To the Editor:
Your article on the two block associations seeking to represent the 200 Block of West 22nd Street has a significant error. The article describes the dispute in the neighborhood over the last few months regarding the barricades that closed that block of West 22nd Street twelve hours a day for more than two years during the pandemic. The article says that the parking garage on that block “reported no decrease in activity during the blocked street time after rebounding from an expected pandemic lull.” That is not correct.
I was one of the neighbors who objected to the closing of that block and have lobbied to have the barriers removed, so far successfully. The parking garage manager reported to us a steep drop in business, and that was confirmed by figures provided by the head office of Icon, the company that operates the garage. Icon reported to us in November 2022 that business at the 22nd Street garage was down 23 percent compared to 2019, while three other garages in the area were up an average of 39 percent:
22nd St b/w 7/8 Av -23%
23rd St b/w 9/10 Av +18%
23rd St b/w 6/7 Av +37%
22nd St b/w 5/6 Av +63%
Further, the garage has operated at reduced hours with only 3 of 5 attendants since the pandemic. Those jobs have not returned.
We presented this data to the Transportation Planning Committee of Community Board 4 at a meeting in December and the general counsel of Icon also spoke at the meeting. We argued that the parking garage was one of the reasons why this block was a particularly bad block to close under the “Open Streets” program, because drivers would inevitably need to open the gates dozens of times a day to get to the garage. So the block could never be used as a pedestrian mall in which, for example, children could play.
The Committee voted to ask the sponsors of the Open Streets application for that block to remove the barriers and to replace them with staggered barriers that would not require cars to stop in Eighth Avenue. Community Board 4 adopted that recommendation on January 4, 2023, asking that the barriers be removed by January 15. Since January, the barriers have been gone. I, and I’m sure many of our neighbors, were very pleased to read your report that, according to Council Member Eric Bottcher there are no plans to replace the barriers.
Thank you for your continued coverage of issues that affect Chelsea.
Joseph E. Neuhaus