John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc 
 2008 August 18
    In June 2008 New York Mayor Bloomberg announced 'Summer Streets', 
a project to close certain Manhattan streets from motor traffic on 
three Saturdays during August. The dates were set for Saturdays, 
August 9, 16, 23, from 07h to 13h EDST, The streets were Lafayette St 
from Brooklyn Bridge, Fourth Avenue, Park Avenue South, Park Avenue, 
72nd Street to Central Park. The full length of this route was quite 
11 kilometers. 
    In these streets during these dates and hours, motor vehicles were 
barred and only human-powered transport was allowed. For the most 
part, bicycles were expected, with rental and repair services spotted 
along the route.
    This is the second of three summaries, one for each of the three 
Summer Streets sessions. It covers the session of 16 August 2008. The 
other two sessions were on the 9th and 23rd of August. 
    NYSkies applied for a booth or exhibit for Summer Streets, in the 
belief that it was a eco/enviro street fair similar to Earth Day. 
After discussion with the Summer Streets officials, the request was 
turned down because there were no plans for exhibits, booths, 
displays. A discussion of this matter is in my article for the first 
session. NYSkies had no litterature to hand for distribution on this 
Summer Street session. 
Cross streets 
    The closed cross streets, being of as varied a development as the 
mainline, offered interesting attractions in architecture and 
construction. On many of them there are interesting and intriguing 
structures that can be appreciated free from the interference of motor 
    These streets provided a buffer against traffic noise from beyond 
Summer Streets. However, beside the cross streets were mostly short 
blocks, there leaked into the main corridor some vehicular noise. 
Never the less, the corridor was remarkably quiet.
    The buildings flanking Summer Streets and the cross streets are 
densely residential. On this Saturday morning the residents were out 
in the streets, as they routinely do. Their shops, stands, stoops were 
active, their music played, their kids ran around. 
    It was not really quiet enough to understand conversations several 
meters away, but a person calling from there was clearly heard. The 
human-powered street sounds were overlaid by noise from machinery, 
like air condition, in buildings along the mainline. 
Summer Streets in Brooklyn 
    Summer Streets started at Brooklyn Bridge and extended north from 
it. The Bridge has a walk/ride path on it, by which folk from Brooklyn 
may enter onto and then after engage in Summer Streets. The Bridge 
path, landfall to landfall, is about 1 kilometer. It starts in 
Brooklyn near Adams St and Sands St. 
    I entered Summer Streets at the landfall of Brooklyn Bridge next 
to City Hall. Bikes flowed on and off of the Bridge, confirming my 
notion that Summer Streets really should include the Bridge walkway 
all the way to Brooklyn. 
    Adding this reach to the 33 K on Manhattan, brings the total 
length of walk/ride route to about 34 kilometers. I don't know how 
this length compares with that in 'summer streets' projects elsewhere, 
but 34 K in about the length of a ride on the 'A' train from Euclid Av 
to Inwood/207th St!
    The Bridge path was not specially closed to motor traffic. It is a 
permanent segregated way requiring no extra treatment for Summer 
Streets. Yet it was a linear continuation of Summer Streets and could 
be promoted as part of it on future occasions.   
    As a matter of fact, Summer Streets could possibly include Cadman 
Plaza and Fulton Mall, both suitable for walk/ride. These areas are 
already free of motor traffic, or can be made so with simple 
adjustment. Thus, a future Summer Streets could reach from Albee 
Syuare in Brooklyn to Central Park! 
My own trek
    The day of Saturday the 16th of August was about as perfect a day 
for walking and other outdoor pursuits. The sky was a deep blue with a 
few cumuli drifting by. The air was cool and breezy. The only thing 
missing, but that's a long term lack, was a solar halo. Air 
temperature was a bit warm. I tied my jacket around my waist in skirt 
    I arrived at City Hall at about 11:00 via the IRT Lexington Av 
train. Having taken a hefty breakfast, I passed up a take-away lunch. 
I then stepped into Foley Square. The short piece of Park Row and 
Centre Street in front of the Municipal Building was closed from motor 
traffic to connect the mainline to the Bridge. 
    There were signs on lamppoles and stands all around Foley Square. 
The Summer Streets signs I saw there and elsewhere were faced in 
enough directions that they likely could be noticed from off of the 
    Foley Square was filled wall-to-wall with people on foot, bike, 
skates. At first, in the southern blocks, they seemed to be local folk 
from the surrounding residences. As I approached Canal Street the mix 
shifted to a substantial portion of tourists. More about Canal Street 
    Altho most of the tourists didn't know why the streets were 
closed, they seemed to thoroly enjoy the promenade to pass from place 
to place. 
    I ambled slowly, there being no hurry on this ideal day. I repeatedly 
stopped to admire some detail on a building or take pictures from 
vantages here to fore not feasible. The sunlight was dazzling, with a 
harsh cutoff between sun and shade. Many visitors were forced to don 
hats or shades while crossing between blocks. With the generally lower 
skyline in this southern reach of Summer Streets, there was a more 
continuous sunlight along the entire route. The shade was provided 
against the uptown lanes by the buildings on that side. 
    This section has no median and, therefore, no handy sitting to 
rest. On the other hand there were several island along the why with 
park benches. 
    Quite as many cyclists plied Summer Streets as walkers! For the 
most part they were well-behaved. They rode at about thrice walking 
speed and did stop or swerve when a pedestrian wandered into their 
way. Many, but not all, intersection were crewed by several police, 
who likely were strong determents against reckless riding or speeding. 
As far as I saw, no one was pulled over for such infractions. 
    In the section below Houston St, the mainline blocks are the long 
ones. The extra length, plus the thinned out police, allowed for 
bursts of speed from bicycles. Once in a while, I felt imperiled by 
bikes overtaking me. Nothing adverse happened to me or anyone else 
that I noticed. 
    I looked over a bicycle rental and repair base. Since I was 
walking, I didn't linger long, only to see what was going on. 
    Virtually all bikes were single-seaters. a few were two-seaters 
and a couple had trailers for kids. Pretty much all cyclists wore at 
least a helmet. 
Rest stops 
    I detoured at one rest stop. It was a simple tent and counter to 
sign up visitors for assorted off-site activities, give directions and 
advice, and point to a nearby sipping fountain. This was in Mulberry 
St/Bleecker St on the east side of Fourth Avenue. 
    The sipping fountain was a weird curiosity. A cart topped with a 
basin and spouts was coupled to a hydrant! In this example, the hose 
ran across a closed piece of street, making a comical photograph. 
Apart from provided a refreshing drink, this setup would be a dropdead 
poster child for the purity and flavor of New York City water. Maybe 
the water department will use it in its advertising? 
Yoga & cha-cha 
    Publicity for Summer Streets noted that there were workshops in 
yoga, cha-cha, and other mind-body exercises along the route. Also 
noted was musical performances. In the section I walked, I stopped at 
two. One was a lesson on dancing; the other, a slow freeze-pose 
exercise demonstration.
    The street had more wayside business activity, partly from the 
normal life here. I don't know if any stores had specific Summer 
Street displays. 
 .  It really didn't matter. I don't think any one came to SUmmer 
Streets looking for organized entertainment. The real entertainment 
was the freedom from motor traffic and the ease of traversing from 
nabe to nabe on Manhattan. 
Lafayette Avenue 
    The southern part of Chinatown is at Foley Square and nearby 
Columbus Park. But the street here, Lafayette Avenue, is lined with 
civic halls of the more bland style. Some had construction scarfs and 
chain-link fences. One extremely charming structure, which I spent 
some time to admire, was a 19th century firehouse! It likely was among 
the first built for the newly established municipal fire service, 
replacing the private subscription services. This is just south of 
Canal Street on the east side of lafayette Avenue. 
    The terms, 'hook and ladder' and 'engine' derive from the 19th 
century firefighting methods. When a fire can not be quenched, the 
burning building was demolished with the help of iron hooks to pull 
walls and roofs down. The ladders were for rescuing occupants and were 
carried on the same wagon as the demolition tools. 
    The engine was the steam driven pump for firehoses. They in the 
late 19th century replaced hand pumps, which were totally pathetic 
against any substantial conflagration. 
    Chinatown's main street is Canal Street, also a thruway for heavy 
motor traffic between Manhattan Bridge and Holland Tunnel. It is thick 
with vehicles at all hours of the day and can be hazardous to cross on 
foot without sharp attention. Police were denser here to control the 
road traffic and give time for Summer Street visitors to cross. 
    Chinatown runs like an Asian town with people litterally all over 
the street. They were the only group to seem oblivious to Summer 
Streets. Why?
    They do 'summer streets' all the time, even with motor traffic to 
mix in with them! I saw no obvious increased activity on Lafayette 
Street for Summer Streets in downtown Chinatown. I made a figure-8 
loop thru the side streets. It was tough going thru the dense crowds 
milling around shops, stands, booths, windows, trucks. There were 
leaflets handed out promoting a this or that restaurant for watching 
the Olympics. Here and there were performances. One was a plastic 
phonebooth-size cabinet in which a customer stood. With the door 
closed, air jets pelted the person with what looked like ping-pong 
balls! The operator explained it's a new form of skin stimulus. 
Fourth Avenue 
    Moving northward I entered SoHo along its east frontier. The 
street was actually pretty calm, nothing like the busyness along 
Broadway or West broadway to the west. At or near Houston Street 
Lafayette Street becomes Fourth Avenue. 
    Houston St is also a major thruway for motor traffic connecting 
with Williamsburgh Bridge. Police were thicker here to guide Summer 
Street visitors across this street.
    Houston Street is a narrow road on old maps, like the piece now 
west of 6th Av. It was widened to build the Houston Street line of the 
IND subway. The extra width is along the south side, where evidence of 
the demolished buildings is plentiful on every block. 
    I'm now in the valley between Greenwich Village to the west and 
East Village to the east. There was a definite subdued calmness in the 
street. The street pattern aligns with the Manhattan grid with the 
mainline having the short blocks. The cross streets take on numbers 
from Bleecker St, which is equivalent to 2nd Street. 
    Cooper Square is a wide space, where Bowery and Fourth Avenue 
converge. They separate north of the Square, where Bowery changes name 
to 3rd Avenue. I inspected a new glass-sided skyscraper on the south 
side of the square next to Cooper Union. 
    I also took a closer look at the replica kiosk of the Astor Place 
station. This renovation in the 1980s was the proving ground for the 
1990s method of redoing subway stations all over the transit system. 
The theme is now to keep the original motif, even if it has to be 
reconstructed, while adding mod-cons and contemporary ornament. 
    The Astor Pl outlet is the world's largest K-Mart in floorage. The 
Penn Station one is the world's busiest in sales. These two units are 
the world's only K-Marts with entry direct from transit stations. 
Astor Place, being a local station with no crossover, has the entry 
only on the downtown side. 
Union Square
    Fourth Avenue is the eastern flank of Union Square. The irregular 
streets around the park required some parallel roads, including a 
piece of Broadway, to be closed for Summer Streets. 
    At 16th St the median begins that continues north into Park Avenue 
South. I walked north to 18th St to blend into my first walk. Then I 
turned back south to the Park. By then it was quite 13:00. Police 
started waving people and bikes off of the street. Then the horses 
were pulled away to open the street to cars. Simmer Streets was over. 
Rapid transit 
    Summer Street offered transit under or parallel to it via the IRT 
Lexington Av line. I suppose some visitors walked for a while, then 
took the train to explore an other section of Summer Streets. 
    Because I did not use the subway during my walk I don't know if it 
had a larger carriage then a normal weekend. The IRT, by which I got 
to Brooklyn Bridge next to Summer Streets, was overflowing with 
riders. However, they could have been going to Lower Manhattan for 
other reasons. The streets around City Hall, off of Summer Streets, 
were mobbed as were those in and around Union Square. 
Right hand flow
    In the reach of Lafayette Street and Fourth Avenue, the street has 
no median to separate traffic in each direction. To suggest right hand 
running, traffic cones were deposited about every 6 meters in the 
centerline of the route. There was no specific instruction from the 
police to stay in the right hand flow, yet just about everyone took up 
the rule on his own. Cyclists flowed in one direction on each side of 
the street, with only singular exceptions. 
    Walkers, too, stayed in right hand flow, with a little more 
erraticism. Some, even I, did wrongroad once in a while, mainly to 
take a look at a this or that wayside feature. 
    About the same as I noted in my first walk. Nothing major, more 
like punchlist items to look after. 
    I did notice that advertising for this week's session pointed out 
the entertainment a little more carefully and their booths were more 
evident on the mainline. 
    Perhaps signs at the intersections noting the right-hand running 
would remove any uncertainty about traffic flow. 
End of the walk 
    It was 13:00, closing hour for Summer Streets. I just retraced my 
steps back from 18th St to 16th St. 
    When I reached 16th Street, police began shooing everyone off of 
the streets. Summer Streets was over for today. Bikes glided to a 
halt, then darted off to other, car-filled, streets. Within a minute 
or two, cars started streaming onto Fourth Avenue from the side 
streets. Five minutes later, except for horses piled up at corners, 
the streets regained their normal traffic-choked demeanor. 
    I quit Union Sqaure to get a train downtown to do brunch with a 
lady buddy.