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Transforming NY City Streets

Neighborhood activists, professional planners, and experienced advocates gathered this week at the New-York Historical Society to share their secrets on how New Yorkers can transform the public realm. The event was hosted by NYC Streets Renaissance and was moderated by Streetsblog editor Aaron Naparstek. Here are some of their thoughts.

Panelists included:

Christine Berthet (Clinton Hells Kitchen Coalition for Pedestrian Safety)
Joshua David (Friends of the High Line)
Penny Lee (Department of City Planning)
Milton Puryear (Brooklyn Greenway Initiative)
Paul Steely White (Transportation Alternatives)
Robert Witherwax (Grand Army Plaza Coalition)
Chauncy Young (Highbridge Community Life Center)

Milton Puryear: [00:00] I’m Milton Puryear of Brooklyn Greenway Initiative.

Chauncey Young: [00:003] Chauncey Young, I’m a community educational organiser with United Parents of Highbridge and the Highbridge Community Life Centre.

Joshua David: [00:09] I’m Joshua David. I’m one of the co-founders of Friends of the High Line.

Robert Witherwax: [00:13] My name is Robert Witherwax and I’m with the Grand Army Plaza Coalition.

Christine Berthet: [00:16] My name is Christine Berthet. My organisation is CHEKPEDS, the Clinton Hells Kitchen Coalition for Pedestrian Safety.

Penny Lee: [00:24] I’m Penny Lee, I’m the planner for Long Island City with the Queens office of the New York City Department of City Planning.

Paul Steely White: [00:31] I’m Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives.

Lily Bernheimer: [00:33] We have a great panel of speakers, community organisers, from all across the city and we’re going to be hearing their secrets for success, how they’ve organised their community’s neighbourhood.

Christine Berthet: [00:44] The key aspect of the project was originally to go from negative to positive, very against something and transform it into something that everybody can rally and be for.

Robert Witherwax: [00:56] Does this represent the community that we are trying to represent? And I think that’s key cos without it you can’t do anything.

Milton Puryear: [01:02] I believe success come from aggregating interest. The more people you get who want the same thing, or who can use the same thing to get what they want. Some of them want it, some of them can use it, but the more you bring people together whose interest coincides, the more successful you’ll be.

Chauncey Young: [01:23] The meeting tonight really brought together a lot of different diverse groups with different ideas on… on how we can make changes in our own communities, and I think really the strength is the connections.

Joshua David: [01:34] The most important thing is just to go out there and start to raise a flag and say this is an important idea, this is something that we have to do, there’s… it’s part of a great vision for the future of New York City. We’re really fortunate, I think the room that we were in tonight really shows it, that people in this city really care about making New York City a better place.

Milton Puryear: [01:55] You know, to be noticed, you really do have to have genuine relationships in a broad coalition.

Penny Lee: [02:02] City agencies generally are nice people and want to do something and if we’re presented with a good project, nine times out of ten we’re willing to take a look at it. And it goes to what some of the panellists were talking about earlier tonight, which is that it’s a lot easier to support something that’s positive.

Paul Steely White: [02:21] Tonight we had a packed house. Everyone’s completely motivated to change their streets and reclaim street space for bicycles and pedestrians and it’s [unintelligible 02:31], I mean you can feel things are happening. It’s winter in New York but spring is just around the corner and we’re going to see more street action this year than ever before.


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