Mayor Bloomberg's next big idea: Shut down Park Avenue.
A five-mile stretch of road running from Lower Manhattan to Central Park will be closed to automobiles for three days in August, as part of a city Department of Transportation program that, if successful, could lead to regular street closings.
The proposal, expected to be announced by Mr. Bloomberg at an event today, is intended to provide New Yorkers and visitors with a safe place to jog, stroll, and ride without the congestion normally associated with the city's streets. The car-free zone will run from the start of Centre Street in Lower Manhattan to 72nd Street on the Upper East Side by way of Lafayette Street, Fourth Avenue, and Park Avenue, and it will be closed between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. on three consecutive Saturdays: August 9, August 16, and August 23.
But while the plan is intended to accommodate residents, some fear that, even on a weekend, the toll on businesses will be higher than the value gained.
The owner of Elan, an antique furniture store on Lafayette Street, Jeff Greenberg, 55, called the street closing "a horrible nightmare."
"There's no doubt that it will affect my business negatively," Mr. Greenberg said in an interview yesterday.
In addition to his concern that customers would not come without cars, he said the only way to load furniture into his store was through the front entrance on Lafayette Street, which would be impossible during a road closing.
"They've got to be kidding," the manager and owner of the League of Mutual Taxi Owners, Vincent Capone, said. "It's getting harder and harder for a cab driver to be out there making a living with all these traffic rules."
Instead of closing off Manhattan streets, Mr. Capone suggested organizing an event in nearby Central Park or in Brooklyn. "This is New York, this is Manhattan," he said. "We're not in the middle of a forest somewhere."
A source familiar with the project said the concept is loosely based on a common practice in some European cities, where main thoroughfares are closed periodically for pedestrian and bicycle access. Already, the city closes park drives in Central Park and Prospect Park to traffic on weekends. The state of Massachusetts closes Memorial Drive in Cambridge from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays from April to November.
Certain interactive activities, including yoga, could be permitted in the public space in New York, the source said, but planners want to avoid a "funnel cake" carnival atmosphere that is common in many of the city's street fairs. Vendors must be licensed and would be restricted to selling on the sidewalks along the route.
The chairman of the City Council's committee on transportation, John Liu, said a project like this has been discussed for several years, and would reinforce a trend, rather than posing an inconvenience.
"This is not likely to create a huge ripple in the fabric of Manhattan," he said. "It may even begin to wean people off dependence on personal automobiles."
Mr. Liu said street closings are frequent in the city during the summer, but in shorter parade routes, or shorter street fairs. He said any complaints about the road closings were likely to come from businesses along the route, although he said most of the roads to be closed were surrounded by public and residential buildings.
Orthodox Jews do not drive on Saturdays, so they would be unaffected. And many Manhattanites with country homes leave on Friday afternoons and do not return until Sunday night or Monday morning, so they may not even notice the Saturday street closures.
The manager of Chinatown Brasserie, a restaurant on Great Jones and Lafayette streets, Iveline Lau, said the closing would be "a headache for guests." A salesman at the Eye Candy jewelry store on Lafayette and Bleecker, Paul Ingratta, said he thought his business would not suffer. "The car is obsolete in this town anyways," he said.
None of the businesses The New York Sun spoke with yesterday said they were consulted by the city about the road closings.
While at first there was some concern that the police department would not approve the event, Commissioner Raymond Kelly is said to approve of the proposal, according to a source familiar with the plan. Closing the 5-mile stretch of roads requires a lot of manpower to cordon off hundreds of side streets and direct traffic on crosstown thoroughfares.
The cost of police presence along the thoroughfare could total $900,000 for all three Saturdays, according to a Department of Transportation official, Dani Simons, quoted in a recent story in Downtown Express. The police department did not offer comment yesterday.
This plan comes in the final year of the Department of Transportation's three-year bike path project, the goal of which is to create 200 miles of on-street bike paths throughout the city in order to calm traffic and provide cyclists with a protected place to pedal. The department has completed 90 miles of paths to date.
"No comment," a spokesman for the Department of Transportation, Scott Gastel, said.