Home Asides Great Moments in Urban Planning: Curbside Cafe reaction

Great Moments in Urban Planning: Curbside Cafe reaction

by Benjamin Kabak

As part of the next Department of Transportation measure designed to make the city’s sidewalks more pedestrian- and business-friendly, the agency is set to approve 12 curbside cafes in Brooklyn and Manhattan that will extend the sidewalks by six feet. DOT is working hand-in-hand with community boards to gain approval and set standards — including the hours — for these outdoor spots that are prevalent in Europe, but still The Post is upset. Road space and parking spots might be taken away! How terrible.

The piece in this weekend’s paper by Susan Edelman contains a few gems too. Sean Sweeney, head of the SoHo Alliance and noted hater of all things livable streets, says, “We don’t want outdoor dining or public plazas in our neighborhood!” Imagine that: SoHo, one of the most walkable and restaurant-rich neighborhoods in the city, doesn’t want public plazas.

But that reaction pales in comparison to the statement uttered by Maury Schott, a North Carolina transplant who’s now the chair of CB2’s sidewalks committee. “If a driver happens to be texting,” he said, “he could slam into a cafe at 35 to 40 mph.” Got that? We should protest street improvements because if a driver happens to be illegally texting while speeding, someone might get hurt. As businesses rush to apply for permits for these outdoor cafes, that is some sound logic from folks grasping at straws.

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Lawrence Velázquez March 14, 2011 - 3:14 pm

If a driver happens to be texting, he could swerve out of control and smash into a building at 35 to 40 mph.

Obviously, we should get rid of buildings.

al March 14, 2011 - 3:47 pm

Its time to jack up fines and penalties for accidents caused by speeding and distracted driving. If texting and driving is really as bad as DWI, then the legal and financial consequences should be as harsh.

Spencer K March 14, 2011 - 5:44 pm

If a driver happens to be texting and doesn’t notice the red light, he could run over people at 35 or 40 miles an hour.

Obviously, we should get rid of pedestrians!

Lawrence Velázquez March 15, 2011 - 3:25 pm

If a driver happens to be texting, he could swerve out of control and hit another car at 35 to 40 mph.

Obviously, we should get rid of cars!

See what I did there? Win.

Anon March 14, 2011 - 3:16 pm

Off Topic: CEMUSA bus shelter video screens hacked?

Christopher March 14, 2011 - 3:19 pm

Now admittedly these are actual “leaders” of various political entities in NYC. But sometimes I think media has a rolodex of known curmudgeons to just say random contrarian stuff. There was something in NYT’s the other day where the Known Curmudgeon complained about bike lanes because there were no too many lines on the streets. Adding to visual clutter. Seriously?

The ideal of having community boards is great but they become stacked with Known Curmudgeons unfortunately. I saw the same thing happen in DC when I lived there. Only worse as there they had even more power. (Especially with approval alcohol licenses).

AC March 14, 2011 - 3:45 pm

Or maybe, Maury Schott, we could get people to stop texting while they’re driving instead of catering to their carelessness! What a dumb thing to say.

Billy G March 14, 2011 - 4:17 pm

Slamming into crowds while texting? That’s what bollards are for.

BBnet3000 March 15, 2011 - 12:09 pm

Indeed. If this were actually a serious concern, bollards would do the trick nicely. We’ve heard the same lame arguments in favor of retaining parking on the side of the road rather than a bike lane, and if its really a concern (in a few places it might be), bollards are the solution there too.

In Europe theres bollards all over the place.

Douglas John Bowen March 14, 2011 - 4:43 pm

Better get over to Hoboken to see both outdoor cafes AND widened sidewalks being installed, the latter mostly to handle pedestrian flows.

Not that SoHo really has to worry about Hoboken. Still, the two aren’t separated by great distances; it’s not like measuring SoHo against Singapore, or some such exotic, distant spot.

“Christopher” isn’t all that far off with his Rolodex comment, though it’s often prompted more by time constraints, and/or laziness, than by malicious intent.

Alex C March 14, 2011 - 8:37 pm

I thought we were supposed to be beyond this insanity here in New York. Why do the stupids get all the attention? Can we just ignore them completely? Their train of thought is downright insane.

Alon Levy March 15, 2011 - 4:04 am

Why do the stupids get all the attention?

I don’t know. Why does the sun rise in the east?

pea-jay March 14, 2011 - 8:56 pm

So does anyone actually take the Post drivel seriously? Even most of the commenters on the site were mostly not taking the bait.

Davide-NYC March 15, 2011 - 6:53 pm

While this may sound OK on it’s face there are some real problems to this. Notably that the DOT has in one fell swoop circumvented all of the sidewalk cafe rules that have been crafted over the years. There are liability issues, there are hour of operations issues, there are accessibility issues, there are noise issues, there are vagrancy issues, etc, etc. etc.

Apparently the DCA, the DOS, the NYPD, the NYFD and LPC have not been consulted. The real issue is that this does an “end-run” around many hard fought and intelligent rules by simply taking it out of DCA’s hands and giving it to DOT which has zero experience with sidewalk cafes.

Sure you get the curmudgeon quote and nothing else, but there are real issues with this. It’s not a bad thing per se, it just doesn’t seem to be “fleshed out” enough. I’m for 80% of the livable streets proposals. Just not 100% of what JSK thinks is right for our streets.

Alon Levy March 16, 2011 - 9:00 pm

Ironically, I’m for only about 50% of JSK’s proposals, but this one is in this 50%. First, extending pedestrian space in areas where there are traffic jams on foot is nearly always a good idea. Second, extending sidewalks is the best way to do it, since it makes it clear that it’s pedestrian space, and not repainted car space.

On top of it, if they really are importing European codes, instead of dressing American codes with European flavor, then it’s a step in the right direction.

Davide-NYC March 17, 2011 - 2:32 pm

“First, extending pedestrian space in areas where there are traffic jams on foot is nearly always a good idea”

But this does not extend pedestrian space. It does create seating space but by definition would not allow for pedestrian traffic. Widening sidewalks FOR WALKING is a good idea. Depending on how the platform is built it could be trapping pedestrians into an already too narrow sidewalk. Trapping pedestrians is not a good idea.

The devil is in the details.

Sadiktator-Khan Slayer August 24, 2014 - 5:26 pm

Well, three years later and the program went nowhere. Another loss for the Spandex Brigade and their feckless leader, JSK! ROTFL


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