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Corey Johnson

AIN’T SEEN NOTHING YET: Johnson’s ‘Streets Master Plan’ is Just a Start

File photo: Gersh Kuntzman|

Harold Kahn is just behind Speaker Corey Johnson in this photo from Tuesday’s rally.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson's bike, bus and pedestrian priority "streets master plan" is set to pass on Wednesday with Mayor de Blasio's support, but the speaker said he had no intention of pausing for a victory lap — and, in fact, will use the momentum for a new slate of legislation aimed at (yes, he said it again) breaking the car culture.

"For too long, we failed to take the bold steps necessary to fix the problem," Johnson said at a rally in support of his Intro 1557 on the eve of its passage. "Let's build the kind of city we want to live in."

But Johnson added that the master plan bill is only the beginning of a legislative agenda that he hopes will boost the city and, obviously, his inevitable mayoral run in 2021.

"In the next two years, we are going to continue to push the envelope," he said, touting a laundry list of forthcoming proposals such as:

    • Passing (also on Wednesday) a major commercial waste reform bill that will change the way private sanitation companies operate by allowing only three companies to operate in set zones rather than the current free-for-all. "It will dramatically reduce the number of miles that these private carters are driving around the city," he said. The mayor has indicated he will sign the bill.
    • Cracking down on placard abuse — and basic illegal parking by placard holders. "Placard abuse is corruption, plain and simple," Johnson said.
    • Going far beyond the city's tiny pilot program for easing residential deliveries, which have exploded over the past 10 years. "We are going to tackle the congestion we're seeing because of the huge rise in deliveries," Johnson said, possibly referring to an existing proposal to require more deliveries at night or even eliminating a city program that reduces parking fines for delivery companies.
    • Creating more car-free transit-priority zones. "We are going to build on the success of the 14th Street busway and move to create more busways," he said.
    • Requiring NYPD enforcement of unsafe driving. "We're going to send a clear message to drivers, 'Follow the rules of the road or get off the road.'"
    • Doing even more for pedestrians. "I'm not sure if I should say right now, but there will be more pedestrian improvements than what is in the scope of this bill."

But it all starts on Wednesday with passage of the master plan bill, which requires the city to draw up — and then follow — a basic blueprint for installing 50 miles of protected bike lanes per year, 30 miles of dedicated bus lanes per year, double the amount of pedestrian plazas and make other systematic improvements.

The bill, he said, "will completely revolutionize how we share our street space and that will revolutionize our quality of life."

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez was also on hand. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez was also on hand. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. File photo: Gersh Kuntzman

"Seven million people in New York City don't own a car, but for too long things have been stacked in car drivers' favor and away from other people who need to use our city's streets. It's about reorienting that," Johnson said before gesturing to members of Families for Safe Streets gathered behind him, many bearing photos of loved ones they lost to road violence. "Look at the pictures that the family members are holding here. This is what happens with inaction. This is what happens with a piecemeal approach."

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez and supporters of the bill and other Johnson initiatives have praised the speaker for his "bold" initiatives, but several TV reporters questioned Johnson about how he could seek such changes knowing that car owners would likely complain. His answer suggested that he no longer is worried by what a minority of New Yorkers — and their enablers in the local TV news business — think is good urban design.

"Things are unsustainable and we need to make big changes," he said. "And we're going to show the world that we can remake cities to be better and we have to make big changes. ... It's about changing our city for the better and fighting back against climate change and being a 22nd-century city. ... In any city, streets are the most valuable public asset. What we do with that public asset says a lot about who we are as a city and what our values and priorities are. And for too long, we have deemphasized protecting pedestrians and cyclists and mass transit users. This is about a total reorientation of those priorities."

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