Mayor de Blasio is off to Iowa next week, to lecture 2020 voters on how well he’s governing New York. One problem: The rest of the country — and the world — is here, looking at our Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. And they can see that the mayor holds them in utter contempt.
Walking around Midtown should be fun. Saks, Bergdorf and Tiffany spent the year thinking up their holiday windows, and property owners festoon their plazas with Instagram-worthy baubles. The centerpiece is the Rockefeller tree.
This year, the city’s tourism arm expects 6 million travelers between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Despite predictions foreigners would boycott President Trump, international passengers at our airports were up 3.9 percent through September.
Mayor de Blasio... has allowed security theater in an age of “truck terrorism” to destroy the city’s most famous streets.
Travelers are encouraged to see the tree, and it’s no mystery why. You don’t need a ticket, so people who took bus rides from Pennsylvania can enjoy themselves as well as people who spent $5,000 to come from Japan.
But what used to be fun, if you don’t mind a little jostling, has now become Tree-pocalypse.
De Blasio, who never walks the streets and who last year admitted Midtown’s flagship retailers’ quality-of-life struggles aren’t his “central concerns in life,” has allowed security theater in an age of “truck terrorism” to destroy the city’s most famous streets.
It’s hard not to conclude that the terrorists have won. Walk along Fifth or Sixth Avenue in the 40s and 50s, and you’ll encounter huge cement barriers plunked haphazardly over crosswalks, blocking the path of the dozens of people (on the weekends, hundreds) trying to cross.
Traffic engineers have widened some of these crosswalks over the past decade to accommodate the ever-growing numbers of people on foot. But now, the city has directed the police to transform wide openings into small pinch points.
The cement barriers aren’t going to stop a truck attack. They’re just going to direct any attacker toward the pedestrians stuck on the wrong side of the tiny openings as they wait to reach the sidewalk.
Where the city ran out of cement, it has dropped metal barriers all over the streets. These new pedestrian prisons don’t serve a purpose. They’re going to make any stampede in a panic worse. And they make our nicest streets look like a scrapyard.
Then, there’s traffic direction.
Sometimes, police close off 49th and 50th streets to car and truck traffic. Sometimes, they don’t. Officers give up at some point during the weekend crush, letting the people smashed onto sidewalks have extra room on the street side before they suffocate each other.
Sometimes, agents let people cross the avenues at the mid-block crossings that Mayor Rudy Giuliani set up two decades ago to reduce conflict between walkers and cars. Sometimes, they don’t.
On the weekends, persistent danger becomes a crisis waiting to happen.
In bizarre cases, one side of a mid-block crossing is open and the other closed, leaving walkers who don’t look ahead stuck on the traffic side. Elsewhere, distracted agents wave tour-bus drivers into crosswalks against the light as people have already started walking.
On the weekends, persistent danger becomes a crisis waiting to happen. Two cops will stand with a piece of string or crime-scene tape to hold back a mass of people far exceeding the capacity of their cement pen as cars and trucks whiz by.
Police bark orders to people to “do not stop here.” But if people want to cross the street, where, exactly, are they supposed to go?
The mayor is inviting disaster by hoping terrorists (and bad drivers) will respect our string. But he’s also creating a miserable experience for people who spend time and money visiting us.
Managing traffic on 49th and 50th is a losing game, consuming police resources that could be used elsewhere. Why not close these streets off with sturdy, well-designed retractable bollards, and confine delivery vehicles to the slowest hours?
The two avenues in this area, too, should be reserved for buses and deliveries. Rational use of the streets would make more room for people and permanent, attractive barriers along the corridor — and would give police a better-defined traffic task.
Contrary to what the mayor may think, the people from Iowa and elsewhere are not that dumb. They know when they’re being treated like factory-farm cattle because de Blasio is busy being progressive somewhere else.
This piece originally appeared at the New York Post