New York City's 2009 legislative session didn't end without a parting gift from outgoing Lower Manhattan rep Alan Gerson. A new law that passed City Council unanimously before the end of the term mandates that any significant changes to the streetscape be subject to comment by both the local council representative and the community board. Though the comments are not binding, the law seems primed to slow down the process of re-designing streets at a time when projects to enhance bus service and improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists are top priorities in New York City, and hundreds of New Yorkers are still dying every year on city streets. Mayor Bloomberg signed the bill into law on December 28.
The law tacks on up to 65 days of back-and-forth between the city,
council members and community boards on major street projects, after which DOT is not obligated to make any changes. Ian Dutton, the vice chair of
Manhattan Community Board 2's Traffic and Transportation Committee and
a resident of Gerson's district, noted the seeming superfluity of the
law: "When we really needed it was over the last 50 years when they
were pushing highway projects on us that we didn't want. Now we have a
DOT that is really responsive to the neighborhoods for the first time."
Dutton did add that "it may help going forward if there's an
administration that wants to rip up all these bike lanes and pedestrian
The law is a variation on an idea that Gerson had floated for over a year. An earlier version of the legislation would have required local input into almost any new transportation project, big or small.
The bill that passed City Council is somewhat more limited. It covers "major realignments of the roadway," particularly the addition or removal of a lane of traffic or parking on more than four blocks or "1,000 consecutive feet of street." That would certainly apply to one of Gerson's chief targets, the Grand Street bike lane, and probably the Chatham Square reconfiguration as well. Any true bus rapid transit project would fall under the scope of the law.
Even on projects where the law applies, however, it might have little effect.Read more...