Rudy: Walk On Reviled Side A Cross To Bear
BY LISA REIN
Friday, December 26, 1997
Mayor Giuliani yesterday defended the city’s controversial experiment with no-walking zones at busy midtown intersections, calling the plan’s critics “hysterical” and “anti-car.”
Pedestrians and mass transit advocates have seized on the gridlock-fighting rules, which forbid walkers from crossing the street at 10 intersections, as highly inconvenient and anti-New York.
But the mayor yesterday hailed the value of the automobiles that the crackdown is designed to help by allowing them to make faster turns onto busy avenues.
“Cars are a desirable form of transportation, and you want to make New York City an attractive place,” Giuliani said. “Unless you really want to cut down the economic viability of the city, you need to allow cars to come into Manhattan.”
Since the plan took effect Tuesday, pedestrians heading crosstown on 48th and 50th Sts. have been confronted between Sixth and Lexington Aves. by cops and 3-foot-high barricades diverting them to the side of the street away from turning cars.
The barricades were set aside yesterday because of light holiday traffic but were expected to be back up today.
Few disagree that midtown traffic is getting worse. The holiday season brings about 90,000 more cars, buses and trucks into the city every day and even nonholiday traffic has reached record levels, officials say.
Transportation commissioners and mass transit advocates alike have said the only solution to gridlock is to discourage the use of cars in Manhattan.
But the mayor dismissed the idea that the city should be getting cars, not pedestrians, off the streets and said people were just having trouble getting used to a new idea.
“People thought that the whole situation with removing squeegee operators and aggressive panhandlers wouldn’t work also,” he said.
“There are transportation advocates that hate cars, that are anti-car,” he said. “There are these people that any change happens, and they immediately become hysterical.”
The restrictions, announced as a pilot program through Jan. 5, will be tried for “three, four or five weeks” and then be reassessed, the mayor said.
“If they work, then it’s one of those innovations people are praising us for all around the country,” the mayor said. “If it doesn’t work, we quietly slip away from it and try something else.”