Readers react to Mayor Adams’ proposal to ‘pedestrianize’ Fifth Avenue

In attacking Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to “pedestrianize” Fifth Avenue by widening sidewalks and reducing four automatic lanes to one last week, I warned that it could lead to a Times Square-like situation where pedestrian plazas would create a poorer commercial environment while allowing disorderly behavior and crime.

The flashback was immediate. One reader, “Uncle Sammy” proposed on that Fifth Avenue be used for “outdoor dining sheds and outdoor gaming pop-ups”.

Less amusing were tweets from commercial leasing specialist Steve Soutendijk, managing director of Cushman & Wakefield and co-chair of the New York Real Estate Board’s Retail Committee.

Soutendijk raged over my post, “Never seen anything so disconnected.” It was “borderline parody”, “drivel” and “dog whistling”.

He objected that I disparaged D Sports at 1466 Broadway, which replaced Forever 21 there, for selling mostly sneakers. I joked that Times Square was losing its fanciest retail to “fast food and fast feet.”

Soutendijk tweeted that D Sports has 3,400 stores worldwide. I hope the soundtracks of the other 3,999 aren’t playing as well, like in Times Square a rap number called “Uber Everywhere” filled with multiple f-bombs and lyrics like “Shorty wanna kiss me but I know that she suck d—.

The Armani store on Fifth Avenue.
Light Rocket via Getty Images

Not everyone in retail agreed with Soutendijk’s view. Colliers VP Bradley Mendelson, who has managed epic leases in Times Square (Toys ‘R’ Us) and Fifth Avenue (Uniqlo), responded on Facebook to Adams’ Fifth Avenue scheme that the mayor “doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

Mendelson, a longtime skeptic in the squares, expressed his opinion of Adams’ plan: “Why doesn’t he do what he should… clean up the trash, get rid of the rats instead of taking this which is already good and to make it worse.”

Elmo in Times Square
Costumed characters, like Elmo, are part of Times Square.

The most unexpected support for my view came from the Chicago Tribune. An editorial calling for the revitalization of once premier but now struggling Michigan Avenue has warned against turning the “Magnificent Mile” into a replica of what Adams has in mind for Fifth Avenue.

The paper was “skeptical of too many pedestrian plazas in big, high-crime cities in cold weather”. He quoted my column: “To see the damage done by these…so-called oases, you needn’t go farther than Times Square.

The fresh air of the Windy City!

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