StreetFilms: Upper West Side Streets Renaissance With Jan Gehl

A standing room-only crowd turned out for last night’s Upper West Side Streets Renaissance event with Danish urban designer Jan Gehl and DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. All in all, it was an inspiring night and we’ll have a more detailed write-up later today. Though Gehl wasn’t allowed to get too specific about the work he is doing for the city, reading between the lines of his presentation, it was apparent that he is set to present some pretty groundbreaking ideas to Mayor Bloomberg. Word has it, Gehl is having lunch with the Mayor today. Hopefully the Mayor will be inspired too. 

Clarence Eckerson has already produced a three-minute StreetFilms wrap up which, frankly, is also inspiring being as how I know for a fact that he didn’t get home last night until around midnight and he had quite a few beers in him.

Additionally, the staff at Transportation Alternatives and Open Planning Project deserve a lot of praise. They did a great job preparing materials and organizing the event.

Speaking of which, have you had a chance to play with the new NYC Streets web site? It’s still in beta and there are lots of cool features yet to be installed. But pretty soon you’ll be able to use this web site to launch your own Livable Streets project. You’ll find a variety of tools, resources and other people to help you make changes in your own community and neighborhood.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Wow, the Columbus Avenue BID wants bike lanes and Shoupian parking pricing? This is mainstream stuff now.

    In light of a discussion across town back in the summer, it’s nice to see so many older people with New York accents supporting these ideas.

    My father lived on the Upper West Side from 1974 until his death in 2002. He never owned a car, and walked and took buses everywhere. I wish he could have lived to see some of these changes.

  • @alex

    The new website is excellent! Even though I’m not in NYC much these days, I couldn’t help but join. Up here in Troy, NY, somebody (I’m not entirely sure who) has started a site ( that tries to be something like this, but doesn’t come anywhere close.

    Would NYC Streets Renaissance or Open Planning Project be willing to release the code for this to organizations in other communities? Or alternately, host additional instances of the site software? Even if the people behind aren’t interested, I and others would be.

  • That’s the plan, Alex: Totally open source, Internet-based community-building tools available to anyone for free.

  • Clarence Eckerson

    It was a really great event. Nice to see so many advocates and neighborhood leaders wearing smiles these days…

    …Aaron, just to clarify it was wine in me – not beers – but yeah quite a few.

  • Hey Alex — thanks for the kind words. The folks here at TOPP have been working hard on and the software behind it for quite some time. is the second instance of our “OpenPlans” software, which you can also check out at OpenPlans is free, open source software, and we’re very interested in getting other communities and organizations using it.

    Over the next few months we’ll be rolling out more features onto, and tying it more tightly to Streetsblog and StreetFilms. Look for a post here on Streetsblog over the next day or two with more details.

    Thanks again!

  • Aaron

    Gehl’s ideas sound great, but I have a question. If the city can’t even bring itself to take the Central Park Loop back from the cars, why do so many people associated with this project seem to think that it is plausible that the city would agree to take back half of Amsterdam Ave, or all of Broadway?

  • momos

    Many people brought up the issue of cars in Central Park to Gehl after his talk. He said banning cars in parks is an obvious necessity to improve the quality of public spaces. When asked if he’d make the case to the Mayor in their meeting today, he answered with a twinkle in his eye that he wasn’t at liberty to say.

  • Clarence Eckerson

    Ah, gotta love those twinkles!

  • momos

    I asked Gehl to compare his experience in NYC to the other cities he’s worked in. He said NYC has a far more active civic culture. He couldn’t believe the number of civic groups and organizations that exist in the city and was impressed by the enlightenment of philanthropists and the New York business community (it’s private donations that are paying for his consulting work to the city).

    To my surprise, he also said the political leadership of the city is far more forward-looking and progressive than their counterparts in London. London’s progress, in his opinion, is a result of one figure — Ken Livingstone — and the unique catalyzing effect of the 2012 Olympics.

    All in all, he was very enthusiastic about NYC. He said how welcome he felt, how receptive the city was to his ideas, how impressed he was that the city’s politicians are determined to get the ball rolling before Bloomberg’s tenure is up.

    His optimism was contagious. I left the event last night feeling charged up.


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