BY RICO BURNEY | A Downtown neighborhood group is calling on the city to launch a six-month “shared streets” pilot program in the Financial District. Under the idea, pedestrians and cars would share the area that is now blacktopped street, and cars would be required to travel at slow speeds.
The Financial District Neighborhood Association asserts in its report “Make Way for Lower Manhattan” that the current design of most of Lower Manhattan’s historic streets, which are significantly narrower compared to those in the rest of the city, do not efficiently serve the area’s booming population. They contend that the area’s sidewalks are overly congested and that foot traffic often flows into the street, where vehicular traffic poses a danger to them.
The association is asking the city’s Department of Transportation to direct the $500,000 the department previously promised would go toward a Lower Manhattan traffic study to funding the pilot program.
D.O.T. has previously experimented with a similar plan in the area for a few hours one day in August 2016 when cars were told to travel at 5 miles per hour, so that pedestrians could safely utilize the road.
No city official has given his or her full support for the plan yet. But some, such as City Councilmember Margaret Chin, say they welcome discussing concepts put forth in the report.
“I look forward to working collaboratively with the community, city agencies and others to apply fresh ideas to create the pedestrian-friendly neighborhood that we all deserve,” Chin said in a statement.
The Downtown Alliance, the area’s business improvement district, or BID, has previously called for making the area near the Stock Exchange more pedestrian friendly. The alliance expressed in a statement that, while it may support such a plan in the future, it is not ready to give its endorsement anytime soon.
“Our priority is to find the resources needed to make real, concrete improvements to that historic, storied Lower Manhattan crossroads,” the BID’s president, Jessica Lappin, said. “Let’s make our existing shared streets function effectively before expanding shared streets throughout all of Lower Manhattan.”
F.D.N.A. President Patrick Kennell, for his part, said that his biggest hope is that the proposal gets people talking.
“We are in the very early stages,” he said. “This is a call to action and a call for ideas. We just want people to do something.”
A spokesperson for D.O.T. told AmNY the agency welcomes the input and will examine the proposal.