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Accessible NYC Streets Are Possible

November 16, 2021

It was gratifying and exciting to be an integral part of the design and consulting team with WXY Studio and many others on New York Magazine architecture critic Justin Davidson’s important NYC street redesign project, I dare the incoming Adams administration to do  more than thank Justin for his completely free, well-conveyed, and most importantly, readily achievable advice. One sentence in particular needs highlighting:

“This transformation is utopian only if the city’s incoming leaders surrender to inertia.”

What makes this vision stand out is its premise: accessible streets for all. Accessibility here drives the design rather than follows after it like a craven puppy.

With that as a starting point, everything from traffic patterns to street furniture falls into place.

This team doesn’t shoot for the moon – just for a walkable and even, when necessary, drivable city.

Just imagine if the Department of Transportation, the Department of Sanitation and the Department of Buildings, in coordination with the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities and the MTA, acted as if the future of their city depended on  their ability to communicate and cooperate with each other rather than on their standard practice of confronting, antagonizing and territorially urinating on one another. We don’t care who gets the credit – we care that you do it. Otherwise, the standoff we now live with, with its thousands of blocks – or is it miles – of dismal, business and pedestrian-destroying sidewalk sheds, refuse-strewn streets and dangerous  and haphazard sidewalks and crossings, will endure and become the city’s legacy

Today’s streetscape did not take shape because of a single horrific event like 9/11 or a slowly unspooling horror like theCovid-19 pandemic. It has taken years of deferred attention and an astonishing lack of imagination, not to mention political will, for so much to be so challenging to so many. This vaccine – an imperfect metaphor for an imprecise equation - just might work. Let’s take it.

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