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Old Posted May 2, 2012, 7:13 PM
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New York City Sidewalks Overflowing with Vibrancy, and Conflict

Competition for sidewalk space heats up


April 29, 2012

By Jeremy Smerd

Read More: http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article...LBIZ/304299975

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.....

Private enterprise—legal and not—has always unfolded on New York City's sidewalks. But in recent years the competition for street space has accelerated. Food trucks and vendors have proliferated since the recession increased demand for affordable street fare. Sidewalk cafés now number 1,153, up 35% in the past four years. Discount bus carriers have turned crowded curbs in midtown and Chinatown into depots. Scaffold crews claim 150 miles for curbside construction. And this summer, the first of 10,000 new competitors for sidewalk space will arrive when the city's bike-share program begins.

- “Sidewalk activity is what makes New York vibrant,” said Alex Mautner, a former commissioner of the Department of Transportation, which regulates much of the streetscape. “The question is, how do you harness it and how do you bring a modicum of decorum to the streets so that it functions?” The wealth of walkers has brought opportunity to street salesmen and the many businesses for whom curbs are cash cows. Sidewalk cafés, for instance, have become a virtual necessity for restaurants in many neighborhoods, said Robert Bookman, a longtime industry lobbyist. “Restaurateurs need to maximize every inch much more than they did 30 years ago,” he explained. Though the number of food-cart permits is capped at 5,100, there are now about 19,000 food-vending licensees to operate them. That means a cart that sets up for lunch in midtown might cater midnight snacks in the meatpacking district.

- “Now people with the permit are running carts 24 hours a day,” said Mostafa Sayed, who has been selling street meat in east midtown for 17 years. Demand to operate the limited number of carts has pushed up the price of permits, which sell on the black market for thousands of dollars each, he said. Last week, the City Council held hearings on legislation to more closely regulate street salesmen. “Vendors are concentrating in areas where they aren't supposed to be,” said Daniel Garodnick, the chairman of the Consumer Affairs Committee. Mr. Mautner, who has worked as a consultant in the business, believes the city should allow permits to be bought and sold like taxi medallions. The value of a food-cart medallion would be tied to its location, giving owners a stake in the success of the neighborhood where they operate—or at least its cleanliness.

- The best way to manage the madness is to make sidewalks bigger, said Fred Kent, founder and president of the Project for Public Spaces, a nonprofit based in New York. “That would spur major economic development,” he said, adding that the city should remove car lanes to widen narrow sidewalks. “Cars don't shop.” Parking spots may be the first casualty of the coming bike-share program. Most of the bicycle racks in midtown's Community Board 4—from Eighth Avenue to the Hudson River—are likely to be placed in the street, said Jenna Chrisphonte, the board's assistant district manager.

- Not all sidewalk businesses are growing. The ranks of newspaper vendors have dwindled since the days of afternoon editions to about 260. And the once-ubiquitous pay phone is now a relative rarity. Just 12,729 remain, down from 35,000 a dozen years ago, and they're used more for advertising than communicating. That doesn't mean phone kiosks are going away. In May, the Bloomberg administration will launch a pilot program to replace some of the phones with tablet computers, a plan that could be expanded when the city's franchise agreement with phone carriers expires in 2014.

.....



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Old Posted May 2, 2012, 8:00 PM
J. Will J. Will is offline
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The thing with Manhattan is that those wide Avenues weren't always that wide. The sidewalks were originally much wider than they are now, but they were narrowed to add car lanes decades ago. Of course, if they tried to revert that now (and reduce one or more lane from every Avenue), there'd be massive outcry from the car-owning minority. There already has been with the bike lanes, even where they have only narrowed the car lanes, and not reduced their number.
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Old Posted May 2, 2012, 10:01 PM
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Maybe they can find more room in alleyways.
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Old Posted May 2, 2012, 10:02 PM
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Sure, as soon as they have alleys they can do that.
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Old Posted May 3, 2012, 12:45 AM
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Originally Posted by M II A II R II K View Post
Maybe they can find more room in alleyways.
Manhattan doesn't have many alleys, but even if they did, who could find more room? The vendors? You really think people are going to walk down some dark alley to shop at a street cart?
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Old Posted May 3, 2012, 1:11 AM
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Originally Posted by J. Will View Post
You really think people are going to walk down some dark alley to shop at a street cart?

Yeah. During Toronto's Nuit Blanche a few years ago, there was a night market set up in an alleyway, which attracted a sizable crowd. Now, that of course was part of a major event, but I see no reason why it wouldn't be successful enough on a regular day too, being in a high traffic area. The intimate scale of an alley does lend itself well to a marketplace, I think.




Or they can be converted into some sort of permanent shopping arcade, like Melbourne's famous laneways.


(but of course, this is all just "in theory" - then we get back to the fact that there just aren't public alleys in Manhattan)
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Old Posted May 3, 2012, 1:18 AM
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Maybe they can find more room in alleyways.
There are no alleyways in Manhattan. That's why the trash is piled high on the street curbs every night.
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Old Posted May 3, 2012, 3:21 AM
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Originally Posted by J. Will View Post
Manhattan doesn't have many alleys, but even if they did, who could find more room? The vendors? You really think people are going to walk down some dark alley to shop at a street cart?
Take a look at Melbourne to see what a city can do with alleys in the CBD.
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Old Posted May 3, 2012, 3:43 AM
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Take a look at Melbourne to see what a city can do with alleys in the CBD.
What part of "no alleys in New York" is not registering with people?
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Old Posted May 3, 2012, 3:48 AM
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Then there should be more streets turned into pedestrian side streets. There are many carts located on them in other cities.
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Old Posted May 3, 2012, 4:31 AM
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Maybe they could clean up the alleys in Manhattan and use them for some of the vendors -- it would alleviate some of the congestion.
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Old Posted May 3, 2012, 4:33 AM
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Maybe they could clean up the alleys in Manhattan and use them for some of the vendors -- it would alleviate some of the congestion.
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Old Posted May 3, 2012, 4:41 AM
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^ I had to do it
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Old Posted May 3, 2012, 4:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sbarn View Post
What part of "no alleys in New York" is not registering with people?

As far as the original topic goes, there are two possible solutions:

1. Widen sidewalks and/or create more pedestrian streets
2. Get rid of businesses operating on the sidewalk (stupid)

End of discussion, not really anything more to talk about. As such, the conversation has segued to discussing the use of alleys in general.
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Old Posted May 3, 2012, 4:59 AM
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What part of "no alleys in New York" is not registering with people?
Actually, New York does have alleys. Not many, but there are some in Manhattan and I hear that there are quite a few in Brooklyn. You might want to do your research before spouting off on things you seem unfamiliar with.
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Old Posted May 3, 2012, 5:14 AM
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Actually, New York does have alleys. Not many, but there are some in Manhattan and I hear that there are quite a few in Brooklyn. You might want to do your research before spouting off on things you seem unfamiliar with.
Unfamiliar with? I live in Manhattan, my GF lives in Brooklyn. I have almost never seen an alleyway in either place. In Manhattan I can think of one in Tribeca, but its actually a named street. I literally can't think of a single one I've seen in Brooklyn (doesn't mean one doesn't exist). The point is that in New York they aren't ubiquitous like most North American cities.
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Old Posted May 3, 2012, 5:16 AM
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Unfamiliar with? I live in Manhattan, my GF lives in Brooklyn. I have almost never seen an alleyway in either place.
Ooops, I had you confused with some annoying poster on here. My bad, but yes, Manhattan has some alleys. I walked past one today on Great Jones Street in Noho. It wasn't large, but it was an alley. Also, I've seen one in Tribeca. And one on Bowery.
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Old Posted May 3, 2012, 5:30 AM
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At the risk of getting off topic on this alleyway business, I thought this article about scouting film locations in New York was kind of humorous and relevant:

New York is Not a City of Alleys

And do most other films not use cities in a realistic way?

"Some do and some don’t. I’d say I’ve worked on more films that want to find the imaginary version of New York than the real. The big thing I always get asked to find are dank dilapidated alleys, and New York City has, like, 5 alleys that look like that. Maybe four. You can’t film in three of them. So what it comes down to is there’s one alley left in New York, Cortlandt Alley, that everybody films in because it’s the last place. I try to stress to these directors in a polite way that New York is not a city of alleys. Boston is a city of alleys. Philadelphia has alleys. I don’t know anyone who uses the ‘old alleyway shortcut’ to go home. It doesn’t exist here. But that’s the movie you see. Your impression of New York is that it is the city of alleys, and then directors will come here, they’ve seen movies set in New York and they want their movies to have alleys. And it’s this self-perpetuating fictional version of New York that just kills me because movies are so much more interesting when you show a side of New York that actually exists but isn’t regularly highlighted."
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Old Posted May 3, 2012, 12:32 PM
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Old Posted May 3, 2012, 3:39 PM
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Originally Posted by sbarn View Post
Unfamiliar with? I live in Manhattan, my GF lives in Brooklyn. I have almost never seen an alleyway in either place. In Manhattan I can think of one in Tribeca, but its actually a named street. I literally can't think of a single one I've seen in Brooklyn (doesn't mean one doesn't exist). The point is that in New York they aren't ubiquitous like most North American cities.
I once found an alley in Chinatown to park my car that it was notable for two reasons: 1) it's about the only time I've ever seen an alley in my 6 years of living in this city and 2) it was kind of like going back into a time portal to the "old New York". There were no parking enforcement people itching to write me a ticket. The alley was covered with graffiti and had the feel of a Ninja Turtles movie.
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