Volume 21, Number 13 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | AUGUST 8 - 14, 2008

Car-free Saturdays begin this weekend

For the next three Saturdays, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., the city will bar cars on a route stretching from Central Park to the Brooklyn Bridge, opening it to pedestrians, bikers and other non-motor vehicle activities. The event, Summer Streets, is part of an effort by the city to encourage greener transportation and expand the use of public space.

Summer Streets — which the city Dept. of Transportation describes as “part bike tour, part block party, a great time for exercise, people watching, and just enjoying summer mornings”— has been a success in other cities around the world and will be New York’s first event of this kind on such a scale.

The entirety of Lafayette St. will be closed to vehicles from 14th St. to the Brooklyn Bridge. Community Board 1, which was concerned about the traffic effects and angry at the late notification, opposed the plan a few weeks ago.

More than a half dozen Lafayette St. business owners that Downtown Express spoke with Wednesday said they were given ample warning by the city of the upcoming street closure. Most of them welcomed the temporary car ban as a potential spur to sales.

“We think that the increased pedestrian traffic could help business,” said an employee named Ada of La Peau Day Spa, between Broome and Kenmare Sts. “There is not much parking along Lafayette anyway — all of the cars on the street just go by, they don’t help business.”

A tailor at First Coustom Corp., between Canal and Howard Sts., who identified himself as Albert, was one who wasn’t quite as happy about the car restriction.

“Many of our clients are business men from all over, and some of them drive cars,” Albert said. “If the street is closed they will be made to feel very uncomfortable, and will not come in that day.”

Whether or not they patronize shops along the route, Summer Streets participants can make use of as long or little of the route as they wish and are encouraged to join in the many activities along the way that the event has planned. Among them, the local cycling advocacy group, Bike New York, will be hosting cycling lessons for those who have never gotten around to learning how to ride a bike. Lessons will take place on Spring St. between Lafayette and Mulberry Sts. for adults from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. and for children, between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

Summer Streets will also hold dance and music classes at what they call their Underground Rest Stop’s Arts and Culture Stage that will be located between Spring and Kenmare Sts. In addition to these classes, the Underground Rest Stop will host a variety of other activities from aikido lessons (Cleveland and Kenmare Sts.), a group bike ride (Lafayette and Kenmare), and a children’s scooter race (on Spring between Lafayette and Crosby Sts.).

From 14th St. the route will continue on Fourth Ave., and then on Park Ave. up to 72nd St. From there pedestrians and cyclists can turn left to Central Park.
There will be many other activities from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park on Aug. 9, 16 and 23. For further information go to www.nyc.gov/summerstreets.

— James S. Woodman






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