This is the latest installment in our spotlight series on StreetsPAC endorsed candidates.
Margaret Chin, Council District 1, Manhattan
Chin has been fighting for safe and livable streets in Lower Manhattan. She wants to work closely with Sam Schwartz to advance his Move NY equitable transportation formula, which would implement fair pricing throughout the city and support better transportation infrastructure. She submitted an application to implement a Neighborhood Slow Zone in Battery Park City, and will fight for similar improvements on the Lower East Side.
StreetsPAC: What is the biggest transportation issue facing your district?
Margaret Chin: One of the biggest impacts on our street life is the heavy thru-traffic – especially big trucks – via the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, and Holland Tunnel because of the way tolls are set up in our city. For many, it’s cheaper to go all the way through Lower Manhattan than Staten Island! Most don’t even stop in my district, don’t patronize our small businesses, aren’t delivering or picking up – but they clog our streets, create incessant traffic noises under people’s windows, thicken the air we breathe with pollution, and make our streets and new plazas much less comfortable and less pedestrian and bike friendly.
SP: How do you make the case to residents, community board members, and business owners that livable streets are good for the district?
MC: We don’t usually have to make the case! All of our “livable street” initiatives have community groups supporting them, and many were initiated and dreamed up by residents in our communities.
SP: What do you think New York City streets will look like four years from now? What about twenty years from now?
MC: In Lower Manhattan – hopefully we will have fewer garbage bags. On garbage day, sometimes you have to walk in the street, because the mountains of garbage are so tall they block the sidewalk. We need to start conserving more, wasting less, and thinking creatively – maybe using solar-powered street compactors and building compactors, for example – to reduce the amount we put on our sidewalks every day.
Also I believe our plazas are already on their way to more vibrant uses by the local community. Twenty years from now – all of our street reconstruction will be finally completed (we have a lot of water main work in our district right now – they just started on Broadway) and we’ll have curb cuts at every corner, instead of inconsistently throughout the district. Our cobblestone streets will be beautifully restored.
There will be more harmonious coexistence between bikes and pedestrians and vehicular traffic because of smarter, safer street redesign.
SP: What are some of the best places to visit by bike in your neighborhood?
MC: Anywhere, but especially the waterfront. The Battery Bikeway will be completed in the south soon, and the Hudson River Park Greenway is a beautiful route to ride. And you can come around to the East River side as well now. The bikeways have beautiful views and are the safest route to ride because they’re separated from vehicular traffic.
SP: What street in your neighborhood/district do you think is a model for what you'd like to see elsewhere?
MC: Bogardus Plaza in Tribeca (Hudson Street/Chambers Street) – the Friends of Bogardus Garden have done a fantastic job in the past five years of taking an unpleasant and dangerous traffic triangle and transforming it into a wonderful pedestrian plaza with a garden that will hopefully soon be integrated with the rest of the plaza. They’ve done it with the support of many of the businesses there and with agency and community support. Perhaps most remarkable, they’ve done a lot of this work at a time when the neighborhood was being hit by multi-year street reconstruction projects that have disrupted businesses and the neighborhood flow – they took something difficult and made a positive thing out of it.
SP: Everyone has a memorable story to tell about being on the subway. What's yours?
MC: The most memorable moments are meeting my former students and hearing how well they are doing. Many of them were adults learning English after a long day's work, who have finished a college education and are now working in good paying jobs.