Local Group Launches New Campaign to Pedestrianize West 72nd Street

reimagining west 72nd street

c/o Streetopia Upper West Side

Have you ever wondered what a reimagined West 72nd Street – one that is more green and friendly to pedestrians, and less of a highway or thoroughfare – could look like? Or, maybe you’re a vehicle owner who relies on the street’s free parking and relatively easy east-west access.

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Streetopia, an organization whose mission is to “to shift our landscape from one that is dominated by cars and trucks to one that is built around beauty, interaction, health and connection,” has launched a campaign to make major changes to one of the Upper West Side’s main arteries.

The organization’s proposed changes are based on the belief that W. 72nd St. between Riverside Park and Central Park is a “wide arterial with six lanes dominated by cars—a street designed more for a suburb than one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the nation,” and should be redesigned to favor bus riders, bike riders, and pedestrians.

“A complete street redesign of West 72nd Street would improve the lives of everyone who lives, works, or otherwise relies on the corridor,” Streetopia says on its website.

The ambitious proposal (which can be viewed in its entirety here) recommends a variety of changes aimed at making W. 72nd St. a “people-first crosstown corridor connecting Central Park and Riverside Park.” An excerpt from a Streetopia email announcing the campaign includes the following proposed alterations:

“It might include bus priority lanes with local access for vehicles and deliveries; a world-class, all ages and abilities bikeway; expanded sidewalks for pedestrians and shorter crossing distances at every intersection; mid-block crossings on every block; and a repurposed curb lane that serves multiple uses, not just free overnight parking—things like rain gardens to mitigate the effects of climate change, trash containers to discourage rats, and loading zones so package delivery workers have a place to be that doesn’t block the street. Plus, many, many trees.”

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Proposed changes to traffic flow on the UWS are often met with debate, whether it be broader adjustments like what Streetopia’s proposed or temporary closures for initiatives like Open Streets. ILTUWS readers who are generally against pedestrianized zones have shared comments like:

  • “Stop taking parking away from your residents and constituents…We have huge problems in our city and you’re focusing on taking away our parking!??”
  • “No one utilizes the closed streets, I have seen cars go on them, and YES we have two beautiful parks for a good reason!!!”
  • “Please stop trying to make over the city to be like the suburbs. We who have lived in the city for many years like it as it is, URBAN. If you are looking for greenery, go to one of the parks and enjoy, but stop trying to turn the city into a pedestrian mall.”

The proposal uses the block between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues as a case study. Currently, that stretch has four lanes of vehicle traffic and two additional curb lanes, primarily for parking. Streetopia proposes a two-way cycle track, two bus priority vehicle lanes for local access only, and a staggered curb lane. Trees and benches would then dot the sidewalks.

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Those changes would leave only one vehicle lane each way on a street already dominated by buses and commercial vehicles, and Streetopia’s proposal suggests those lanes accommodate local traffic only, which could result in a backlog of traffic on adjacent streets.

The plan would also decimate free overnight parking along West 72nd Street, and would likely make it more difficult for delivery vehicles and taxis to pull over where they need to, which could negatively impact elderly and disabled residents.

Streetopia is prompting UWS residents to send letters to local elected officials, the Department of Transportation and Community Board 7, which you can do here.


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