Shit we can’t keep in the street

As I wrote on Sunday, if the sidewalks of Manhattan (and the rest of New York) seem crowded, it’s no accident. They are now playing host to a lot of things that used to happen in the streets.

There are some things that used to happen in the streets that now happen in parks, or not at all. Jane Jacobs gave several reasons why it was better for children to play in the streets than in parks, not least because they had a much better chance of having positive interactions with adult men in the streets. But now kids can’t play in the streets, because there are too many cars and they drive too fast. Kids can’t spend too much time playing on the sidewalk, because it’s too close to the moving cars.

On my post from Sunday, Alai commented, “there are a lot of sidewalk “encumbrances” which I’m fond of: on commercial streets, for example, stores rolling out display cases with vegetables or books or other wares to entice the passers-by, cafe tables with people sitting and watching, etc.” I agree, and I feel similarly about stoops, benches and porches. But in the commercial districts of Manhattan, many of them were cleared so that the street could be widened. I used to feel that way about news boxes and telephone booths as well, before cell phones and the Internet.