Real Estate

A pedestrian-friendly plan for Fidi

Fidi’s neighborhood association has produced a pedestrian-friendly plan for the area, calling for a complete rethinking of how we use the streets in its most crowded parts. The report is an amazing download of intel on how the area has changed – 75,000 residents, 300,000 workers and 14 million tourists a year – and how its antiquated street patterns make it a different animal from the rest of Manhattan.

The proposal is pretty radical for a New Yorker to absorb: it suggests getting rid of sidewalks, traffic lights, bike lanes and street parking – all factors that make drivers think they own the road.** In the reimagined streetscape, people and bikes can go anywhere on the curbless streets, meaning a car has to watch at every moment. And the report also addresses some of the issues all of us know are a real problem. I recommend reading it yourself, because it’s pretty exciting once you start to wrap your mind around it.

The idea is taken from the “slow streets” of central Amsterdam, where the bricks and cobblestones are shared by peds, bikers and cars alike. (I would like to see some corresponding numbers from Amsterdam on residents, workers and tourists…)

Here are some highlights:
• Establish three ped-friendly central plazas downtown: Brooklyn Bridge, Bowling Green and Federal Hall/Stock Exchange
• Address the garbage issue generated by recent conversions
• Address the placard parking issue by putting government cars in a designated area
• Regulate pushcarts

The report was produced by Buro Happold, who know the deal here since its offices are at 100 Broadway, along with other downtowners: Claire Weisz of WXY Architecture in SoHo and urban designers Massengale & Co, whose office is at Broadway and Chambers.

** Cars didn’t always have the right of way in this town or any town – they were marketed to consumers and to the public that way. The term jaywalking is actually an insult to pedestrians. The word “jay” means greenhorn or rube, says Merriam-Webster, and the term originated to describe “jay-drivers” of horse-drawn carriages who didn’t stay on the right side of the road. But jaywalker was later propagated by the car industry, which wanted to promote the idea that walking was for losers – driving was the only way to go.

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