Manhattan on the Move
In October 2006, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and his staff gathered nearly 500 policy makers, advocates, and business & neighborhood leaders in a landmark conference at Columbia University to discuss Transportation issues in Manhattan and the five boroughs.
Keynote speaker Enrique Penalosa presented his remarkable pedestrian and bike improvements to the city of Bogota in just three years. Breakout sessions followed - of which many well-spoken attendees talked to our cameras about some of the toughest problems Manhattan faces.
Scott Stringer: [00:27] We are here today is not simply to promote the transportation crisis we have, but to find solutions and to create the agenda for change.
Enrique Penalosa: [00:36] I’m often asked to talk to people in cities about transport. I cannot talk about transport unless we have an idea of what type of a city we want. Before we have a vision of what type of city we want, we have to know how do we want to live. Because really a city is only a means to a way of life. So actually whenever we start talking about transport, we end up really is this question, how do we want to organise our daily life.
Rosemonde Pierre-Louis: [01:04] The conference grew out of an interest to really look at how do we create an infrastructure for transportation for the next 25 to 50 years. Understanding that that was a tremendous task, we wanted to pull together some of the best transportation experts and advocates to come together to help us plan this conference, to see how we could structure a dialogue that brought together people from all cross-sections, business leaders, civic leaders, government officials, policymakers, advocates, community board members, to come in and to really talk about this issue and to set priorities and to certainly also discuss the problems, but really to think about solutions. And we hope what comes out of today is really the blueprint for an agenda for the Borough President, for a transportation agenda for our office.
Speaker: [02:01] Providing a basic level of pedestrian safety for everybody on these large streets by making sure that people have enough time to cross the street and perhaps exclusive time to cross the street.
Speaker: [02:11] The pedestrian lead time interval could be something initiated right now by DOT.
Speaker: [02:17] To seek a balance between pedestrian and car traffic, whether it’s cars or trucks, or just really facilitating safe crossings.
Speaker: [02:26] Just buses, cars, especially taxis and privately owned vehicles, they kind of are a major force in the city and neglect the fact that pedestrians are the ones that need to be protected and their needs need to be served.
Speaker: [02:39] Take away the parking privileges of government employees…
Speaker: [02:49] That is only a question of political will and we’re talking about getting people out of their cars and getting people out of their… what the parking problems are. That’s at least a first step because of [unintelligible 03:06].
Speaker: [03:07] We need more people looking forward to mass transit. We have to make that more appealing to the public. And also to have… to encourage walking and bicycling in New York City.
Speaker: [03:18] That congestion that you’re talking about is what makes 125th Street special.
Speaker: [03:24] We need to think, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, region by region, what do we want, how do we wish to live.
Speaker: [03:31] And there are lots of street vendors on the streets in Chinatown, but it’s a vibrant, you know, it’s a vibrant community. This is what people... this is what tourists come to New York to look for when they go to Chinatown. They look for a lot of different things in a lot of different communities and, you know, they… I want these individual communities to be able to, you know, to keep their spirit alive.
Speaker: [03:55] I think that most New Yorkers don’t know how inaccessible transit is for disabled New Yorkers. A number of people never got here today cos Access-A-Ride didn’t get them here. Well, you know, how can we participate in society if we can’t be where society is and be part of the discussion?
Speaker: [04:16] So with the older streets Downtown that are optimised for heavy vehicle traffic, we need to better balance the needs of the people versus the needs of the vehicles. And our neighbourhoods of Soho and Greenwich Village, West Village, have many, many streets that are underutilised in terms of traffic volume. They’re not necessary at all to have vehicular traffic on them. And they would make fantastic pedestrian plazas, you could have sidewalk cafés, and that really increases that community feeling that you get, that real spontaneous enjoyment of your own streets.
Speaker: [04:52] Often times we hear in the media and particularly among politicians as of late is addiction to oil. But I think it’s addiction to private transportation that needs to be addressed.
Speaker: [05:05] If you’re encouraging people to use public transportation, then provide parking as people come into Manhattan from New Rochelle, I mean Upper Manhattan, or if they come in from Jersey and Lower Manhattan, provide a station where there is parking where they can park their cars and then public transportation in Manhattan.
Speaker: [05:26] Even a place as great as New York with the number of transit opportunities that we have, I think that places like Eastern Queens, places like the Central Bronx, Staten Island for sure, don’t have viable transit options. And so that’s something that would need to be improved.
Speaker: [05:41] And if we can get… if we can get all of this infrastructure, all of this great public space that we have, our roads, our subways, our highways even, then we can make that into something that actually produces good neighbourhoods, actually produces good housing, good places to shop and work. And if we can sort of make that connection between transportation and land use, that will really go a very long distance, something we haven’t done in a very long time.
[06:05] And I am just so excited about the ideas that came out of this
conference, the way people were able to have a discussion, the breakout
sessions. 500 people in the middle of the workday who stayed from morning
till the afternoon, talking about ways in which we can improve our transportation
infrastructure, is a wonderful kind of conference. And I am just
so thrilled with the people who are here today, the people who came
out. So we’ve got a long way to go, this is only the first step.
One conference does not policy make, but we’ve certainly laid the
groundwork for a real collaboration.