ROW Rendering 5

Oct 2021

Re-Envisioning the Right-of-Way

New York City can use our 32,000 acres of roadway to prevent flooding and adapt to climate change, support transportation alternatives and better goods movement, and expand access to economic opportunity. Here’s how.

As the tragic impact of Hurricane Ida has demonstrated, streets and paved areas in the time of climate crisis can become damaging and deadly conveyors of water from extreme precipitation events. With proper design and planning, however, streets can and must be part of the solution.

Jim Griffin ROW IDA BRONX
The Major Deegan Expressway (230th Street exit) in The Bronx during Hurricane Ida, September 1, 2021. Image by Jim Griffin.

Where we are now, and where we could be

Satellite image of Northern Blvd in Queens by Google Earth, rendering by Local Office Landscape and Urban Design
1

Introduction: A Little More New York

ROW Transpo Rendering
ROW Social System
ROW Natural System

Health, equity, safety, and sustainability

This rendered image of Northern Boulevard Boulevard – where NYC DOT has already begun the process to re-envision the street – demonstrates potential features of a right-of-way that is managed as a network of systems: a street canal serves to manage stormwater from cloudburst rain; a parking lot is repurposed as a wetland park that filters stormwater from the neighborhood watershed through new habitat; slow streets in the neighborhoods have reduced lanes and lower speed limits for new residential greenway routes; streets are closed in ways that connect subway and bus transit plazas; raised vegetable beds in the street provide additional community garden space for sidewalk farming bioswale and rain garden bump-outs slow traffic and capture and filter stormwater runoff; more street trees provide urban cooling and also capture stormwater; separated bus lanes support efficient public mass transit.

ROW Rendering 5
Rendering by Local Office Landscape and Urban Design
I Love NY
2

Demystifying the Street Right-of-Way

Rpa transportation 01
3

History of the Right-of-Way in New York

Right of Way precolonial

Projected Network of Paths of the Lenape People

Map of Lower Manhattan circa 1660 edited

Map of Lower Manhattan, circa 1660

NYC GRID 1811

The Commissioners Map of the City of New York, 1807

Times Square1920s

Times Square, 1920s

Cross Bronx Expressway jason Paris

Cross Bronx Expressway, 2000s

Bicycle Bike NYC 42

Brooklyn waterfront, 2021

4

What Our Streets Could Be: A Network of Systems

Transportation
If we think of our streets as the interconnected network of public space that they are, what could we envision for them?
ROW Truck2
According to the NYC DOT, the amount of freight moved on city streets is expected to increase 68% by 2045.
ROW Streetlab 2017 06 03 rutgersst ebroadway twobridges IMG 3546
Image: Street Lab
ROW Cab Flood
27 billion gallons of untreated wastewater and polluted stormwater flow into New York Harbor from combined sewer overflows each year.
DLAN Dstudio MOMA Broadway
5

The Right-of-Way Today

New York City Street Typology

Not all streets are the same and different types of streets merit different right-of-way treatments. RPA assessed the many characteristics of New York City streets and created a typology with five classifications: Thru Streets, Activity Streets, Neighborhood Streets, Other/Residential Streets, and Unclassified.

6

Realizing the Public Benefits of the Right-of-Way

Transportation System

Current programs and project precedents include Better Buses, BQX, NYC Bike Program, and Neighborhood Loading Zones.

UsePrimary AgencyCurrent Program/Project PrecedentRulemaking or Legislative Changes Necessary
Busways/Dedicated Bus LanesNYC DOTBetter BusesNone
StreetcarsNYC DOTBQXUnclear
Protected Bike LanesNYC DOTNYC Bike Program None
Enhanced loading zonesNYC DOTNeighborhood Loading ZonesNecessary to expand or develop new program

Social System

UsePrimary AgencyCurrent Program/Project PrecedentRulemaking or Legislative Changes Necessary
Vendor Kiosks/Market StreetsNYC Department of Consumer Affairs, NYC DOTStreet Vending Program, Public Plaza Concession ProgramNecessary to expand or develop new program
Street RestaurantsNYC DOTOpen RestaurantsNecessary to expand or develop new program
Community GardensNYC DOT, NYC Parks, GrowNYC (NGO)Green Thumb and other GrowNYC Community GardensNecessary to expand or develop new program (changes underway)
Community SpaceNYC DOTOpen Streets, NYC Plaza ProgramNecessary to expand or develop new program (changes underway)
Slow Streets (posted speed limits below 25)NYC DOTNeighborhood Slow ZonesNecessary to expand or develop new program

Natural System

Current programs and project precedents include Green Infrastructure Program and Street Tree Planting.

UsePrimary AgencyCurrent Program/Project PrecedentRulemaking or Legislative Changes Necessary
Green infrastructureNYC Parks, NYC Department of Environmental Protection, NYC DOTGreen Infrastructure ProgramNone
Canals and daylighted streamsNoneNoneNecessary to expand or develop new program
Trees and vegetationNYC Parks, NYC DOTStreet Tree PlantingNecessary to expand or develop new program
Wetland areasNYC DOT, NYC Parks, NYC Department of Environmental ProtectionNoneNecessary to expand or develop new program

Recommendations

Acknowledgements

This report was made possible through the thought leadership and generous support of Paul Gertner and Michael Drinkard

Special thanks to the ROW Design Advisory Committee:
Paul Gertner of Starborn Industries, Michael Drinkard, Eric Sanderson of Wildlife Conservation Society, David J. Lewis of Parsons School of Design, Skylar Bisom-Rapp of PAU, and Danny Harris of Transportation Alternatives
Additional thanks to:
Kate Slevin, Tiffany-Ann Taylor, and Marcel Negret of RPA
Legal Analysis:
Cozen O'Connor P.C.

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