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Streetsies 2023

2023 in Review: Who is the Activist of the Year?

Little changes on New York City's streets without fighting for it — but who did it best? Please vote for this year's honoree.

Photos: Streetsblog|

Here are your nominees for Activist of the Year (clockwise from top left): Ligia Guallpa, Make McGuinness Safe, Riders Alliance, MicromobilityNYC.

Little changes on New York City's streets without fighting for it, and 2023 presented ample opportunities for New Yorkers who want better streets for biking, walking and transit to do just that.

As the Adams administration fell short of its own commitments to build bike and bus infrastructure, advocates rallied across the five boroughs to hold their feet to the fire. City Hall canceled bus lanes, scaled back bike lanes and stalled open streets. At every turn, Adams and company ran into advocates frustrated over the administration's pro-car policy approach.

But advocates were there — fighting some of the biggest battles to make our city safer and more just. Below are four nominees for our coveted "Activist of the Year" award, but remember, being nominated is itself an award. Vote at the bottom. And the nominees are...

Make McGuinness Safe

The bike lane battle of the year took place on McGuinness Boulevard, where the city’s plan to calm traffic by reducing car lanes and protecting cyclists ran into last-minute stonewalling by the owners of a nearby film studio and their pals in government.

After a teacher was killed by a hit-and-run driver, then-Mayor Bill de Blasio marched with safety advocates on McGuinness Boulevard.File photo: Gersh Kuntzman

With his usual TV clients out of work due to the WGA writers strike, Tony Argento assembled opponents at Broadway Stages to yell their concerns at Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. A major donor to Brooklyn Democrats, including Mayor Adams, Argento rallied the support of the borough’s Democratic Party boss, Assembly Member Rodnyese Bichotte (D-Far from Greenpoint) and gained the ear of the mayor’s chief adviser, Ingrid Lewis-Martin, who convinced her boss to re-evaluate and water-down the project.

But the Argento family had a crucial obstacle to their plot to keep McGuinness a death trap indefinitely: Bronwyn Breitner and other parent-activists who mobilized for the redesign after the 2021 death of a beloved area public school teacher.

With the redesign imperiled, Breitner and company made sure that Mayor Adams and City Hall understood the swell of community members (plus all area pols) in favor of change.

The result wasn’t what DOT originally envisioned, but it was something — protected bike lane mileage and a little bit of traffic-calming. And if it doesn’t work, the city can always come back and finish what it started.

Ligia Guallpa

Amid yet another backlash against city delivery workers and their e-bikes, Worker’s Justice Project Executive Director Ligia Guallpa stood firm by the workers with a clear-eyed vision of the social, labor and technological dynamics underlying the public debate.

Ligia Guallpa joined Sen. Chuck Schumer and Mayor Adams to announce plans to turn vacant newsstands, like the one behind them, into charging hubs for delivery workers. File photo: Julianne Cuba

In addition to pushing for safe infrastructure for workers to charge their bike batteries, Guallpa’s group push for the successful implementation of the city’s new minimum wage rules for delivery workers.

The new rules, which faced legal opposition from the app companies, set a base per-hour rate for delivery workers — eliminating the incentive for workers for speed to earn their living.

Anecdotal evidence already shows the new law works. Writing in the Guardian last week, reporter Wilfred Chan tested out the new regime — and said he found himself less inclined to speed to complete deliveries.

Miser and the r/MicromobilityNYC subredditors of Astoria

Astoria enters 2024 primed for massive investment in bike infrastructure thanks in part to the somewhat recent ascension to power of pro-safe streets and pro-transit elected officials — but politicians are only one part of a winning coalition.

Members of the MicromobilityNYC subreddit, the community board, and the local open street group organized a "streetsmoot" to strategize ahead of a DOT workshop. Miser is in the picture, but as an activist, prefers anonymity.Photo: courtesy of Alex Duncan

The driving force behind recent and emerging campaigns for safer streets in western Queens is a group of activists who came together commenting on the popular Reddit forum — or subreddit — called r/MicromobilityNYC. Organizing coalesced especially after the vehicular killing last winter of 7-year-old Dolma Naadhun

Members of the online forum have brought their fight to the real world. “We can put dozens of people in some boring-ass community meeting,” founder Alex Duncan, who uses the online nom-de-plume "Miser," told Streetsblog in October.

The group's organizing spurred the local pols in September to propose a protected bike lane on 31st Avenue along with other changes. The ball's now in DOT's court to follow through on the neighborhood's requests.

Riders Alliance

In a year of setbacks at City Hall for the movement for safer streets and better transit, no one attempted to withstand the tide of reaction with as much verve as Riders Alliance.

Members of Riders Alliance donned animal costumes to protest the Bronx Zoo's opposition to a bike lane on Fordham Road.File photo: Auden Oakes

The organization spent the spring and summer fighting for the city's plans to put a busway — then, after that failed, expand bus lane regulations — on Fordham Road in the Bronx. Powerful interests backed by Council Member Oswald Feliz (D-Bronx) and U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat managed to turn Mayor Adams against bus riders on the strip. Hizzoner called off the effort entirely — opting for a few more enforcement cameras in the place of new red paint.

The defeat — along with word that Adams abandoned plans for a Flatbush Avenue bus lane — turned the group against the person they'd once dubbed the "bus mayor." The final straw came when Adams dismissed his own commitments to new bus lane mileage in behind-closed-doors comments to DOT staff.

The group changed course — revoking the mayor's honorary "bus mayor" title and calling his administration's transit policy what it is: "a betrayal."

Bus riders are poorer and on average than subway riders or car drivers, and are more likely to be people of color, and officials like Adams know it.

Other advocates may stand next to the mayor for photo ops, but Riders Alliance stands up for the people Hizzoner neglects. For that reason, the group and its members are front-runners in Streetsblog's "Activist of the Year."

Honorary mention

Rounding out the category are three groups worthy of honorary mention:

  • The Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council for their work defending open streets on Vanderbilt and Underhill avenues.
  • Data wizards at BetaNYC for providing activists (and Streetsblog!) reliable, essential support.
  • Manhattanites Barak Friedman, Paul Krikler and Janet Liff for their successful campaign for protected bike lanes and traffic calming on Third Avenue.

But you, dear reader, get the final say (if you don't see a poll below, refresh the page):

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