By Arthur Schwartz
Just before WestView went to press, Mayor Bill de Blasio dropped a bombshell on us: 14th Street is going to be closed to cars starting in June and they will be directed to go across town on 12th, 13th, 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th Streets. Without a single community leader or elected official supporting this plan, de Blasio, and his community-disinterested Transportation Commissioner, Polly Trottenberg, decided to move forward with what was supposed to be a temporary plan to address the L Train shutdown. Here is what we are about to see:
• From 5am until 10pm, passenger vehicles (including for-hires and taxis) will be allowed to go on 14th Street between Eighth Avenue and First Avenue only to drop people off or pick them up. They must take the next right turn.
• 14th Street will become a four-lane street, with one lane in each direction dedicated to buses and the other to trucks and vehicles dropping people off or doing pickups.
• Most bus stops will be eliminated. In the name of “speeding up” buses, there will be fewer stops. In fact, there will only be four stops between Eighth Avenue and First Avenue. The stop in front of the Victoria, between University and Fifth, and the stops at 14th and Seventh and 14th and Fifth have been eliminated. (Further east, as the buses turn on Avenue A and Avenue D, about a dozen stops have been eliminated.) This would make those stops less accessible to seniors and people with disabilities.
• Cars going crosstown will have to go across 12th and 13th Streets, or 17th–20th Streets, adding immeasurably to traffic on those blocks.
• The bike lanes on 13th and 12th Streets will remain; those lanes will take up 11 feet of space (parked cars take up five feet), leaving only 10 feet for the increased number of through vehicles.
Frankly, this is government at its worst. While buses on 14th Street can get slowed down at times, they only complement the much faster L Train. Trading faster, expedited bus service for congested streets, on blocks lined with 170-year-old low-rise buildings, is not a trade-off our community welcomes.
But community leaders and disability rights activists have not given up. New litigation will soon be filed—one in Federal Court under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and one in State Court challenging the plan under State environmental laws.
Polly’s Folly will not succeed without a fight!
Arthur Schwartz is the Democratic District Leader in Greenwich Village.