New York City Sidewalks Overflowing with Vibrancy, and Conflict

Jeremy Smerd describes the competition over sidewalk space in New York, as commerce overflows out of buildings and into public space.
May 2, 2012, 7am PDT | jerinbrent
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12,750 miles of New York City sidewalk may sound like a lot. Pedestrian traffic is up 10% since 2007, however, and increases in pedestrian activity have ramped up the street vendor and sidewalk cafe market. Add to this the everyday scaffolding obstacles and sidewalk closures, plus amenities like streetscaping, pay phones and, soon enough, bike-share racks scattered across the city and even a couple thousand miles of space can start to feel crowded. The former commissioner of the Department of Transportation, Alex Mautner, explains the unfolding challenges:

"Sidewalk activity is what makes New York vibrant. The question is, how do you harness it and how do you bring a modicum of decorum to the streets so that it functions?"

Fred Kent, with the Project for Public Spaces, argues that the only reasonable solution is to make sidewalks bigger. In order to harness the power of the pedestrian, Kent suggests cutting into parking and vehicle lanes to make room for wider sidewalks because, as he points out, "cars don't shop".

Thanks to Jessica Brent

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Published on Sunday, April 29, 2012 in Crain's New York Business
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