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“It’s all used up.”

August 23, 2012

Writing for the Huffington Post, Dan Collins has an intellectually lazy defense of Bill de Blasio’s “incremental” approach to saving lives:

De Blasio’s call to slow things up certainly sounds reasonable. But remember the rule about space in New York City. It’s all used up. Some in the bike community believe, probably with good reason, that if the city goes slow, progress may stop altogether.

It’s not correct to say that space in New York city is “all used up.”  It’s used, but often not for purposes that maximize its potential.  Imagine if someone had looked at a young David Walentas and told him that it would be impossible to build condos in DUMBO because of all the old warehouses.  “Remember the rule about space in New York City, David.  It’s all used up.”

New York City’s story is the story of space that became a different kind of space.  Part of the land that is now Prospect Park was purchased from Edward Clarke Litchfield in 1868.  Apartments now stand where the Brooklyn Dodgers used to play baseball.  West Side Story is set in neighborhoods that were razed to make way for Lincoln Center.  Battery Park City is built on dirt excavated during the construction of the World Trade Center.  Fresh Kills landfill is now Freshkills Park.  And not that it’s a popular example, but there’s a giant spaceship that just landed on top of a rail yard not too far from where I live.  New York changes in ways that can benefit the many (Prospect Park) or the few (the Barclays Center), and the merits of those changes will always be debated.  But it takes a strange kind of anti-New York defeatism to say that nothing can be changed anymore or that, at most, it has to be done incrementally.

Contra Dan Collins, we actually have plenty of space for bike lanes on just about every street in this city.  These lanes could be implemented quickly — radically, if you will — if only people prioritized the safe movement of people more than they do the free storage of private vehicles.

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One Comment
  1. August 23, 2012 9:23 pm

    Just for the record, the spaceship didn’t land only on the railyard (er, the part of the railyard Forest City Ratner sought). The blocks below it were needed also.

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