New York City has been adjusting to its new Mayor Bill De Blasio, who took office at the beginning of the year. The new mayor has been slowly revealing his team of commissioners who will guide the city’s continued transformation. As AN has noted many times before, De Blasio’s predecessor Michael Bloomberg and his team already left a giant mark on New York’s built environment.
With little more than paint, planters, and a few well-placed boulders, Bloomberg and former Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan‘s street interventions have been some of the most evident changes around the city. Whether it’s at Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza, above, or at Snøhetta’s redesigned Times Square, these road diets shaved off excess space previously turned over to cars and returned it to the pedestrian realm in dramatic fashion as these before-and-after views demonstrate.
As we continue to learn more about our new Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, take a look back at 25 of the most exciting road diets and pedestrian plaza conversions across New York City from the Bloomberg era.
For the past five years under the leadership of Janette Sadik-Khan, the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) has re-appropriated underused street space as public plazas for pedestrians. The Bloomberg Administration–initiated projects have been well received in neighborhoods like Herald Square and Tribeca; however, some of the less affluent neighborhoods who would like to have a plaza have been hindered by the cost. Each plaza is sponsored by local businesses and fundraising for construction and regular maintenance can seem a daunting task. Until now.
It’s finally here! Well, in a few more excruciating days, New Yorkers will be able to hop on a bright blue City Bike and cruise through the city (or at least those 12,000 or so founding members, the rest of us will have to wait one more week). While some locals haven’t taken to the alien bike docking stations popping up on city streets quite yet, it appears that the vast majority of the city is ready to roll. With the docking stations in place, crews are now distributing bikes. According to a tweet from the NYC DOT this afternoon, some 850 bikes have already been docked around the city, and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and a few of the bike share team took the opportunity to pose on some of the bikes today. The official opening day is May 27.
New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn unveiled Blotto today, a temporary installation by Atlanta/New York City-based artist John Morse meant to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving. The artwork, which was inspired by ink-blot tests and depicts two cars crashing into a martini glass, has been placed in more than 100 phone kiosks in locations in Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx with high concentrations of drunk driving collisions. The installation is part of NYC DOT’s ongoing campaign to curb instances of driving while intoxicated, which has contributed to at least 46 deaths in New York City streets and led to more than 19,000 arrests in the past two years alone. “We’re using creative imagery to help motorists recognize there is no room for interpretation when it comes to drinking and driving,” said commissioner Sadik-Kahn in a statement. “Drunken driving is reckless driving and when motorists raise a glass, it’s the lives of other New Yorkers they have in their hands.” The installation will be on view until June 17. AN publisher Diana Darling lost her sister, Teresa Wallace (age 36), nephew, Rhea Wallace (age 6), and niece, Kenzi Wallace (age 3 months), when they were killed by a drunk driver in July 1996 in Dallas, Texas. Ms. Darling supports Mothers Against Drunk Driving and any other initiative that seeks to stop drunk drivers.
With only 75 weeks left in New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, cyclists the city over will inevitably be concerned about the next mayor’s stance on bike lanes and street designs lest initiatives put in place under Bloomberg fall from grace. One need only to recall Marty Markowitz’s parodic tricycle stunts poking fun at bike lanes or former NYC DOT commissioner Iris Weinshall’s efforts to remove a protected bike lane from Brooklyn’s Prospect Park West to realize that the concern is not unfounded.
At yesterday’s regularly-scheduled City Planning review session, former Bogotá Parks Commissioner Gil Penalosa was invited to give a pep talk, placing a particular emphasis on bike lanes. He warned an audience filled with commissioners and planning staff that as the weeks wind down before the mayor leaves office, they’d better get cracking at PR and permanence: the public needs to become even more familiar with the bike network and the infrastructure needs to become permanent—and striped bike lanes won’t cut it!
Last night was a night of tough decisions. ArchNewsNow threw its tenth anniversary party at the Center for Architecture and DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan gave the Mumford Lecture at City College—on opposite ends of town at the same time. Impossible to do both, our Publisher Diana Darling partied down with ArchNewsNow and we headed for the Mumford Lecture, sending hearty congratulations to ArchNews editor Kristen Richards. Despite missing the party, the trip Uptown was well worth it…
To hell with what Pennsylvania groundhog Punxsutawney Phil says about there being six more weeks of winter; if you want a true harbinger of spring, head over the Center for Architecture for a last chance to check out the “Two Wheel Transit” show mounted by the DEP for their bike share program that going to be launched in the spring. The show teases out some of the details of the plan that will add rentable public bikes to the New York City’s transit options. The exhibit closes this Saturday, but if you don’t make it over in time, you can go to one of the community bike share workshops that begin on Monday. The first meeting will be held at 25 Carmine Street. The workshops will give New Yorkers a chance to comment on where to put the 600 bike stations.
Brooklyn’s grandest public space at the top of Prospect Park has always been a work in progress. Grand Army Plaza, an oval-shaped public space composed of monuments ringed by an inner and an outer roadway, was built as the main entrance to the park in 1866, serving as a buffer between nature and city and happened to be the confluence of some of Brooklyn’s busiest avenues. Over the years, a monumental archway was added, fountains came and went, and eventually the roads were widened until the lush plaza was effectively cut off from the surrounding Prospect Heights and Park Slope neighborhoods. Last week, however, after months of construction to tame the out-of-control roadways, a group of civic leaders and officials gathered in what was once a busy street to celebrate the newly reclaimed plaza.
As we all know, Jane Jacobs was a visionary urban activist and author, whose 1961 publication of The Death and Life of Great American Cities had a tremendous impact on how we think about cities and urban planning today. She challenged prevailing assumptions in urban planning at a time when slum-clearing was the norm and emphasized the intricacies and sensitivities of an urban fabric. In 2007, the year after Jacobs died, the Rockefeller Foundation launched the Jane Jacobs Medal, an annual award given to those who stand by Jacobs’ principles and whose “creative uses of the urban environment” renders New York City “more diverse, dynamic and equitable.”