In attacking Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to “pedestrianize” Fifth Avenue by widening sidewalks and reducing four auto lanes to one last week, I warned that it could lead to a Times Square-like situation where pedestrian plazas made for a poorer shopping environment while enabling disorderly behavior and crime.
The blowback was immediate. One reader, “Uncle Sammy” proposed on nypost.com that Fifth Avenue be used for “outdoor dining sheds and outdoor gambling pop-ups.”
Less amusing were tweets by retail leasing specialist Steve Soutendijk, a managing director at Cushman & Wakefield and retail committee co-chair at the Real Estate Board of New York.
Soutendijk raged of my piece, “Never seen anything so out of touch.” It was “borderline parody,” “drivel” and “dog whistling.”
He objected that I disparaged D Sports at 1466 Broadway, which replaced Forever 21 at the location, for selling mainly sneakers. I quipped that Times Square was losing its classier retail to “fast food and fast feet.”
Soutendijk tweeted that D Sports has 3,400 stores worldwide. I hope the soundtracks at the 3,999 other don’t also pipe in, as at the Times Square location, a rap number called “Uber Everywhere” replete with multiple f-bombs and lyrics such as, “Shorty wanna kiss me but I know she sucking d—.”
Not everyone in retail was on board with Soutendijk’s view. Colliers vice chairman Bradley Mendelson, who has handled epic leases both in Times Square (Toys ‘R’ Us) and on Fifth Avenue (Uniqlo), responded on Facebook to Adams’ Fifth Avenue scheme that the mayor “doesn’t know what he’s doing.”
Mendelson, a longtime plaza skeptic, opined about Adams’ plan, “Why doesn’t he do what he should … clean up the garbage, get rid of the rats instead of taking what’s already great and make it worse.”
The most unexpected support for my view came from the Chicago Tribune. An editorial calling for revitalization of once-premier but now struggling Michigan Avenue 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, cold-weather high-crime cities.” It quoted my column, “For a look at the damage these … so-called oases cause you need go no further than Times Square.”
Fresh air from the Windy City!
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