Christopher Schuyler Testimony to the NYC Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Committee on Oversight and Investigations Regarding Updates and Initiatives to Improve the Streets Plan

Access-A-Ride, Access-a-Ride Reform Group, Disability Justice, Environmental Justice, Health Justice, MTA, News

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Comments by Christopher Schuyler, Senior Staff Attorney New York Lawyers for the Public Interest  To the New York City Council,  Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure  Jointly with the  Committee on Oversight and Investigations 

On September 12, 2023  

Regarding Updates and Initiatives to Improve the Streets Plan 

It’s often said that the subway system is the lifeblood of New York City.  Since the Covid-19 pandemic, that saying may be due for an update: the  City’s streets, sidewalks, and public spaces have a claim for that distinction.  New Yorkers use these surface level spaces to get to many of the places they need to go, including work, school, medical appointments, to visit  family and friends, and to engage in community activities. This is  particularly true with respect to New Yorkers with disabilities, a group that, due to the inaccessibility of the subway system, has fewer transportation  options available to them.  

The City’s streets, sidewalks, and public spaces must be accessible: not  only is it the law, not only is it what people with disabilities ethically and  morally are entitled to, but an accessible and safe City will enable more  people with disabilities, who are disproportionately low-income, to attain 

employment, which in turn will broaden the City’s tax base and lessen the  government’s burden of paying benefits to people with disabilities who have for too long been unable to fully participate in all the City has to offer.  

My name is Christopher Schuyler, Senior Staff Attorney to the Disability  Justice Program at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI). We  commend the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the  Committee on Oversight and Investigations for holding this hearing on the status of the Streets Plan, and for considering various initiatives that will  make the City safer and more accessible for all New Yorkers. 

The first Streets Plan is an ambitious five-year plan, signed into law in  2019, which seeks to improve the safety and accessibility of the City’s  streets, sidewalks, and public spaces. Contained within the Streets Plan is a  list of mandates for the City – specifically, the Department of  Transportation (DOT) – to achieve. The first five-year Streets Plan, which runs from 2022-2026, and renews with new benchmarks every five years,  promises: 

  • 500 bus stop upgrades per year, including accessibility upgrades such  as ensuring a clear path to the bus stops and accessible loading  platforms; 
  • Redesign of 2000 intersections (at least 400 per year) to meet ADA  standards (including curb cuts and pedestrian ramps);  
  • Installation of 2500 accessible pedestrian signals – at least 500 per  year; 
  • Improved parking policies which will prioritize and promote “access to  streets, sidewalks, public spaces, and mass transit” for people with  disabilities; 
  • Continued investment in micromobility options, and 
  • Significant expansion of pedestrian spaces. 

The stated goals of the Streets Plan are to promote (i) the safety of all  street users; (ii) on-street priority for mass transit vehicles; (iii) the  reduction of vehicle emissions; and (iv) access for individuals with  disabilities. The Streets Plan also requires DOT to give annual reports on its  progress and to engage in a public education campaign to communicate  the benefits of the Streets Plan.  

From DOT’s report during today’s hearing, we know that the agency is in  danger of missing crucial and legally required benchmarks, particularly with  respect to bus stop upgrades and protected bus lanes. DOT must not be  permitted to ignore its responsibilities. Not only does it not bode well  for the future of the Streets Plan if DOT is already coming up short, but all  New Yorkers, including New Yorkers with disabilities, need a safer and  more accessible city. 

The City’s intersections and sidewalks, particularly in low-income and  environmental justice communities in the outer boroughs, are too often in  disrepair and even entirely lacking curb cuts. Moreover, improved  daylighting – clearing the corners of parked vehicles to improve visibility – is crucial for pedestrian safety, particularly people who use wheelchairs and  other mobility devices. Crashes involving pedestrians are on the rise, yet  police citations for traffic violations have decreased year after year. People  who use wheelchairs particularly need daylighting because, from a seated  position, it can be challenging or impossible to see oncoming traffic when  automobiles are parked right up to the corners of intersections. Lastly, the  City needs to reduce crosswalk signal speeds to 2.5 feet per second to account for slower moving pedestrians, including  people with mobility disabilities. 

Enhanced parking policies will likewise improve access to streets,  sidewalks, and transit options for people with disabilities. One  such way is with respect to Access-A-Ride (AAR) pick-up and drop-off  areas. Many of these designated areas are inaccessible for various reasons,  including obstructions from the curb to the pick-up/drop-off area and  because non-AAR vehicles often park in these zones. The MTA and DOT  split responsibility for the AAR pick-up/drop-off areas; City  Council must ensure that these spaces are open and accessible for  AAR users and drivers. 

The above examples describe just a few of the real-world impacts for  people with disabilities, as well as seniors, children, delivery workers – essentially all New Yorkers – of successful implementation of the Streets  Plan. That, taken with the fact that DOT is falling behind on its promises, support the need for the initiative considered by the City Council  for an “investment roadmap,” as contemplated in T2023-4007,  sponsored by Chair Brooks-Powers. This plan would require DOT to submit  an “investment roadmap” at the beginning of each five-year Streets Plan,  beginning in 2026, to promote equity in infrastructure investment. The  investment roadmap would measure investment in safety and accessibility,  thereby enhancing street infrastructure. It will also track the incidence rate  of vehicular crashes with pedestrians that result in significant injuries.  Lastly, the investment roadmap would also require DOT to produce a  Streets Plan that highlights investment in underserved communities and environmental justice areas. NYLPI supports this initiative, though we recommend that the investment roadmap specifically track the incidences of crashes involving pedestrians with disabilities. 

Separately, NYLPI also commends the City Council for Int. 0261- 2022, which will require DOT to identify intersections that pose  the greatest dangers to pedestrians, and then implement curb  extensions (i.e. daylighting) at five such intersections, at a minimum, in  each borough per year. NYLPI also encourages City Council to  significantly increase the number of required curb extensions per  year. 

Thank you for hearing my testimony today. I urge you to consider my  remarks as you fight to provide safer and more accessible sidewalks,  streets, and public spaces for all New Yorkers. 

Christopher Schuyler, Senior Staff Attorney
New York Lawyers for the Public Interest
151 West 30th Street, 11th floor
New York, NY 10001
[email protected]
(212) 244-4664


About New York Lawyers for the Public Interest 

For over 40 years, NYLPI has been a leading civil rights and legal services advocate for  New Yorkers marginalized by race, poverty, disability, and immigration status. Through  our community lawyering model, we bridge the gap between traditional civil legal  services and civil rights, building strength and capacity for both individual solutions and  long-term impact. Our work integrates the power of individual representation, impact  litigation, organizing, and policy campaigns. Guided by the priorities of our  communities, we strive to achieve equality of opportunity and self-determination for  people with disabilities, create equal access to health care, ensure immigrant  opportunity, secure environmental justice for low-income communities of color, and  strengthen local nonprofits.


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