"We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends."
- Shel Silverstein "Where the Sidewalk Ends"
The sidewalks have always been crowded. So crowded that the Dept of Transportation has made pedestrian malls out of major "squares" in the city - near the Flatiron building, Herald Square and Times Square - so people can walk in the streets legally. Back in the early part of the 20th Century, some streets were so choked with push carts selling everything from clothing to knife sharpening, that the mayor built the Essex Street Market to get them all out of the way!
Some places, like Times Square, I don't mind the crowds. I almost (ALMOST!) like them, because it lends an air of excitement. For some reason, the crowds on 34th street outside Macy's (and down the street between Fifth and Sixth Aves) make me angry, probably because I need to go somewhere whenever I'm in the area. And the Rockefeller Center crowds don't endear themselves to me either. I avoid Prospect Park - just 2 blocks from my house - on three-day weekends.
The Crains article actually talks about how much commerce is now conducted on the sidewalks of New York. I say, look at how much sidewalk space garbage takes up first. Then we can talk about the sidewalk vendors, food trucks and bus loading zones.