The seething of Mackay

Mackay St. during frosh week in 2002.

Mackay St. during frosh week in 2002.

UPDATE (May 1): The project has been put on hold.

The “Greening of Mackay” has been a project of the Concordia Student Union and other Concordia student groups for over a decade now. The idea is that the street, from Sherbrooke St. to de Maisonneuve Blvd., would be closed off to traffic and parking and turned into a pedestrian area.

Unfortunately, the city and its residents like cars, and they’re not crazy about a street and its parking spots being permanently removed from them. So efforts to close the street off permanently have always failed. Instead, they settle for partial closures, such as the one pictured above, for a week or two, slap the familiar “greening of Mackay” label on them, and declare victory.

That’s what they did last week when the university announced that “the ‘greening of Mackay’ will finally become a reality this summer!” In reality, the street isn’t being closed off but merely reduced to one lane. And it’s only for the summer.

Getting consent of property owners wasn’t so much of a problem – the entire southern half of the block belongs to the university, with the Hall Building on the east side and university annexes on the west. And the borough, which is all about closing streets lately, was easily convinced to forego a few hundred thousand dollars of parking revenue. (The fact that Karim Boulos, the VP of external affairs for the John Molson School of Business, is also a Vision Montreal city councillor, might have helped a bit too.)

But not everyone is happy. Robert Landau of Landau Fine Art (which is actually on Sherbrooke St., not Mackay) has organized a petition against the borough, signed by lots of people who don’t live on Mackay but want people to be able to park there.

It’s amazing the lengths people will go to in order to protect on-street parking.

UPDATE: CBC Daybreak has an interview (MP3) with Landay and Concordia’s Chris Mota, which gets a bit testy.

10 thoughts on “The seething of Mackay

  1. newurbanshapes

    I don’t like fully pedestrianized streets because you can’t ride your bike through them, and it turns them into a sort of Bourgeois Disneyland (rue Prince-Arthur, for example). Reducing capacity and parking is probably a good alternative. One would suggest reducing the speed limit as well!

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  2. Jean Naimard

    This is pretty stupid of the gallery owner to loudly whine against that. Next thing you know, his gallery will be invaded by noisy students loudly poking fun at the “art” being sold there…

    (Wow! $200,000 in parking revenues for the whole summer just for that little bit of street???)

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  3. dewolf

    @newurbanshapes: not just prince arthur, but de la gauchetière, too. man, what a bourgie hellhole! chinatown was so much better before they kicked out the cars.

    i actually agree with you that mackay shouldn’t be pedestrianized at the expense of bike access. but must your arguments always include some kind of inane generalization?

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  4. newurbanshapes

    Mr. Fagstein, the reply function in your blog doesn’t seem to display properly.

    I’ve probably biked down the street once or twice myself, and I don’t even live near there. But what if I should want to bike to something on Mackay? Isn’t the Gender Center there? Maybe I should want to work there — I’d have to bike around Mackay or walk my bike through. Not exactly an incentive for bikers, and at odds with the bike paths & bixi launch.

    Pedestrianization is a reassignment of the city for higher-class purposes — My serious-purpose trip, on my carbon footprint-wiping bike, would be devalued relative to the uninterrupted daytripping of lollygaggers and consumers.

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  5. dewolf

    full pedestrianization works on some streets but not on others. it depends on the context. you can’t dismiss it outright with some glib comment about the leisure class.

    in any case, i think any future attempts at pedestrianization should adopt a shared-street approach that would allow cyclists to pass through. it’s not like anyone dismounts on prince arthur unless there’s a police officer handing out tickets.

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  6. Pingback: Fagstein » Mackay St. project “on hold”

  7. angelica

    It doesn’t surprise me that Landau isn’t on board. If I recall correctly, he’s the owner (through his company Grinch Realties – no joke) of the Louis Hippolyte Lafontaine house, sadly better known as the once much reported about squat on Overdale St. The man is letting a historical building crumble to the ground for pure spite. Why would he approve of more green space downtown?

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