Statement on Anti-Semitic Arson Attacks in Williamsburg

Earlier this morning, NYPD’s 90th Precinct received reports of fires at seven different locations throughout South Williamsburg. The perpetrator set fires at local yeshivas and synagogues in the predominantly Hasidic community. The crimes are being investigated by the Hate Crime Task Force and Fire Marshals.

“We condemn these anti-semitic attacks and I thank the NYPD and FDNY for their prompt response to these life-threatening incidents. Tragically, it would seem these types of attacks are becoming all too common. Words and speech are as real as any weapon, and I again call on the current administration to unequivocally denounce every and all hate groups. We need to do everything in our power to deny hate safe harbor, whether in Pittsburgh, Charleston, or here in Williamsburg.”

New York City Council Member Stephen Levin, District 33

New York State Senator Martin Dilan, 18th District

New York State Senator Brian Kavanagh, 26th District

New York State Assemblyman Joe Lentol, 50th District

Statement Regarding Recent Anti-Semitic and Hate-Based Attacks in Brooklyn

On Thursday night, the Union Temple synagogue was desecrated with anti-Semitic graffiti reading “Kill All Jews” along with other threatening messages. Days before, Brooklyn Heights residents awoke to swastikas and anti African-American racial slurs drawn on buildings. Early this morning, multiple incidents of arson were committed near shuls in the largely Hasidic section of South Williamsburg. All of these hateful acts come days after 11 Jews were murdered at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. How we as a community and society react to these attacks will shape our future.

We cannot and will not be silent. We must condemn these attacks to the greatest extent possible. In the words of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”  That is why we as a community, as friends, must come together to deny hate a safe refuge anywhere and everywhere.

One might wish to live in a world where simply ignoring hate leads to its eventual end. In such a world, we could hope to weaken hate by shaking our heads at swastikas painted crudely on houses of worship. We could dismiss hateful speech as ramblings of marginalized individuals. We could mourn, silently, for those who lost their lives in senseless violence. But we do not live in such a world. Complicit silence, at best, and outright bigotry at worst, at the highest levels of our government has stoked the fire of animosity and division. We must continue to fight back and refuse to be silent.

In the coming days, we will be coming together with community and faith leaders to publicly reject this violence and hate. In times where our most fundamental values are threatened, when our basic humanity is denied, when hateful rhetoric attempts to turn us against each other, that is when we must come together.

Council Member and Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo, District 35

Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., District 36

Council Member Brad Lander, District 39

Council Member Stephen Levin, District 33

CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS STEPHEN LEVIN AND RAFAEL ESPINAL INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO ADDRESS M.A.R.C.H. NIGHTLIFE RAIDS

Council Members, Nightlife Venue & Business Owners, and Community Advocates Come Together To Improve Accountability and Transparency of Multi-Agency Responses to Community Hotspots (MARCH)

NEW YORK, NY—Today, New York City Council Members, led by Stephen Levin and Rafael Espinal, nightlife advocates and small business owners joined in City Hall Park to introduce legislation to bring oversight and accountability to the Multi-Agency Responses to Community Hotspots (M.A.R.C.H.) operation. 

Nightlife advocates and local businesses have shared serious concerns about operations conducted by the New York City’s M.A.R.C.H. Task Force. Coordinated by the NYPD, the interagency Task Force is comprised of representatives from the the Fire Department, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, State Liquor Authority, Department of Environmental Protection, and Department of Buildings. The Task Force conducts enforcement operations in response to a business’ community complaints. However, business owners receive minimal information on how and why operations are conducted and report that the Task Force regularly conducts late night raids to harass venues and sometimes shutdown establishments. 

“As a business owner who has focused primarily on initiatives which add to the vibrancy, education and advancement of our neighborhood; the MARCH on Friends and Lovers was not only extremely intimidating but it undermined all of the efforts we've put into community building. We respect that everyone needs to do their job but these organizations can regulate with respect, transparency and without intimidation. It's clear that fines have take the place of constructive conversations,” said Diana Mora, owner of Friends and Lovers.

“We came to this country and chose to go into business to create a better life for our family and the people in our community. Many business owners would agree that the lack of awareness surrounding certain good business practices, could come at a cost. Sometimes, you end up in trouble or hit with big fines for things you had no idea existed! We are happy to comply with all laws and prefer to practice good business. However, it’s very discouraging when your mistakes —especially the ones you’re not even made aware of— are criminalized. It’s certainly a dream killer. If a complaint is made against us, or we make a mistake, we have no problem collaborating with the appropriate agencies to cure any issues. When inspection matches occur, not only does it hurt us, but it also causes residents and patrons to mistrust enforcement officers. That’s the very energy that we do not want created because we rely on agencies such as the NYPD to protect us, not cause a divide,” said Nola Rodney, owner of the Hills Restaurant and Bar. 

Today’s legislation proposed by Council Member Stephen Levin and Rafael Espinal Jr. will bring much-needed transparency to this process and support for local businesses. Without accountability, venue owners report the Task Force issues dozens of unrelated fines for the purpose of disrupting operations and harming venue owners. 

“Shutting down an establishment for even one night can cost venue owners significant losses in revenue and put their business at risk,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “I am proud to sponsor this much-needed legislation to shine a light on the MARCH Task Force’s enforcement practices and bring greater accountability to the process. Reports from businesses and community leaders about fear-inducing raids are concerning and today’s legislation will help city officials assess a more responsible path forward that balances community needs and respect for New York City’s beloved nightlife culture.”

“When I spearheaded the fight last year to repeal the Cabaret Law and establish the Office of Nightlife, my main goal was to bring nightlife out of the bureaucratic shadows. While we’ve already made significant strides, many venues still have concerns about the arbitrary enforcement practices of the Multi-Agency Response to Community Hotspots (MARCH), which have hurt their business and in some cases even led to closures. This bill will help us hold MARCH accountable and allow us to seek workable solutions that are sensitive to the needs of all stakeholders,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal.

"We advocate for safety and preservation of grassroots cultural spaces. The best way to achieve this is through building relationships of trust with all stakeholders. Venues and artists most times have great relationships with their local officers at the precinct level, but when the MARCH task force appears--with what is effectively a scary raid--it wreaks havoc on valuable and vulnerable community spaces. Enforcement must be fair, proportional and transparent. We need talks not raids," said Olympia Kazi, NYC Artist Coalition.

“In an era defined by Trump, where no city, person or institution feels untouched by corruption and mismanagement, it is the responsibility of the city of New York to show its citizenry what democracy can and does looks like; for too long MARCH has been a Stasi-like tool used to intimidate small business owners without recourse, often fining them out of existence and, losing jobs, investments and dreams while creating empty storefronts in the fallout... there is currently no way to contact or to find MARCH, elected officials believe it no longer exists, meanwhile it operates in the shadows of our democracy,” saidRachel Nelson, The Secret Project Robot.

“Our small local businesses are the heart of NYC. These establishments bring communities together in celebration and should not be subjected to late night raids that could seriously affect their businesses causing workers, patrons, and entire neighborhoods livelihoods to be affected. We must work to ensure these establishments remain places that people are comfortable, safe, and enjoying the atmosphere provided,” said Marti Gould Cummings, Co-Producer of “Shade: Queens of NYC” and President of Hell’s Kitchen Democrats.

WHAT: Press Conference to introduce oversight legislation on the NYPD’s interagency M.A.R.C.H. Task Force.

Nightlife advocates and local businesses have shared serious concerns about the Task Force’s nighttime raids, which scare businesses and can shut down bars and venues. Data will help City officials demystify M.A.R.C.H. operations and implement a transparent and equitable enforcement system for violations that does not put small businesses at risk of unnecessary closure.

Uber, Lyft, and moving forward responsibly

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Today the NYC Council voted on a package of bills to bring much needed regulation the ride-hailing for-hire vehicle industry. This historic legislation makes New York City the first major U.S. city to set a limit on ride-sharing vehicles.

As the sponsor of Intro. 144-B, I have met with constituents, drivers, and riders, and heard from advocates across the industry — and I am proud of the progress we are making for our city. Because of the continued lack of regulation, the number of licensed vehicles in NYC has almost doubled in the last few years, from 74,000 in 2014 to over 130,000 today. The market is oversaturated and drivers are struggling to make ends meet.

The bills approved by the Council today accomplish three goals:

First, they address the need to make pay more equitable for all drivers by pressing the pause button on the number of licensed for-hire vehicles (FHVs) on the road. By setting a one year cap on new vehicles, we will maintain our current level and prevent greater saturation of the market. The data is clear: Because of the industry’s growth, for-hire vehicles are empty approximately 40% of the time, forcing drivers to drive around for longer and earn less income.

Second, this legislation helps us accomplish our public policy goals around transportation accessibility and congestion. Over 2,000 vehicles are added to the road every month, while the rate of traffic in Manhattan slowed by more than 17% in 2016 alone. This is simply not sustainable. The bill does, however, include an exemption for accessible vehicles, incentivizing companies to speed up their commitment to making vehicle transportation more accessible to disabled riders across New York City. According to the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), only 0.5% of for-hire vehicles are wheelchair accessible — we have a long way to go.

Lastly, Intro. 144 starts us on a path to a responsible and sustainable long-term solution for both drivers and riders alike. During the one year pause, the TLC will work with the Department of Transportation to study vehicle utilization rates, access to services in different geographic areas of the city, driver income, and traffic congestion, so that we can enact an adaptive forward-thinking regulatory system that balances the need for rider access with our goals of maintaining a living wage and fair transit system.

We are long overdue for regulation of the for-hire vehicle industry; today’s vote allows us to examine how best to ensure equitable pay for all drivers, tackle ever-worsening congestion, and keep up with the changing landscape so that riders throughout the city have access to transportation options. This is about fairness.

Thank you for your calls, emails, and questions — I look forward to continuing to work with each of you to ensure the implementation of these bills is thoughtful and transparent and best serves the interests of District 33.

Families Belong Together

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Becoming a father changed my life -- there is nothing I wouldn't do for my daughter. This past Father’s Day, reports found that nearly 2,000 children had been taken from their parents at the U.S. border in just six weeks. Video footage has been incredibly painful to watch. Words fail to explain what is being done in the name of "securing our borders."

If ever there is a time for action, it is now.

I stand firmly in opposition to the federal administration's inhumane actions toward refugees and families. Despite the administration's recent Executive Order, thousands of children remain separated from their families -- hundreds of whom have just arrived in New York City. Make no mistake, the President's policy change would continue to force families into inhumane detention facilities, the latest attack in an ongoing assault against immigrants and refugees.

Our office will fight to resist these policies and support all immigrant communities. Families belong together, not in detention. While the Trump administration has announced no plans for how they will reunite separated children in New York City, we will do what we can locally.


If you're looking to get more involved, below is a list of actions you can take. 

What you can do:

In moments like this, we need to come together and stand up for our values. New York is a city of immigrants, we will support each other. 

Sincerely,
Stephen Levin

 

Statement Regarding the Tragic Death of Raymond Porfil

I am heartbroken and deeply disturbed to read the accounts in recent days of the horrible death of 5-month old Raymond Porfil at the hands of his mother, who was reportedly using K2 for an extended period of time. While we do not yet know the entire picture, each detail that emerges raises more serious questions about how and why little Raymond and his sister Ray Jasmine remained in the care of their mother when two older children had been removed from the home and when ACS’s involvement in Raymond’s case had risen to the relatively high level of Manager. 

Many questions remain to be answered. While nothing will bring Raymond back, we at the City Council with insist on full accountability and transparency from ACS on how the system so absolutely failed Raymond and what ACS and the entire child welfare system is doing to fix the gaps in case practice that the murder of little Raymond so painfully exposes.
 

Statement from New York City Council Members Stephen Levin, Brad Lander, and Justin Brannan

We are heartbroken by the tragic loss of Palestinian lives on the Gaza/Israel border this week. As those who support Israel’s right to exist in safe and secure borders, who support the right to Palestinian self-determination in a Palestinian state, and yearn for peace between the two, we feel compelled to speak out.

Cycles of violence in the Middle East go back generations, with competing claims of dispossession, aspirations for statehood, and failures to recognize the other side’s legitimate claims. It is the responsibility of leaders to break those cycles. Unfortunately, we are witnessing the opposite. 

Responsibility for the tragedy belongs to both Hamas and the Netanyahu government. While the Great Return March began as a non-violent protest by Gazans expressing their legitimate anguish with desperate living conditions, it was largely co-opted by Hamas, a terrorist organization that cynically diverts precious resources from desperately-needed improvements in civil society to terror operations, refuses Israel’s right to exist, and uses its own people as human shields. In fact, Hamas itself now claims that the majority of those killed this week were members of Hamas.

However, this does not absolve Israel of responsibility. Israel has a responsibility to ensure that whenever the IDF engages with Palestinian protests, all efforts are taken to avoid civilian casualties. Israeli authorities knew for many weeks that yesterday’s protests would come, that protesters would attempt to breach the border fence, that the timing would coincide with the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, and that the world would be watching. The question remains why they did not prepare a plan to avoid civilian deaths or carry out such a plan more effectively.

Israel has a right to defend itself and its borders. We recognize the challenge Israelis face in combating militants who hide amongst civilian protestors, and that many of those killed yesterday were militants. However, Israel also has a responsibility to avoid civilian casualties. The fact is that many unarmed civilians, some children, have been killed and hundreds, if not thousands, have been injured in recent weeks by live fire and tear gas, and that is unjustifiable.

The failure of leadership here is staggering. Trump and Netanyahu staged the moving of the American embassy as a triumphalist provocation. Abbas still engages in rank anti-Semitism. And Hamas continues to exploit its own people and seek Israel’s demise. 

Still, we deeply believe that the future in Israel and Palestine belongs to those seeking peace, those who understand the basic humanity of their neighbor, those who are willing to do the arduous work of alleviating the desperate conditions in Gaza and strengthening regional security and coexistence. We in America and the international community owe those peacemakers our support.

Statement of Council Member Stephen Levin on the Reports of Violence and Abuse by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

I read with revulsion the thoroughly written New Yorker article by Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow detailing a disturbing pattern of physical, sexual and emotional violence by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman against multiple women. The acts, as bravely reported by four women including Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam on the record, appear to constitute potential criminality and I believe that it is essential that a special independent counsel investigate the matter fully without any appearance of conflict.  

These acts are particularly disappointing coming from New York’s highest law enforcement officer. Beyond disappointing, they are damaging to a justice system that requires the public’s trust and faith. In fact, they constitute a betrayal. For survivors of abuse, pursuing justice is an incredibly taxing and potentially re-traumatizing endeavor. Already, so many survivors remain silent under threats of violence and retribution. We must reaffirm, not undermine, the public’s confidence.

No matter your title, wealth, or connections, we are equal under the eyes of the law. While that is the ideal, we have as a society fallen embarrassingly short of making this true for everyone, especially those outside the traditional circles of power. While our laws say one thing about equality, the day-to-day experience of women has been something different altogether.

It is incumbent upon all of us to change this. What used to be whispers are growing into a resounding indictment of abuse everywhere, no matter how powerful the perpetrator. This is the new reality we must all take part in crafting. We must call out abuse and violence, especially from individuals who publicly wave the banner of progress and equality. It is easy to call out behaviour on the other side of political and ideological lines. It is much more difficult, but just as important, that we call out abusive behavior when it is perpetrated by those we hold in esteem. Let’s remember we are fighting for a future bigger than any one person.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of abuse, please contact your borough’s Family Justice Center.

L Train Riders Protest Lack of Communication with DOT and MTA, Demand Action

As the L Train closure draws closer, still no concrete plan or regular communication from MTA or DOT

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Hundreds of thousands of riders and hundreds of businesses throughout Northern Brooklyn will be dramatically affected by the L Train Shutdown, announced to start in April 2019. While the closure of this community lifeline is only 17 months away, there are more questions than answers. The community demands a report of the current plans for transportation remediation, a serious discussion around help for local businesses, and information about any street use changes proposed by the Department of Transportation. In addition, there must be a commitment by the responsible agencies and their contractors to meet with a community advisory board on a monthly basis starting in January 2018.

“You can’t have a good relationship without communication,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “If we are going to get through this together, we need to begin frequent and meaningful dialogue. This can only work if the MTA and DOT collaborate and form a solid partnership with each other and with the community. The riders and local businesses have made their concerns clear. In the absence of a plan, everyone is rightfully worried about how they’re going to get through this. We’re ready and we’re listening.”

“The L train shutdown is going to have major implications for the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso. “The community is asking for transparent communication from the MTA about their mitigation plans, and they need to provide it.  This issue is too important to keep residents in the dark,” 

“Subways are the circulatory system of our City – and a major artery between Brooklyn and Manhattan is going to be cut off in just 17 months. But there are still big questions that haven’t been answered,” said State Senator Brian Kavanagh. “Residents, business owners, and commuters need to have a seat at the table -- and the agencies involved must commit to meeting with stakeholders. I look forward to working with the MTA, the DOT, my colleagues in government, and all of the advocates who have made this a priority to find a solution that works for everyone.”

“The MTA and DOT promised us a plan for transporting commuters when the L Train shuts down – and we want to make sure they’re remembering that residents, workers and customers have to be able to get to Greenpoint/Williamsburg, not avoid it,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney. “Further, we want to be able to influence the plan as it is being made, rather than after it has been finalized. It’s time for the MTA and DOT to show us what they’re considering.”

Assemblyman Joseph Lentol said, “The community, both residents and business owners, need specific details from the MTA and DOT as to what their mass transit options will be when the L train shutdown begins in April, 2019.  We started out with a good deal of transparency and communication at the beginning of the process, but now as crunch-time approaches we’re seeing less of that when we should be seeing more.”

“The L train shutdown will negatively impact all north Brooklyn businesses in all sectors; service, hospitality and industrial and manufacturing,” said Leah Archibald, Executive Director of Evergreen. “It is imperative that the city and state exhaust all options to provide support for these businesses, and the thousands of NYC residents that they employ.”

"The Grand Street Business Improvement District (BID) is now at the center of the DOT and MTA’s draft L Train Shutdown mitigation plans,” said Homer Hill, Executive Director Grand Street Business Improvement District. “Reconfigurations of Grand Street’s traffic patterns and usage will have a tremendous effect on the over 150 small businesses located in our district. It  time for the DOT and MTA to release their plans and begin briefing our community on how the L Train Shutdown will impact our small business community."

“April 2019 will be here sooner than we think and our many area businesses who will be affected by the L Train shutdown need to prepare in order to thrive during the 15 months that will follow,” said Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Andrew Hoan. “We encourage an ongoing dialogue between the community, the MTA, DOT, and other relevant agencies that will focus on substantial planning and transportation options for these drivers of New York’s economy.”

“There are many businesses in North Brooklyn, both large and small, that need to be told the specifics of the city's plan...and they need to be told right now,” said Paul Samulski, President, North Brooklyn Chamber. “They know what's coming is going to be bad, real bad, but with more information to work with and adequate time for public input and dialog on the plan, they just might be able to creatively think of ways to lessen the severity of the damage.” 

"When the 15-month service disruption commences in April 2019, 66 months will have passed since Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on New York City,” said Alan Minor, Chair of the Board of Directors of Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG). “In other words, the MTA, DOT, NYCEDC, and other government agencies will have had ample time to coordinate on a plan that both mitigates the impact of the partial closure of the Canarsie Line and bolsters transportation infrastructure so that New Yorkers have greater mobility before, during and after the service disruption. That means ADA accessibility shouldn't be limited to just two stations -- 1 Av and Bedford Av. (The Lorimer St L-Metropolitan Av G station complex is a prime candidate.) It also means reopening closed subway station entrances and street staircases along the most impacted lines to enhance mobility in and out of stations. It also means expanding Citi Bike east of Bushwick Avenue and improving cycling infrastructure in general. And lastly, but certainly not least, it means improving bus service. If no long-term transportation improvements are achieved beyond what MTA and DOT have outlined, a once-in-a-generation opportunity to enhance mobility -- particularly in North Brooklyn -- will have been squandered."

The planned closure of the L train is a challenge, but it is also an opportunity. What the MTA and DOT do in the next few months will shape the community for years to come. This is also a chance to change the usual top-down paradigm. By committing to regular meetings with the community, residents will not only be better informed, but they will also be able to weigh in. At a time with public faith in their transportation agencies at an all time low, now is the time to rebuild trust. This certainly won’t be the last time major, disruptive change will affect New Yorkers. For the sake of everyone who relies on the L train, and future impacted communities, it’s time to set a high standard.

Take action shaping your community

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Our streets and sidewalks shape our lives every single day. Whether you're a pedestrian, cyclist, or drive a car, we need to make sure our public spaces work for everyone. 

A few months ago, my office funded a transportation study for North Brooklyn Community Board 1. Since then, there have been several community input meetings as well as an online portal to receive feedback. Between these methods, we have collected over 400 comments and concerns from the community. The Department of Transportation is preparing to release the findings of the study. Before then, we would like to again invite the community to provide last minute input. We want to make sure this process reflects everyone's voices. 

We have put together a simple form where you can submit your ideas. It can be reached at this link or at the button below. 

To get a sense of what improvements may come from this process, take a look at previous DOT presentations and studies. For example, DOT has analyzed conditions on Jay Streetand Meeker Avenue in past years. These studies analyze existing issues in the community and then offer proposed solutions. Public engagement is key to providing a comprehensive view of conditions on the street. Residents know which streets and crossings are unsafe and have no shortage of ideas to make things better. 

 Above is a slide from a presentation on Meeker Avenue improvements earlier this year. Community input is key to identifying problem areas in the neighborhood. 

Above is a slide from a presentation on Meeker Avenue improvements earlier this year. Community input is key to identifying problem areas in the neighborhood. 

It can be helpful to know what factors are involved in street design. The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) provides a good overview of street design elements that shape our everyday experience. 

 Photo credit: NACTO

Photo credit: NACTO

The width of lanes often dictates what streets can and can't do. Parking, bus routes, truck traffic, bike lanes, and sidewalk width are all dependent on the minimum lane width and number of lanes. Some streets are narrow, some are wide. A street's width, and the accompanying lane width, determines the nature of street activity. When thinking about lane widths there are also safety considerations. There is a strong correlation between the space available on the road, and the average speed of vehicle traffic. Wide lanes lead people to step on the gas while narrow ones encourage traveling at a safe speed. For more reading, refer to The Influence of Lane Widths on Safety and Capacity: A Summary of the Latest Findings

 Photo credit: NACTO

Photo credit: NACTO

Sidewalks and Curb Extensions

 Photo credit: NACTO

Photo credit: NACTO

Sidewalks provide the most personal way to interact with the city. They connect us to our neighbors and together form a rich tapestry that makes up our urban fabric. Sidewalks are the avenue through which we engage with businesses, entertainment, and each other. A healthy sidewalk promotes more than just mobility, they also affect health, culture, commerce, and mental well-being (Read Active Design, Shaping the Sidewalk Experience). We begin and end every journey on these strips of concrete—let's treat them with the attention they deserve.

 Photo credit: NACTO

Photo credit: NACTO

Similarly, the shape and orientation of curbs is also important. In the figure above, these curb extensions serve to reduce the crosswalk distance. In doing so, pedestrian safety is improved. Less time on the street, better visibility, and the physical projection of the curb all go a long way to making this intersection a safer one.  

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The example above from a 2016 South Williamsburg Study from DOT show the crosswalk improvements in red. At this intersection, new crosswalks were marked, and raised concrete formed curb extensions to shorten the crossing distance. 

Environmental

North Brooklyn in particular has faced the challenge of environmental damage. Oil spills, industrial contamination, and an over concentration of waste transfer stations are just a few of the culprits. Our district also has a close relationship with the local waterways and it's our responsibility to prevent further damage. While we continue to advance a strong environmental agenda through legislation, there is no one perfect solution. Doing a lot of things right, even little things, will go a long way to making a difference. 

This brings us back to the urban landscape. From a street design perspective, there are many approaches that improve the condition of our environment. 

Trees are more than just nice to look at; they make our lives better in many other ways. Trees provide shade and lower surface temperatures by 20 to 45 degrees. They improve air quality, improve stormwater management, reduce building energy consumption, and remove air pollutants. 

 Don't let this be your street. (Photo credit: Robert Whitman)

Don't let this be your street. (Photo credit: Robert Whitman)

Besides the very tangible benefits of air quality improvement and water retention, trees also build a sense of community. Concrete and metal don't do much to ease the mind, but a hint of nature is something one can stop to admire. A study found that an additional ten trees on a block results in a one percent increase in feelings of wellbeing. In a New Yorker article, the researcher, Marc Berman, confides "To get an equivalent increase with money, you'd have to give each household in that neighborhood ten thousands dollars—or make people seven years younger." Luckily, we can plant trees for much less than that. 

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Another street design element that makes a difference in our environment are bioswales. These curbside landscape features remove pollution from runoff water as well as improve water infiltration into the soil. By increasing the amount of water that goes into the soil, bioswales reduce the strain on our sewage system. Rainfall as little as 1/20th of an inch can overload our sewer system. Every year, more than 27 billion gallons of raw sewage are discharged into New York Harbor.

Bioswales also filter out pollutants. They are often stocked with hyperaccumalator plants, vegetation that soak up toxins, to bolster pollution remediation. Other materials, such as mulch, soil, sand, and gravel, act as a secondary filtration level. Both elements combined greatly improve the quality of the water going back into our ecosystem. 


Once again, make your voice heard! We will share your feedback and proposals regarding our urban landscape with the Department of Transportation. It is our hope the forthcoming North Brooklyn Transportation Study will reflect input from a broad cross section of the community. 

Don't be afraid to get creative when it comes to changing the street landscape to everyone's benefit. Next time you walk around the neighborhood take a look with a critical eye. Ask yourself what problems you see and think about potential improvements. Beyond keeping roads and sidewalks in good repair, we can make better use of transportation infrastructure by being conscious of what's working and what is not.