Car-Free Washington Place? Not in My Driveway, Say Residents

A rendering in section of NYU’s proposal for a pedestrian-only Washington Place, between Washington Square Park and Broadway.

Earlier this week, Community Board 2 in Greenwich Village held a public meeting to get feedback on NYU’s proposal to pedestrianize Washington Place, part of a larger plan to improve public space in the school’s core campus. Nearby residents aren’t happy with the number of cars that park in the area now, but (surprise!) they don’t want to do what’s necessary to improve things, either. A tipster sends along this recap:

Tuesday night’s CB2 meeting on pedestrianizing Washington Place turned
nasty. There were about a dozen or so residents speaking decidedly
against restricting car access, including a couple folks who infused a
lot of hostility to the entire discussion. Even though residents
complained that it was being used as an NYU parking lot, they also loved
the fact that you can always make great time speeding down this
incredibly wide street.

Even the idea of taking away parking to plant trees seemed controversial
to this crowd; they preferred the space to be taken from pedestrians.
They were very hostile to the NYU presenters, and belligerent to the
half dozen or more folks who thought more space for pedestrians was a
good idea.

I hope this was simply a case of them hating the messenger (NYU) but not
necessarily the idea of giving more space to pedestrians. Still, there
were a lot of motorheads in the room. There was, however, a good showing
on the pro-pedestrian side: George Haikalis, Barry Benepe, T.A. and a
few others were there to fly the flag. Still, it’s disappointing to
think that this is the community that closed the leg of Fifth Avenue
that used to run through Washington Square Park many years ago. Seems
like the Jane Jacobs legacy was lost on this crowd.

The full plan, called NYU Plans 2031, consists of an array of measures intended build the school’s central campus within its existing footprint, while simultaneously improving the public environment. A full, up-to-date explanation, with renderings, is available in this PDF.

"NYU realizes that the pedestrian experience in their core area is not very pleasant," says Ian Dutton, vice-chair of CB2’s transportation committee, who spoke favorably of the pedestrianization plan. He notes that most of the cars on this stretch of Washington Place are usually circling for parking, and that if full-on pedestrianization doesn’t happen, NYU will most likely take other measures to improve the streetscape, like a greening program and adding street amenities.

Image courtesy of NYU