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Car-Free Streets

SEE IT! New Streetfilms Video Shows Why We Won’t Go Back

Northern Boulevard (left during the coronavirus crisis and right on a “normal” day). Photos: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

I live in Jackson Heights, which is currently among the hardest hit areas in the entire country for coronavirus cases and fatalities. It has been a tough month for many of our neighbors and friends.

I get outside for a socially distanced hour every day so I can get footage to show how drastically our streetscape has been altered by the virus. Videos like the one below make the case that once this is all over, we should never accept how we allocate public space in favor of car drivers rather than the majority of New Yorkers who get around on narrow sidewalks, unprotected bike routes or on buses that are constantly being delayed by people in their own private vehicles.

Under normal circumstances, the world is upside-down: the minority of people who own cars in New York City force the rest of us to breathe toxic exhaust, get stuck in their traffic, be killed by their reckless use of steel cages, get terrified just to cross a street, etc. So let's change that.

When you see my before-and-after videos, you can see that no one will want to return to the pre-virus status quo. The first step will be to eliminate all unnecessary car trips. Then we can redesign our streets to prioritize long-suffering bus riders, cyclists and pedestrians, who are fighting over crumbs.

So many U.S. cities are leading. It's time for Mayor de Blasio to allow his best city planners to take over from do-nothing bureaucrats and to stop letting the police (most of whom live in the suburbs) dictate street policy.

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