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To those running for elected office in New York City,
We stand together as a diverse coalition of New York City-based organizations and businesses in support of making streets, our largest public space, better serve the needs of all New Yorkers.
Together, we challenge you to convert 25 percent of space for cars into space for people by 2025, creating a more equitable, safe, vibrant, and resilient city for generations to come.
Today, New York City faces a budget shortfall, a crisis of racial injustice, rising inequality, deadly traffic violence, dramatic drops in transit fares and ridership, the loss of millions of jobs and small businesses, and the ongoing threat of climate change. Our recovery can begin, in part, by reimagining our largest public asset — New York City’s 6,300 miles of streets and three million free parking spaces.
New York City’s streets are unquestionably unfair, giving the majority of space to vehicles that cause environmental, economic, and public health damage to our city and residents. Though a minority of New Yorkers drive a car to work and a supermajority walk, take public transit, or ride a bike, 76 percent of New York City’s streetscape is designated for the car-driving minority.
By repurposing 25 percent of current driving and parking space, the future leaders of New York City could create more than 13 Central Parks — or 12 Flushing Meadows-Corona Parks or 21 Prospect Parks or six Staten Island Greenbelts or 11 Van Cortlandt Parks — worth of new space by 2025.
In converting that space into car-free bus lanes and bike lanes, wider sidewalks and safer crosswalks, and acres of new public space in every neighborhood, the next leaders of New York City could: expand transportation and park access, give power over public space back to communities, spur economic recovery, attract and retain people and jobs, support arts, culture, and business, reduce the public health burden, improve accessibility, fight climate change, increase quality of life and life expectancy, improve fiscal health, reduce gridlock, address racially biased and inequitable planning, and save lives lost to car crashes.
This better future will require a new approach from city officials and our future leaders — one that sees streets as a system of public spaces designed to serve all New Yorkers, especially low-income communities, people with disabilities, seniors, and communities of color, and breaks from traditional thinking centered on maximizing the movement and storage of cars. And, this better future is highly popular with New York City voters and proven to create significant economic benefit for both small businesses and the city budget.
Evidence of this, and the case for converting car space into space for people, is collected in Transportation Alternatives’ new report — NYC 25x25: A Challenge to New York City’s Next Leaders to Give Streets Back to People. As a coalition, we call on New York City’s next leaders to:
By meeting this challenge, New York City’s next leaders will take a bold first step to correct a historic inequality. In a moment of overlapping crises — health, social, economic, environmental — the question for our city’s future leaders is not whether we can be bold enough to shift course, but whether we can afford not to.
Our finite public spaces must benefit the many, not the few. The future of New York City depends on it.