Ms. Sadik-Khan Presents at The City Club
On Wednesday, October 12th, we went to the City Club for a program featuring Ms. Janette Sadik-Khan who servedas Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation from 2007 to 2013 in the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. She is currently the chair of the National Association of Transportation Officials, which is an organization of transportation officials in 38 cities. She is also a principal at Bloomberg Associates which, as the program notes indicate, is " a philantrophic consultancy established by Michael Bloomberg to help cities around the world improve the quality of life of their citizens. She assists mayors and their teams in developing street designs in cities from Los Angeles to Mexico City to Rio and Athens."
When we arrived we spoke with Mr. Christopher Stocking, Clinical Dietitian/Diabetes Educator at MetroHealth Buckeye Health Center. Mr. Stocking had never been to one of the City Club programs before but he was determined to come this time because he has long been an admirer of Ms. Sadik-Khan. He said that this was because she had done a lot of things for New York City at relatively low costs. He recommended that we read her book, "Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution" that was for sale at the City Club on that day. Mr. Stocking took out his iPhone and showed us photos of a an area just beneath the Manhattan Bridge that had previously been a triangle of parked cars. Thanks to green paint and some chairs this area had been transformed into a plaza. There are 60 of these now in New York and they have proven to be good for both the economy and for the city's inhabitants.
During her presentation, Ms. Sadik-Khan praised Cleveland for all of the developments that have taken place here over the past five years since she was last here. Ultimately, she believed that the time had past where we would be known as the place where the river burned.
As for New York City, it seemed that she was motivated by the belief that a street should be for people as much as for cars, if not more so. And in this era of tight budgets, a lot can be done with the "supplies on hand."
In addition to the plazas, bus routes were revamped, bikes lanes were created and in some cases sheltered, walking areas were expanded, and signs were created that showed the pedestrian exactly where he/she was because it is very easy to get lost in New York City.
According to Ms. Sadik-Khan, the data shows that these projects have been very successful. In Midtown, for instance, 80% fewer people are walking in the road; pedestrian injuries are down 35%; motorist injuries are down 63% and travel times have improved up to 17%. What's more, six new flagship stores have opened; retail rents have tripled; visitors to the area have increased by 100,000; and the area is now one of the top 10 global retail destinations in the world.
When asked during the Q and A, about what advice she would give to the citizenry of other cities in terms of street revitalization, Ms. Sadik-Khan said that it was important to create a vision and move quickly to show what is possible. Moreover, it is essential to work with neighborhoods that would welcome the improvements and collect data that demonstrates how successful these projects are. To be sure, some sort of a backlash should be expected but that should be interpreted as "a sign of challenging the status quo" and an indication that a major step forward is being made.
Her advice to Cleveland was that we are now on the pathway to doing well so we should "turn our assets into engines" and let "Cleveland be Cleveland" in terms of moving forward but maintaining our unique flavor. She ended her presentation by reinforcing her belief that when you change the street you are on the way to changing the world.
On that day at the City Club, many of the attendees were city planning officials or those who were interested in the subject matter. We spoke to Mr. Michael Mears, a landscape architect/urban planner who was interested in all type of actions pertaining to cities. We said hello to Father Ray Guiao, President of St. Ignatius High School, who told us that he was there because he was interested in Ms. Sadik-Khan's accomplishments particularly pertaining to Times Square because there was a presently a movement here in Cleveland to reclaim part of Lorain Avenue for pedestrians.
We were hoping to ask Ms. Sadik-Khan about projects in the areas of New York City that had large immigrant populations but we didn't get to during the Q and A. We talked to her for a moment after the program ended and she said to us that it was a matter of choices; it was what the people would like to see happen in their neighborhoods.
We really liked talking to Mr. Richard E. Wong, the Director of Planning and Development in Cleveland Heights. He told us that his grandfather immigrated to the United States from China and settled in Portland, Oregon where he helped many other immigrants get settled in the United States. His own father moved to the Cleveland area and he, himself, was born in Lakewood. When we told him that we worked for Ms. Margaret W. Wong, he smiled and said that, although they were probably of no ancestral relation to each other, he really liked her for increasing the prominence of the name of "Wong."
He very warmly shook hands with us and said to let him know if Ms. Wong ever needed an architect and we assured him that we would.
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC