No Cars On McGuinness Blvd – A Virtual Reality with Streetmix

I’m just going to go out on a limb and say it. I hate cars.

See the above image? It’s my vision for McGuinness Blvd using an online App called StreetMix that I read about in this article on Hyperallergic.

Do you notice there are no cars in my design?

I think cars are stupid, especially in a city like New York, where so many people are crammed together, sharing what we all don’t have enough of  - space – especially open natural space.

I do enjoy the benefits of Jon’s pick-up truck – the official vehicle of Greenpointers – toting around beer donations from Brooklyn Brewery and plates for our Sunday Suppers.

I will beat you to the punch: I am a hypocrite – or less harshly my ideals are not inline with reality. And before Jon’s truck, I made it work without a car – where there is a will there is a car-less way. Where there is a car, there is a person choosing to take the easy way.

In my own defense, when not lugging around crap – I take the subway, walk or ride my bike and Jon does the same. Otherwise his truck is vital to his public service career (and the blog.)

Maybe if cars were all the size of Smart Cars and ran on vegetable oil, I would be less critical. As you’ve seen on my instagram feed – I am nostalgic about huge boxy metallic brown 80s cars. And every time I see the new caramel colored fiat or a racer stripe mini, I’m smitten.

I guess it’s not the actual cars I hate as much as the driver mentality. The idea that owning a car is an inalienable right and the short-sightedness of driving’s impact on the environment are what get to me. We need cars, when we need them. Most of the time, our legs, the train or a bike will do – and will be better for our state of mind, our health and the quality of life in the city.

What I see on a day to day basis is one person driving around in a car or SUV barreling through stop signs and not letting pedestrians have the right of way. (I know you don’t drive like that.) Huge gas guzzling taxis drive one passenger through midtown traffic. (I’ve been that asshole.) The streets are shut down when school lets out with parents double parked waiting to pick up one kid. What happened to walking to school?

Ever ride in the HOV lane on the LIE? You win, because beside you in the non-HOV lane is single driver after single driver in a car fit to ride four. Everyday that is the reality of commuting in the city, in our tunnels and over our bridges.

Cars are anti-social by design. You can black out your windows and barely make eye contact with other drivers. When you’re pissed you can wake up the entire street and blare your annoyingly loud horn. The thoughts I’ve had – the vindictive thoughts to use paint ball guns or poison darts to shoot at honkers from my window.

I remember when we were all signing the petition for the McGolrick Park Farmers Market and a driver on Russell St commented that he was pissed that for the few hours on Sunday when the market would be running he would lose out on his parking space. His parking space is about the size of one market stall (which for the record is on the sidewalk) that provides fresh healthy produce to an entire community. But his parking space is more important.

All the carless New Yorkers couldn’t help but eye roll after Hurricane Sandy at all the drivers waiting for hours in line at the pump, which were guarded by armed police officers. God forbid I gently suggested that commuters walk, bike or take the bus.

I know that my vision of a carless city is extreme and that I may be offending a lot of people who have cars. I know we need emergency and delivery vehicles and buses. I know the elderly and handicapped can’t hop on bikes to the grocery store. And if we did have better transportation within and beyond the city limits making cars not a necessity for commuting – we would have much happier, less stressed to the max NYers. Not to mention cleaner air!

I often half-jokingly suggest transforming McGuinness Blvd into a car-free sodded pedestrian mall. I get ripped to shreds for that one every time – yet I do not relent. I really believe in this vision!

Even though I wish my idea becomes reality, I know as long as cars are priority in the city McGuinnes Blvd will continue to be one of the most dangerous anti-pedestrian roadways in all of NY – at least in real life.

Thanks to internet geniuses the new app called Streetmix can make my car-less New York City dreams a virtual reality!

Try it. It’s super fun – you can just do away with cars! I compromised – I did leave a lane for busses, delivery and emergency vehicles, okay? But see the huge amount of space for pedestrians!

New York shouldn’t be a place where one person in a car rules and a disproportionately high number of pedestrians drool. In my dream, you can leisurely stroll down the center of McGuinness Blvd enjoying the scent of fresh cut grass, rather than what it is now a dangerously wide street where you must dodge speeding automobiles while coughing exhaust fumes.

Why is that such a crazy idea? Queens Blvd of death – you’re next!

About Jen G

After living in NYC my entire life, I found the strongest sense of community in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Running this blog is truly an honor and the best part is meeting its readers in real life. Everyday I am energized by smiles and inspiring conversations with fellow Greenpointers who tirelessly do and create incredible things that are good for our community and share the same love I have for life here. If you see me walking with my little dog "D" - please say hi!

16 Comments

  1. Jay says:

    Gah, McGuinness is truly awful! Although as long as it’s a thoroughfare to the BQE, I think we’re stuck with it. I wonder what it would look like if someone built a large, elevated park/walkway over McG? Or a mall…if you wish. :)

    Reply
    • Jen G says:

      I hate elevated because then it’s like under the BQE – dirty and a parking lot. I never want to be under there. What about some kind of tunnel!?!?

      Reply
    • Mutley says:

      As a life long Greenpointer …. if you don’t like it, you can just LEAVE !!! Nobody is begging you to stay here

      Reply
      • Camille says:

        Oh, the genius classic “if you don’t like it, leave” response. Such a lame, lazy response.

        If all we ever did when something sucks is LEAVE then everything would SUCK. We’d still be in caves telling people to leave if they want stuff like heat, underwear, and a toilet.

        People with some guts stick around and try to improve things, even if all their ideas don’t work. At least they TRY. Enough people have died on McGuinness. It’s not about what you like or don’t like and how long you’ve lived in Greenpoint – people have the RIGHT to not get killed crossing the street.

        Reply
  2. Chris says:

    I live on McGuinness Blvd. in a huge 2 bedroom apartment on the cheap. I love my apartment – I really do. Its great in the summertime when I can put my air conditioners in the windows and drown out the heavy traffic noise!
    My bedroom faces McGuinness Blvd – so it really took some getting used to. The tire shop at the corner of McGuinness & Meserole are my crowing rooster during the week – jarring me awake from the lug nut removal drill that makes that hideously rapid clacking sound.

    I am subscribing to your view of a pedestrian friendly McGuinness Blvd! Just think – if there were no cars – there would be almost no noise pollution – or Pepe’s tire shop – or hit and runs. Oh BTW – I actually watched someone die from a hit and run on McGuinness & Meserole. I hate McGuinness, hate cars, and love Greenpoint. Conundrums!

    Reply
    • Jen G says:

      That does stink that you have to hear all that noise and saw that awful accident. So let’s start a petition to make McGuinness car free so that YOU CAN SLEEP! And so that people can breathe again!

      Reply
  3. Anna says:

    I believe the worst offenders are not the passenger cars but the tractor trailers in transit. They have Ohio plates or Texas plates or Alabama plates.. you name it. Why any l of them have to drive on McGuinness?
    They don’t make local deliveries, they are just monsters in transit.
    First: If someone, anyone could change McGuinness status from Blvd to Pkwy then there would be no tractor trailers on McGuinnes.
    Second: Changing BQE status to Pkwy would mean a cleaner air and almost no traffic for all of NYC.
    We have to start somewhere right?

    Reply
    • Jen G says:

      The trucks are really horrible. And technically NO TRUCKS are allowed unless they are making local deliveries, which is not enforced and McGuinness Blvd is used to get from LIE to BQE. When I lived on Kingsland Ave – trucks also used to use that as a short-cut and that is a one way one lane residential street. I had a tough time sleeping there. I like the idea of changing it so no trucks can go on it AT ALL. Regardless there is a lot of speeding in general. Maybe speed bumps and those speeding detectors would be good.

      Reply
  4. Josh says:

    Jen, kudos to you! This article is exactly what I’ve been dreaming about for years. I’m also a Greenpoint resident and love it here. On one side, McGuinness is apart of the Greenpoint “charm” as we know it, but than I think…I’ve witnessed 2 people get hit (by trucks), numerous cars get side-swiped, 50 mile per hour monster vehicles plowing past baby strollers, etc…I don’t need to mention the noise and air pollution. Something needs to change.

    The neighborhood is divided in two with that Blvd, and it would be great to make it whole “again” – and have traffic go around residential areas. Restoring McGuinness to the original 2-lane street (ideally no cars, but that’s an unlikely reality as we both agree) it once was would be awesome. I’ve done my research – that’s why the East Side of the street has no older buildings…eminent domain happened in the middle of the last century to widen the street. I’m up for signing a petition or helping get started!

    Reply
    • Jen G says:

      Thanks and very interesting about the eminent domain.

      Reply
      • Josh Gooch says:

        Jen,

        This article inspired me to create a proposal for a grant of funding (via the GCEF (Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund) regarding truck re-routing in Greenpoint…specifically around McGuinness between Greenpoint Ave and Meeker. It’s a $20M fund, and crossing fingers that our proposal is accepted for a study. Working with OUTRAGE via St. Nick’s Alliance in Williamsburg who support the proposal immensely. Thanks for this article…has already done some good.

        Reply

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