Remove Pedestrian Plazas? GOP Candidates Say Maybe So

Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 04:37 PM

The Herald Square pedestrian plaza in front of Macy's used to be lanes of car traffic. (NYC DOT)

When the Republican candidates for NYC mayor gathered for a televised debate Wednesday night, they took three different stances on Mayor Mike Bloomberg's preference for pedestrians and plazas. 

Former MTA Chief Joe Lhota said he would study whether the pedestrian plazas in Times Square and Herald Square should be removed, but he held a neutral line, neither endorsing nor criticizing Bloomberg's pedestrian-first approach. 

Instead, Lhota focused on methods, offering a common criticism of Bloomberg's Department of Transportation as it applied to 34th Street. "Macy's will tell you, they didn't have a whole lot of conversations with the City of New York," Lhota said. He added that Bloomberg did not solicit enough community input for his street redesigns. "Nobody in the City of New York had any idea of what the vision was on the part of the mayor and his transportation commissioner," he said.

Lhota said that if he were mayor,  "What we need to do is explain what needs to happen with our roads, making sure we enhance mobility, not decrease mobility. make sure traffic moves while lights aren't in sync. There are lots of things we need to focus on to mitigate the traffic problems in New York." He didn't say what those are. 

Gristedes owner John Catsimatidis was more direct in criticizing the mayor's transportation policies. "I don't agree that when traffic goes down Seventh Avenue or goes down Broadway, or any of those areas, that you go down in one lane. It doesn't make any sense," said Catsimitidis.

The reduced number of lanes around those plazas could be a public safety concern, he argued. "If you have an emergency situation and you want the fire engines to get through, you want the police cars to get through, or if one of our grandmothers or grandfathers is an ambulance, you can't clog up the streets," Catsimatidis said. 

He took the opportunity to offer up assurances to outer-borough car owners, a disproportionately Republican demographic. He is against congestion pricing tolls on the East River bridges, he said. "I don't believe we should punish the outer boroughs any more than we are," Catsimitidis said.  

The third candidate, George McDonald, was alone among Republican candidates in broadly endorsing Bloomberg's transportation policies. First, McDonald said he would not re-open Herald or Times Square pedestrian plazas to car traffic. Then he shifted unprompted to bridges: "I've endorsed Gridlock Sam's fare toll program where we would actually congestion price the bridges." By contrast, the Verrazano-Narrows bridge is overpriced, he said. "Having a $15 toll, it's ludicrous," because Staten Island isn't a central business district. 

Staten Island is heavily Republican and an important constituency for Republican candidates. Transportation to the island is a perennial Republican campaign topic — Mayor Rudy Giuliani made the Staten Island Ferry free in 1993, an election year. 


Comments [5]


Before putting in any new pedestrian plazas or parks in,in any neighborhood or community,if I were Mayor of this city to be completely honest,I would make my case for or against any new pedestrian plazas or parks to be built in any particular community or borough, then call down the community board president to City Hall to discuss this proposal and let the community board vote up or down on this particular proposal.That is what I think community boards are actually for.Should there not be any community board available in the area the pedestrian plaza or park is to be built in, then I would leave it up to the next highest authority on the matter,the City Council to vote on the proposal.I as Mayor, would be the last person to vote on the proposal and only perhaps in the event of a tie in the City Council.

Sep. 09 2013 03:11 PM
Matthias from New York, NY

"If you have an emergency situation and you want the fire engines to get through, you want the police cars to get through, or if one of our grandmothers or grandfathers is an ambulance, you can't clog up the streets."

This is why we need congestion pricing!

Sep. 03 2013 12:23 PM

Johnny - traffic was always a mess... so what world were you living in? The pedestrian plazas are great for the city. The city needs LESS cars.

Aug. 31 2013 10:33 PM
Johnny from City Hall

They should remove, the traffic is a MESS thanks to King Bloomberg and the witch DOT.

Aug. 30 2013 02:35 PM
Mark DeLoatch from Oaklyn, NJ

How about a big HELL NO. Those pedestrian plazas have made NYC a much livable place, plus aids in the movement of pedestrians, and make the city a more civilized place. The GOP is perpetuating a car-ist culture that has destroyed our cities and ruined the air quality. We need more pedestrian plazas, especially in the outer boroughs like The Hub in the Bronx, Jamaica and Flushing in Queens, and Downtown Brooklyn.

Aug. 29 2013 08:30 PM

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