Pedestrianizing Streets in New York
I was asked a few months ago about priorities for street pedestrianization in New York. This issue grew in importance during the peak of the corona lockdown, when New Yorkers believed the incorrect theory of subway contagion and asked for more bike and pedestrian support on the street. But it’s now flared again as Mayor de Blasio announced the cancellation of Summer Streets, a program that cordons off a few streets, such a the roads around Grand Central, for pedestrian and bike traffic. Even though the routes are outdoors, the city is canceling them, citing the virus as the reason even though there is very little outdoor infection.
But more broadly, the question of pedestrianization is not about Summer Streets, which is an annual event that happens once and then for the rest of the year the streets revert to car usage. It’s about something bigger, like the permanent Times Square and Herald Square pedestrianization.
In general, pedestrianization of city centers is a good thing. This can be done light, as when cities take lanes off of roadways to expand bike lanes and sidewalks, or heavy, as when an entire street loses car access and becomes exclusive to pedestrians and bikes. The light approach should ideally be done everywhere, to reduce car traffic and make it viable to bike; cycling in New York is more dangerous than in Paris and Berlin (let alone Amsterdam and Copenhagen) since there are too few separated bike lanes and they are not contiguous and since there is heavy car traffic.
The heavy approach should be used when feasible, but short of banning cars cannot be done everywhere. The main obstacle is that in some places a critical mass of consumers access retail by car, so that pedestrianization means drivers will go elsewhere and the region will suffer; this happened with 1970s-era efforts in smaller American cities like Buffalo, and led to skepticism about the Bloomberg-era Times Square pedestrianization until it was completed and showcased success. Of course, Midtown Manhattan is rich in people who access retail by non-auto modes, but it’s not the only such place.
Another potential problem is delivery access. This is in flux, because drone delivery and automation stand to simplify local deliveries, using sidewalk robots at pedestrian scale. If delivery is automated then large trucks no longer offer much benefit (they’re not any faster than a bicycle in a congested city). But under current technology, some delivery access is needed. In cities with alleys the main street can be pedestrianized with bollards while the alleys can be preserved for vehicular access, but New York has about three alleys, which are used in film production more than anything because they connote urban grit.
Taking all of this together, the best places for pedestrianization are,
- City centers and near-center areas. In New York, this is the entirety of Manhattan south of Central Park plus Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City. There, the car mode share is so low that there is no risk of mass abandonment of destinations that are too hard to reach by car.
- Non-residential areas. The reason is that it’s easier to permit truck deliveries at night if there are no neighbors who would object to the noise.
- Narrow streets with plenty of commerce. They’re not very useful for drivers anyway, because they get congested easily. If there are deliveries, they can be done in off-hours. Of note, traffic calming on wider streets is still useful for reducing pollution and other ills of mass automobile use, but it’s usually better to use light rather than heavy traffic reduction, that is road diets rather than full pedestrianization.
- Streets with easy alternatives for cars, for example if the street spacing is dense. In Manhattan, this means it’s better to pedestrianize streets than avenues.
- Streets that are not useful for buses. Pedestrianized city center streets in Europe are almost never transit malls, and the ones I’m familiar with have trams and not buses, e.g. in Nice.
Taking this all together, some useful examples of where to pedestrianize in New York would be,
- Most of Lower Manhattan. There are no residents, there is heavy commerce, there is very heavy foot traffic at rush hour, and there are enough alternatives that 24/7 pedestrianization is plausible on many streets and nighttime deliveries are on the rest.
- Some of the side streets of Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City. This is dicier than Manhattan – the mode share in those areas as job centers is far below Manhattan’s. A mid-2000s report I can no longer find claimed 50% for Downtown Brooklyn and 30% for LIC, but I suspect both numbers are up, especially LIC’s; Manhattan’s is 67%, with only 15% car. So there’s some risk, and it’s important to pick streets with easy alternatives. Fulton Mall seems like a success, so presumably expansions can start there and look at good connections.
- St. Mark’s. It’s useless for any through-driving; there’s a bus but its ridership is 1,616 per weekday as of 2018, i.e. a rounding error and a prime candidate for elimination in a bus redesign. There’s so much commerce most buildings have two floors of retail, and the sidewalk gets crowded.
- Certain Midtown side streets with a lot of commerce (that’s most of them) and no buses or buses with trivial ridership (also most of them). One-way streets that have subway stations, like 50th and 53rd, are especially attractive for pedestrianization. Two-way streets, again, are valuable targets for road diets or even transit malls (though probably not in Midtown – the only east-west Manhattan-south-of-59th-Street bus route that screams “turn me into a transit mall” is 14th Street).
42nd should also become a transit mall, with the M42 plus buses diverted from the PABT that can’t be turned into regional rail trips.
There are too many buses using the bus terminal to dump them all on the street.
Couldn’t the superblock concept be applied to Manhattan and many other places? No thru routes and restricted access (for delivery or parking access), not zero access, but on the Shared Space concept.
The spacing between avenues in Manhattan is already pretty wide, so the superblock concept only really applies to streets – there are lots of housing projects all over and I think the only one that closes off avenues is Stuy Town, and that closes off avenues that used to disappear into the river just north of it.
To put this in context a Barcelona 3×3 superblock is 339m wide. The avenue blocks are varying widths, normally around 228m but as far as 280m. Jane Jacobs already noted that the middle of ultra-wide avenue blocks tends to be dead and void of activity.
New York has instead tried breaking up the wide avenue blocks with pedestrian-only half-avenues, but this has mostly been small and piecemeal: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/6%C2%BD_Avenue
That’s interesting. Been open since 2012. But no other examples since then, it seems? I suppose it must be dependent on a whole bunch of private owners/landlords agreeing, and there being a feasible thru-route. Also, even though it was paid for by the city of NY, it doesn’t appear on street maps (or Google maps) and there’s the problem with private pathways.
Jane Jacobs’ point about low-activity voids in giant blocks is of course the reason to put a pedestrian path thru the middle, to draw more people into the void.
I wonder if it wasn’t a teensy bit inspired by Melbourne and its laneways and Laneways culture of cafes, restaurants and small retail shops, and now graffiti artwork. When it was created in 1837 by Mayor Hoddle, Melbourne’s Hoddle Grid was feasibly inspired by New York’s 1811 grid, and had 200m (660ft) blocks but with narrow lanes for internal access, deliveries and, ahem, nightsoil collection. Their transformation began in 1893 with creation of The Block Arcade supposedly modelled on Milan’s Galleria but I reckon more resembling the scale of Paris’ more intimate arcades.
I mean the real problem is that you have to basically wait for parcels to become available, and some parcels will just not be redeveloped on a quick enough timeframe. At the same time, NYC is not about to spend limited resources trying to eminent domain center-block properties at fair market value.
6.5 Avenue just happened to exist already but these types of blocks are rare. NYC *could* update the zoning to include easements for such a thing but getting zoning changed is like pulling teeth; quite frankly even the original Manhattan grid was not a guaranteed success due to how unpopular it was amongst existing landowners.
But I would have thought that many existing owners/landlords would be motivated because it creates new rentable space at very high rents? I think that is what drove the appearance of so many arcades in Paris and the gentrification of laneways in Melbourne.
@michael: part of the Dutch legacy in New York is narrow, deep lots only 4.5 to 9m wide. A passageway like this would easily take up 1-3 lots, which would be great for everyone *except* the people owning the lots that need to be condemned.
The lots can be merged but acquiring individual lots is a major hassle, and usually this happens at corners with avenues but rarely reaches into the center. It’s not a coincidence that 6 1/2 Avenue is located in the office core between 51-57 Sts, where real estate values are high and developers are incentivized to build plazas to get “bonus” square footage, which is probably how the pre-existing spaces for 6 1/2 Avenue were built.
Overly long stretches between the avenues are the “original sin” of the grid plan, other than the lack of service alleys, and 6 1/2 Avenue is actually not the first attempt to rectify it; Madison and Lexington Avenues are also “half” avenues, but the difference is that they were laid out as the grid was being developed so they were much easier to create. But in 1811 the thinking was that lots of paths to get to the commercial waterfront were more important than north-south travel.
North-south travel was the primary purpose of the grid… that’s why the avenues are so wide. The avenues are spaced widely apart, but that’s fine, the commissioners were comparing New York with ungridded cities like London and Paris in which wide, continuous throughfares were spaced even farther apart.
Sure, but if they had examined London and Paris they would have noticed that on the ground there is a fine-grained pedestrian network of interconnections–laneways, arcades.
I can’t recall but am guessing that the grid system of 1811 was mandated and that fine-detail implementation was left to each jurisdiction or to commercial interests in each city etc. Where were Ben Franklin and Jefferson (both lived in Paris)?
Some world cities have solved the problem by other means like Hong Kong’s extensive above-ground walkways (which often pass thru private building space but I understand they have law about public accessibility), or Toronto’s below-ground walkways/arcades. Like so much, the US is stuck stranded in the inflexible past. I’ve said it before, that I don’t find walking in Manhattan as interesting or compelling as in Paris or Euro-cities, despite whole books written on the subject (including by two people who died during covid: Michael Sorkin’s 20 minutes in Manhattan, and William Helmreich’s The New York Nobody Knows). Of course other American cities (exempting SF, probably Boston) are even worse, and I wonder if this grid/accessibility issue isn’t part of the problem: the weird thing a Euro or Australian finds, of empty lots in the CBDs often used as ad hoc parking lots. Ugly and a weird use of space. In NYC the guerilla gardening movement has reclaimed some of them, though I presume mostly in Brooklyn & Queens.
The commissioners were not Franklin (who was from Pennsylvania) or Jefferson (Virginia), but they would be familiar; the report explains why New York can’t develop like London and Paris, namely the Hudson and East Rivers are both far wider than the Seine and Thames, forcing city development to have a north-south axis.
The connectivity was not terribly important – at the time these alleyways were hotbeds of crime. Only later in the 19th century would cities shift to today’s pattern of rich and poor neighborhoods in which all streets in the same neighborhood are approximately equally wealthy and equally safe, and even that shift was very slow; the Poverty Map of London 1889 still shows middle-class main streets in East and South London and extreme poverty on side streets and alleys.
Yes, and actually I threw out that comment without thinking too much. At the time of Franklin and Jefferson, the parts of Paris that had that fine-grain network of narrow streets and alleyways was considered deeply insalubrious, and not something to copy. The age of the arcades was yet to come, and IIRC depended on Haussmann & Eugène Belgrand building their giant sewers that detoxified those alleys and streets. It has been noted of Marville’s pictures of Paris (employed by Haussmann to document the city pre- and post-Haussmann) that apparently it was always rainy with runnels in the centreline of those alleys … except it wasn’t rain they were slick with.
Franklin lived in the 16th which was still somewhat pastoral or suburban then (not yet part of Paris intramuros), and of course then as now, for the corporate + industrialist class (hmm, did he actually live in what today is rue Benjamin Franklin …).
It would not surprise me if they named the street specifically after the fact that he lived there, but I don’t know.
But yeah, this is pre-Haussmann Paris, and I suspect the state of its street infrastructure at the time was one of the reasons the commissioners planned a minimum 60′ street width. (But the primary reason is probably that American streets were planned around late-18c/early-19c wagon traffic, which was much heavier than the 16-17c wagon traffic of Paris and London streets. Same heavier traffic would also lead the US and Continental Europe to shift to driving on the right – a right-handed driver prefers to sit on the left if the wagon is pulled by two horses, leading to right-hand driving.)
But it seems the real defect was making too many streets. It is their frequency that presumably obviates the need for laneways like Melbourne provided to allow service access. So all Manhattan sites have direct street access but at the cost of very long routes to the avenues, thus generating inconvenience and dead-spots.
I understand your points but my earlier point was that surely all of Manhattan has high enough real estate prices to encourage any owner/leaser of groundfloor space to provide that access like 61/2 Ave? I suspect quite a bit of that space has poor usage and poor rental in its current status.
At any rate, evidently not. And in any case it may well be that covid-induced recovery of more actual street/car space is better.
@Alon: They’re wide because they liked grand avenues, yes, but the waterfront was definitely considered more important, which is also why avenue blocks are shorter towards the waterfront than in the middle of the island.
@michael: And my point about the lot sizes is that
> all of Manhattan has high enough real estate prices to encourage any owner/leaser of groundfloor space to provide that access like 61/2 Ave?
isn’t generally true because of the small lots. The person who benefits from the increased rent from being on a street corner or alley is not the person getting their land condemned. The latter’s whole lot needs to be condemned for a half avenue, so why would they agree to something they get no benefit out of?
(Also for very large modern (say, postwar) buildings there’s usually some type of midblock loading dock, which functionally serves the same purpose as an alley would for a smaller neighborhood.)
Although as far as I can tell this is mostly a New York problem, because I don’t really hear about massive trash bags piles on the street affecting the old Amsterdam, which also features long, narrow lots and no alleys.
Summer Streets was more than “a program that cordons off a few streets, such a the roads around Grand Central, for pedestrian and bike traffic.” Vehicle traffic was banned on Centre St, Lafayette St, Fourth Ave, Park Ave South, Park Ave and E 72nd St from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park. More than 100 cross streets cross the route. Each of these streets required barricades and police personnel to enforce the vehicle ban. I suspect the cost of enforcing the vehicle ban played as much to the cancellation as did any antipathy towards inconveniencing motor vehicle owners.
What do you think of pedestrianizing streets further from the CBD? I know a lot of people who think pedestrianizing, eg, Austin Street in Forest Hills (near the LIRR station) would be a good idea
Is there any good reason not to pedestrianize Broadway from Union Square to Columbus Circle? There’s a ton of foot traffic, it’s not a bus route, there are already a couple of pedestrian zones that people like…
The traffic lanes on Brooklyn Bridge could be converted to bike lanes. The upper level of the bridge is pretty busy, and I used to detour via the much less pleasant Manhattan Bridge pedestrian path to avoid the crowds (before the pandemic cut out the crowds).
Not just to Union Square, Broadway can be pedestrianized all the way down to Canal.
Drones won’t ever be relevant as a delivery method…maybe for things like pizzas, but not for stocking an entire store. Much more likely and practical that cargo bikes increase in share, going from logistics centers right outside of the center into the new car-free zones.
That being said, I think that dense grids of entirely car-free streets would make a lot of sense, especially around the squares along Broadway. Broadway itself of course should be pedestrianized, at the very least from 59th south. 32nd Street is another good candidate, both as the main entrance to Penn Station and as the main street of Koreatown. 6th and 7th Avenues could also be entirely pedestrianized north of 42nd Street, or cut to a single thru lane for cars + turning lanes, as they dead-end at Central Park and have relatively low traffic up there.
Hi Alon, I know this is not what the post is about, but could you please include some references for the claim that cycling is more dangerous in New York than in Paris? I’ve seen a horrific video of a cyclist getting hit and killed by a truck in NYC, and I know some/many bike paths there are not physically separated; however, Paris bike paths are a) often not separated either (except for notable, important examples like along the Seine), b) confusingly inconsistent (some go with traffic and some go against, and some change from the left side of the road to the right mid-way), and c) sometimes missing at all (e.g. etoile or trocadero). My own, personal and anecdotal experience has been the complete opposite (NYC being very easy and clear – the grid obviously helps – and felt surprisingly safe, especially of course in avenues where the path is separate; Paris being terrifying). Again this has much to do with the grid structure of NYC (and it being a lot flatter) and pre-dates the “corona-pistes” in Paris, but I’d be interested in evidence to back up your claim. Thanks!
You’re only thinking about Manhattan, which even there the bicycle infrastructure is lacking. The outer boroughs have terrible almost everywhere. I can’t really talk about Queens, Bronx or Staten Island because I haven’t biked there much, but Brooklyn’s bike network is nonexistent, and my under standing is that Brooklyn’s bike infrastructure is much better than the other outer boroughs. There are some neighborhoods in Brooklyn that don’t have any bike lines or even sharrows (yes, I know sharrows don’t constitute bike infrastructure). The protected bike lanes that do exist are only near downtown Brooklyn, in parks and for one or two blocks around the bridges. Many heavily trafficked routes don’t have protected bike laves and the bike laves end abruptly. Important to note is that a protected bike lane in New York does not mean protected intersections, of which there are almost none. Also, the vast majority of “protected” bike lanes in NYC are parking protected and come along with all the problems typical of parking protected lanes, including: vehicles are often parked in these bike lanes; there is still a big risk of getting doored; and theydon’t always offer protection because cars aren’t always parked there.
Yeah, so, don’t invest in delivery drones hoping to retire. If you are delivering diamonds over short distances, drones might work but the Zappos drone won’t be dropping your new boots on your apartment balcony (assuming your apartment has a balcony) any time soon. Freight movement in dense cities will change, almost certainly, but don’t look to the skies for the answer.
don’t invest in delivery drones hoping to retire
I know, I tuned out on the article when I hit that.
Alon or … Elon? (Nefarious fanboy cyberarmy seizing control of wordpress blogger account! All it takes is a little aside from the capo: “I find these opinion pieces have become … inconvenient …”)
Why not go radical and just ban cars from all of Manhattan south of 59th St? You could keep the FDR Dr and West St/12th Av as an orbital, and maybe have a two-way vehicular traffic loop on 6th/7th Av and a couple of cross streets connecting the bridge-and-tunnels. Everywhere on Manhattan would be within 800m of a general traffic lane. But every other street could be turned into bus+bike lanes (for the avenues and the major cross-streets), or pedestrianised (minor cross streets and Broadway).
Even without drones, I don’t see why deliveries should be a problem. They can just be done with a fleet of milk-float style vehicles driving at pedestrian pace. That wouldn’t be too much slower than a van in day-time Manhattan traffic today.
If private automobiles ensconcing one or two people were gone the trucks wouldn’t be stuck in traffic and they could deliver the pallet loads they do today. Faster
Yes, but the legitimate comparison is with the situation today, with street space dominated by general traffic. Get rid of cars and it’s still a waste of space to preserve the road lanes for the odd delivery van, when you also have buses, bikes and several million pedestrians who need the space.
The pedestrians like to eat, drink, get Amazon packages, have the garbage from doing that get hauled away. Have the utility company come and fix whatever is wrong, have emergency services respond. Get rid of the private cars there’s plenty of space.
Yep, and those vehicles can negotiate the pedestrian areas at pedestrian speed. At 6km/h it would only take half an hour to go from the far west to the far east of Manhattan island.
And how will the one or two people in cars get where they are going? Everyone can’t ride a bike, walk, or take the train or bus, certainly not with much cargo. Yes, a few may be able to take an alternate mode with a little inconvenience, but for many with an inconvenient mass transit trip, it may be their best option. Also, some are using Manhattan as a pass through. Not everyone in a car has an origin and/or destination in lower Manhattan. Should they be required to go 20 miles out of their way to use the Verrazano if their destination is Northern Jersey? What about those making an occasional trip like once a year to a cruise terminal in Bayonne? You just assume that everyone makes daily trips and has other easy options and are just selfish for using their car, and inconveniencing those in cars is not a concern because cars are evil, as long as we make everything easy for cyclists, pedestrians and bus riders. Everyone should have equal rights and be treated fairly.
First, no one is talking about complete pedestrianization right now at this exact moment. Following Alon’s guidelines through traffic would still be possible on a majority of streets below 14th St (not to mention to the north). And even if we closed all streets within Lower Manhattan, it would still be possible to go along the edge of Lower Manhattan via the FDR and West Street.
With that in mind:
The goal should absolutely be that no one drives through Manhattan, and that all through traffic is by rail. If anyone insists on driving they should absolutely have to detour over the GW or Verrazano.
Part of reaching this goal is near-complete ADA accessibility on all mass transit. Pedestrianization facilitates that because it frees up space to build more elevators, e.g. you could build elevators for Prince St. station in the middle of Prince St. right off Broadway. Plenty of other improvements should be done as well regardless of pedestrianization.
The portion of the population that is disabled to the point where ADA accessibility won’t cut it is so small they could still be allowed to drive in without causing serious problems. Again, no one’s talking about a 100% ban on motorized vehicles.
Finally drivers aren’t an ethnic group. Unless they’re physically unable- a situation everyone is willing to make allowances for- they are also able to get on public transit. They aren’t umbilically attached to their cars and can get on a train + bus for that once a year trip to Bayonne. Or just take the extra 20 mile trip- it’s only once a year after all. “Long Islanders need (i.e. want) to drive to the cruise terminal” isn’t a good reason to allow continued pollution and traffic violence.
Well, I was talking about near-complete pedestrianisation south of 59th St, not tomorrow, but it doesn’t have to take too long to implement. But even then there would be a loop of roads for vehicular traffic, meaning nobody would be more than a half-mile (10 minute walk) from accessing a car. The number of people who actually own their own car in that part of the island is vanishingly small, and the ones who do are largely members of the super-rich. They can deal with it. Easy solutions can be found for those with disabilities: e.g. golf-buggy style taxis. But as joseph pointed out, making the subway ADA compliant would go a long way to serving the needs of these people. Having a gridded network of low-floor buses running every 1-2 minutes on the avenues and major cross streets would also help.
And to be honest, I don’t know how many people at present are really using Manhattan as a pass-through. With traffic, it takes so long that a detour around the Verrazano Narrow is usually quicker (last time I did it it took more than an hour to get from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Holland Tunnel, and that wasn’t even peak hour).
No, that’s too extreme. From one extreme to the other. A reprioritization is in order but not a total elimination of vehicles. As it happens today’s Bloomberg CityLab has:
This Low-Traffic Neighborhoods (LTN) strategy, with streets closed to non-local drivers, is a version of what I mentioned earlier: Shared Space. And that goes back many decades, probably being formalised most in The Netherlands where it is known as Woonerf and as Wiki says: “In 1999 the Netherlands had over 6000 woonerven and today around 2 million Dutch people are living in woonerven.” But they are all over the world including the US in West Palm Beach or Savannah, and as discussed for the Reimagine Downtown Brooklyn plan:
A legally designated Shared Space puts the onus, and legal responsibility, on the driver to give priority to pedestrians and bicycles, scooters etc, and at all times to drive in accordance with the assumption of pedestrian presence in the zone. It simplifies what has become often complex and confusing signage about driver behaviour such that an entire zone designated Shared Space has signs removed.
It is the way Barcelona’s superblocks and inner Paris, Madrid are evolving, even if they don’t label it that. In fact London already has such zones and this new initiative is a fast-forwarding due to the pandemic. I think it is a good compromise for zones off major thru-routes. I am also mindful of Jane Jacob’s concepts regarding keeping streets busy–and how total bans on vehicles might have unintended, or actually predictable, adverse consequences, ie. creating dead-zones.
What do you mean that there are no residents in Lower Manhattan? That was sort of true in the 1960s, but certainly not true today. Also, I have never seen a study that showed the Fulton Mall was a success, and you don’t measure success only if buses are traveling faster. Traffic increases on surrounding streets also matter. The Fulton Mall took 17 years of planning. The idea was to give more space to pedestrians and buses with all deliveries moved to after 7 PM with truck loading bays. But the merchants refused to pay extra for nighttime deliveries, so the result was buses fighting with trucks instead of cars for space since the delivery bays were inadequate with daytime deliveries being maintained. The bus lanes on neighboring Livingston Street were never enforced so traffic did not decrease in the area. The only good thing that came out of it was more space for pedestrians. The MTA Brooklyn Bus Network Redesign for Downtown Brooklyn Existing Conditions Report hinted at reducing bus service on Fulton Street because of numerous subway lines, (Of course they were all overcrowded before coronavirus when that report was written.) despite the fact that Downtown Brooklyn is the fastest growing area in the entire Brooklyn. So how have or will traffic conditions improve in the area?
Fulton Mall is pretty downscale, right? It matters to changes in retail, because in general the growth that happens is more upscale while lower middle-class social networks suburbanize or Southernize.
And re Lower Manhattan: yes, it has residents, but very few, and they tend to live in newer buildings with better insulation.
Better insulation in their apartment makes them less likely to get run over in a crosswalk? Or they take up less space on the sidewalk?
It means they don’t hear the truck idling at 2 in the morning.
HIpsters who grew up in suburbia might be annoyed. City people would ask “what truck?”. Like the ones that are there in the dead night now.
There are life-long, native-born New Yorkers who complain about trucks unloading in the middle of the night. “Real” New Yorkers- not just the yuppy gentrifiers of your imagination- also want their quality of life to improve.
So there are trucks of the middle of the night now…. I’ve lived in Manhattan. On an avenue in a tenement, what truck? Somebody digging holes in the street can be distracting. They aren’t traffic, are they? You want nothing going on between dusk and dawn, move to the country.
The downscale stores in Fulton Mall are disappearing. Albee Square Mall was completely replaced with City Point. The area is being gentrified commercially if that is the right term. In another five years, you won’t recognize it. Also, no one lives on Fulton Street so there were no residents to object to 2AM truck deliveries. As I said, all the opposition came from the merchants.
And no, there are many residents now living in Lower Manhattan. They live in the new buildings of which there are many, and the old renovated cast iron buildings. The idea that few live in lower Manhattan goes back to the 1970s. Check the population south of Canal Street which is a conservative definition of Lower Manhattan. Actually, 14 St would be the dividing line between lower Manhattan and Midtown.
CB 1 has, what, 4,000 people/km^2?
Large segments of Lower Manhattan are still heavily residential- the Lower East Side in particular comes to mind. Nighttime deliveries would be a concern in those areas but you could probably figure out workarounds, for example unloading on large streets (Canal, Broadway, Houston, Broome, Bowery, etc.) and cargo bikes or hand trucks for the last leg.
Differing definitions and conceptions of what is Lower Manhattan. I am guessing Alon doesn’t consider the Lower East Side part of it; and even if taking everything below Canal as Lower Manhattan that cuts out a lot of the LES. According to US Census and City of NY census districts, Community District 1 (of Manhattan) does not include the LES (which is CD3, population 163,277). The city’s official website (link below) and Wiki state “The entirety of Community District 1, which comprises Battery Park City and other Lower Manhattan neighborhoods, had 63,383 inhabitants as of NYC Health’s 2018 Community Health Profile.” (the 2010 census had 60,978). CD1 excludes all but the tiny bit of the LES that is not above the Brooklyn Bridge (ie. Frankfort St to City Hall); see map link below. Even so, I am guessing it is indeed that little pocket that boosts Lower Manhattan’s population from the 39,699 (2010) in Battery Park City + TriBeCa (which confusingly is sometimes described as “BPC + Lower Manhattan” which is different to CD1) to CD1’s 63,383 residents; on its 3.9 km2 it has density of 16,252/km2. In fact that is lower than BPC + TriBeCa’s which on its 1.94km2 is 20,500/km2. So v. approx. two thirds of overall Manhattan density. But the Wiki (same page as the map, below) says:
Note that some of the rapid increase in children may be real but some may be due to the severe undercount of children claimed in the 2010 census.
The logic makes a ton of sense. The one thing about pedestrianization which loses me a little bit is the complexity of dealing with constant volumes of renovation and construction, already creating overspill and boarded arcades. in NYC, for instance, I can see the construction industry both lobbying and creating significant financial penalties for the absence of curbside access, and DOT spending inordinate resources granting and enforcing waivers.