34th Street Fallout: Posturing and parades

By · Published in 2011

Macy's is concerned that Transitway could disrupt its Thanksgiving Day parade. (Image via NYC DOT)

As the dust is still settling over the Department of Transportation’s plan to scale back elements of the 34th St. Transitway, news and views are flying fast and furious. Ahead of this weekend’s Transportation Camp, let’s round ’em up.

First, The Post has proclaimed victory in a backhanded way on its editorial page. In a piece that devolves into unnecessary personal attacks and blatant falsehood, Murdoch’s rag calls upon the City Council to “topple” “Janette Sadik-Khan’s little kingdom.” Why? Because a few residents will be denied curbside access along parts of 34th St. It’s tough to see through the Post’s vitriol to find a true point, but it seems as though Alexander Hamilton’s once-great paper would rather see cars zooming past businesses in Herald Square than make room for tourists and residents to shop in comfort.

The Daily News too takes a self-congratulatory tone as well in its editorial. Claiming that “Sadik-Khan may well be trying to solve a problem that has already been remedied,” the unsigned piece claims that buses along 34th Street already move fast enough. We don’t need a $125 million upgraded — funded largely through federal monies — that make the street nicer for everyone because camera enforcement of bus lanes has improved travel time.

Again, the overall point of the Transitway wasn’t just to speed up buses. It was to re-imagine an area of the city congested with pedestrian traffic that prioritizes personal safety and public transit over automobile access. Cities thrive off of pedestrian life, and public transportation — buses that bring over 30,000 people per day — should take precedence over auto space.

Meanwhile, two news stories focusing on business in the area provide us with a glimpse into the powers-that-be who are at work here. The 34th Street Partnership, the Herald Square area BID, says they supported the pedestrian area because business owners know that more pedestrians lead to more business. Dan Pisark, VP of retail services, said though that some tenants were concerned about building access. “The plaza was a problem for some of our building owners,” he said. “So the commissioner heard that.”

On the other hand, a very powerful voice in Herald Square is against the redesign entirely. Macy’s Senior Vice President Ed Goldberg blatantly admitted that the retail giant is concerned about how the 34th St. Transitway could impact Thanksgiving. His statement can speak for itself, but the emphasis is mine. “Obviously anything that we do that is an obstruction, be it sidewalk or street, is of concern to us,” he said. “It’s about our one big magic day of the year during the parade.

Finally, the Mayor has chimed in as well. As Streetsblog reported this afternoon, Michael Bloomberg in a radio interview voiced his support for Sadik-Khan and the Transitway: “My charge to her is don’t let anybody beat you down. Do the right thing, listen to people, try to explain, try to let buy-ins and that sort of thing, but keep coming up with new ideas even if your ideas — if you can’t implement them, if the people don’t want them or whatever, don’t go back into a car or a bicycle or whatever and be afraid of trying new things.”

He spoke further about the overwhelming need to improve bus service in New York City as well. Despite the flaws of his third term, if he could realize this goal, it would be a truly successful transportation initiative. “We have to address the fact that the buses are so slow,” he said, “that they are not a good alternative to cars, because then you’re in this ever declining cycle of what’s it — non-virtuous cycle I think is what they would call it.”

The next public meeting on the Transitway is March 14. This story is far from over.

Categories : Buses

9 Responses to “34th Street Fallout: Posturing and parades”

  1. Donald says:

    “Cities thrive off of pedestrian life”

    Not exactly. You can’t treat cars and trucks like second class citizens. It’s those same trucks that everyone hates that make sure store shelves are always stocked.

    • Considering that cars and trucks aren’t citizens, we can treat them in a way that highlights their proper places in a dense urban environment. No one is saying cars and trucks are entirely prohibited from the area. As someone pointed out in the previous thread, the furthest away cars and trucks will be on one side of the Transitway is a full half block. How terrible.

      And anyway, do you really think, even with the changes, cars and trucks are treated like second class citizens? Look at the Prospect Park West where my neighbors are having a collective freak out. There are still four lanes for traffic and parked cars. The 34th St. plan will include two lanes for traffic on 34th St. and full-on curbside access on one side of the street. That’s plenty.

    • Bolwerk says:

      No, exactly. You can’t treat people like second class citizens.

      And cars do almost nothing to stock shelves. Trucks do, and calming traffic makes it easier for them to do that job too.

    • Alon Levy says:

      Thanks for demonstrating why Ford Prefect chose his name.

  2. Jay says:

    Give me a break, Macy’s is worried that the 34th Street plan would disrupt the Thanksgiving parade?….They could finish the parade just as easily in front of the Broadyway entrace, instead of turning onto 34th street. Hell, it is probably a better spot for the finish anyway.

    Sacrificing a major road everyday for a one morning a year event, thats crazy talk

  3. JS says:

    I don’t get it… as a driver, I NEVER drive down 34th street. It’s ridiculous. Traffic is painfully slow, there is nowhere to stop, and no parking garages. When I need to drive through the area, I use the high twenties or mid thirties crosstown. Any sane NY driver knows to avoid Times Square, Penn Station, 34th, and Canal street. I fully support the 34th street renovation plan. I don’t quite understand whose interests the politicians are trying to serve. Do these politicians ever actually visit these places?!

    Most of the time if I need to visit these high traffic areas, I leave my car at home and take the train. With traffic and parking, it takes the same amount of time.

  4. Blasito says:

    This is the new proposal that the NYC DOT will unveil after incorporating public input –

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