Wall Street vs. Washington Street


In response to Council kicks off “the year of Wall Street” with latest approval of funding:

Recently, our leaders have kicked off the “Year Of Wall Street”.

But our local political machine/class’s obsession with Wall Street is just baffling to anyone who understands what actually makes this city great.

To those who think Wall Street’s main problem is that traffic doesn’t move fast enough… let me ask a simple question:

“Do you think traffic moves any better on Washington Street?”

The obvious answer is that it doesn’t. Two crosswalks trisect Washington, giving pedestrians an absolute right-of-way. Yeesh, THAT can’t be good for traffic! And Washington has only one lane each way, which are cramped and periodically snarled by people parallel-parking or turning into the street’s two residential alleys. Not to mention the big honking bridge at the end of the street that gridlocks the entire area for 5 minutes at a time several times a day!

And yet, somehow, Washington Street is the single most financially successful block in our entire city.

Friends and neighbors, let’s ponder that for a moment, as we contrast this capitalist paradise with the bombed-out war zone that is West Avenue. The one thing that can be said about West Avenue is that it prioritizes moving traffic above all else! It has relatively high speed limits, multiple curb cuts and parking lots for the convenience of drivers, reasonably-well-coordinated stoplight timing, and two quite generously wide lanes each way with a center turn lane to avoid snarling traffic from people making left turns.

And yet, West Avenue can only boast of a handful of legacy anchor tenants — a bank and a car dealership here, a church and health center there — plus some mostly-vacant luxury apartment buildings built by Harry’s corrupt machine, and a whole smattering of liquor stores and other struggling low-rent businesses.

What gives?

If you’ve ever tried walking along West Avenue, let alone crossing it, you already know the answer. Those low-rent businesses (no offense to their proprietors!) are struggling because the car traffic West Avenue does everything in its power to facilitate is not NEARLY enough to make up for, and is actually actively hostile to, the foot traffic that makes Washington Street so successful.

Washington Street’s narrow lanes and crosswalks force drivers to drive slowly enough that people feel safe walking along the street and across it. Visitors can freely patronize multiple businesses in one trip, and don’t have to walk unreasonably far from our reasonably cheap parking to get there. Residents can enjoy their own neighborhood — at a premium, to be sure! — without fearing for their lives or having to walk a half mile to get anywhere.

If our leaders want to rescue Wall Street from its decline spiral, they need to do more than focus on Wall Street alone. West Avenue needs to be part of the discussion! And so does Washington Street, because if we want one neighborhood to be successful, it’d be absolutely INSANE to NOT look at the one neighborhood that IS successful.

Ending the simultaneously benign and malign neglect of SoNo won’t just benefit SoNo; it’ll give us the lessons we need to build a city that is thriving, exciting, and dense, but also brings back the small-town charm that so many legacy Norwalkers remember from the decades before we replaced West Ave with strip malls and parking lots in the name of “moving traffic”.


5 responses to “Wall Street vs. Washington Street”

  1. Jason Milligan

    West Ave is NOT Wall Street!

    West Ave is long and the buildings are spread out. (The apartments are full btw.)

    Washington Street and Wall Street have historic buildings that are all touching. The streetscapes are continuous and pedestrian friendly.

    Every Street shouldn’t be the same.

    Wall Street is on the Rise

    1. David Muccigrosso

      West Ave is how people GET to Wall Street.

      The connector also has plenty of capacity for north-south traffic, so much that we shouldn’t care one whit about moving traffic on West. Like, at all. Period.

      Reduce the curb cuts, turn at least two lanes of West into a long urban park for hosting farmers’ markets etc, and upzone it immediately so that Washington/Wall-style buildings can be built by right. Eliminate any parking minimums, maybe build a big garage behind one of the main frontages.

      Do all that, and I promise you, Jason, every single one of your investments you’ve already made on Wall will pay off beyond your current wildest projections. You’d be the richest SoB in town.

  2. Edward Fontaine

    The biggest problem I have on Washington street is illegal / double parking clogging up the road.

  3. Vernon Howard

    As someone who lives on Washington St., the biggest traffic issue is not the crosswalks, but the people doubleparking and the bridge. You basically need to walk out into traffic to get anyone to stop at a crosswalk.

  4. Becca Stoll

    I would argue that none of our 3 “W” streets is all that great to bike on yet… for all the reasons listed above. It’s very cramped on Washington St, a death wish on West Ave (which the NRVT does help with immensely but doesn’t fully solve if you’d like to say, bike to a shop or restaurant on West Ave), and dicey on Wall St from the Belden intersection onwards.

    Sounds like another compelling argument for a “complete streets” approach and a rethink about reopening the Wall St Train Station.

Leave a Reply

Recent Comments