At Wit's End: Bloomberg's Street Initiatives

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Although there is great fun in skewering the Bloomberg Administration like a shish kebab at a Halal stand, there are a few things in which I agree with our billionaire mayor.
Among these items is Hizzoner’s fanatical approach to putting pedestrian-friendly streetscapes and bike lanes around the city.
It almost makes the city civilized.
I mention this because last week I met a friend who lives in the Bronx along 42nd Street for a few drinks. After Happy Hour ended at a watering hole, we went walking around and wound up along Broadway in that no-man’s-land between Herald and Times Square. Then we figured we’d have a nightcap before going in opposite directions on the subway.
Now, back in the day, this would mean getting some liquid refreshment at a bodega and then heading to a shadowy doorway on a side street toward Ninth Avenue.
But on this night, all we did was paper-bag it and sit outside at a table on one of those makeshift pedestrian lanes the Bloomberg Administration put on Broadway. It was very pleasant and there wasn’t a cop to be seen to bother us.
As it were the conversation drifted to cigarettes, and while I don’t smoke, my friend, who does, told me how some bodegas and people on the street are making a good living selling loose cigarettes. So the Bloomberg crackdown on and taxing cigarettes has actually created a new black market for vice.
Another nifty Bloomberg street initiative is how his administration is slowly turning city streets into bicycle highways.
True, I’d rather face a dozen thugs in a dark alley than a bicycle activist group from Park Slope, but I’m not so sure the New York time-honored game of jaywalking and dodging auto traffic is the way to go either.
It’s a question of safety. I’d rather be hit by a crazy bicyclist running a red light and going the wrong way on a one-way street than a two-ton auto while I’m darting across the street mid-block.
In theory, bike lanes also promote good health in that it promotes residents to get out on a bicycle and exercise. So I’m all for it.
I do draw the line on the two-lane bike highway on Prospect Park West, though. It slows auto traffic on the strip, and considering there are bike lanes in Prospect Park about 50 yards away, it seems a little over the top.
But for Park Slope bike advocates, it’s never enough and now they want to close all auto traffic in Prospect Park. Never mind that motorists living south of Prospect Park only use the lanes halfway during the rush hours. Or that closing these lanes during rush hours would only further clog streets like Flatbush and Ocean Avenues.
Which brings me to the last Bloomberg street initiative he’s trying to push – tolling the East River bridges to get into Manhattan.
The idea here is that tolling the bridges will create a revenue stream that can be pumped into making mass transit better. Somehow, I doubt the money will help residents who live in East Flatbush and Canarsie who take several buses and a train to get to work.
Bloomberg, though, is real creative at finding ways to raise revenue on the backs of working folks while saving money on cutting services for those same folks.
Meanwhile, you don’t hear a peep from the mayor on allowing a small increase on the taxes of the wealthy.
Then again, that’s the way a billionaire’s bread is buttered.

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