As parts of its strategy to rebuild New York’s through cutting edge infrastructure and economic development, the Senate Democratic Majority developed and approved a blueprint (Complete Streets/Smart Growth) for safer roads and highways across the state, which will cut costs for municipalities and improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers.
This 3-bill legislative package will help urban, rural and residential communities put into motion:
- Transportation enhancements which improve safety, access and mobility for all travelers, regardless of age or ability.
- Healthier lifestyles through alternative transportation methods.
- Solutions to urban sprawl.
- Preservation of natural resources.
‘Complete Streets’ legislation (S5711B) sponsored by Senate Transportation Committee Chair Martin Malavé Dilan (D-Brooklyn), directs the Transportation Department to consider bicycle and pedestrian accommodations in the planning and development of state, county, and local transportation facilities and programs; the power remains in the hands of municipalities to determine if and what planning is appropriate given their specific needs.
Accommodations would include measures such as bicycle lanes, lane striping and paved shoulders suitable for use by bicyclists, share the road signage, crosswalks, pedestrian control signals, curb cuts and ramps.
Senator Dilan said, “New Yorkers’ transportation habits have changed. They have turned to walking and riding bicycles to save money, reduce their carbon footprint and live healthier lives. They drive more fuel-efficient vehicles, make use of mass transit and live closer to community hubs. Where we can, we must begin to consider what’s best for all those that make use of the state’s infrastructure. It’s time we plan, design and build for a multi-modal state.”
This legislation is as an opportunity to improve health conditions for those who choose walking or bike riding as an alternative to driving. Keeping pedestrians and cyclists protected on city streets has also been a growing concern in New York, especially among the elderly. According to a national report titled Dangerous by Design issued in 2009, New York State had the 3rd highest number in the nation for pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 people aged 65 and older, behind Hawaii and California. The report also notes:
- 1 in 5 traffic deaths in New York State are pedestrians.
- 22.5 percent of total traffic deaths in New York State are pedestrians. The national average was 11.8 percent in 2007-2008.
- 31 percent of total traffic deaths in the NYC metropolitan area are pedestrians.
“The ‘Complete Streets’ Act is something that hits home for me, because it would mean that the death of Megan Charlop, who helped hundreds of Bronx children and families, would not have been in vain. She was fatally struck in March while riding her bike along a corridor in my district that was identified over a decade ago as in need of a bike route,” said Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada, Jr. (D-Bronx). “This Act will ensure the safety of our streets for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians and prevent senseless deaths.”
Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act
The environmentally and pedestrian-friendly package also includes Smart Growth legislation (S5560B), sponsored by Senator Suzi Oppenheimer (D-Mamaroneck). Smart Growth planning promotes economic development while preserving natural lands, protecting water and air quality, and reusing already-developed land. It is a blueprint for reinvesting in existing infrastructure, reclaiming historic buildings and revitalizing New York’s communities.
The State Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act outlines requirements for state infrastructure agencies (Department of Transportation, the Department of Education, the New York State Housing Finance Agency, the Housing Trust Fund Corporation, the Environmental Facilities Corporation, the Dormitory Authority, and the New York State Urban Development Corporation) fund infrastructure projects in accordance with smart growth criteria. These agencies will have to ensure that public funding is granted for construction projects which use, maintain or improve existing infrastructures and protect natural resources. New construction projects will also have to adhere to smart growth principles.
Under the new State Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act, state infrastructure agencies are also tasked with establishing a smart growth advisory committee that must solicit the input and consult with representatives and environmental interests of the communities affected by infrastructure projects.
Senator Oppenheimer said, "I am pleased to have sponsored this important legislation, which incorporates Smart Growth principles into the evaluation of public infrastructure projects. Smart growth practices promote economic growth and reinvestment in developed and developing areas, while protecting open space and natural resources. This bill will result in better agency decision-making and environmentally sound planning for our communities."
"Our legislation will create a coordinated approach to environmentally sound, safe and responsible development in New York State," said Senator Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn), noting that the legislation recognizes the State's necessary role in developing smart-growth principles and requiring adherence to the criteria as a condition of approving building projects. "As development increases, shortsighted and poorly planned suburban and urban sprawl continue to threaten the well-being and quality of life for my constituents and residents statewide."
The Complete Streets/Smart Growth package also ties in with previous legislation regarding Universal Design (S6819), sponsored by Senator Brian X. Foley (D-Blue Point), allowing for building permit fee reductions for houses that are universally designed to be accessible and adaptable. People with physical disabilities and the elderly would especially benefit from this new legislation that will help them age in place.
Senator Foley said, "We need to begin to change the way in which we design and renovate our homes, our cities and our state so that our structures and communities are sustainable and accessible. Ensuring that we keep the lid on suburban sprawl and making our streets safe for not just automobiles but pedestrians and bicyclists as well must be a priority. We must also do everything we can to make it easier for our aging residents to live in their homes for as long as possible, which is the goal of my universal design legislation."
Senate Majority Conference Leader John L. Sampson said, “Building the New York of tomorrow takes sound planning and smart growth. Complete Streets/ Smart Growth engages the environmentally friendly economic development of mixed use lands to create the building blocks for healthier living and a more robust economy.”
Statements in Support of the Majority’s Plan
Neal Lane, AARP Executive Council Member said, “AARP commends the leadership of Senator Dilan and Senator Oppenheimer and their vision of what it means to make New York State a livable community. Passing this package is essential to allowing older New Yorkers to remain healthy and engaged in their communities.”
Peter Fleischer, Executive Director, Empire State Future said, “This is an exciting day for New York. These initiatives will meaningfully advance the cause of better communities. By aligning public infrastructure expenditures with smart growth criteria we will begin to set New York on a path toward environmental and economic sustainability. The "Smart Growth" bill will help ensure that these limited infrastructure funds become investments that lead to a more prosperous future.
Eric Alexander, Executive Director, Vision Long Island said, “The Complete Streets bill and the Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Act will support Long Island's downtown revitalization through prioritized infrastructure investment and revised design for walkability along our roadways. This bill package will bring about a reversal in NYS policy and practice, sharply curtailing sprawl by limiting the use of public funds while incentivizing Smart Growth development. Long Island's over 100 planned or approved Smart Growth projects will substantively benefit from these policy changes.”
Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters said, “Today’s actions are critical steps that will help New York State plan for a safer, more environmentally responsible future. Smart-growth development and complete, accessible streets will help New York reduce its dependence on polluting fossil fuels and transform our cities into well-designed, 21st century communities. We applaud the State Senate for its leadership, and look forward to further legislative progress on the road to greater sustainability.”
Adirondack Council Executive Director Brian L. Houseal said, “We would like to thank Conference Leader Sampson, Senator Oppenheimer, Senator Dilan and all Senators who voted in favor of these important bills. The Senate has taken a big step forward towards limiting sprawl and making our communities more pedestrian-friendly. Extending infrastructure into undeveloped areas puts a huge strain on local governments that they cannot afford. Senator Oppenheimer’s bill is a needed policy change for the entire state, especially the Adirondack Park.”
Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives said, “Today the State Legislature moved New York beyond streets that are all-car, all-the-time by passing Complete Streets legislation. The lives of millions of New Yorkers who walk and bike for transportation depend upon rebuilding our road networks to protect all users, and we congratulate the State Senate and Assembly for taking their safety seriously."
Kate Slevin, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign said, “A state complete streets policy is absolutely necessary to meet the transportation demands of the 21st century. Safer routes for walkers, cyclists, transit users, and drivers will reduce needless traffic deaths, create livable and thriving communities, and provide New Yorkers with more environmentally-sound transportation options. We thank Senator Dilan and the full Senate for approving this critical piece of legislation.”
Jason Crane, Executive Director, New York Bicycling Coalition said, “The New York Bicycling Coalition (NYBC) congratulates the Senate for taking an important step toward a higher quality of life for all New Yorkers through the passage of the "Complete Streets Bill" (S5711A). Safe walking and bicycling facilities will prevent many tragic accidents, reduce high rates of obesity and improve mobility especially for the young, the elderly and the disabled. By making our communities more amenable to walking and bicycling, we can also improve air quality and help reduce our oil dependency. NYBC encourages the Assembly to join the Senate in passage of this Bill, and we encourage Governor Paterson to sign it into law.”
Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment said, “We are delighted this legislation is advancing and excited that it will provide for healthier, happier communities throughout New York. Future growth that incorporates planning designs to reduce our reliance on personal vehicles and instead encourages sustainability through walkable, bikeable communities that are safe for residents of all ages is just smart legislation.”
Susan Lawrence, Chapter Chair of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter said, "It is absolutely critical for the future of New York State, its residents and its natural resources that the State enacts smart growth planning for its capital construction and financing programs. Our State needs to counter the massive sprawl it has experienced starting in the 1950s that has been induced by haphazard expansion of water, sewer, and road systems into our valuable forests, farms and wetlands. The Senate should be commended for its leadership on smart growth principles."
Albert E. Caccese, Executive Director of Audubon New York said, “We applaud Senators Oppenheimer and Montgomery, Assemblyman Hoyt and the New York State Senate and Assembly for passing the Smart Growth Infrastructure Policy Act, a critical measure that will encourage economic development while preserving the quality of the environment and reducing costs to municipalities. As habitat loss from suburban sprawl continues to be a leading threat to birds and other wildlife, this important measure provides clear direction for the state to stop facilitating unbridled development and alleviate pressure on our last remaining open spaces.”