New York City provides exciting, yet sometimes complicated opportunities for people who want to create local change. On the one hand, this is a city with a proven ability to reinvent itself over and over again, packed with innovative and creative people. On the other hand, in a city of more than 8 million people, figuring out the best way to change your street can be somewhat overwhelming. Especially if it’s the first time you’re doing it.
In recent years, NYC provides more room for local involvement in planning. The “change landscape” is evolving. New Yorkers seem to have more opportunities to voice their opinion on local plans, and campaign for a new park or bike lane in their neighborhood.
Technology can play a significant supportive role in creating local change. At OpenPlans, we believe progressive planning ideas can get more support, if communities had the tools to start citizen-led planning efforts in their streets and neighborhoods.
We decided to zoom in to the hyperlocal. Just imagine, how multiple local change projects can impact the city overall.
First, we defined the spectrum – livable streets related projects, driven by local activists and community organizations. The NYC planning process is long and complex. We decided to focus on a very specific aspect – small projects, with the Community Board or NYCDOT at the end point.
Then, we turned to the experts. New Yorkers who created change in their community by campaigning for a much needed bike lane, slow zone, or pedestrian plaza. During July and August, Eva Shon and I spoke with 18 individuals and groups citywide to learn from their experience. We asked them about the process they went through, the challenges they faced and the achievements they celebrated.
In the next few weeks, we will publish a blog post series about our journey through the NYC change landscape. Stay tuned to hear about three inspiring success stories, learn more about our research toolbox, and discover what we’ve learned.