A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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“Mondays are the potholes in the road of life” (3/22)
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“All you need is love and a good cup of coffee” (3/22)
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Entry from April 27, 2005
Don’t block the box!
"Don't block the box!" was a 1980s campaign to end gridlock in New York City. Drivers were reminded that "blocking the box" (an intersection, usually with white lines painted across it) would result in a fine and points on a license.

The plan worked and there are no more traffic problems in New York City. (If only!)


30 March 1981, New York Times, pg. B6:
They are called "antigridlock boxes," and they look like football end-zones plunked down in the middle of busy intersections in midtown Manhattan. (...) The idea of an antigridlock box is to keep traffic out of intersections to prevent "spillback," the backup that occurs when vehicles do not get all the way through an intersection before the traffic light changes.
(...)
Now, with traffic nearing record levels and the dangers of gridlock growing, Mayor Koch and Transportation Commissioner Anthony R. Ameruso announced that boxes were to be added at 10 more crossings on Lexington, Third, Park, Fifth and Eighth Avenues, along with 30 yellow, green and reed signs advising motorists: "Fight Gridlock! Don't Block the Box!"

26 August 1981, New York Times, "New 'Boxes' Fail to End Fear of Traffic Gridlock" by David W. Dunlap, pg. B3:
The boxes are painted like football end zones and festooned with signs saying: "Fight Grid Lock. Don't Block the Box." A $25 fine is imposed on drivers who get caught in the box by a traffic agent.

16 September 1985, New York Times, pg. A16:
"Don't block the box" was the slogan of the anti-gridlock campaign launched a year ago by New York City's Bureau of Traffic.

Borrowing an idea from London, the c ity cross-hatched six problem intersections in midtown Manhattan in white paint and posted signs reminding motorists that blocking an intersection can result in a fine and points on the license.

27 April 1986, Newsday, City, pg. 5:
One of the ways they did it was to borrow from London the "Don't Block the Box" idea - painting a box on the pavement at critical intersections, with signs warning drivers not to nose into a box unless they can make it all the way through.

19 November 1986, Newsday, City, pg. 2:
In coming weeks, motorists like Gavin who refrain from blocking intersections and crosswalks during the holiday traffic crush will receive some 2,000 tokens, 6,000 bumper stickers, 4,000 lapel pins and hundreds of T-shirts, courtesy of the city Transportation Department.

The stickers, shirts and pins read, "Gridlock Busters - Don't Block the Box." The tokens donated by the Transit Authority are attached to slots in congratulatory "good guy summonses" signed by the traffic agent or police officer.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityTransportation • (1) Comments • Wednesday, April 27, 2005 • Permalink


Actually, the Don’t Block the Box was first recommended in 1971 or 1972 by a young WNBC-TV editorialist (me) who’d seen the “cross-hatched” intersection in a feed from the NBC-TV London bureau on a completely different subject.
I got additional footage from London, specifically on the “box intersections,” and did an editorial on the topic.
The next day, I got a phone call from Ted Kharageuzoff (spelling?) who was then the traffic or transportation commissioner. I can’t remember his title at this distance, but he thanked me for the editorial, and said that if I would bring a camera crew outside 30 Rock at about 3:30 the next morning, I might find something interesting to film.
The crew and I did show up at 3:30 ayem, and, lo and behold, there was a crew with line-painting carts cross-hatching the intersection of Sixth Ave & 50th. They also did 5th and 49th, and then several more intersections near the 59th Street bridge and other gridlock trouble spots.
We did a follow-up editorial, looking down on the 5th and 49th street intersection at rush hour from between the gargoyles atop the RCA building. The cross-hatching seemed to be working.
This was the fastest turnaround/result from any editorial I ever wrote & delivered. My series on restaurant sanitation, and making the Dirty Restaurants List public seemed to take months. But the Health Department eventually acceeded to WNBC-TV’s editorial request, and the Dirty Restaurants List (and the sign notifying potential patrons that they had a right to see the latest sanitary inspection report--which sign was mostly tucked out of sight--slowly entered “the mainstream media.”

Posted by Bill Wilt  on  01/08  at  05:16 PM

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