New 14th Street Traffic Laws Concern Some NYU Students

Decreased traffic comes at the price of increased police presence and a longer commute time for some NYU students.

Starting Oct. 3, only buses, trucks and emergency vehicles can drive on 14th street between Third and Ninth Avenues from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. (Staff photo by Chelsea Li)

New York City passed a plan to significantly cut down on the number of cars allowed on 14th Street — one of Manhattan’s busiest crosstown thoroughfares — in early October. In the nearly two months since, NYU students who live around 14th Street have noticed the decreased traffic congestion has correlated with an increased police presence, along with other changes to routine.

The plan, which was given the green light by Mayor Bill de Blasio on Oct. 3, mandated that only buses, trucks and emergency vehicles drive on 14th Street between Third and Ninth Avenues from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Other cars, including rideshares, can only travel a block to pick up or drop off deliveries or passengers. They must make the first right turn available immediately after their stop.

In order to enforce the new system, police officers have been stationed along the thoroughfare to give out warnings. Steinhardt sophomore and Palladium Residence Hall resident Hannah Turtle said having police around Union Square makes her uncomfortable.

“I don’t understand why the NYPD has to be there every day,” Turtle said. “I just feel like whenever I walk past the cops I get nervous, even when I’m not doing anything.”

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Similarly, SPS senior and Carlyle Court Residence Hall resident Rina Zell said that having police constantly around Union Square makes her feel like the neighborhood is dangerous.

“I never felt like the area was unsafe until there were police around all the time,” Zell said. “Partially, it’s just because police in general are scary, but also the idea that they feel the need to be there makes you feel like the area is unsafe.”

Another source of complaints about the new system from NYU students is the difficulty of taking an Uber. CAS senior Madi Perez lives in an apartment on 14th Street. As NYU Hockey’s Social Media Marketing Manager, she’s required to attend games at Chelsea Piers frequently. Perez usually takes an Uber, since Chelsea Piers — which is located on 12th Avenue and West 21st Street — doesn’t have any subway stops nearby. 

However, the new plan has doubled the length of her commute.

“Normally, my Uber ride is 10, 15 minutes from Chelsea Piers,” Perez said. “Since the laws were enacted, my rides have become 30 minutes because all of the Uber drivers go extremely out of the way to get there. They’ll go up across 18th, down, zigzag, so it’s super inconvenient.”

Even though cars are allowed on 14th Street after 10 p.m., it’s clear to Perez that some drivers do not want to take the risk.

“One time, I was in the Uber and it was past 10 p.m., so I told the Uber driver he could go across 14th,” Perez said. “He was like, ‘OK, but if I get a ticket, you’re paying for it.’”

Although the restrictions are currently part of an 18-month program aimed to clear up traffic and allow for quicker movements of MTA buses, they may become permanent in the future. Until then, NYU students will have to adapt to the changes in their neighborhood.

Email Julia Baxley at [email protected].

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