Envisioning a More Livable Columbus Avenue


As a candidate for a livable streets makeover, Columbus Avenue is a no-brainer. A block from Central Park, it is home to the American Museum of Natural History and sports a string of active ground floor businesses, but the street itself is a classically car-oriented corridor: three moving lanes sandwiched between two parking lanes. The Columbus Avenue BID has been working with Project for Public Spaces to make the street itself more of a destination — to create a walkable, transit-oriented "spine" running from the museum to Lincoln Center on Broadway.

The photo-simulation you see above, produced by the Open Planning Project, depicts the re-envisioned Columbus Avenue at the corner of 72nd Street (download the whole report). The main feature, on the left side of the street, is a physically separated bike-and-bus lane, which is accompanied by textured crosswalks, corner bump outs, and additional bike parking. Here’s how this intersection looks today:


"We hope to become a model district for the city of New York," said Barbara Adler, executive director of the BID. "We’ve been trying to make Columbus Ave as environmentally-friendly and pedestrian-, worker-, and resident-friendly as possible. This report is a compendium of ideas that could happen if we lived in a perfect world."

How many of these ideas will actually happen? In the immediate future, generating higher parking turnover seems like a safe bet. "The first thing we’ll see is parking meters switched out for Muni
meters that accept credit cards," said Adler. "I think we’ll see the cost of parking
rise on Columbus Avenue, and on Broadway and Amsterdam as well."

Also fairly likely in the short-term, she said, are painted neckdowns, more bike racks, and leading pedestrian intervals.

As for the more ambitious infrastructure changes, Adler said her hopes for the immediate future have been "scaled back," even though she believes the BID’s report fits well with the goals of PlaNYC. "We’re waiting to hear from DOT," she said. "We had hoped to get a traffic-protected bike lane, but it doesn’t appear that that’s going to happen anytime soon. I do think that all of these things will eventually have to be implemented in New York City, but not as fast as we had hoped."

The BID will present the report to the transportation committee and green committee of Community Board 7 on Monday night. They will be seeking a letter of support, not a vote.

You can voice your support for a more livable Columbus Avenue to CB7, Monday the 24th at 7 p.m. The meeting is at 250 W 87th Street, on the second floor.

Photo and simulation: Carly Clark 

  • d

    Interesting that there’s a pedicab in the rendering when the city has done so much to limit the number of pedicabs.

  • Peter

    Community Board presence is key–If you like the BID’s presentation, make sure you attend Monday night’s presentation.

  • Brandon

    Can anyone, regardless of residence, attend these meetings? I live in BK but I’d like to go to this.

    Do they give handouts of the proposals?

  • Dave H.

    It is sort of cheating to compare a winter shot with a summer shot/simulation. Of course the summer one looks more appealing!

  • ln

    I just returned from London, which is now such a pleasant place to be since conjestion pricing. One of the major improvements that makes it work is a dedicated bike, bus, taxi lane, sometimes physically separated, sometimes painted another color. And they have bus lane cameras too, so any private car in there receives a ticket! And those taking non- or less polluting transport actually move a lot faster.

  • I’m in London right now, but those of you in the city should really go to those Community Board meetings. There’s a reason it’s so much easier to bike downtown and it has to do with community pressure. Columbus Avenue is not very nice to bike down. And the avenues on the East Side are worse.

  • Dave

    This looks pretty but the NIMBY-types in the CB will yell and scream about less parking, easy acccess to their front door or something as inane.
    If anything moves forward it will be a much watered-down version looking nothing like the above.

    Instead of giving more say to the CB’s we need a process where intelligent, knowledgeable city planning professionals do what’s best for the city. Stop the CB practice of kow-towing to the NIMBY coalition!

  • The whole Community system needs to be overhauled.

    The people on the Boards are often unrepresentative of the communities they serve. Most are much older, richer and NIMBY-minded than their general area. Many also feel very entitled to be renewed as long as they just have good attendence.

    The community board offices and staff have few resources and low salaries.

    Many people I have successfully brought out to CB meetings have been appalled at the lack of good process and professionalism.

    That said, it is extremely important to turn out at these meetings on livable street issues – just a handful of people supporting an issue can sway the board or at least balance the NIMBY types.


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