Every year, NY1 tries to find one New Yorker whose actions have had a dramatic effect on the city. Whether you love her or hate her, it is certain that the New Yorker of the Year, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, is changing the landscape of the Big Apple in a profound way. NY1's John Mancini filed the following report.
If you walk, drive, bike or just need a place to take a break, it's tough to miss the handiwork of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who has led a sweeping transformation of the city's streetscape.
Some love her for giving more room to bike riders, while others hate how her zeal has boxed in drivers. Sadik-Khan oversees the addition of pedestrian plazas, bus lanes and the traffic-calming changes she credits for a record low number of pedestrian fatalities.
"Today's milestone, I think it's important to note, will serve as a foundation for our future work as we move forward to make New York City the safest city in the world," said Sadik-Khan in January 2010.
One of her most controversial moves in that direction, addition of about 50 miles of bike lanes, has won her national praise and no small amount of local scorn.
"Biking is a good transportation alternative, but I do not believe that making it impossible to drive should be a policy our city pursues," said Bronx Councilman Jimmy Vacca.
"Just five months since the bike lanes were opened, we’ve received eyewitness accounts of 10 vehicular accidents on Prospect Park West, which compares to an annual average rate of 8.8 for the preceding four years," said bike lane opponent Norman Steisel.
Sadik-Khan says over the long term, the statistics show bike lanes are safer for both riders and pedestrians, and she dismisses talk she aims to eliminate cars.
"This isn't about banning cars. This is about balance. And making our streets safer for all users of our transportation network," she said.
The commissioner is the most visible implementer of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's PlaNYC, his ambitious 25-year outline to improve the quality of life in the five boroughs. In 2010 saw a slew of new initiatives, including introduction of "greentop" asphalt that requires less energy.
"We're looking to incorporate innovative ways to be green and be more environmentally sound, and that means re-engineering our streets differently," said Sadik-Khan.
On summer Saturdays, it meant closing some streets, to make way for a couple of dumpsters to serve as pools near Grand Central Station.
"You've got a lifeguard up there and all sorts of toys to play with. So I think it's a surprise to be swimming on Park Avenue," she said in August.
That street closing was temporary, but the closing of stretches of Broadway around Herald Square and Times Square to cars are permanent. So are the pedestrian plaza in Times Square and a new plaza added at Union Square. There will be more to come as Sadik-Khan continues to make her mark.