A stroll down Manhattan’s brownstone-dominated, tree-lined West 85th Street used to be relaxing.
Now it’s infuriating.
I took a walk there recently, only to find the sidewalk blocked halfway between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues. Horns blared as cars were prevented from entering the street. Why? Work is being done on private Manhattan Country School, which received a variance to enlarge its new building despite protests from the community about increased noise, traffic and the negative impacts on light and air.
Similar situations are driving New Yorkers nuts all over the city. Construction, scaffolding, a steadily growing number of ugly sidewalk sheds, traffic congestion — all doing their part to make too many streets and sidewalks nearly impassable. Last week in Park Slope, a 74-year-old Prius driver on an obstacle course street allegedly flipped out and tried to squeeze his car through the bike lane. Bad idea. The damage? Four sideswiped parked (and double-parked) cars.
The streets have become a nightmare to navigate, says Manhattan tour guide Jim Sterner. “Construction, bike lanes, more Uber drivers — it’s overwhelming,” he said. “Until recently, I could show people everything north or south of 42nd Street in four hours or less. Now that’s impossible.”
Back on the sidewalk, the noise is deafening. According to The New York Times, complaints to 311 about banging and jackhammering have reached record levels. Yet the noise and tumult grow. If you can walk more than two minutes anywhere in 2016 NYC without passing a noisy construction site, you’re lucky.
How much congestion can we endure? Unless you’re running out of tube socks, it’s time to limit the number of street-clogging festivals. How many cookie-cutter street fairs peddling souvlaki, slushies and schlock do we need?
Noise, traffic and construction are part of the deal in NYC, but there’s a limit, isn’t there? City officials continue to study ways to contain congestion, but it’s only getting worse. Seems that builders and others continue to get permits and variances. Meanwhile, we everyday New Yorkers are losing time, our hearing and our minds.
Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.