Council Passes Streets Master Plan

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson at the Council Stated Meeting. Image Credit: John McCarten

The Speaker’s bill looks to change the way the entire city shares the streets. On October 30, 2019, the City Council approved Intro 1557-A, a five-year comprehensive plan for city streets, sidewalks and pedestrian spaces. The bill was approved by a vote of 35 in favor to 9 opposed with two abstentions. The bill was first introduced by Speaker Corey Johnson on May 29, 2019, heard by the Committee on Transportation on June 12, 2019, and later amended and approved by the Committee on October 29, 2019.

The Bill

The bill requires the Department of Transportation to issue and implement a master plan for the use of streets, sidewalks and pedestrian spaces every five years. The plan would prioritize and promote the safety of all street users, the access and use of mass transit and ideally reduce traffic congestion and emissions. The plan also focuses on improving access to streets, sidewalks, public spaces and mass transit to individuals with disabilities.

The bill requires DOT achieve specific benchmarks for street redesigns, protected bus lanes, protected bicycle lanes, bicycle parking, pedestrian spaces, commercial loading zones, truck routes and parking. DOT will then have to conduct a public education campaign, post updates to the plan, and annually post the status of the implementation of each benchmark.

The first plan is due December 2021 and includes some of the following benchmarks:

  • 150 miles of physically or camera-protected bus lanes (at least 20 miles in year one)
  • 250 miles of protected bike lanes (at least 30 miles in year one)
  • Bus stop upgrades (i.e. benches, shelters, real-time passenger information)
  • Redesign of at least 2,000 signalized intersections
  • Develop parking policies to promote the master plan’s goals of safety, mass transit use, reduced vehicle emissions and access for individuals with disabilities
  • Create and maintain one million square feet of pedestrian space (within the first two years)


The following master plan (due in 2026), includes completion of a connected bike line network, completion of the bus lanes, completion of pedestrian signals at least 2,500 intersections, completion of all bus stop upgrades, the redesign of at least 2,000 intersections and the installation of pedestrian ramps at a minimum of 3,000 street corners.

Public Hearings

At the public hearing on June 12, 2019, the Council heard testimony from the City and many interest groups. Polly Trottenberg, Commissioner of the Department of Transportation, was supportive of the bill’s goals but cautioned the council on the steps it might take to effectively implement the bill. She explained that DOT was already engaged in a multitude of operations and yet, even in light of recent increases in resources, the department is straining to find the hiring capacity, management and facilities to handle the enlarged scale of operations. Trottenberg also suggested streamlining the public engagement process to meet the bills proposed deadlines.

Some of the parties supporting the bill include Transportation Alternatives, the New York League of Conservation Voters, StreetsPAC, Families for Safe Streets and the American Heart Association.

At the hearing on October 29, 2019, the Subcommittee unanimously voted in favor of the bill. Council Member Antonio Reynoso commented that the bill could be more aggressive, but that it is a good bill nonetheless.

Speaker Johnson and Council Member Antonio Reynoso at a Pre-Stated Press Conference. Image Credit John McCarten

Notable Comments

At the Stated Meeting and prior to the vote, Council Speaker Corey Johnson spoke about how the bill was not just about pedestrian and bicycle rider safety, but also addresses the environmental disaster facing the nation and the city. He stated that 83 percent of emissions come from individual cars. He also responded to critics of the bill stating the bill is not “villain-izing” those with cars. Rather, that the streets should be built for everyone. The speaker also stated the bill was motivated by dozens of complaints and grievances from individuals and relatives of individuals injured or killed on New York City streets.

Mayor Bill de Blasio stated his office worked closely with the Speaker to make sure that the specified timelines were viable. He admitted that it could be a timely process, referencing the fact that the city is building protected bike lanes at an unprecedented scale. The mayor acknowledged that the bill will work hand-in-hand with his Vision Zero initiative.

The nine Council Members who voted against the bill include Joe Borelli, Chaim M. Deutsch, Rueben Diaz Sr., Farah N. Louis, Steven Matteo, I. Daneek Miller, Paul Vallone and Kalman Yeger.

Kalman Yeger, whom represents District 44 in Brooklyn stated that the bill’s goal are “very commendable and very laudable.” He agreed that prioritizing safety for all street users, reducing emissions and creating bike lanes is a good idea. He was unable to vote in favor of the bill because he called it a “blank check.” Stating, that this is a bill with “false metrics” and a lack of criteria for how the streets should be built.

Chaim M. Deutsch, whom represents District 48 in Brooklyn pointed to the reality that many in his district are reliant on cars to go shopping, take children to school and all other facets of everyday life. He stated the intent of the bill is “amazing” but he does not trust the current administration to achieve these goals, in light of prior transit short-comings in his own district. He also stated he will not approve a bill that potentially involves less community involvement. He concluded saying he was happy to continue working with the Department of Transportation.

Robert Holden, whom represents District 30 in Queens, contested some earlier sentiment saying that for both himself and his constituents “driving is not a privilege, we must drive.” He pointed out that being situated so close to Nassau County requires those in his district to drive to access the other parts of the city. He concluded saying he would be open to more bus and train expansions into his district.

On November 19, 2019, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the bill into law.

By: Jason Rogovich (Jason Rogovich is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2019)




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