City Proposes Brooklyn Bridge Expansion Due To Overcrowding
As reported in the New York Times, New York City officials are considering widening the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian and bicycle promenade because of overcrowding.
It’s a terrible idea. But I’ve got a solution that may not be popular, but will surely lessen the congestion on the walkway.
Anyone who has tried to walk or bicycle across the bridge in the past few years realizes that it is crowded. How crowded? At all hours the bridge’s 10 to 17 foot wide promenade is full of not just commuters, but tourists. Thousands of visitors, many with selfie sticks meandering slowly, oblivious to their surroundings. Add to that, the bicyclists, hawkers of water and food, the dreaded costumed characters and a few street performers and there you have it, a congealed mass of humanity in a confined space.
Officials say an expansion of the pedestrian path should alleviate the overcrowding. As many people know, city projects almost always end up taking longer and costing New York taxpayers significantly more than the estimated cost.
Taking an iconic bridge and altering it is not the solution to the overcrowding.
The simple solution is to charge a pedestrian toll. The toll would be applicable to anyone not from the New York area. Show a New York ID card or drivers license and you don’t pay the fee. The toll waiver could include residents from the surrounding tri-state area. Cyclists could also cross for free.
If you are from somewhere else and touring the city, you pay for the privilege of walking across the bridge, just as you pay for any other heavily visited tourist site.
The next part is to ban anyone performing or selling anything on the bridge. The problem with that, is something called the First Amendment, which allows artistic expression and the sale of items protected under the First Amendment; i.e. – art, books, etc.
In the name of public safety, the city has effectively curtailed some vendors by designating certain places as off limits to non-food vendors. Directly in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the recent Times Square designated performance zones are examples of reasonable limitations. The same limitations should be in effect on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Surprisingly certain public and private spaces now charge entry fees. London’s St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, have fees for looking around. Montreal’s Basilique Notre-Dame now charges an admission fee. The Golden Mount (Wat Saket) in Bangkok is charging non-Thais to visit. To wander around the redwood trees at Muir Woods in California will cost you $10 – – because it’s a National Park. Payments from tourists help defray the costs of maintaining tourist magnets.
What you may not realize is that the Brooklyn Bridge used to have a toll for all pedestrians. When the bridge opened in 1883 it cost a penny to walk across. In one six month period the revenue from June 1 – December 1, 1884 was $20,017. Not bad for charging a penny.
They apparently were not charging enough, because the expenses for the walkway during the same period amounted to $20,995. New Yorkers and Brooklynites resented the pedestrian toll and it was eliminated in 1891.
The city is always trying to milk New Yorkers left and right with regressive taxes such as proposed traffic congestion plans and placing vehicular tolls on all the free bridges. How about giving New Yorkers a break and charging the tourists a few dollars to see our bridge up close.
The promenade may not look like it did in this 1979 photograph, but the crowds will become more manageable… and New York needs the revenue.