Volume 20, Number 44 | THE NEWSPAPER OF LOWER MANHATTAN | MARCH 14 - 20, 2008


Leadership lacking Downtown on traffic

The utter lack of foresight and leadership almost all Downtown politicians have shown on congestion pricing has been maddening. They have a chance to make amends by doing all they can to somehow get this plan passed before the City Council and state Legislature by the March 31 deadline — enabling New York to collect $354 million in federal funds to implement a plan to generate money for subway and bus expansion while reducing pollution at the same time. Yes, they are right, there are ways to improve the proposal, but their negativity and skepticism have fed the opposition.

Councilmember Alan Gerson has a clear understanding of every minute detail of this plan, but he has gotten so lost, perhaps in the Canal St. pollution fog, that he can’t see the big picture: Charging drivers 8 bucks to enter Lower Manhattan will reduce the amount of traffic — period. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been open to supporting the plan, but he has taken an uncharacteristic hands-off approach to the members he has enormous power over. He keeps saying the M.T.A. has a capital budget deficit of about $10 billion, but that assumes congestion pricing passes and the subways get $4.5 billion the next five years. He can’t just assume it, he’s got to make it happen. Assemblymember Deborah Glick, State Senators Martin Connor and Tom Duane have been far too negative or silent. What is their alternate plan to reduce congestion and fund mass transit? They have not had the good sense of Council Speaker Christine Quinn, their fellow Downtowner and an early supporter, but we are hopeful for an 11th hour conversion.

A Princely idea

A Department of Transportation proposal to make Prince St. in Soho into a pedestrian mall on Sundays in the warm weather has opened up a fierce local debate.

Right off the bat, though, we think the idea has much in its favor. Indeed, pedestrian advocates see it as a no-brainer. And, unless we can be convinced otherwise, we would tend to agree.

The concept is to close Prince St. to car traffic between Lafayette St. and West Broadway on Sundays between Memorial Day and Labor Day — or for about three months.

The main effect of this plan is that it will, for just one day per week, reclaim one street from cars.

Making six blocks of the roughly 55 in all of Soho car-free four days a month for one-quarter of the year is not much to ask. In fact, it probably is something that should be extended to more streets.

Opponents argue traffic will spill over onto neighboring streets, increasing, not decreasing, congestion. But Sunday is a perfect day for this experiment, as car traffic is lower and pedestrian traffic is high, particularly during the summer. Sadly, we suspect some residents’ opposition is motivated by a desire to maintain free parking spaces for their own cars. That’s disappointing and puzzling.

The Prince St. pedestrian mall sounds like an experiment well worth trying.





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