January/February 1998, p.10

Revolution Underway

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As historians are quick to point out, change is a slow and sometimes painful process. It took years for folks to buy Copernicus' theory that the earth revolves around the sun. Occasionally, something comes along, like the invention of electricity, that spurs a revolution. The six million dollar "Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project" might be such a seminal event for New York City.

The project represents a breakthrough in how citizens participate in traffic issues affecting their neighborhoods. In this case the Downtown Brooklyn Project has five key aspects that ensure that the community will not be steamrolled by traditional DOT car-firstism.

The Request For Proposal / Project Design was written collectively by community representatives, elected officials, the Mayor's Office, DOT and T.A.

The Consultant selection committee of eight includes four community representatives appointed by local elected officials.

The consultant is instructed to run the project as a "collaborative" process which will seek to build consensus around specific goals, recommend specific traffic calming solutions for achieving them and finally build consensus around a set of solutions.
Because elected officials have been intimately involved in the project from the onset, and are invested heavily in its success, they will resist any DOT effort to ignore or distort the solutions favored by community groups.

Lastly, the creation of a formal framework or structure for making decisions about traffic makes it very tough for DOT to act unilaterally without facing serious political repercussions.

The challenge for T.A. and the community is to do the hard work posed by this open process by attending public planning sessions and presentations and accepting that we have to do serious study and thinking to produce the best solution. It's a challenge we welcome. The next step for T.A. is winning the same area-wide, community based, traffic calming process in communities around the city.