Category Archives: Walkability

New York Quiet Streets — Making Lemonade from Lemons

Yorkville Promenade (Second Avenue), New York, New York, Massengale & Co LLC and Dover, Kohl & Partners, 2011. An aerial view looking south from 86th Street.

A Streetsblog Op-Ed from John Massengale:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson called for making New York City streets safer for pedestrians and social distancing while we all stay close to home. Mayor de Blasio responded with a program to open more space for pedestrians on one street per borough.

We can do more. We should use this time when traffic is light to work on ideas for safer, quieter, and more pleasant streets for pedestrians and cyclists now and in the future. During this COVID-19 crisis, we can implement ideas that are great for the long-term health of the city. Specifically, let’s make some of our quiet side-streets primarily for cyclists and walkers.

Quiet Streets (continue reading at Streetsblog)

More Photos at Slow New York
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Daily News Op-Ed: A Highway That Hurts The City


On November 25, 2019, CNU NYC Chair John Massengale and former Congress for New Urbanism Chair and President John Norquist published an Op-Ed in the New York Daily News. The topic was what to do about the falling-down Brooklyn Queens Expressway and to improve city life in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

The drawing above illustrates this part of the text:

On the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge, Chambers Street used to go through the Municipal Building to a dense urban neighborhood. Now the gateway to Manhattan is a 24-hour mass of irritated drivers honking at pedestrians trying to get from the subway to City Hall Park. There are enough existing ramps that all the cars could be redirected back towards Water Street and the FDR Drive. That would free up the no-man’s land between Park Street and Centre Street for a great new public space at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge.

John Norquist has decades of experience with highway tear downs. When he was Mayor of Milwaukee, Norquist was one of the first American mayors to tear down a city highway. As Chair and President of the CNU, he started a program called Highways to Boulevards that has worked with states, cities, and Congress. Their 2019 report Cities Without Futures can be downloaded here.

The online version of the Daily News Op-Ed is here, with the title “Buck the BQE: The city should not replace a key stretch of the cantilevered Brooklyn highway.” Twitter replied, “Don’t need no stinkin’ BQE.”

New York Times Op-Ed: “There Are Better Ways to Get Around Town”

New York City Streets for People After the Congestion Zone
May 15, 2018 (link)

Jane Jacobs Square, New York, New York. © Massengale & Co LLC, watercolor by Gabrielle Stroik Johnson. Before & After: Looking south on Bleecker Street from the intersection of Bleecker and West 10th Streets.

The debate continues over how to make New York City’s streets less crowded, safer and better for people as well as cars. Some, like Gov. Andrew Cuomo, call for congestion pricing in Manhattan, although so far the New York State Legislature has not allowed that. Mayor Bill de Blasio and groups such as Transportation Alternatives promote Vision Zero, aiming for zero traffic deaths in New York City by 2024.

It’s worth looking at European cities, which have led the movement to make city streets that are as good for public life as they are for driving. In recent months, I’ve visited four of the cities with the most innovative street designs: London, Stockholm, Amsterdam and Copenhagen.

Continue reading at the New York Times

Occupy Broad Street

Today is the fifth Anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. For some thoughts about that, click here.

Broad Street
THE BROAD crossroads where Wall Street and Broad Street come together is a beautiful space, fully the equal of medieval European plazas. Today, post-911, it’s closed to almost all traffic, because the New York Stock Exchange sits at the southwest corner of the intersection. A few weeks ago, it was the symbolic center of the NYC DOT’s Shared Streets Lower Manhattan, when one Saturday afternoon 60 blocks were designated “shared spaces,” where “Pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicles will share the historic streets of Lower Manhattan and motorists [were] encouraged to drive 5 mph.”

When Americans talk about shared space, someone will often say, “We’re not Amsterdam.” Well, parts of Nieuw Amsterdam / New York City make a good place to start shared space experiments. Eighty per cent of Manhattan residents don’t own a car, and only twenty per cent of Manhattan workers commute to work by private car. Then add the fact that many streets in the Financial District have restricted access: some streets are only open to residents or workers employed on the street; while other streets have tank barricades and are only open to emergency and delivery vehicles.

In the real Amsterdam, 85% of the streets today have s speed limit of 30 kilometers per hour (18.6 mph), and the other 15% have a top speed of 50 kph (31 mph). On the slower streets, pedestrian and cyclist have as much right to the street as cars and trucks, and may be anywhere on the street at any time. All of the detritus of traffic engineering—bold stripes and arrows painted on the pavement, large signs, colored bus lanes, and the like—is missing, and at the intersections, there are no stop lights, stop signs, yield signs, or crosswalks. Motor vehicles must be driven at a speed that successfully allows cars and trucks to stop for pedestrians and cyclists in the intersection.

That is “Shared Space.” That is the spirit behind the experiment the DOT tried out on Saturday, August 13, and what it hopes to try again in the future. I hope they will and therefore I make Broad Street my Street of the Day. Some of the my notes on that continue below. Continue reading

Occupy Main Street

Great Barrington’s Main Street should be a place where place people want to get out of their cars to shop, eat, and socialize—under a majestic canopy of tall trees. That’s not what State DOTs build, however.

This story originally ran in the Berkshire Record, following earlier stories (links below).

East Side of Main Street

East Side of Main Street, Great Barrington, Before & After
(Larger images below, with commentary)

AN OLD CHINESE PROVERB says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” In other words, it’s not too late to fix the economic and social problems the recent rebuilding of Main Street brought to town.

Great Barrington’s Main Street has lost the curb appeal that helped make it the Smithsonian’s best small town in America. “That’s just aesthetics,” some will say — including a few who contributed to the design decisions that make the new Main Street so ugly — but what real estate brokers and developers call “curb appeal” is not just aesthetics. It has economic value and social outcomes.

Let’s look first at the trees on Main Street. Studies by groups like the city of Portland, Oregon, the Yale School of Forestry and the National Association of Realtors show that majestic street canopies like the one Great Barrington used to have increase retail sales and real estate values. Surveys in which people walk around towns and cities recording the places they like and don’t like show that we are attracted to places with beautiful trees. The book The Happy City establishes that beautiful, mature trees increase our day-to-day happiness, and a growing body of research in cognitive science is beginning to record the data behind these effects.

Great Barrington's Main Street in the Nineteenth Century, when it had a classic American streetscape of mature street trees forming a canopy over the space.

Great Barrington’s Main Street in the Nineteenth Century, when it had a classic American streetscape of mature street trees forming a canopy over the space.

Continue reading