Monday, June 30, 2008

Whose streets?

If the board of Masaryk Towers has its way, the section of Rivington Street that runs through the Towers will be closed off and gated, forcing thousands of pedestrians, including seniors, to detour all the way to either Houston or Delancey merely to get from Columbia Street to Pitt.

The board cites crime and rising insurance rates as motivating their decision to gate their community by closing the pedestrian walkway. However, no crime statistics have yet been produced to justify their claim and it's not clear that the walkway traffic is responsible for the insurance raise.

Residents in the surrounding areas are repelled by the prospect of a gated community in their midst, gated to keep them out at the expense of their free access and mobility through their city. Many suspect the Board's motives.

The issue is not merely local. New York, for all its ethnic segregation, enforced or chosen, has so far avoided gated communities. The idea affronts the model of urban coexistence, the interactive diversity that has characterized this town since its first days as an international port. And the streets have always been a public amenity -- public spaces within government jurisdiction, essential and foundational to the public weal.

New York City government laid out the streets with the 1811 grid, designed so that development would not hinder general commerce, traffic, mobility and access. If a private board can close a public street, the government has forfeited its role in protecting the public good, which is the sole justification for government.

The surrounding community has suggested that the Towers gate each individual building, leaving the walkway free. But that will not likely assuage the concerns of the Board.

My two cents: maybe the best solution would be to have the city put Rivington Street back on the map and return it to full use as a city street -- vehicles and sidewalks, just like any other street anywhere else in Manhattan. It would be a shame to see the walkway disappear as a traffic-free space, but a standard street is be better than a divided community. And who knows, maybe the threat of losing the walkway entirely would bring the Board back to its senses and to a urban spirit of unity.


Anonymous said...

This is really strange. Did the city give/sell that section of Rivington to the apartment complex? Even if the city reduced the use of the street i.e. only allowing pedestrians etc...the apartment complex cannot legally close off the street unless they own it so long as the street is public property. In legal terms, it's the tort of conversion; you are converting public property to your private use. If the city has not conveyed the property to the apartment complex, I recommend that neighborhood residents and concerned parties lawyer up.

Anonymous said...

How can anyone read this blog with the very faint text on the pitch black background.

Not all eyes are the same as young kids' eyes, and not all monitors display such layouts properly.

Typesetters wouldn't do this unless the text had thicker strokes (bold).

Anonymous said...

While I was growing up in Masaryk during the 80's & 90's it was a semi-quiet little CO-OP filled with kids playing WiffleBall, families enjoying the parks and now when I visit it just looks like a straight up dump. My family still resides there and all I hear are stories of kids from other neighboring hoods invading the CO-OP to use for there fun time. I also understand that way too many people were suing Masaryk for "falls" on their property. To be honest, I think Masaryk can do whatever they want with that area since the previous blocks were demolished and consolidated back in the 60s to form the COOP (See Stuyvesant Town & Grand St CO-OPs as other examples). If you google map the area you'll see what I'm talking about. Personally I welcome the idea of either closing it off or reopening Rivington Street to traffic as this would bring tons of new businesses and job opportunities to the area.

Keep us informed! :)

rob said...

Masaryk does own the walkway. But, because it has been used as a public walkway, closing it may not be entirely within their property rights.

Fixing the pavement would be the responsible way to deal with injury law suits. That would benefit everyone including Masaryk residents. But gates are cheaper.

Since much of Masaryk is Mitchell-Lamma, one wonders whether the residents are thinking about future real estate values and the potential for gentrification that would be encouraged by gating. Or is it just that the notion of a gated community is becoming acceptable in New York?

rob said...

About the blog colors: I'm troubled to read that there is a problem. The text is very clear on safari, firefox and wyzo, which are all the web browsers I have. My eyes are really bad, so I'm a bit puzzled. Would it help to turn up the brightness on your screen?

I chose the colors in part because they provide a relief from all that staring into bright light that I am convinced has worn away my vision.

Am I the only person happy with it as is?

Anonymous said...

I am a long time resident of Masaryk and I can tell you that the complex is going downhill due to the walkway which allows easy access to the complex grounds. I have seen or heard about shootings, fights, gang activity and not to mention grafitti and vandalism caused by vandals who are not Masaryk residents. There are also threads to security guards who try to do their job to protect the residents and grounds. Unfortunately, most of those who oppose of the fencing are not Masaryk residents and obviously have no clue what is going on here. I don't know what police records are being checked as we've had plenty of police presence. Everybody is up in arms about the fencing due to accessibility. However, I don't understand why people can't just use the alternative route on Delancey Street. This street is mostly empty, it's wide, very close by and easily accessible. My only suggestion would be is to leave the walkway open during the day hours, mostly for the senior citizens. Otherwise, the fences should go up as planned to deter the hoodlums from causing crime and further property damage to the complex.

Anonymous said...

As a resident I say close it up. Why come home to drunks, teenage drug users, and neighborhood losers hanging out in front of the building. There are honest people who might want to come home to some sort of peace. Save the Lower East Side? It's private property, find another way home.

GhostHunter1986 said...

long time Masaryk towers resident riving tin and Columbia is apart of Masaryk towers we own those streets. and as a proud supporter of the gated community, we will not repeat will not have it closed off during the day time. it will only be closed during the night time so this way the criminals can not use our property to get away from there crimes. repeat. only during the day time. we are fighting for our rights to protect our selfs sense we are not allowed to carry guns in nyc with out a concealed permit. Masaryk towers has been under siege with drugs robbery and rape and molestation. all big reasons we are closing off our buildings, the only reason why people are complaining is because its inconvinent that they have to walk around at night the drugs from barruch and pit street make it crazy hot on our area with cops. its getting so bad to the point where regular guys like me have to carry knives for protection because of gun fire and have to take self defense courses so we can protect our selfs. so honestly those who are complaining. think about how you would feel if you had a major drug dealing issue rape molestation and robbery. just think about it. would you not do what you can even cutting off your property. i think the ends justify the means here. we have to think of what would be the greater good.