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A Christmas wish list for New York City

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We’ve been a (mostly) good city, but these 10 things would make NYC better in 2019

Alyssa Nassner

Dear Santa,

How’s it going? Hope this wacky mid-December monsoon isn’t affecting your travel plans too much. (We had to travel through Penn Station, and it was dreadful—you’re lucky you have reindeer to chauffeur you around.)

Since we’re just a few days away from Christmas, we wanted to make sure you saw our wish list for New York City for the new year. We were pretty good this year: Both Central and Prospect Park went car-free; the City Council got half-priced MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers; and there was the whole Mandarin duck thing.

But there are some things that would make New York City even better in 2019.

Make congestion pricing a reality. No, it won’t solve all of the subway’s ills. And yes, people are already earmarking the hypothetical funds it’ll produce for potentially too many things. But the benefits of implementing congestion pricing are too great to not do it: It would help reduce traffic, generate up to $1 billion in revenue (while reducing the high financial burden traffic puts on the city), and help low-income New Yorkers who are disproportionately affected by the broken subway and bus system.

Give people access to iconic public spaces. New York’s interior landmarks are supposed to be open to the public—“customarily open or accessible to the public, or to which the public is customarily invited,” per the Landmarks law. And yet beautiful interiors like the Woolworth Building lobby or the old City Hall station are largely restricted, save for pricey tours. Let’s fix that.

Expand Citi Bike to the Bronx and Staten Island. It’s great that the bike-sharing service will soon be able to triple the amount of two-wheelers on city streets. But let’s make sure that all New Yorkers have access to the game-changing program.

Dedicate more street space to protected bike lanes. As long as we’re talking about bikes, we’d like more protected bike lanes—and truly protected ones, not just a strip of paint. Soon, it won’t just be bikes that need to be protected from cars; the e-scooter revolution is coming, after all.

Reform New York’s rent laws. The time is long overdue—getting rid of high-rent vacancy decontrol and the preferential rent loophole, and making it harder for landlords to abuse the major capital improvements rent increases would go a long way toward helping New Yorkers stay in their apartments.

Create more affordable housing that’s actually affordable. While the de Blasio administration has made huge strides in creating more affordable housing, more needs to be done to ensure that it’s meeting the needs of the poorest New Yorkers. (If that means building much denser housing, or upzoning neighborhoods that could accommodate more apartment buildings, so be it.)

Ban cars from Times Square. The NYC Department of Transportation has already experimented with car-free streets, notably by closing two miles of Broadway on Earth Day and with its wildly popular Summer Streets program. Why not just make Times Square entirely car free? Snøhetta’s recent revamp was a good start; let’s take it a step or three further, and make the clogged space safer and more pleasant.

Make NYCHA livable for its thousands of residents. The embattled housing authority is facing huge challenges in the new year: Most of its buildings need major repairs—billions of dollars worth, in fact—and it topped the public advocate’s worst landlords list in 2018. But the nearly 400,000 New Yorkers who call it home deserve to have clean, safe, livable apartments—it’s a tragedy that this hasn’t been the norm.

More statues honoring women and people of color. Shirley Chisholm is a great start, but there are so many notable New Yorkers who are similarly deserving of monuments. Here’s a few: Sylvia Rivera. Marsha P. Johnson. Jane Jacobs. James Baldwin. Emily Warren Roebling. Nellie Bly. We could go on.…

Fix the subway. A tall order, we know—but perhaps 2019 can be the year where significant progress is made. Congestion pricing would be a good start as far as funding goes; maybe revenue from legal weed could also fill those coffers. And let’s make sure Andy Byford can keep pushing through small but significant reforms—like the SPEED Unit, which is working to make trains go faster—that will make our rides just a little less terrible.

We know, some of these are big asks—but if anyone can do it, we think you can. Thanks, Santa. (And hey, while you’re at it—can you use some of that magic Christmas spirit you have to fix the BQE without too much fuss? Would be great.)