Thursday, October 18, 2007

"A Greater East New York Street"

That's the title on the boulder, hidden within the landscaping on the island at the intersection with Dorman Street, just west of Highland Park. What's funny is that, aside from the vegetation which obscures its view, it's not visible because it's turned toward the street and passersby in vehicles at 30+ mph will not be able to read it, let alone likely even notice its existence. And since there's no sidewalk adjacent to the island, the only way a pedestrian would see it is if they choose to walk in a travel lane of New York Street. I had probably walked past it 100 times before I happened to discover it.

The following photos give you a few glimpses of the obstacles a pedestrian faces walking from downtown to the near-eastside of Indianapolis. Note that the sidewalk is adjacent to the curb with no landscaping or other separation from fast-moving traffic.

The boulder is inscribed with the year "1933". Perhaps, this commemorated the first paving of New York Street on the eastside. Perhaps, it just accompanied a street widening and/or the realignment and redesignation of New York Street as a major thoroughfare. Whatever specific improvements were begun or completed in 1933, one thing can be pretty well assured; it surely must have commemorated a project that made this corridor an asset to the near-eastside.

Well, that was 74 years ago. Aren't we due for another project to develop a "Greater East New York Street"?

I certainly don't believe that government should solve all of society's problems, but there are certain functions that government is uniquely situated, and obligated to perform, such as: defending our country against attack (military), providing for domestic tranquility (police, courts, jails), and securing and maintaining public transportation ways to provide for movement of people and goods (public works).

Back to the photos: how can we expect anyone to do anything other than drive their vehicle everywhere they go, if even the locations in the inner city that have sidewalks are not kept clear and passable. The issue here is vegetation that neither adjacent property owners have taken responsibility for trimming as required by City/County Code, nor has the government taken responsibility for by issuing said owners notices of violation, and subsequently fines, to promote compliance with the Code.

The Cultural Trail being developed downtown is wonderful and exciting. It will spotlight attention on Indianapolis over the next several years as different portions of the Trail are completed. And of course, it should be noted that the Trail is being built within the public right-of-way, it is not a typical public works project in that taxpayers are not funding the bulk of the bill, which has been covered by private fundraising through the Central Indiana Community Foundation. To me, aside from some concerns about mixing bicycle traffic with pedestrians in a relatively dense downtown area, I have little doubt that the Cultural Trail will be a great success.

But the big question to me is: will it be an isolated pedestrian amenity that people drive downtown to use, while the remainder of Indianapolis remains a downright hostile environment to pedestrians? Or will it result in a renaissance period where the City finally begins to reverse decades of neglect of its pedestrian infrastructure, marking a new era of dedication to repairing and enhancing our existing sidewalks that should provide connections to the Cultural Trail, as well as accommodate trips in our neighborhoods whether for work, shopping, exercise, or social trips? I pray that the latter occurs, so that Indianapolis can become a desirable destination for young creative professionals for a reason other than simply having the most affordable housing of any mid- to large-sized city in the country.

One of the ways the question will be answered, will be by walking east on New York Street from downtown in 5 or 10 years. Hopefully, the pictures will look quite different. It's been 74 years. It's time to begin a new campaign for a Greater East New York Street... and a Greater Washington Street, and...


& DAGGER said...

Great post!

Phil Lavoie said...

Great post and great new blog. I used to live in Irvington and those stretches along New York and Michigan could be so nice. Keep bringing attention to it!