Saturday, August 9, 2008

"Summer Streets" a Success, Possibly Also Fun

This morning I went to "Summer Streets," where New York City banned cars from a long stretch of Park Avenue and other streets. It was a lot of fun.

After I got home, I realized how annoyed I was by the headline and focus of Sewell Chan's City Room post, Will Car-Free ‘Summer Streets’ Work?. Of course this is a large sum of money spent on police and planning, and a potential disruption for businesses along the route. But still, that Chan must be a hit at parties:

"Hey Sewell, guess what? Next Saturday I'm having a few friends over for some beers and conversation. What do you say?"

"I don't know, Bob. Do you think it'll work?"

Seriously, what kind of a question is that? Of course thousands of people came out and had a lot of fun. Does that count as "working"? Chan himself acknowledged that the DOT staff had no precise metric for measuring the success of the event. It's reasonable to ask whether the event is worth the money spent and the potential inconvenience, but Chan must just be really used to the NYC press rut where, when confronted with a new livable streets initiative, the reporter's first response is to stick a mike in a car window, and their second is to interview a shopkeeper about lost business.

Speaking of business, I passed tons of cafes, delis and restaurants along Park Avenue South. I'll bet that they've done more business this morning than they've done in the past six weekends. What, no story about that?

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