A very prevalent issue in New York is the privatization of our sidewalks. Sidewalks are for everyone, or at least they are supposed to be. It is quite often to walk a sidewalk in Manhattan (or many parts of Brooklyn as well for that part) and have to be shoved to the side in order to avoid running into a couple having $20 eggs and bacon at a ‘hip’ restaurant that has spilled out onto the sidewalk.
Sidewalks are constantly being shrunk by restaurants in order to expand their markets, but this does nothing to serve the members of the community who made/make the most of this public space. In areas such as Crown Heights, Williamsburg and Bushwick (all heavily gentrified or in the process of being so), gone are the conversations between the residents and in come the issues and the discussions of those who can afford the aforementioned overpriced food. Not only do the crowded sidewalks disrupt the community, they also create dangerous situations for pedestrians in crowded areas. Winnie Hu makes note of this in her article, ‘New York’s Sidewalks Are So Packed, Pedestrians Are Taking To The Streets’, “if there is an epicenter of crowded sidewalks in New York, it is near Penn Station, where pedestrians, food carts and newsstands all vie for space. Only London and Tokyo have sidewalks as congested, said Daniel A. Biederman, president of the 34th Street Partnership, which oversees the business district in the area. As many as 14,000 pedestrians an hour walk in front of the Modell’s Sporting Goods store on Seventh Avenue near West 34th Street, according to 2015 data collected by the partnership.” The presence of these private entities have done nothing except encroach on already limited public space, residents and everyday commuters are being forced away from their usual routine in order to establish services that do not necessarily benefit them. How can be allowed to happen? Public space is vital to the existence and ecosystem of the economy, it is both a tool for transport and a meeting ground for people who are woven into the fabric of what the community is, or at least what the community used to be. The New York metropolitan area’s public space is being eaten up by gentrification, the loss of this meeting ground (and even safety zone) only spells doom and gloom for neighborhoods. As a city we require fewer tables for extra customers on a busy day and more areas for our residents to express themselves in and use.
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