Naparstek Steps Down as Editor-in-Chief of Streetsblog

naparstek_headshot_bridge.jpgAaron Naparstek in his Livable Streets Power Broker pose.

This will be difficult news for those of you who are already reeling from Oprah’s retirement, Simon Cowell’s abandonment of "American Idol" and Sewell Chan‘s departure from City Room, but here it is: I am leaving my job as editor-in-chief of Streetsblog.

For all of the readers, commenters, contributors and colleagues who have made Streetsblog such a powerful tool for transportation policy reform, high-quality online community and fun and interesting job: Thank you. It’s been a great four-year run.

I’d say that I’ll miss you guys except I’m sure I’ll still be seeing you around. I will be moving over to The Open Planning Project’s board of directors and I plan to continue to write and work on livable streets issues, among other things. If you want to keep up with me, you can follow me on Twitter @naparstek. I’ll be dusting off and redesigning the old Naparstek.com blog as well. And it looks like we will probably be doing a going-away party on Friday, February 5. Stay tuned for details on that.

Naturally, I’ve been spending some time taking stock of these last four years and I can’t help but find myself amazed at how far New York City’s livable streets movement has come.

It’s almost hard to believe that when we started this blog, ideas like physically-separated bike lanes, car-free Times Square and bus rapid transit were mostly considered crazy or impossible in New York City. It’s remarkable to recall that as recently as August 2006 we lamented the fact that the leaders of cities like London, Paris and even unglamorous Chicago were rolling out ambitious transportation reforms and long-term sustainability plans while our own mayor chortled, "We like traffic. It means economic activity. It means people coming here."

When I first pitched the idea for Streetsblog to Mark Gorton in January 2006 (almost exactly four years ago to the day), New York City’s streets were improving but still, for the most part, were ruled by a 1950’s traffic engineering mindset aimed at maximizing the city’s capacity to accommodate motor vehicles. While other world cities were rapidly reclaiming their public realm with bike infrastructure, car-free streets, bus rapid transit and congestion pricing, New York City government still seemed to view traffic as something like the weather — a force beyond the control of mere mortals. Though few issues touch New Yorkers lives more personally on a more regular basis, transportation was a third-tier issue at City Hall and in the local press.

Streetsblog helped to change that. We initially had four goals in mind: First, we aimed to generate more of an awareness of our issues by creating a new journalistic beat ranging from the intense, neighborhood-level battles over bike lanes to the big question of how New York City planned to address the challenges of climate change. Second, we wanted to educate and excite policy makers, press and regular citizens about the transportation and urban planning best practices that were emerging in other world cities. Third, we hoped to establish an online community and discussion forum for the people who were working on and thinking about these issues. And finally, most of all, we intended to watchdog and reform New York City’s Department of Transportation. We wanted Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff and his staff reading our blog. We wanted them to feel mildly embarrassed about the way that New York City’s transportation policies were lagging behind those of other cities. And we hoped to create a new, more ambitious set of expectations for what New York City’s DOT could do.

And we did it. Streetsblog, in many ways, exceeded — and continues to surpass — the wildest expectations that Mark and I originally had for it. Today, with Janette Sadik-Khan at the helm, New York City’s DOT is pushing a bold program to create "sustainable streets" through the prioritization of pedestrians, transit and bicycles. The agency is not just reformed, it is transformed, and widely considered the leading example for transportation agencies in other U.S. cities to follow. We certainly can’t take all the credit for the great improvements taking place on New York City streets these days and we fully recognize that there is a whole lot of work yet to be done. But looking back at these last four years, I can’t help but think of Danish urban designer Jan Gehl’s oft-repeated quote: "How nice it is to wake up every morning and know that your city is a little better than it was the day before."

Likewise, it has been gratifying this last year to see Streetsblog grow and succeed in other cities. Streetsblog San Francisco is proving that the model that we created here in New York City can be just as powerful and effective in another city. Streetsblog Los Angeles is demonstrating that even a low-budget, one-man version of Streetsblog can reap substantial results. And Streetsblog Capitol Hill, the only news source covering federal transportation policy as a daily beat, is showing that we can have a tangible impact on the national level as well.

sblog_network_map.jpgOur national blog network has also been a real eye-opener. When we launched Streetsblog in the spring of 2006 there really wasn’t anything else out there quite like it aside from BikePortland.org.

Take a look at our Streetsblog Network map today. There are now more than 300 locally-oriented livable streets blogs in 45 states. Sure, the "Tea Party" movement gets all of the media attention. But I believe these 300 livable streets blogs and the tens of thousands of readers who visit them on a weekly basis represent one of the most vibrant, genuine and rapidly growing new grassroots movements underway in the United States today. It will take time — building new communities and changing the physical design and infrastructure of existing cities is a slow process. But this is the start of a movement that is transforming the American city and the American way-of-life in some very fundamental and positive ways. Streetsblog will continue to play a critical role in spreading the ideas and connecting the people who are building this nationwide movement.

I will be leaving you in very good hands here at Streetsblog. Ben Fried will continue to edit and run the blog in New York City, with Bryan Goebel in San Francisco, Elana Schor in Washington D.C. and Damien Newton in Los Angeles. Sarah Goodyear will still be building and managing the national blog network and developing and improving our online community. Livable Streets Initiative managing director Carly Clark will be picking up the slack on the fundraising and development front, pushing ahead with plans to open up local editions of Streetsblog in new cities. Streetfilms, of course, will still be doing the great work that they do. Nick Grossman and the TOPP Labs crew will continue to do an amazing job of designing, developing and maintaining our web sites. And TOPP founder Mark Gorton will continue to provide invaluable financial support and strategic direction to the whole crew.

So, thanks again for your readership and support these last four years. As for all of you regular Streetsblog commenters — I’m pretty sure I heard more from you these last four years than my own wife and kids. You guys all better show your faces at my party. You know who you are. Larry.

  • The Dynamic Mumeshantz

    Oprah is retiring? Aaron that is your new job!

  • Doug

    Thanks, Aaron, for your stewardship of Streetsblog. I think it’s one of the best, most thoughtful sites on any subject on the Internet. The level of discourse encouraged here is always very high and that’s due, in no small part, to the stories you highlight.

  • Aaron, thanks for paving the way for this grassroots revolution. It’s a sweet ride.

  • Aaron, you have accomplished so much in such a short time. Thank you, and good luck to Ben and the rest of the team.

  • Ian Turner

    We’ll miss you over here, but I’m confident that you will find plenty of opportunities to continue to do good from your new perch. Good luck.

    –Ian

  • Oprah and Simon mean nothing to me in my daily life; clean air, room to enjoy my city, and not being squished by an incompetent distracted driver means a lot.

    Thanks for getting us this far – and don’t stray far away!

  • It was through naparstek.com that I came here, which is where I discovered that the world needed to know my opinion on everything.

    Seriously, thanks for making a real difference in the world, and I do look forward to naparstek.com being active again; I really enjoyed that site.

  • Aaron,

    Many thanks for introducing me online activism and reintroducing me to community organizing. Keep rolling!

  • Thank you Aaron! Your work on this site has been truly amazing. As other bloggers know, it is very, very easy to burn-out. Building up Streetsblog and sustaining that energy level could NOT have been easy.

    I remember just before the last city-wide Mayoral election, looking for livable streets news and finding http://www.naparstek.com and the other Aaron’s http://www.startandfits.com invaluable resources to learn about these issues while I was working on http://www.nyc.theoildrum.com. As a funny aside, I remember we all endorsed different Mayoral candidates that year…for better or worse.

    Good luck in your new gig!

  • hey,
    nice photo. who took that? good luck Aaron!

  • Before I found Streetsblog I thought I was all alone in wondering whether streets must be tyrannized by cars. Streetsblog gave me a support system, sharpened my POV, offered great reporting, and backed it up with pointed headlines. I’m sure this great tradition will continue but thanks Aaron for your considerable part in making it possible. I hope your presence will continue to be felt in your new gig.

  • Matt

    Congrats and good luck. The city is better because of streetsblog and the city will continue to get better because of the work that you and The Open Planning Project will do.

  • Aaron, you have rocked the world and it will never be the same.

    I remember when you came in to cover the Streets Renaissance Campaign for NY Mag and it was clear you were a force of nature that could not be confined by traditional jounalism. You have pioneered something that will certainly be sustained and continue to reap untold rewards in many parts of the world.

    It was fitting to first meet you amongst the crowds at the Atlantic Antic. Traveling with you in Copenhagen and Bogota was a thrill as well. Can’t wait to see what comes next!

  • Hooray for Aaron! Viva!

  • Bravo, Aaron. Not least for going out on top (and with a typically graceful and incisive post). You and the entire crew have created a brand-new and remarkably effective civic institution. We’re all happily in your debt.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Here is to your coffin, may it be made from 100 year old oak trees, that I will plant tomorrow morning.

  • Streetsblog and the greater Livable Streets Initiative is now the advocacy planet we all revolve around. Thanks, Aaron, for bringing your gravity and an intellectual center to the movement!

  • Dude, there will always be a place for you with Park Slope Neighbors. But seriously, has someone optioned the script for “Honku: The Movie?”

  • Clarence Eckerson

    Hey, I want to announce I am leaving just so people say nice things about me too. 🙂 Aaron, much love of course and congrats, but we all know you won’t be a stranger around here.

  • Anon

    Congrats Aaron, thanks for the good work here, and best wishes at your new venture.

  • Congrats and good luck, Aaron. You’ve given me a lot of support since I started SAS in November 2006, and I know I’ll miss your voice around here.

  • Ken Coughlin

    One can make a living serving on a board of directors? Clearly, I’m on the wrong board! Aaron, I’ve been a huge fan of yours since Honku and those epic articles on transpo policy you did for the NY Press (which are still saved on my computer). Streetsblog filled a gaping hole in the public discourse that many of us didn’t even realize was there until you and Mark plugged it. There is no doubt that Streetsblog’s early implicit message that NYC was lagging behind other great cities was a key to getting JSK on the job. You should be proud: You conceived it, your fine writing, editing and story selection gave it the needed street cred, and then you hired a bunch of crackerjack journalists like yourself with real passion for the issues who will keep his baby going at least until NYC’s/America’s streets are indistinguishable from those of Copenhagen. I can’t wait for Naparstek’s next act.

  • adam m.

    How much you’ve shaped our view of the City (or at least mine)! What an accomplishment streetsblog is. Congratulations on your next steps — and great luck to streetsblog in the years ahead. Nice work, Aaron.

  • 10200 Riverwood Drive

    Congratulations, Aaron and best wishes for a rewarding position at the Open Planning Project. We, at Innovation NewsBriefs may have a somewhat different perspective on things, but this has in no way lessened my respect for Streetsblog, its contributors and especially your leadership in elevating Streetsblog to the influence it enjoys today.
    Warm regards,

    Ken Orski
    Editor/Publisher
    Innovation NewsBriefs

  • Aaron

    Finding this blog in the spring of 2009 was one of the best things that happened, as I did research on bikes for a transportation class. It has changed my entire focus and has pushed me into an area I didn’t know existed

    thanks to you and the team, your had work is clearly appreciated by many many people, I being one of them

    cheers and best of luck
    John

  • What a great journey Aaron! Thanks for working so hard to put these issues on the map and for creating such a respected source of information. The presence of Streetsblog (in all its forms) raises the tide for all of us.

    I’ll be following you on Twitter and I’m glad you’ll still be involved with this streets renaissance.

    Cheers from your unofficial Portland Streestblog editor ;-).

  • A– It’s been a pleasure working with you on this amazing project for the past four years, and we’ll certainly miss you around here. But when Obama calls, you’ve gotta answer…

  • Good luck with the new gig, Aaron. In this case I hope the Eagles are right when they sing: “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave…”

  • John Kaehny

    Thanks Aaron. Your work at Streetsblog has been a great service for New York and the country. More than that, you’ve created something unique and wonderful that is being sustained and expanded after you move on. You created an organizational culture, crafted a perspective and voice, and hired amazing folks who continue to build and build. Streetsblog is a true national model for positive social change. It’s honest advocacy, not afraid to tell the truth and push friends and foes alike. You have every reason to be proud.

  • Sad to see you go!

  • Aaron, I’m late in saying, congrats and we are sad to see you go. Best of wishes. – Adam

  • Jeff Prant

    Aaron- Thanks for all the seeds you’ve sown. All the best.

  • Thanks for all your work, Aaron. It has been a great asset to our movement.

  • Donna

    Oprah, who?

    Thanks for everything, Aaron.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Livable Streets Promised Land

|
Here’s a nice visual of what cities will look like when the livable streets movement has completely emerged from the wilderness (sorry for the extended metaphor, couldn’t help it today). GOOD Magazine ran this photosim done by our very own Carly Clark in their transportation issue, with text by Streetsblog Editor-in-Chief Aaron Naparstek. They’ve got […]

One Last Reminder: Aaron Naparstek Going-Away Party Is Tonight

|
Whether or not you had a chance to RSVP, all are welcome at tonight’s big event. Don’t miss your chance to hang with founding editor Aaron Naparstek and an enticing roster of Streetsblog regulars. Nothing official, but there are rumors that a surprise guest or two may also be in attendance. Regardless, this will be […]

Wiki Wednesday: Bike Boxes

|
This StreetsWiki entry is rounding into encyclopedic form quite nicely. Andy Hamilton, DianaD (who also brought us the VMT entry last week) and Streetsblog’s own Aaron Naparstek have been piecing together a detailed look at the history and effectiveness of bike boxes: With nearly 40% of daily commuter trips taken by bike, Copenhagen, Denmark is […]

Walk21 Conference: A Chance to Improve Our Streets

|
Next week, the Department of Transportation will host the tenth annual Walk21 Conference, an international conference devoted to walking, and achieving livable, sustainable cities. The conference will take place next Wednesday to Friday at NYU, and you can register for it here. The conference began in London back in 2000, and has been featured in […]