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New York: Friday, June 14, 2024
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Politics: While Nyc Descends Into Chaos, Philadelphia Is Model Of

POLITICS: While NYC descends into chaos, Philadelphia is model of urban order

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I took a stroll through the center of town the other day.

To my delighted disbelief, there were no steel-and-wood “sidewalk bridges” plunging whole blocks into shadow.

There were no bike lanes to create traffic chaos.

No peddlers of junk merchandise crowding every corner.

Hallelujah! It felt like New York City of not long ago when common sense, not random disorder, ruled the streets.

Was I dreaming? No — because the city I visited was Philadelphia.

Grand, genteel and civilized, Philadelphia feels like New York as it should be. H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock
Scenes like this are now the norm in New York, where there is scaffolding at seemingly every corner. LP Media

Yup, Philly — a mere 95 miles from Gotham or nearer than East Hampton.

More of my fellow New Yorkers should make the trip.

Its orderly, pedestrian-friendly streetscape is an object lesson in how much we’ve ruined our beloved Big Apple’s great commercial and residential neighborhoods with stupid, politically motivated priorities.

Philly shocked me into realizing how inured we New Yorkers have become to miserable street and sidewalk conditions.

They didn’t have to be that way. Most of the damage was self-inflicted by our own “leaders.”

Take New York’s hideous plague of “sidewalk bridges” that are in fact tunnels.

City Hall dumped nearly 300 miles of the monstrosities on us, supposedly to protect pedestrians from falling debris.

The miseries they cause, from providing shelter to derelicts and drug addicts to destroying business at stores and restaurants, is widely acknowledged and condemned.

Yet the dangerous eyesores sometimes stand for years, defying Mayor Adams’ war cry to “Get Sheds Down!”

New York is a scaffold jungle because a single fatal accident nearly 50 years ago prompted City Hall  to require facade inspections of every building of six stories or more every five years — irrespective of a property’s age, construction materials or the likelihood of risk.

These endless corridors of metal are known as “sidewalk bridges,” and they’re an affront to our once-great city. Stephen Yang

The result is today’s cancer of gloomy tunnels that stretch for blocks on end — providing a multi-billion-dollar cash cow for scaffold suppliers, inspectors, lawyers and consultants.

In downtown Philadelphia, I saw nary a shed in the two miles between the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers.

Yet somehow, the thriving  area — dense with office towers, hotels, luxury apartment buildings and stores — has suffered no emergency-room flood of innocent victims struck on the head by falling masonry.

Many buildings there are prewar structures of supposedly damage-prone masonry and brick like we have here in New York.

None is raining death on passersby despite the absence of laws requiring constant, repeated micro-scrutiny of their facades.

A shot of Downtown Philadelphia last week reveals zero scaffolding or other urban eye-sores. Steve Cuozzo

How different a city looks without scaffolds! My eyes popped over main drags such as Market, Broad and  Walnut streets without the ground-level eyesores that make most every block at home appear shabby. Even Park Avenue, Broadway and Wall Street look as if bombs had fallen on them.

Philadelphia’s near-absence of bike lanes recalled the era when our own streets and sidewalks functioned as they were meant to: streets for motor vehicles, sidewalks for people on foot.

Philadelphia has about 20 miles of bike lanes; New York, its government in thrall to environmental zanies and cycle-advocacy bullies who shout down opponents, has more than 650 miles of them.

Philly motorists are spared the havoc wrought by the lanes in the form of congestion-breeding narrow streets and of cars forced to park in the middle of streets in order to create “protected” bike lanes.

But the greatest benefit is to people on foot. It took me three days to grasp that I could cross an intersection without a wrong-way cyclist bearing down on me, and to stroll sidewalks without fear of being sideswiped by heedless, law-breaking jerks on wheels — the norm from The Bronx to the Battery.

Philadelphia’s Historic City Tavern is a fitting landmark for an elegant city. LightRocket via Getty Images

The City of Brotherly Love’s sidewalks were also refreshingly free of unlicensed junk sellers whom our own cops, courts and cowardly politicians decline to challenge.

Even the Brooklyn Bridge walkway resembled a Third World flea market until a recent crackdown that was only launched after the New York Post shamed City Hall into taking action.

“Progressives” will dismiss the Big Apple’s visual blights as minor nuisances, of which every city has its share. Scaffolds, bikes and fake handbags don’t usually kill anyone.

The wokesters say larger problems of social and economic “inequity” should come before conditions that merely inconvenience the more fortunate among us.

Some of the endless rats and vermin in New York, which were also missing from Philadelphia. Christopher Sadowski

They’re wrong. Disheveled streets and sidewalks are the “broken windows” of civic and social expectation.

When the city is unwilling to remedy abuses that are within its power to tame, there’s no reason to believe it can save us from the larger challenges of violent crime and physical decay.

The moment I got off the train at Moynihan Station and stepped into the Eighth Avenue hellscape of  scaffolds, zooming bikers and fake handbag dealers, I knew I was home.

But part of me wished I wasn’t.



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