The 2016 NYC Streetsies, Part 1
Thanks for voting and welcome to the first slate of NYC Streetsies. This batch is all about the tangible wins of 2016 — major street redesigns, bus improvements, and other good stuff. More Streetsies will follow throughout the week. Enjoy!
Best Pedestrian Project
The six-legged intersection of Myrtle, Wyckoff, and Gates, straddling Bushwick and Ridgewood on the Brooklyn/Queens border, has been the site of profound loss. Ella Bandes, 23, was struck and killed by a turning bus driver while crossing the street here in 2013, and the following year, Edgar Torres, 40, lost his life in a very similar collision.
By converting one block into the car-free Myrtle-Wyckoff Plaza, DOT greatly simplified the complex vehicle movements at the intersection. The project exemplifies DOT at its resourceful best in the Vision Zero era — bold thinking applied to a dangerous location, reducing the risk to people on foot while creating a neighborhood gathering place and delivering more convenient access to two subway lines and six bus routes.
It’s also a testament to the strong activism of Ella Bandes’s parents, Judy Kottick and Ken Bandes, and the unflinching political support of Council Member Antonio Reynoso, without whom the project would not have happened.
Best Bicycle Project
A few of the projects vying for this Streetsie are so good they probably could have taken top honors in a typical year. But the competition in 2016 was especially fierce. The winner of the people’s choice vote was the Chrystie Street protected bike lane, and there are a couple of things that set it apart.
First is the centrality of Chrystie Street in the city’s bike network. Thousands of people ride on Chrystie every day because for many trips between Brooklyn and Manhattan, you just can’t avoid it. Second is the quality of the design — there’s no comparison between the old obstacle course bike lane, constantly blocked by illegally parked cars, vans, and buses, and the protected right of way.
This project is going to change cycling in NYC by making an essential piece of the bike network much less stressful. As a bonus, it may also put a stop to those ridiculous 5th Precinct bike stings.
Many thanks to Dave “Paco” Abraham for leading the way and putting this concept in front of Community Board 3 last year.
Best Bus Project
What the Chrystie Street redesign was for cycling this year, B46 Select Bus Service on Utica Avenue was for bus riding — the project that did the most good for the greatest number of people.
The B46 serves some of the densest neighborhoods in the city that lack good subway access. Passengers make more than 44,000 trips on the B46 each weekday, making it the busiest bus route in Brooklyn. Routes with so many riders are the ones where off-board fare collection makes the biggest difference, and this was the year that pre-paid boarding came to the B46. Instead of waiting for everyone to dip a MetroCard at the front of the bus, everyone can board with a receipt at any door.
How rare is it for the city to claim a lane of car traffic on a major bridge and repurpose it for biking and walking? The opening of the Pulaski Bridge bikeway this spring marked the first time in 16 years that New York had taken a lane for active transportation on a span so large.
What used to be a lane of speeding traffic next to a crowded, stressful shared path for walking and biking is now a generous two-way bikeway linking Brooklyn and Queens. New Yorkers should get similar improvements on the Queensboro Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge, and several bridges over the Harlem River without having to wait another 16 years.
It took almost a decade of activism and too many community board meetings to count, but the Amsterdam Avenue protected bike lane was worth the wait. The fight to extend the protected lane further along Amsterdam hopefully won’t drag out so long.
Most Frustrating Policy Win
There’s a sizable parking-obsessed contingent on the City Council that won’t stand for the elimination of off-street parking mandates, but the de Blasio administration still managed to get rid of parking requirements for subsidized housing in much of the city. Problem is, the mayor is counting on neighborhood-level rezonings all over the city to deliver subsidized housing, and so far, few council members have shown much willingness to support these changes in their districts.
Most Common-Sense Legislating
Until this year, walking across the street while time remained on a flashing countdown signal was no guarantee that you had the right of way under New York City law. (It all depended on whether you had a white “Walk” signal when you stepped off the curb — if you didn’t, the law didn’t protect you.) Local Law 115, introduced by Public Advocate Letitia James and signed by Mayor de Blasio in September, changed that. Now people in the crosswalk have the legal right of way as long as the signal is not a steady red hand. Like they always should have.
Second runner-up: DOT’s Mobility Report, a refresh of the agency’s annual progress reports initiated under PlaNYC, put MTA BusTime data to spectacular use, creating a citywide map that pinpoints street segments where steps need to be taken to speed up NYC buses.
First runner-up: The Transform Don’t Trash coalition’s “Clearing the Air” report laid out the public health and safety risks of New York’s commercial waste carting industry and made a compelling case for tangible reforms.
The best: TransitCenter’s Bus Turnaround report takes top honors. The report shed light on an urgent but overlooked problem — the decline of NYC bus ridership by 16 percent since 2002, and the factors behind slow, unreliable service that leads people to abandon the bus — while laying out a policy agenda that will guide efforts to improve bus service for years to come.
There’s also a great Streetfilm that goes with it:
Want an inside look at the project that won Streetsblog’s best street transformation award in 2015? Let DOT’s Ryan Russo walk you through the problem-solving thought process in “The Transformation of Queens Boulevard, Block By Block”: