Houston Street Gets Tree-mendous New Sidewalks

houston_trees.jpg 

We're just catching up to this piece of good news in The Villager last week:

With the Houston St. renovation project on the West Side finally nearing completion, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that the sidewalks between Sixth Ave. and W. Broadway on the street's south side have doubled in width. And, in an interesting twist, the existing trees were left in place - right in the middle of the pavement. Ian Dutton, vice chairperson of Community Board 2's Traffic and Transportation Committee, said this was not a mistake by the Department of Design and Construction. "People really expressed concern that trees were being destroyed needlessly in this project," Dutton said. "So I think that was D.D.C.'s way of preserving these trees."

Surprisingly, some people had expressed concern about widening the sidewalks. Dutton said Lucy and Leonard Cecere, who own a building at MacDougal and Houston Street, feared they'd have more snow to shovel in the winter, while Sean Sweeney, the Soho Alliance's director, thought wider sidewalks could become a "circus," attracting an influx of vendors and performers on top of the vendors who already congregate there under a deal with St. Anthony's Church.

But Dutton said he believes that only a path needs to be cleared in winter, not the entire sidewalk. "I think it has actually changed the mood of the street," Dutton said of the mid-pavement trees. "It almost feels like a European promenade."… Meanwhile, Councilmember Alan Gerson is still fuming at the Department of Transportation over the project's having narrowed traffic islands at pedestrian crossings heavily used by local senior citizens. "I am at my wit's end with this department," he declared at C.B. 2's meeting last Thursday.

Photo: Ian Dutton