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DOT Attempts to Create World Class Streets for NYC

people street corner crowded winter

New York City has one of the highest volumes of pedestrians in the world, and despite generous-width sidewalks in some parts of the city, sidewalks become crowded and the quality of the pedestrian experience is hurt.

New York City’s Department of Transportation (DOT), under its new Commissioner, Jeanette Sadik-Khan, has launched an ambitious plan to remake New York City’s public realm. DOT’s new, multi-facted streets initiative will consist of the following elements: public plaza programs; Broadway boulevard projects; complete street projects and design standards; safe streets for seniors and student; public art programs; coordinated street furniture; and weekend pedestrian and cycling streets. All the these areas are of interest to MAS, but we are primarily concerned about pedestrian/sidewalk issues.

Vendors and street furniture are a key amenity to the public life of the city, but often unregulated vendors and poorly placed or planned furniture restricts pedestrian access.  Often the most crowded areas (such as sidewalks near subway stops and street corners) are the places where the most obstacles exist. At some street corners, multiple trash cans, public pay telephone booths and newsracks force people to step of the sidewalk and into the street. Cluttered sidewalks not only impede access but also negatively affect the visual environment. The MAS Streetscape Committee urges that DOT start a stricter enforcement of the current newsrack regulations and that DOT open up a discussion with the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications about the possibility of not extending the public pay telephone contract when it expires in 2011.  Most newsracks are empty and unattended and universal cell phone use has rendered public pay telephone booths obsolete; serving only as a vehicle for advertising signage.

There are very few places for people to sit and rest, meet and interact or people-watch along the streets of NYC.  A disproportionate amount of space is allocated to parking cars then to public seating, therefore the MAS applauds DOT’s initiative with its public plaza program.  The new public space in Madison Square, bringing a new landscaped pedestrian plaza, bycycle lanes and a simpler, safer traffic pattern at Broadway from 25th to 22nd Streets is already filled with pedestrians, tourists, people-watchers and area workers.  This type of reclaiming pedestrian space and public plaza initiative is happening in other parts of the city and we feel this effort will truly remake NYC into the pedestrian friendly city it deserves to be.

For more information on DOT’s World Class Streets programs click here.