New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Jason Cohen

West Side Spirit Transportation Alternatives leads effort to reallocate 25 percent of public space for pedestrians by Jason Cohen

Transportation Alternatives leads effort to reallocate 25 percent of public space for pedestrians

As NYC slowly recovers from the pandemic, a coalition of over 80 advocacy groups and nonprofit organizations recently laid out a plan to transform public space in the five boroughs.

Spearheaded by Transportation Alternatives, the coalition released NYC 25x25, which calls on the next mayoral administration to allocate 25 percent of the street space by 2025 into pedestrian space.

If adopted, this policy could hypothetically create:

· 500 lane miles of new protected bus-only lanes, so every New Yorker lives within a quarter mile of a protected bus lane

· 1,000 lane miles of permanent Open Streets

· 780,000 spaces for car-share parking and paid parking spaces (converted from free parking) with the potential to generate, by the most conservative estimate, at least one billion dollars annually

· 19.4 million square feet of bike parking spaces, including racks, secure bike parking, bike share and other micromobility uses, so that Citi Bike access can stretch citywide and nearly every New York City block will host bike parking

· “Universal daylighting” — removing car parking directly adjacent to an intersection in order to increase visibility and decrease the likelihood of a crash — at every one of New York City’s 39,000 intersections

· A one-block-long car-free multi-use space for play, student drop-off and pick-up and outdoor learning outside each of New York City’s 1,700 public schools

· At least one 80-foot-long zone on every block for deliveries, e-cargo bikes, for-hire-vehicle and taxi passenger drop-off, and trash collection, so trash bags are off the sidewalk.

One supporter of this plan is Councilman Ben Kallos. The lawmaker, who is running for borough president, is one of the few elected officials who does not own a car and commutes on his bike.

“I’m about making the city livable and walkable and all about public transportation,” he told Our Town.

Positive Feedback

According to Kallos, only 20 percent of NYC residents own cars, so he questions why the public space is geared towards them. He noted when the Open Streets Program launched last year due to the pandemic, his office was flooded with positive feedback.

Kallos recalled this was one of the first times he has seen parking spots taken away without a fight.

However, he understands that for those who do have a vehicle, parking is limited. Kallos hopes that in the future the council will examine mandating that new construction have parking garages. Prior to the 1980s, they were required with new buildings, but legislation deemed it an accessory.

West Side Spirit A Plan for Open Streets by Jason Cohen

A Plan for Open Streets

Positive Feedback

According to Kallos, only 20 percent of NYC residents own cars, so he questions why the public space is geared towards them. He noted when the Open Streets Program launched last year due to the pandemic, his office was flooded with positive feedback.

Kallos recalled this was one of the first times he has seen parking spots taken away without a fight.

However, he understands that for those who do have a vehicle, parking is limited. Kallos hopes that in the future the council will examine mandating that new construction have parking garages. Prior to the 1980s, they were required with new buildings, but legislation deemed it an accessory.

“Having a car is a luxury more than anything else,” he said.

Our Town Calls for More Bike Parking by Jason Cohen

Calls for More Bike Parking

Council Member Ben Kallos, who is a bike rider and one of the only elected officials without a car, spoke with Our Town about the need for more bike parking.

“Anyone would be amused or horrified to learn what New Yorkers do to fit their bikes in tiny studio apartments,” Kallos said. “I once had to put my bike vertically in a bathtub while visiting a friend for lack of bike parking or space in their apartment. I fully support every recommendation from Transportation Alternatives and will work to make them a reality. We’ve already partnered with residents to place bike racks throughout the district anytime they are requested. I am particularly interested in the climate protected and even pods to protect bikes from theft.”

He noted that even if someone is fortunate to live in a building with bike parking, it can take months or a year to get a spot.

According to Kallos, when he first ran for office there were several complaints about bikes being chained to trees and sides of buildings, both of which are illegal. So, when he got elected he asked his constituents how they wanted the streets to look and many wanted more bike parking.

Our Town Outdoor Cafes for Social Distancing by Jason Cohen

Outdoor Cafes for Social Distancing

After numerous people on the Upper East Side disobeyed social distancing last weekend and converged in front of bars, elected officials are trying to come up with a solution.

On May 18, Council Members Ben Kallos and Keith Powers and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio asking to grant temporary permission before Memorial Day weekend for bars and restaurants to use sidewalks and streets to serve patrons safely for everyone’s benefit.

The elected officials were quite angry with the recent behavior on the UES and hope that if the city approves these plans, it will prevent those actions.

“Rather than rely on enforcement or fine individuals and small businesses that may already be hurting financially from the pandemic, we should adapt our city’s streets to allow for and encourage safe practices,” the letter states. “Without granting businesses a better option, we are afraid restaurants and bars may just take the risk and pay whatever violations may be issued as a cost of doing business rather than shutter their doors permanently.”