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NYC Streets Renaissance with Jan Gehl

Tuesday night it was standing room only as hundreds turned out for the NYC Streets Renaissance's event with Jan Gehl at the Jewish Community Center on the Upper West Side.

Here we present a very brief recap featuring many voices in the community and sound bites of what some Upper West Siders would like to see happen on their streets.

Lindsey Lusher: [00:04] The concept of the idea tonight is to bring community members on the Upper West Side together to talk about their streets, to talk about the potential for Upper West Side streets, how they can be transformed to reflect the needs of the community.

Mark Gorton: [00:22] It’s just so exciting being, you know, out in the lobby talking to people and seeing so many people so engaged with the idea of transforming our streets and making them more liveable.

Speaker: [00:32] The number of pedestrians has increased so dramatically that sometimes there’s… it just seems like there’s almost no room for pedestrians to walk.

Speaker: [00:41] I’d really like to see this on Amsterdam with the bus lanes, the bus only lanes. I think that would really speed up traffic on Amsterdam, get a lot more people on buses, free up some space on the subway and move people around a lot quicker.

Jan Gehl: [00:52] I’m very impressed with the enthusiasm which you can sense on a day like today and all the people who are here. There’s a lot of energy and there’s a lot of firm commitment to do something and not just talk about it and dream about it.

Barbara Adler: [01:13] Well on 5th Avenue we’re looking to make it environmentally friendly, pedestrian friendly. We want to make it as green as possible. We want to have distinctive crosswalks. We want a traffic protected bike lane, muni meters instead of parking meters. And we want the price of a parking space to go up substantially so that we have an empty space or two on every single block.

Speaker: [01:36] As a person in a wheelchair all the curb cuts are very uneven, they’re broken up. At every corner I have to know where I can cross.

Speaker: [01:46] And it would be great if they could traffic calm Amsterdam Avenue which is right outside. It’s six lanes of busy traffic and it’s very dangerous for bicyclists. I think a bike lane would fit easily there.

Speaker: [01:56] Amsterdam is just, right now just a highway in the middle of the Upper West Side. It’s terribly dangerous for bicyclists and pedestrians and you walk down and you can hardly hear yourself think.

Speaker: [02:06] One of the things I like to see is that the corner parking spaces be removed for parking so people can pass and cross streets easier. It’s just too dangerous. It should almost be mandated for any area where there’s a school or crossing guard.

Speaker: [02:19] I grew up in this city in the ‘40’s/early ‘50’s. The streets literally belonged to the kids. We played from morning literally till night in the streets, stickball, curb balls, stoopball, box ball.

Janette Sadik-Khan: [02:34] How we manage and deliver our streets, how we approach our streets has a far reaching impacts on our daily lives. Is it easy to ride a bike? Is it easy to find a place to go with your kids to, you know, play in a playground? Is there a good place to sort of linger and chat? I mean those are the sort of quality of life tells I think of a city, and I think we can shape our city to deliver those, more of those outcomes.


Clarence Eckerson Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • momos

    This was such a great event. Thanks to the NYC Streets Renaissance Campaign for organizing it.

    I asked Jan Gehl afterwards to compare his experience in NYC to the other cities he's worked in. He was hugely positive. He said NYC has a far more active civic culture. He couldn't believe the number of civic groups and organizations (read: NYC Streets Renaissance, Transportation Alternatives, TimesUP!, etc) that exist in the city. He was amazed at the enlightenment of philanthropists and the New York business community (it's private donations that are paying for his consulting work to the city). To my surprise, he also said the political leadership of the city is far more forward-looking and progressive than their counterparts in London. London's progress, in his opinion, is a result of one figure -- Ken Livingstone -- and the catalyzing effect of the 2012 Olympics.

    All in all, he was glowing about NYC. He said how welcome he felt, how receptive the city was to his ideas, how impressed he was that the city's politicians are determined to get the ball rolling before Bloomberg's tenure is up.

    Mark Gorton, Paul Steely White and Janette Sadik-Khan, in addition to thousands of citizen volunteers, deserve a lot of credit for turning around the city's transportation policies.