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STREETFILMS: Letting Citizens Redesign Their Streets

10:20 AM EDT on September 11, 2019

A Streetsfilm by Clarence Eckerson shows all the good things that can happen when neighborhoods take charge.

Streetsblog publisher and Open Plans Chairman Mark Gorton traveled recently to Amsterdam to witness the results of a marvelous experiment.

Residents of the Frans Halsbuurt neighborhood joined with their District Alderman Rocco Piers and city planners this year to create public amenities in the space freed up by the removal of 600 parking spots.

Mark Gorton (left) and Amsterdam Alderman Rocco Piers survey the coolest-ever loading zone, in Amsterdam's Frans Haalsburt neighborhood.
Mark Gorton (left) and Amsterdam Alderman Rocco Piers survey the coolest-ever loading zone, in Amsterdam's Frans Halsbuurt neighborhood.

District residents met over several months with the designers to hone their ideas: They overwhelmingly favored more green, more play areas, tons of bike parking and environmentally friendly practices while also preserving limited access for cars and retaining ample loading zones on each block for residents to still use a car when the need arises.

So they and the designers turned the former parking spaces to such uses as bike parking, a sandbox-trampoline combination, loading zones for freight delivery, and land for a curbside garden. The re-envisioned neighborhood is the kind of car-free, kid-friendly oasis that Gorton says could be replicated in New York City by organizations such as Open Plans's Neighborhood Empowerment Project and Streetopia  UWS.

It might even be a winning political formula: Amsterdam is in the process of removing 10,000 parking spaces in neighborhoods around the city after local politician Piers and members of his party ran and won office in part on a platform of liberating public space from private car storage.

Streetsfilm's Clarence Eckerson documented the visit, which followed an earlier video travelogue about the planned removal of the 10,000 spaces. For a glimpse of this little bit of urban paradise, click the link below.

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