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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

If a Tree Falls in the Bronx ...

It’s Bronx Week, but that doesn’t mean the Bronx is getting its due from the rest of the city. Just the opposite.

Yesterday, the mayor announced, with great fanfare and even rock icon David Byrne by his side, that the city was going to do something unprecedented and really groundbreaking by creating a car-free zone for three Sundays over the summer along a 7-mile stretch in Manhattan. The idea, they said was a big success in London, Paris, and even Bogota!

“…(w)e have never been afraid to try new ideas, especially the ones that have the potential to improve the quality of life,” the mayor said.

If they had looked in the files, or maybe even asked a civil servant at DOT, they would have discovered the idea was not at all new, and was implemented in the Bronx almost 20 years ago.

For five years, beginning in the early 1990s, 40 blocks of the center mall of the Grand Concourse were closed to car traffic, so residents could bike, walk, jog, skate and play along the historic thoroughfare for 12 summer Sundays.

Mayor Giuliani shut down the popular program probably because its chief cheerleader, Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, was expected to challenge him in the following year’s mayoral race. (We covered this in a 1996 article and editorial, which we’ll get on-line shortly.) The program partially returned to a smaller portion of the Concourse the last two years, Crotona Park last month, and advocates are now trying to move it to Crotona Parkway.

Even cycling advocates Transportation Alternatives seemed to be oblivious to this history, even though they were in the forefront of opposing the Concourse program’s shutdown . “It’s a new way to use a street, using it more as a park than as a thoroughfare,” said Paul Steely White, the group’s executive director, in the Times yesterday.

The myopia is chronic. Today in the Times, there was an article about trees felled by recent storms in Central Park.

Reading it, you would think the storms had it in only for Central Park, and skipped over every other city park.

Just driving down Mosholu and Pelham parkways in the Bronx, you can see the massive damage done. And we just got off the phone with Christina Taylor at the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park, who reports that indeed many trees have fallen in the park, the city’s third largest, including one that came down on Van Cortlandt Park East and smashed a few cars.

So, trees did fall in the Bronx, and innovative ideas originate here, too, even if most people outside the borough choose not to pay attention.


  1. Jordan,

    do your homework. we fought like hell a few years ago to get cfgc reinstated. it has been, though on a very limited scale. more recently, these limited events have led to the car-free crotona event. just because we didn't mention the boogiedown in our times comments doesn't make us "oblivious". if you are trying to stoke interest in your blog, pick on another party.


  2. Hi Paul,
    I did do my homework. I mentioned that you were in the forefront of trying to restore CFGC. But you told the Times it was a "new idea." Why?
    For what it's worth I've often written about TA's great work in the Bronx in the Norwood News.


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