Change always hurts somebody, doesn’t it? And in a dense urban neighborhood, any gain, no matter how important to the public good, registers on somebody’s radar screen as a loss. Despite this political fact of life, however, change remains essential to improvement and — in the case of West 50th Street — traffic needs to be calmed.
Unfortunately, after years of steady, reasoned effort by Fulton and Lynnhurst neighborhoods, elected officials and professionals to slow and calm traffic on 50th Street, late-comers to the process — a newly organized collection of local businesses — are demanding that the traffic-calming re-striping project on 50th Street be abandoned. Why? Because they want to keep what they’ve always had — a handful of spots right in front of their door — and are having a hard time accepting change.
Are they entitled to their opinion? Of course. Are they entitled to express it and be heard? Absolutely. But their opinion alone shouldn’t derail a well-crafted solution that has grown out of a seven-year, consensus-building process. Owning a business is, in part, about adapting to changing conditions. Asking customers to walk a block or cross a street is not a huge competitive disadvantage, especially if the street customers are navigating is safe. Customers park and walk distances to shop at 50th and France already.
Should some businesses leave as a consequence of traffic-calming on 50th Street, as a few have threatened, I am confident that others will take their place — businesses that recognize the market potential offered by an active, empowered, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood.
Fulton resident Kathy Shea co-chaired the Slow Down on 50th Street campaign, coordinated by the Fulton-Lynhurst Neighbors for Safe Driving Task Force in 2000.