OPINION: Thrown under the bus on 14th St.

BY ELISSA STEIN | After the 24/7 L-train shutdown was averted, one might have assumed that the extreme and invasive aboveground mitigation plans for 14th St. and its surrounding neighborhoods would have been avoided, as well.

Elissa Stein.

Without the crush of displaced commuters, it wouldn’t be necessary to take such drastic measures to move people across town since the L train would still be running, albeit on a revised night and weekend schedule.

But instead of scrapping their plans, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Department of Transportation continued to push their contingency measures, proposing two options for 14th St. — one a straight-up busway with emergency-vehicle access, the other allowing cars, as well — at community board meetings and L-train open houses.

Despite community pressure that 14th St. be open for two bus lanes and two lanes for other traffic, the mayor announced last week that the city would go with the more-restrictive option — the one originally prepared to deal with the catastrophic shut down that didn’t occur. He stated that they were going to “try an experimental new transit improvement” on 14th St. His cavalier attitude was reflected in his statement, “[W]e have an opportunity to try something new and really get bus riders moving on one of our busiest streets.”

Mr. Mayor, your experiment, to ban vehicles on 14th St. except for buses, trucks and emergency vehicles, means that car traffic will be shunted onto side streets, some of which have already recently been narrowed to one lane to allow for bike and buffer lanes as a result of the L-train shutdown that did not happen.

Has anyone spent more than a moment contemplating the negative impact on surrounding neighborhoods? These streets already struggle with backups caused by school buses and Access-A-Rides, gas deliveries and garbage pickups, FedEx and UPS trucks, move-ins/-outs and dumpsters. We’ve recently dealt with transformer fires, water-main breaks, and short- and long-term construction projects.

And where have our local elected officials been in all this? Last week, they banded together, issuing a statement that they hear our concerns and will be monitoring the situation. We need pushback and action — not waiting and seeing.

In the end, Mr. Mayor, you are choosing commuters over community, prioritizing travel time over quality of life and safety. We’ve often been labeled as NIMBYs, elitist, privileged car owners concerned only with real estate value and personal comfort. But has anyone stood on one of our corners as a truck turns and ends up on the sidewalk because there’s not enough room to maneuver? Have you ever pulled an elderly neighbor to safety as an electric bike whizzes the wrong way down a bike lane, at night, with no lights? Have you ever watched an ambulance stuck in traffic, sirens wailing, because a delivery car is parked in the way, with no driver in sight?

Mr. Mayor, you said you want to “save people valuable time for the things that matter.” News flash: Quality of life and safety matter.

Stein is a member, 14th St. Coalition Steering Committee

25 Responses to OPINION: Thrown under the bus on 14th St.

  1. You have to ask yourself – if altering the current traffic flow from just one street out of the 250 or so that run through the west village, causes THIS much of a problem; if it drives you to such short-sighted lengths to return a situation back to the same miserable (but predictable, and probably also unexamined) status quo – are you not better off directing your energies at further reducing private motor vehicle traffic through the neighborhood? It's really hard to take you seriously otherwise. Jane Jacobs would be embarrassed.

  2. Pearl-clutching at its finest. You live in a place where the vast majority of your neighbors rely on transit, not cars, to get around. If you want to live where every street is car-centric, ignoring those who rely on buses that move tens of thousands of people a day, move to Florida.

  3. “We’ve often been labeled as NIMBYs, elitist, privileged car owners concerned only with real estate value and personal comfort.”

    At least you’re self-aware.

  4. Alex, Chris and j.b
    Why don't you ignorant arrogant jerks just move to hicksville. You'd be much happier there. Trying to preserve the quality of life in the Village, indeed to save the very essence of the Village is what we residents are trying to do. Who said anything, or gives a f— about a street being car-centric? I don't own a car and rely on public transportation, but flooding the narrow residential streets abutting 14 Street with heavy traffic causing air and noise pollution is not a solution to a problem that requires a more nuanced solution than just banning private vehicles on 14 Street. You f—ing "Holier than thou" morons think you can intimidate we residents have another think coming!!!!!!!!!

    • It seems Elissa left out “reactionary”. Take a breath and listen to JB’s advice: the problem is too many cars. Reducing lanes will reduce cars and make life better for everyone, including you.

  5. Alex, Chris and j.b
    BTW: The Village is one of the crown jewels of NYC.. It has a cultural and historical patrimony that is important to be preserved for future generations. People come here from around the world to visit the Village, so maybe there's very GOOD CAUSE TO BE A NIMBY WITH RESPECT TO SAVING THIS COMMUNITY. JANE JACOBS CERTAINLY THOUGHT SO!!!!!!!!

    • I wish I were rich.

    • "It has a cultural and historical patrimony that is important to be preserved for future generations." Yes because, as we all know, the village attained its world-renowned character and historical significance due to auto-centricity! The neighborhood was designed to be walkable and transit friendly, my guy. It's the cars, which only emerged in the last hundred years, that have most drastically erased the historical character of the neighborhood. If that was what you really cared about you'd advocate to go back to the days of streetcars and carriages, which played a central role in developing the character you claim to hold as tightly as your pearls

  6. I'll give credit where it's due: This is a lot better written and to the point than the dirty old man sex tourist The Villager last published on this topic.

    If you're actually concerned about traffic on side streets rather than wanting to stop all change to the car-centric designs given to Manhattan streets in the 1950s and 60s, would you support filtering out through-traffic on side streets, leaving them for local access only? Of course you wouldn't… because the traffic on side streets is just an excuse to stop change, to stop any policy that would speed up buses, to stop additional pedestrian space from uncrowding the sidewalks on 14th Street and making walking more pleasant (which has been dropped from the plan, so there's a win for you), and to stop enabling people to cycle more safely and comfortably in Manhattan.

    These are things that will improve safety and the quality of life in the area… unless you're already upset about changes in our city and society and just want things to go back to the way they were when you were young, before everything was so darn complicated.

  7. It sounds like your real problem is too many cars, and poorly managed parking/loading. (And since you mention access-a-ride, lack of accessible subway stations)

  8. Elissa is dead on right. This drastic plan is utilizing a solution for a problem that did not happen and will turn the side streets into a honking nightmare for residents and visitors alike. Already the shops are vacant down town. Nobody will want to come near the area and the rest of the shops will close. But hey, we will have plenty of buses. Night work guys.

  9. These changes are completely tone deaf to the catastrophic effects they will have on the neighborhood.

    14th Street was never choked with traffic and even the changes that have been made so far have created traffic jams on 13th Street. Turning these small side streets into one lane streets has not taken into account the elderly, handicapped or those with small children. There is no place for a vehicle to pull over for pick up or drop off without completely blocking traffic.

    It is disingenuous to say changes will be temporary and suddenly change it. These changes will adversely effect us all.

  10. RationalThoughtPerson

    The anti-car nuts can’t wait for their prize, a radically redesigned street design and modified grid for 14th Street and Manhattan, no matter that congestion pricing and a higher capacity L-train with more accessibility is coming relatively soon.

    This plan is agenda driven, not needs driven. It doesn’t solve the problems on 14th Street, and creates serious other ones for the community and surrounding streets. Let’s stop this madness before it claims casualties.

    Trucks aren’t going to be on this designated truck route, if they are blocked from making a left turn between 3rd and 9, because of the turn restrictions. They and other traffic will end up on side streets creating a whole new set of serious problems. And the trucks will slow the buses if they do take 14th Street.

    The MTA/DOT think removing stops, and busways with trucks, will make the M14 lines faster? So the people who ride the bus don’t matter? The needs of the seniors, kids, and parents, people who ride this bus are being ignored. So is EVERYBODY else who commutes, lives, works, goes to school, and comes for medical care, lives, and visits.

    So the plan proposes fewer stops to get more riders, trucks in the bus lane, and trucks and more traffic on the side streets with the turn restrictions, and general chaos for the surrounding communities and for the city in general. All this with a plan that has no real purpose or urgency because the anti-motorized vehicle lobby wants it, now. An “experiment” indeed. Dr. Frankenstein would be proud.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  11. The 14th St "experiment" will force residents & businesses on and around 14th St to risk safety and diminish quality of life due to traffic congestion CAUSED by the city. We didn't authorize the 100,000+ for-hire-vehicles that now clog our streets – lobbying by the giant Ubers & Lyfts can take credit for that. Pay attention – the vast majority of vehicles passing through have TLC plates. Solve the problem but don't punish the victims. Go back to 4 lanes of traffic on 14th St – including dedicated bus lanes. Don't force a drastic solution where it is not warranted. We are not lab rats.

  12. Gail

    The 14th St “experiment” needs to be rethought.

    This was designed by newly minted Phd’s who do not live here.

    Let’s halt it now. How about feet on the ground from DOT/MTA top staffers to see the reality and direct traffic.

    Great article.

  13. I blame Uber and Lyft. These services need to be regulated. We do it to yellow cabs. Why are these companies getting such preferential treatment from our elected leaders? Makes no sense.

  14. I agree, Ellisa Stein and (in the comments) Gary Tomei, JonL, Irene, RationalThoughtPerson, Judy, Gail Fox, and Guest.

    These Transportation Alternatives and related extremists are pushing their own personal views and life styles down the rest of our throats (via the DOT’s Polly Trottenberg and Mayor DeBlasio), no matter how impractical they are.

    Let’s get back control of our streets.

  15. Dear Villager editor,

    Why do you publish false statements like: "car traffic will be shunted onto side streets, some of which have already recently been narrowed to one lane to allow for bike and buffer lanes". Every street except 14 street has 1 moving lane so it was not narrowed to one lane from one lane. Street space that was dedicated to storage of private motor vehicles was repurposed as a bike lane, allowing the movement of human beings in the neighborhood instead of free storage of private properties on public land. That's all. Now in order to eliminate backups by delivery and utility vehicles the other side of the street where free storage of private vehicles still exist needs to be designated loading zones: allowing home deliveries, commercial deliveries , utility vehicles and curb access for passengers drop off and pick up.

    • Hey Choresh. Come and check out one of these streets and bring a tape measure. The bike/buffer lane is significantly wide then when it was straight up parking. Before the change it was easy for one car to pass another, even trucks could squeak by and not cause a back up. But one narrower lanes means that there's no room for passing and traffic jams are far more frequent.

      As for parking, those spots were used by residents, but also people who work in the neighborhood, students at local colleges and law schools, contractors, delivery services, visitors, people visiting doctors, doing local shopping, and more. Serious misnomer that people keep playing that rich elitist parker card. And, for the record, rich people generally park in garages.

  16. Hi Elissa,

    You are aware that the buffer right now is paint on the road and does not block any vehicle to pass another vehicle if they wish to. I am pretty sure that you have observed 12 and 13 st bike lanes being used de facto as loading zones for delivery, utility and passenger drop off and pick up vehicles.

    As I have mentioned in my earlier comment I agree with you that street space needs to be allocated for contractors and delivery services. Let's go together to 11 St which still has free parking on both sides (with a tape measure) and see how many cars are being stored on the street and are never moved except to be double parked, engines running, twice a week for an hour for street cleaning.
    The street space cannot accommodate parking for residents, people who work in the neighborhood, students at local colleges and law schools, visitors, people visiting doctors, doing local shopping, and more because there is not enough room to accommodate all theses vehicles. All the vehicles of people who are residents, people who work in the neighborhood, students at local colleges and law schools, visitors, people visiting doctors, doing local shopping, and more are creating congestion, noise and air pollution in the residential streets.

  17. These changes are completely tone deaf to the catastrophic effects they will have on the neighborhood.

  18. This plan is agenda driven, not needs driven. It doesn't solve the problems on 14th Street, and creates serious other ones for the community and surrounding streets. Let's stop this madness before it claims casualties.

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