NYPD Security Theater Takes Manhattan

Obtrusive new police barriers interfering with walking and biking paths are cropping up in Midtown and elsewhere. Do you feel safer, New York?

These bike lane-cluttering barricades come courtesy of the NYPD.
These bike lane-cluttering barricades come courtesy of the NYPD.

NYPD is dropping concrete barricades and other obstructions on some of Manhattan’s busiest areas for walking and biking. These measures seem to be a response to the greenway truck ramming attack at the end of October, but the main effect is to make getting around without a car more difficult.

The photo above is from Columbus Avenue and 79th Street, where the southbound parking-protected bike lane runs along the American Museum of Natural History. As you can see, the city lined the sidewalk with fencing, reinforced with concrete Jersey barriers that narrow the bike lane.

In Midtown, the city has barricaded mid-block crossings with metal fencing, according to the Manhattan Institute’s Nicole Gelinas. Here’s the crossing at Radio City Music Hall, with assorted security theater materiel scattered on the sidewalk:


At Herald Square, NYPD replaced concrete blocks and metal fencing put down over the summer with a new barricade. The primary effect is to block the path of the only protected bike lane that runs through the heart of Midtown:

This new barricade at Herald Square may keep cars out, but it also forces cyclists off their bikes on one of Midtown's only protected bike lanes. Photo: Paco Abraham
This new barricade at Herald Square disrupts one of Midtown’s only protected bike lanes. Photo: Paco Abraham

Streetsblog contacted NYPD this morning asking why the barricades have been installed, and a list of locations where they’ll be placed, but has yet to hear back.

NYPD responded with similar tactics after a ramming attack in Times Square in the spring, dropping a row of clunky concrete barriers that obstruct the bike lane segment on Seventh Avenue.

These new barricades appear to be NYPD’s answer to the October 31 ramming attack on the Hudson River Greenway, when a man driving a pickup truck murdered eight people. At the time, NYC DOT said the city would “assess necessary measures at other points of the Greenway and at public spaces.”

Soon after that attack, in response to a question about the haphazard placement of barriers on greenway, Mayor de Blasio said, “Obviously we want safety and security, but we also want people to be able to go on about their lives, and enjoy their lives. That’s another part of showing our enemies they cannot win.”

But the more NYPD gets to indulge its penchant for security theater, the less New Yorkers can enjoy getting around their city.