A former New York City transportation commissioner maps out her adroit street design blueprint for alleviating traffic congestion and improving urban aesthetics.
With the assistance of her former chief media strategist Solomonow, Sadik-Khan chronicles her role in the urban transformation of Manhattan streets and how the architectural improvements she drafted eased gridlock and boosted urban sociability. “Every city resident is a pedestrian at some point in the day,” she writes. Sadik-Khan’s infrastructure redesign plan for New York centered on the encouragement of walking and street social life with an eye on the safety of both bicycle riders and pedestrians. She distressingly presents Manhattan as a bustling metropolis, mired by overcrowding and bound by a grid network of narrow streets and ineffective bisections. After years with the NYC Department of Transportation, her creative work as commissioner began in 2007 with the appropriation of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s green, congestion-busting, sustainability-driven urban plan PlaNYC, which, under Sadik-Khan’s leadership, became a citywide rebalancing effort transforming clogged streetscapes from “a place where people wanted to park into a place where people wanted to be.” She writes passionately about these projects, including the massive reinvention of Times Square, which was so successful it became a design model for other cities. The author includes pages of photographs effectively illustrating traffic-calming intersection designs and pocket plazas, which transformed “a car-clogged street into inviting shared space” and was just one part of the new street improvement plan for New York. Not always a smooth road, Sadik-Khan’s efforts were often fraught with friction from businesses and community groups opposing many of her urban renewal proposals, including the addition of a bike lane along Prospect Park West. Unfortunately, she notes, even as her tenure as commissioner ended in 2013, the battle for and discontent over public space and its use continues unabated to this day, regardless of the positive progress made.
An impressive tactical look back at an urban redevelopment pioneer who changed the look and manageability of countless New York City streets.