I recently went to Church Street this summer on a gorgeous Friday evening. It was past 8 p.m., the sun was still shining and the atmosphere was magnificent with many people strolling and enjoying the warm night by dining al fresco, shopping or listening to live musicians. Yet it could have been so much better. While sitting at an outdoor table eating ice cream, the jovial atmosphere was constantly interrupted by the stream of cars looping around and around from Church Street to Bloomfield Avenue and back onto Church Street looking for that non-existent parking spot. I asked myself a simple question. Why?  

  • Why is the stretch of Church Street from Bloomfield Avenue to South Park Street not closed to cars at certain times to encourage pedestrian activity?
  • Why not use retractable or removable bollards at the Bloomfield Avenue end to prevent cars from making the turn onto Church Street?
  • Why not limit traffic to only delivery vehicles, perhaps 7-11 a.m. and 2-6 p.m., so that businesses can still receive their deliveries?
  • Why not change the street design to designate this area as a primarily pedestrian zone by raising the street level flush with the sidewalk, removing the curbs, and extending the sidewalk pavers?
  • Why not allow restaurants and businesses to expand their outdoor seating areas beyond the sidewalk and onto the +/-30-foot-wide portion currently devoted solely to cars?
  • Why not create a few raised areas or platforms for seating to further encourage people to linger and watch musicians or performers?
  • Why is the celebratory atmosphere enjoyed by many when this stretch of Church Street is closed during the tree and menorah lightings not replicated as much as possible throughout the year?
  • Why not sponsor a design competition to solicit ideas from the many talented local urban design professionals?

There are plenty of precedents demonstrating that when the pedestrian is prioritized over the car, the economic and health benefits to the adjacent businesses and the community are numerous. Pedestrianizing this portion of Church Street, even if only at limited times of day, would bring these benefits home to our community.

Daniel Arbelaez
Montclair