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Cars Banned From Meatpacking Forever After Successful Covid Trial

Cars will be banned permanently from multiple blocks in the Meatpacking District

New York City is keeping its cars-free policy in Manhattan’s tony Meatpacking District after the coronavirus pandemic, following the success of the Open Streets program in the neighborhood.

Gansevoort Street, Little West 12th Street, and West 13th Street between Ninth Avenue and Washington Street will continue to be blocked off to vehicular traffic in perpetuity, the New York Post reports. They have already been blocked off seven days a week under the program since September.

The Open Street concept was first introduced in the city in spring 2020 to give New Yorkers more outdoor space during lockdown. By last summer, the city had more than 67 miles of Open Streets, per Grub Street. In April, city council passed a bill to make the program permanent.

“We see the Meatpacking District as an ideal location to promote and support changes to the public realm that emphasize pedestrians, promote foot traffic for businesses, support outdoor café culture, and allow for more cultural programming on our streets,” Meatpacking Business Improvement District Director Jeffrey LeFrancois told Time Out. Hexagon-shaped planter barricades will be used to stop traffic, per the Post.  

Some have advocated for cars to be banned entirely from the city streets. Architect Vishaan Chakrabarti and his firm, the Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, published an ambitious proposal in The New York Times last summer, envisioning what Manhattan would be like if private cars were banned across the borough.

Traffic would decrease by 60%, PAU found, and bus commutes would be much quicker. He discussed the real estate business case of banning private cars in Manhattan on Bisnow’s podcast last year.

“Cornelius Vanderbilt created [the] world’s most valuable real estate when he did [Park Avenue], and the High Line, when we created public space, created some of the world’s most valuable real estate. When we created Central Park, we created some of the world’s most valuable real estate,” Chakrabarti said. “So the idea that this is somehow an anti-business idea, it’s crazy. It doesn’t hold up to history.”

Meatpacking already has some of the most valuable real estate in the city, as the neighborhood's office buildings are largely occupied by Google and other tech firms.