OK, so Mayor de Blasio doesnt care about stop signs. But theres one transportation issue he needs to start thinking about if he wants his city to grow. A look at one of New Yorks biggest success stories, the Far West Side, shows that thinking about the physical environment — early and often — matters a lot.
The city population reached a record of more than 8.3 million in Mayor Michael Bloombergs final term — reversing a population loss of a million that began in the 50s.
New York didnt grow evenly, though. Manhattans West Side — below Central Park but above Greenwich Village — grew by 18 percent between 2000 and 2010. Thats more than seven times the citys rate — even as the Village and the Upper West Side lost population or remained stagnant.
Why the growth?
Lower crime under both Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani before him meant that more people wanted to live in New York, but landmarked neighborhoods like the Village were full. The Times Square cleanup nearly a quarter-century ago meant more office workers — and some chose to live a short walk to the west.
Infrastructure investments mattered, too — including what didnt get built.
A prime example is Westway, the proposed six-lane highway under new landfill that wouldve run along the Hudson River from Downtown to 42nd Street.
Just before Christmas 1973, the old elevated West Side Highway, which had taken cars along the Hudson River for a half-century, began to fall down. The state-run highway was closed “indefinitely.” Westway was to be its multibillion-dollar replacement.
But just as urbanist Jane Jacobs beat a Lower Manhattan Expressway a decade before, activists in Greenwich Village and on the Upper West Side helped kill Westway. A decades worth of battles ended in the mid 80s, when a federal judge and Congress put the scheme out of its misery.
Westways defeat now looks like a winner. If Bostons Big Dig is any indication, Westway wouldve gone way over budget and time — and consumed billions we needed to invest in mass transit, which gets the vast majority of people into and around town, anyway.
The West Side avoided other bad projects. Giuliani and Bloomberg wanted stadiums there — but such arenas attract visitors, not residents, and those visitors dont eat at local restaurants or shop in local stores.
So what was the right infrastructure?
The Hudson River Park. In 1990, then-Gov. Mario Cuomo OKd the park that stretches along the length of the river. But it took another half-decade — and another governor — to get it going.
Ex-Gov. George Pataki recalls the pushback he got from his own party. “They said you are building a $100 million sidewalk for liberal West Siders who didnt vote for you,” he says. (Giuliani provided another $100 million.)
The park “actually was crucial” in encouraging private-sector development on the Far West Side, maintains Oskar Brecher, head of development for the Moinian Group, which has since built two rental towers and a condo tower (now sold out) in the area, and now is building a combo office and residential tower.
Developers Larry Silverstein and Douglas Durst also see the park as one of the amenities that made their nearby apartment buildings succeed. Some residents of their buildings use the parks bike path — the most heavily pedaled in the country — to commute downtown.
Just as the West Side benefited during the Bloomberg era from earlier decisions, future generations will benefit from Bloombergs decision to invest $3 billion in city money in a new subway extension (and another nearby park).
This summer, the Far West Side will get a new subway stop, with the No. 7 train coming west from Times Square and Grand Central. Building just one modest stop took a long time: Bloomberg mentioned the project in his first State of the City Address, in 2002.
No, the project isnt perfect (among other problems, the mayor cut out a second stop). But Bloomberg could have chosen to build nothing at all, a worse outcome.
De Blasio, too, needs to think big for the future — and not only new construction. Without mayoral interest in existing subways and bridges, theyll fall apart — and its back to the 70s.
Original Source: http://nypost.com/2014/02/24/mayor-needs-to-look-at-far-west-sides-success-to-help-city-grow/