Walking my six year-old son down Hudson Street in the West Village Historic District should be a peak City experience. The buildings are fascinating and the stores are a window shopper's delight. Unfortunately, Hudson Street's five lanes of car traffic plow through this urban idyll like a superhighway. Fortunately, cars are slowed by the bumps and ruts left by temporary asphalt during road reconstruction. Ah! Reconstruction... intended to last maybe 30 years, sure to be with us for 50. My son will have grandchildren before it ends.
The neighborhood is crawling with children, all sizes, mostly small. Two elementary schools and a few overcrowded playgrounds front on Hudson, two other schools sit nearby. When this brand new road with its new sidewalks is done, the community will get a speedway.
There is a great opportunity to calm Hudson Street since the concrete hasn't been poured yet. It is certain to cost less than tearing up a street from scratch. I proposed several minor changes: extending the sidewalk into crosswalks, making the distance needed to push a stroller across traffic shorter; bringing the sidewalk out to meet the lane of traffic at bus stops so buses could go faster and bus stops would not take up so much sidewalk space; and, finally, eliminating an unnecessary lane of traffic to make room for a community garden. The Community Board voted yes. Now...
Will these changes happen in my lifetime, let alone my son's childhood? According to the DoT, not likely. Ever optimistic, I believe that the new Commissioner of DoT and Mayor Giuliani understand that it is important to declare the City the ultimate place to walk and seize this opportunity to illustrate what improved quality of life means to them.
Even if it is not your neighborhood, if you would like to see pedestrian improvements begin somewhere, hoping that they are contagious, you can write: Mayor Giuliani City Hall, NYC 10001 Elliot G. Sander, DoT 40 Worth St, NYC 10013
Randy Wade is the founder of WALK New York, a new pedestrian advocacy group. For information, send your address and phone number to: WALK New York, 99 W 12th St., #IF, New York, NY 10014.