In a moment of overlapping crises — health, social, economic, environmental — the question that New York City’s future leaders must ask themselves is not whether we can be bold enough to shift course but whether we can afford not to.
For over a century, New Yorkers have been forced to accept a “normal” on our streets that is anything but. It should not be normal for people to fear death and serious injury when crossing the street, for sidewalks to be covered in mountains of garbage, for so many to breath air poisoned by pollution, for children to lack space to play, for jobs and opportunity to be rendered inaccessible, especially for low-income communities and communities of color, or for a whole city to be crippled by congestion. It should not be normal for a city to give away its most valuable asset — open public space — to a minority of residents, largely for free.
New York City’s next generation of leaders must take up the challenge of delivering to New Yorkers a new, better normal by giving our city back to people. This is the only possible future for New York City. If our next leaders take up this challenge, they will accomplish so much: boost the economy, meet our climate goals, increase quality of life and life expectancy for all New Yorkers.
Transportation Alternatives envisions a city where the bus is never stuck in traffic and never far away, where bike share, bike parking, and protected bike lanes are easily accessible to all New Yorkers, and where greenspace dots every corner of the city. We see potential in our streets to do less harm to New Yorkers’ health and safety, and to do more good for New York City’s economy and environment. We see a future where the basic amenities we all need — like green space, public restrooms, food vendors, benches, and trees — are not rare but everywhere. In our streets, we have the space to meet the needs of 8.6 million New Yorkers. Now, we need leaders with the will and courage to elevate the potential of our largest public space, and create a better city for generations to come.
Today, New York City’s streets are unquestionably unfair, giving the majority of space to vehicles that cause daily harm to our city and its residents. The challenge to candidates — converting 25 percent of car space in New York City into space for people by 2025 — is intended to be a bold first step to correct a historic inequality. We need leaders willing to give New York City back to people and ensure that our finite public spaces benefit the many, not the few. The future of New York City depends on it.