By Arthur Z. Schwartz
In what has become a fight between the rights of Village and Chelsea residents against a callous, uncaring City bureaucracy, an appellate court on September 27 lifted a stay which has been in place since June 26.
The lifting of the stay means that starting Thursday October 3 no cars or small trucks will be allowed to drive on 14th Street between 8th Avenue and 3rd Avenue, between 7am and 10pm. Only taxis and For Hire Vehicles will be allowed on 14th Street for pick ups and drop offs, and they will have to make the next possible right turn.
Our community has already endured a marked increase in cross town vehicular traffic, including large trucks, when the City Department of Transportation (DOT) barred all left turns on 14th Street, barred right turns onto Broadway, barred right turns from Park Avenue South onto 14th Street, barred right turns from 4th Avenue onto 14th Street, turned University Place around, and closed Union Square West south of 17th Street. Barring cars altogether is expected, according to DOT’s own predictions, will double the number of vehicles on cross-town streets from the number we had in early 2018. On 12th street, for example, it is expected that 350 cars per hour will come down a street also classified as part of the Village Historic District. The same can be expected for 13th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th Streets.
All of this is being done in the name of speeding up the M14A and M14D buses by one Mile Per Hour. This “speed up” will shave one minute of bus riding time between Third Avenue and Ninth Avenue. Fact is that just with the various turn restrictions, 14th Street is virtually car-less most of the day (unlike our side streets, and 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Avenues)
The lawsuit filed by a number of Block Associations, led by the Council of Chelsea Block Associations, will continue. The Appellate Division lifted the stay by a vote of 3-2. Another Appellate panel will hear arguments in January and there are sure to be similar disagreements on that panel. The lawsuit argues that the DOT did not do a proper environmental evaluation, required under State and City environmental laws, before instituting the 14th Street Plan, which includes virtually unused 11-foot-wide bike lanes on 13th and 12th Streets.
“Transit rider” groups, and the $4.5 million per year bike rider lobby called Transportation Alternatives, has characterized this community’s fight as the effort of “wealthy landowners.” (I kid you not.) It is a fight over the right of local communities to not be overrun by a zealous City Commissioner. This “win” by the City bureaucracy will not be the last word. Villagers and Chelsea residents, in the spirit of Jane Jacobs, will outlast, and beat those bureaucrats.
Arthur Z. Schwartz is the Democratic District Leader for Greenwich Village and counsel in the 14th Street litigation.