I love New York, I think it is a fabulous, diverse, vibrant place. It has it's problems, but mostly it is a fascinating, pulsating organism.
Summers though, can be a little harsh. It is hot, humid, and mostly smelly. So how do I best deal with them?
I love to walk down the street imagining an altogether more utopian New York. I think of a city with virtually no cars, and even those low or no emission. There are trees and flowerboxes lining the sidewalks. The streets are now walkways and bikeways. The air is fresher, cooler, cleaner. The buildings are all topped with gardens- all those green roofs helping to reduce the urban heat. A lot of the iconic New York sights sounds and smells still exist- the rumble of the subway, the smells wafting from the street food vendors, floods of tourists gawking at our city. The buildings are cleaner (no more smog to blacken their facades), the inhabitants are healthier and happier (no longer the worst air in the country). Everyone is better off, and this radical city extends into the outer boroughs so everyone benefits.
Is this an unrealistic utopian dream? Definitely utopian, but I don't really think it is unrealistic. It just takes a radical governing body to make it happen. It may be a slow process (it doesn't have to be). We can start with a few things, enact the congestion fee (a study showed that 90% of car trips in the city could be done on transit). Increase bike initiative - protected bike lanes, traffic reduction and abatement projects. Improve pedestrian access, wider sidewalks (narrower streets), pedestrian only areas (delivery trucks allowed in during specific hours, improved transit in areas). Be generous in creating a world class (beyond) transit system - clean fuel vehicles, rapid dedicated lanes. And that's just the short term work, after that start enacting more people friendly laws - require greener buildings, solar power, green roofs, pedestrian access and space, greener automotive technology on all vehicles in city. Just keep on going from there!
Yeh, I may be idealistic, and commenters may have diverse opinions, but just thinking about that world when I walk down Broadway in the insufferable heat and humidity, well, it brings a smile to my face.
For more information:
- Contested Streets: host a screening of the "documentary that explores the rich diversity of New York City street life before the introduction of automobiles and shows how New York can follow the example of other modern cities that have reclaimed their streets as vibrant public spaces."
- Transportation Alternatives: get involved and support actions to make our streets more friendly to everyone.
- Livable Streets: Learn more on Streetsblog, wikipedia, Gotham Gazette, The Durst Organization (a PDF),