Speaker Johnson’s “Streets Master Plan” Approved By Council

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson at a press conference prior to the vote (photo by William Engel)
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson at a press conference prior to the vote (photo by William Engel)

Before yesterday’s historic City Council session, Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen) took a moment to pay respects to Seth Kahn, a New York student who was fatally struck and killed by a speeding bus ten years ago.

“We have lost too many people over the years due to traffic violence,” said Johnson. “Seth Kahn was 22 years old when he was hit by an MTA bus in Hell’s Kitchen, my district, in 2009. His father, Harold Kahn, described his only child as a joy to be around, who was handsome, kind, generous, loving and talented. When we vote on my Streets Master Plan today, I would like us to remember the reason why safe streets are so necessary, and why bold action is needed. I am proud of this bill, but I know there is so much more work that we need to do.”

In May of 2019, Johnson first introduced his Streets Master Plan, a comprehensive bill meant to revolutionize transportation in the City. Today, nearly half a year later, the bill has finally been approved.

Speaker Johnson’s Streets Master Plan bill passed the City Council yesterday with a vote of 36-10. The bill seeks to reform the city’s transportation systems in a way that prioritizes pedestrian safety, efficient mass transit, emission reduction and accessibility.

“We need faster buses, safe streets infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists, and more pedestrian space,” said Johnson. “We need to do everything we can to encourage sustainable modes of transportation, especially with the realities of climate change growing more dire every day. This plan will make New York City a much more livable and enjoyable place to call home,”

The legislation will require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to issue a “streets master plan” every five years. The first plan, due in 2021, will mandate the creation of 150 miles of camera-protected bus lanes and one million square feet of pedestrian space, among other improvements. The second plan, due in 2026, will mandate the creation of a connected bike lane network.

Council Member Margaret Chin (D-Battery Park City, Chinatown) lauded the plan, claiming that it will help her district immensely.

“As the representative of Lower Manhattan, I have advocated for years for a comprehensive plan that prioritizes pedestrian and cyclist safety on our City’s streets,” said Chin. “Throughout my district, I have seen firsthand the safety and quality of life impacts of heavily congested streets. I am proud to co-sponsor Speaker Johnson’s transformative Streets Master Plan legislation. This legislation puts the safety of our cyclists and pedestrians first, promotes accessibility and use of our mass transit system and will reduce vehicle emissions.”

Council Member Carlina Rivera (D-East Village, Gramercy Park) concurred, claiming that the plan is an important step towards breaking New York’s “car culture”.

“As a daily bike rider, I know that if we can revolutionize the future of our streets, we will be able to address everything from congestion, to climate change, to pedestrian safety,” said Rivera. “I’m proud to sponsor this legislation and want to thank all of the advocates and supporters who made this day a reality.

But Johnson didn’t want to take sole credit for the plan. At yesterday’s press conference, he acknowledged that the legislation was a group effort, thanking his colleagues for helping him. In particular, he expressed gratitude towards Rob Newman and Kelly Taylor – his Counsel and Deputy Counsel, respectively – who played an instrumental role in shaping the legislation.

“I want to thank each and every Council member and staff member who got involved in this process,” said Johnson. “I also want to thank the advocates who helped push this issue into the forefront of our city over the past few years. But there are two people in particular I want to thank – Rob Newman and Kelly Taylor – for their incredible, incredible hard work. They’re the ones who helped come up with this idea as part of the State of the City earlier this year. And they’ve really seen it through from January until today.”