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Judge Stops NYC's Controversial Plan To Ban Cars From 14th Street

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A controversial plan by New York City to ban drivers from a busy business district in Manhattan has just gotten a red light in court.

Cars were taking what they thought were their last rides across 14th on Friday -- now a judge has given them the green light to keep rolling next week.

Starting Monday, the city's Department of Transportation planned to prohibit cars, taxis, and ride-share vehicles from driving across 14th Street from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week -- that plan is now off.

14th Street plan
(Photo: CBS2)

"At least until we argue the appeal, probably until the appeal is decided, which will be many months down the road, DOT cannot move forward with its plan to bar cars from 14th Street," West Village attorney Arthur Schwartz explained.

Drivers would have had to make the first right turn off the street and will not be allowed to make left turns.

Trucks and emergency vehicles were exempt from the controversial plan and loading zones would have replaced curbside parking.

14th Street plan
(Photo: CBS2)

"The goal is to make faster more reliable bus routes. We'll be allowing buses, trucks, and motorists who want to do pick-up or drop-off," DOT commissioner Polly Trottenberg said at a news conference just hours before the judge squashed the agency's pilot program.

The plan originated in anticipation of the now-aborted L train shutdown, so extra buses could be an alternative for displaced straphangers.

But even after the full shutdown was averted, the city decided to stick with their car ban anyway.

"What's ironic about all of this is that New York City and many other places are expecting motorists to put money in the coffers for transportation, transit, everything, and that's what is really tedious is that we are not allowed to drive, but you expect money from motorists," Sheila Dunn from the National Motorist Association explains.

Dunn adds that New York City has waged a war on cars. CBS2 took those claims to the Transportation Department's commissioner.

"Are you trying to get rid of cars in Manhattan?" CBS2's Ali Bauman asked.

"No I'm not trying to get rid of cars in Manhattan," Trottenberg replied.

"Constant balancing act for room on streets. I don't want gridlock but our goal is to get people in most efficient modes and buses carry a lot of people," the commissioner claimed.

Polly Trottenberg
FILE -- New York City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg (credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Residents and local businesses filed a lawsuit to stop the plan. They argued traffic will just be diverted to surrounding neighborhoods and create even worse gridlock on adjacent streets.

"Yeah they would've found another route and they would've been where people lived instead of a commercial thoroughfare where it's appropriate to have cars," Arthur Schwartz said, countering the DOT's argument.

Earlier this week a judge allowed the city to move forward with this 18-month pilot.

"A lot of businesses on 14th Street say this is going to destroy them, don't we have enough empty storefronts in the city?" Bauman asked Trottenberg.

"I hope it's not going to destroy them," the commissioner said.

"We hope if improved speed and reliability of buses... there will be more people riding in 14th Street, more customers."

Camera enforcement would have fined drivers that failed to take that right hand turn. For the first two months, cameras would be on warning mode, before drivers started receiving $50 tickets.

All that is now off.

In the last-minute turn of events, the judge approved a new appeal to halt the car ban. So it will no longer go into effect Monday and the fight between businesses in one of Manhattan's busiest areas and the DOT continues.

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