On the 23rd of June, the City Council Transportation Committee held a hearing on a bill, intended to bring some semblance of order to the chaos of news racks on the sidewalks . DOT, Business Improvement Districts and Civic groups like CIVITAS supported the bill, while it  independent press groups who use the racks for local distribution opposed it.

But from the beginning Chair Ydanis Rodriguez indicated that it was a larger issue about making the sidewalks better for pedestrians. We could not have agreed more . Here is CHEKPEDS testimony:

“In the Central Business district, where the number of tourists has swelled to 59 million a year and the height of the building has gone from 6 stories to 60 stories, sidewalk sizes have not changed in 100 years. In some cases, sidewalk has shrunk to make space for automobile, as is the case on 9th Avenue.
75% of New-Yorkers walk at some point during their commute. 50% of Port Authority commuters walk to their final destination in midtown.  The sidewalk is really a Walk lane that serves a mode of transportation like the bus lane, the car lane or the parking lane.
Imagine if the car lane had Links, newsstands, newspaper boxes, A frames, storm enclosures, various vendors and sidewalk cafés obstructing it? It is urgent that we make it so that pedestrians can move most effectively and in comfort.

  • Change the name of the sidewalk to “ Walk lane” along the measures recently adopted on Times Square.
  • Give to the Department of Transportation (DOT) the mission to enforce all the rules related to obstruction, furniture etc…that are on the Sidewalk
  • Give DOT the mission to establish rules for placement of all obstructions to reduce clutter and improve walking capacity, depending on foot traffic. This would let DOT specify rational placement of trees and utilities like ConEd grids which are a major obstacle to walking and greening.   And a whole discussion should be open about Signals and lighting poles catch basins and flooding at corners.
  • Return Walk lanes’ maintenance to the city. Why are my taxes paying for the maintenance of car lanes and not walk lanes?  Also property owners who pay for their sidewalk’s maintenance consider it their right to install furniture on it.  It would also accelerate the adoption of the permeable concrete for sidewalks a critical sustainability initiative. “
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