CB5 hopes to curtail promotional events on plazas

One of numerous promotional events to take place at the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza last summer (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

One of numerous promotional events to take place at the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza last summer (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
Since the city’s pedestrian plazas made their debut in 2009, along with being a peaceful destination for those seeking a place to sit outside – albeit inches from traffic — they’ve also become big business for companies looking to hawk products to passersby.

That ongoing commercialization of the public spaces is the source of some contention for representatives of Community Board 5, who, after hearing about a concert planned for the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza that’s expected to draw a crowd of 10,000, made their displeasure known to the mayor.

The event is planned for February 12 at the north plaza and will require setup for three days prior to it taking place.

This was the topic of discussion held at a CB5 Parks Committee meeting last Monday, according to Jack Taylor, a member of the committee who attended and said he was against it, and that the rest of his fellow members spoke against it as well.

“It stunned everybody,” said Taylor. “They are planning for an audience of 10,000 people largely in but overflowing from the pedestrian plaza on the west side of Madison Square Park. It’s very alarming and massive and if it’s as described or proposed, it’s going to be very hard for pedestrians and drivers and just about anyone in the district.”

Exactly a week after the meeting, CB5’s chair, Vikki Barbero, along with Clayton Smith, chair of the Parks and Public Spaces Committee, penned a letter to the mayor to ask why community boards don’t get any say in the arranging of such commercial events. Meanwhile the city’s Street Activity and Permit Office apparently has sole discretion.

“The Department of Transportation created the pedestrian plaza network and is the city agency responsible for their oversight,” wrote Barbero and Smith. “The area BIDs were chosen to activate, administer and protect these plazas. Why, then, has the Street Activity Permit Office been given the sole discretion to make final determinations of what special events are appropriate for these public spaces?”

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Water main break on 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue (updated)

whirlpool

Flooding from the water main on the northeast corner of 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue
Photos by Sabina Mollot

By Sabina Mollot

A water main break on Friday morning before 11 a.m. sent rivers of water gushing throughout the street on Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street and inside the Q/N/R subway station, where trains stopped working.

Outside of Madison Square Park, on the east side, cars driving south found themselves having to get past a seven-foot-wide whirlpool. Naturally, tourists continued to stand around anyway to take pictures of the Flatiron Building, as firefighters responded to the scene.

The 36-inch water main was from 1915, according to William Podstupka, one of the MTA workers at the scene. An official agency spokesman couldn’t confirm the main’s age, though, explaining, “the MTA doesn’t own the water main.” Podstupka, however, said the main had caused 36,000 gallons of water to spurt out and that workers were just hoping to have the situation under control by Friday evening.

The break caused N and Q trains to stop running between 57th Street and Dekalb Avenue and R trains to stop running between Queens Plaza and Whitehall Street.

Update: As of 1:55 a.m. on Saturday, normal N, Q and R train service has resumed in Manhattan. According to an official NYC alert, straphangers should expect residual delays and traffic near East 23rd Street and Broadway.

Additionally, the Department of Environmental Protection was on the scene to address problems with water pressure in the area as a result of the break. If anyone still has low water pressure, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who sent out an email alert via the Flatiron BID, said the DEP is tracking complaints via the 3-1-1 system.

Stroller

Passersby slosh through the water on the northwest corner of 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue.

23rd Street NW corner puddle

Flooding at around 11 a.m.

workers

Three hours later, workers remain at the scene.