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Home Travel New Yorkers of color far less likely to live near pedestrian plazas, report says

New Yorkers of color far less likely to live near pedestrian plazas, report says

by Staff

New Yorkers of color are far less likely to live near car-free pedestrian plazas than white residents, according to a report published Tuesday by the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives.

The report shows residents of City Council districts where a majority of the population is non-white are 37% less likely to live within a half-mile of a plaza than the citywide average. Residents in districts where the majority of residents are Black are 40% less likely to live close to a plaza than the rest of the city, according to the analysis.

The disparity is “not an accident,” said Elizabeth Adams, the Transportation Alternative’s deputy executive director. She pointed out that most New Yorkers don’t own a car — and said areas reserved for pedestrians improve quality of life.

“I think a lot of the history of city planning has been designed with more affluent communities, and neighborhoods, in mind,” she said. “We’ve seen that play out across New York, and that’s why looking at the data – and seeing where there is access to public space, and where there isn’t, where there are fewer traffic crashes and where there are faster bus lanes – all of these are overlaid by racial and economic inequities in our city.”

The report shows there are more New Yorkers living within walking distance of a pedestrian plaza in Council district 1 – which covers parts of lower Manhattan including Tribeca, SoHo and the Financial District – than all the people who live within walking distance of a plaza in 26 other districts.

Transportation Alternatives argues Mayor Eric Adams should install more pedestrian plazas in diverse neighborhoods.

DOT officials said they’ve added record levels of new pedestrian space over the last two years, and noted the department has a program designed to install and maintain plazas in under-resourced neighborhoods.

“Every neighborhood deserves safe, accessible, and vibrant public spaces,” DOT spokesperson Mona Bruno said in a statement. “Equity is a focus in all our work and that’s why NYC DOT is pedestrianizing more space across the city than ever before with an emphasis on delivering these new projects, and millions in new resources, to underserved communities.”

The report says parking spots near subway entrances and slip lanes — which allow cars to turn faster at intersections — could easily be converted to pedestrian plazas.

“It’s incumbent on our city leaders to design our streets differently, to look at where we can have more green space, to look at where we should be putting in faster bus lanes, and more pedestrian space, so that everyone is cared for, and everyone has access to the best public use that other districts do too, ” Elizabeth Adams said.

The city’s Department of Transportation first began a program aimed at bolstering the amount of pedestrian plazas in the five boroughs in 2008, under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. There were are 90 pedestrian plazas in the city as of 2022, according to the agency.

In August, transportation officials announced another pedestrian plaza is coming to Manhattan at Broadway between E. 17th and E. 21st.

The release of the report comes less than a month after Transportation Alternatives found the city’s Vision Zero program designed to reduce traffic fatalities has made streets safer — but showed majority white neighborhoods saw the biggest declines in traffic deaths.

This story was updated with a comment from the city Department of Transportation.

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