Coalition Calls On NYC Leaders To Kick Cars Off 25 Percent Of City Streets

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Coalition Calls On NYC Leaders To Kick Cars Off 25 Percent Of City Streets
BY STEPHEN NESSEN, WNYC, MARCH 1, 2021

Summer Streets, 2019 SCOTT LYNCH / GOTHAMIST

A diverse coalition of more than 80 advocacy groups and nonprofit organizations is asking the next generation of city leaders to imagine what it would take to install 500 more miles of bike lanes, 1,000 miles of year-round open streets, and one block of car-free streets in front of every public school in New York City.

On Monday, March 1, 2021, the group Transportation Alternatives issued a challenge it calls “NYC 25x25.” The advocacy group is asking the next mayor, city council and borough presidents to commit to converting 25% of streets currently used by vehicles into other purposes, by 2025.

“This is a watershed moment for New York City,” Danny Harris, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, told Gothamist/WNYC. “We need to look at this intersection of COVID, of racial injustice, economic inequities, and ask some serious questions about the future of our city and our budget and we need a new crop of leaders who are willing to look at streets as an asset, instead of a liability.”

The proposals come at a time when the number of candidates running for mayor remains sprawling, and few have distinguished themselves on transportation issues. The debate over how to use street space has intensified during the pandemic after what many consider a successful run of open streets during the pandemic and a boom in cycling, but also a recent uptick in traffic deaths.

Other suggestions from the coalition include adding 19.4 million square feet of bike parking, designated locations on every block long enough for taxis to drop off passengers and for trucks to make deliveries without blocking streets or bike lanes.

The latest proposals have the backing of disparate groups in the city from the tech industry nonprofit Tech:NYC, to the New York Building Congress, and the Institute for Public Architecture.

“Lack of quality transportation options makes it difficult for many of the people in the low-income communities of color we serve to access resources, such as employment, education, good food, and health care, that are needed to be healthy and financially stable,” Tracey Capers, executive vice president and chief program officer at the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, wrote in a statement. Her group works with Citibike to get more bike shares into Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

“Likewise, we support the re-allocation of our public spaces, including the creation of more car-free bus lanes and protected bike lanes, to better serve the majority of our residents, who don’t own cars,” Capers added.

The 127-year old advocacy group the Municipal Arts Society is another organization that backs the expansion of streets for public use. Tara Kelly, the society’s vice president of policy and programs, told Gothamist/ WNYC that her group came up with the idea of pedestrian islands in the early 1900s, calling them “isles of safety.” She said this is just the next generation of smart thinking about how to use city streets.

“This past year in particular has demonstrated that importance, our access to public space for recreation, for protests, for transportation, for getting a bit of sunshine, stepping out of our apartments,” Kelly said.

The mayoral candidates will have the first opportunity to respond to the NYC 25x25 suggestions on Monday night at a forum hosted by Bike New York.

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