BY COLIN MIXSON
Fidi residents fed-up with constant gridlock and towering trash piles are soliciting signatures for a petition demanding that the city fund a study measuring just how crowded Downtown’s streets and sidewalks have gotten after decades of breakneck growth.
Quantifying the swirling deluge of car, truck and foot traffic in Lower Manhattan is a key first step in unraveling the quagmire of Downtown’s traffic woes, the petition’s author argues.
“We realized that no one knows how many vehicles or pedestrians there are,” said resident and Financial District Neighborhood Association member Paul Proulx. “We know that there are a lot of ways that we could make our neighborhood better, but how can we propose solutions without a comprehensive study of the problem?”
The so-called Manhattan Tip is the city’s oldest neighborhood, and the layout of its current streetscape dates back to the colonial era, when horses, buggies, and the occasional wheelbarrow comprised the sum total of ye olde traffic pattern.
Now, as Manhattan Tip neighborhoods undergo an unprecedented residential boom — with the Financial District in particular experiencing the fastest residential growth in the city — the area’s narrow, disjointed streetscape, coupled with rampant construction, is becoming a serious liability to locals’ quality of life, according to Proulx, who expects the problems to only worsen as more newcomers pile into to the towering luxury condos currently on the rise.
Traffic jams aside, massive garbage piles — which will increase by 19 tons come 2019 — left to rot on Manhattan Tip’s narrow sidewalks are among the collateral damage locals fear, as gridlock stalls garbage trucks, which in turn worsens traffic on thin streets that forbid passing.
And lingering garbage piles occupy valuable real estate on Downtown’s slim sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to spill out onto the street, which then creates obstacles for drivers, thereby further compounding the traffic issues that plague the area.
Tight security cordons, construction, scaffolding, sidewalk sheds, and placard parking found through Manhattan Tip present additional obstacles to traffic in the area.
“The idea is that everything is related to everything else,” Proulx said.
Proulx and the Fidi Neighborhood Association’s petition comes on the heels of a Community Board 1 resolution requesting further analysis of Downtown traffic patterns by the city, and a June 2016 streetscape study, created by a community planning fellow of the Fund of the City of New York, which noted that Lower Manhattan hasn’t seen a comprehensive study of development since 2007, predating the unprecedented residential boom of today.
“In order to continue the success of the last several years, and to benefit from increased residential development and the businesses and services that come along with that, we need to start resolving these issues today,” Proulx said.
Anyone interested in supporting the effort can sign the petition at: campaigns.transalt.org/petition/lower-manhattan-mobility-study.