create pedestrian plazas in high-traffic parts of Manhattan. As part of a proposed 34th Street Transitway, a pedestrian plaza would be created on the block between Fifth Avenue and the Avenue of the Americas. Further downtown, the DOT wants to turn a block of Broadway north of Union Square into another pedestrian plaza, which would extend along East 17th Street to the eastern corner of the park, at Park Avenue South. But the two proposed changes have come at a price: the fragile inner serenity of NY Post columnist Steve Cuozzo.
Cuozzo—the tabloid's official Curmudgeon-in-Chief—previously blasted the DOT for turning part of Broadway in Times Square into a pedestrian plaza. (He believes the transformation hurt Broadway's "dynamic commercial nexus.") Now these latest plaza plans have him seething, and he is so much fun when he's cranky:
The DOT's rationale seems to be that the existing [express bus] lanes don't work well because some motorists ignore the rules by driving and even parking in them. Of course, there's a solution that would cost a lot less than $30 million: build a fence. But that elegantly simple remedy would get in the way of [DOT Commissioner] Sadik-Khan's campaign to transform throbbing Manhattan into a Copenhagen-like lolling ground.
Her ever-proliferating bicycle lanes not only look dreadful, they're hardly used; I've counted as few as a dozen riders per half hour, mostly Chinese-food deliverymen, in the lanes on Grand Street, Ninth Avenue and Broadway. Her Times Square "plazas" are even worse—block after block of prison-yard asphalt devoid of meaningful landscaping, furniture or other amenities, crowded mainly with Big Mac-chomping tourists. Not only are they unworthy of their iconic setting, they will be conducive to mugging and "wilding" should there occur even the smallest uptick in street crime on top of the one we've already seen.
Let's see... Scaremongering? Check. Subjective observations presented as proof? Check. Vague generalizing? Check again. And we didn't even get to the part where Cuozzo derides the Union Square plan as "vulgar" and dismisses the 34th Street Transitway as Sadik-Khan's "taxpayer-gouging ego trip." Just read the whole rant for yourself, it's as entertaining as it is irrationally contemptuous.
For balance, we asked Transportation Alternatives' spokesman Wiley Norvell for a counterpoint; he writes, "New York City has 6,000 miles of streets, and it's narrow-minded to think that every inch of them should be all-car, all the time--especially in a place where pedestrians and bus riders outnumber drivers 9 to 1. By cutting traffic injuries and fatalities dramatically, projects like the 34th Street transit-way ultimately save taxpayers money. Remember: every traffic death costs $3 million in emergency response, litigation, medical treatment, etc."