Sarah Goodyear is a Brooklyn-based contributing writer to CityLab. She's written about cities for a variety of publications, including Grist and Streetsblog.
Car-choked areas transformed.
Still looking for a New Year's resolution for your city? For inspiration, look to this short from Clarence Eckerson at Streetfilms. It shows the remarkable before-and-after transformation of several streets and intersections in New York City over the last several years.
Eckerson has been documenting conditions on the city's streets since the 1990s, and he has a huge archive of footage. Here, he juxtaposes images of key New York locations before, during, and after radical redesigns that took place under the jurisdiction of the Bloomberg administration’s transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan. Eckerson shows the transformation of Times Square, Herald Square, the Brooklyn waterfront, the Queensboro Bridge, and several other formerly car-choked areas that are now havens for human beings on foot and on bicycles.
If you've been walking or riding a bike in these places over the years, you know how profound the changes wrought by Sadik-Khan’s policies have been. But now that New Yorkers have begun to get used to more humane streets in many parts of the city, it's startling to see just how stark the contrast is. It makes you wonder, how did people accept the previous status quo?
Bill de Blasio’s new transportation commissioner, Polly Trottenberg, has a tough act to follow. Yesterday, before de Blasio’s inauguration, she was outside City Hall meeting with members of Make Queens Safer, Make Brooklyn Safer, and other street safety advocates, who were rallying in support of the new mayor's ambitious "Vision Zero" plan to eliminate traffic fatalities in the city by 2024. It was an early indication that we won't be going back to these “before” pictures of New York streets any time soon.