Car-Free Zone

By Vicki Mabrey

Jun 17, 2008 1:39pm

This won’t make you jump on a plane and fly to New York… but if you’re already coming here summer, be sure to check out our newest tourist attraction:  a pedestrian-friendly Park Avenue. 

Yep, for three Sundays in August, Park Avenue will be closed to traffic and open to walkers, strollers, rollerbladers, bikers, dancers, yoga fanatics — anything on legs, paws, or small wheels.  Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in his quest to green the city, is turning one of Manhattan’s most trafficked roadways into a promenade. 

Nearly seven miles, from the Manhattan Bridge in Lower Manhattan, up to East 72nd Street and across to Central Park will be a car-free zone. 

Now, it’s only August 9, 16, and 23rd.  And it’s only from the hours of 7am to 1pm.  But can you imagine what a wonderful street fest that will be?  I heard the city’s Transportation Commissioner on the radio this morning say there will be no booths selling funnel cakes or tube socks.  Just the beauty of all those stately old white-glove Park Avenue buildings, and thousands of people out for a daylight passaegiata.  We’ll show you how friendly New Yorkers can be! 

Oh, and why did I mention dancers and yoga fanatics?  Because they’ll be holding dance, yoga and fitness classes out there as well.  Sweet! 

Some business owners aren’t happy — their customers won’t be able to park right outside and run in.  Some of the tony apartment residents aren’t pleased that their grand boulevard may resemble the boardwalk at Coney Island.  Others shrug and say ‘whatever’ — they’ll be in the Hamptons anyway. 

The mayor responded to any hint of negativity in his usual no-nonsense deadpan.  "Look, there will be minor inconveniences," he said. "There’s minor inconveniences when it rains, when you have snow, inconveniences when it’s hot, when it’s cold, inconveniences when there are people on the streets, when there‚Äôs not."

Gotta love a gazillionaire mayor who’s beholden to no one.   New Yorkers, for the most part, do.  His approval rating is an astonishing 67 percent, six and a half years into his term.  Lots of people wish he could run again, but term limits won’t allow it. 

There also will be another amazing summer event, reminiscent of The Gates (remember that?):  waterfalls from New York’s bridges…  Check out the city’s Department of Transportation webpage for details. 

What does this have to do with real estate?  It’s all about livability, what makes living on your block, in your community, your city, your town, pleasant.  And that’s not always just bricks and siding and mortar.  So I’ll ask you:  What makes your environment livable?  Should streets be closed to cars?  Would you like having your street closed to traffic?  Or maybe some downtown streets in your town?  How often, and for what purpose?  Or is it all about the car??

I hear other cities do this… including Boston, Bogota, London, Paris, Guadalajara, and El Paso.  Why not New York?  Hey, why not YOUR city?   

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