I propose a pilot program to pedestrianize stretches of 7th Avenue, 5th Avenue, or both. Pedestrianization could extend between major cross-roads depending on how ambitious we want to get. There are so many ways this can be approached so just take this as one example.
You could look at Prospect Avenue through to 9th (9 blocks), 9th Street through to Union Street (12 blocks), or 3rd Street through to Union Street (6 blocks) just to name a few of the many possible variations.
I would propose a pilot program starting in Spring through to early Fall, where a stretch of 7th Avenue is blocked to traffic (with cross-street traffic at most points). In conjunction with the city, neighborhood, schools, and local business seating, tables, plants, trees, and other amenities be organized at various spots.
Pending study and evaluation of impact (criteria of success should be determined in advance) these should be made permanent and additional funds secured to implement temporarily measures for trial as a permanent solutions. In addition dedicated physical barrier added for improved and safer bike paths would be phased in over time.
Pedestrianization had faced resistance with valid concerns about car services, limiting customers, and pushing traffic elsewhere. There are issues to overcome but they’re not blockers.
Accommodation or changes for buses, windows of time for morning deliveries to businesses etc. Despite what drivers feared, the pedestrianization measures actually increased the speed of traffic in the Midtown area of the city by 7%. Models exist to deal with these issues.
Not to cherry pick best outcomes but studies from the UK found an increase in trading of up to 40% across a number of pedestrianized sites. Similarly, in NYC, there was a 49% drop in commercial vacancies in pedestrianized zones. Pedestrianization of a busy city centre street in Mexico City resulted in a 30% increase in commercial activity and 96% reduction in violent crime. Pontevedra (Northern Spain) pedestrianized its 300,000 square meter city centre in 1999, bringing myriad economic, social and health benefits to its residents.
As we become increasingly conscious of the corrosive effects cars and air pollution have on our health, the numerous cyclist and pedestrian deaths in in our neighborhood, we should look to reclaiming our streets. This shift in urban planning is already underway and the social and economic advantages have clearly been demonstrated.