Car-free zone for part of Soho?

Idea would make vehicles off-limits on Sundays
March 11, 2008 3:40:10 PM PDT
A busy part of Soho could soon be off-limits to cars. Officials are considering a proposal to turn a portion of Prince Street into a car-free zone. The idea is to create a street fair atmosphere on certain Sundays during the summer. Sounds appealing, but not everyone likes the idea.

Eyewitness News reporter Sandra Bookman tells us why.

With its pricey boutiques and narrow cobblestoned streets, Soho is one of the city's most popular and pictureque destinations. And now, the department of transportation has come up with a plan to make it even more pedestrian-friendly by turning a six block section of Prince Street, from Lafeyette to West Broadway, into a car-free zone on Sundays.

Sean Sweeney of the Soho Alliance said Tuesday, "Why do you want to turn Soho into Disneyland? Why do you want to turn it into the Santa Monica Pier? Why to you want to turn it into a San Genaro festival every Sunday? It's just a crazy idea, not well thought-out."

Sean Sweeny has lived in Soho, one block off Prince, for more than 30 years. He argues the proposed pedestrian mall would simply increase congestion and pollution on surrounding streets, not discourage motorists.

But vendor Ann Philips believes the end result will be positive: More tourists and more business.

"It'll cut off some of the parking spots, though," Phillips says, "And it's going to create a lot of chaoss with parking, but I think it's a good idea."

The head of Community Board Two, Brad Hoylman, says he's willing to listen to the DOT's plan if it ultimately benefits the neighborhood and respects the historic character of Soho.

"My emphasis is to go into this with an open mind," Hoylman told us, "to congratulate DOT for bringing us ideas that emphasize pedestrian uses over cars and trucks."

Hoylman says shutting down Prince is likely to be a limited, pilot program and he hopes the community will have the final say-so as to whether the pedestrian mall becomes permanent.