2011-10-28 / Community

Department Of Transportation Aims To Expand Public Seating

New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has announced the launch of the CityBench program, a three-year initiative that will bring 1,000 new benches to sidewalks at locations in all five boroughs where there are few or no places to sit. These sturdy, attractive benches will be installed at bus stops, in commercial districts and areas with a high concentration of seniors and persons with impaired mobility. Outlined as a goal in the second edition of PlaNYC 2030, the CityBench program encourages active use of the streetscapes by making streets more walkable and inviting for shopping and transit users. It was also developed in response to several reports, including the City’s Active Design Guidelines, DOT’s World Class Streets report, and the Age- Friendly NYC report, all of which called for more publicly available seating on the streets of New York City to make the city more walkable and friendly, especially for seniors and the mobility impaired. The officials unveiled the first CityBench with representatives from the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) at Covello Senior Center in East Harlem.

“New York is a city where you can see it all, but it’s also a city that needs seats to tie it all in,” said Sadik-Khan. “City- Bench brings a new design standard that elevates our streetscapes and simply makes it easier and more enjoyable for New Yorkers of every age to walk and take transit.”

Designed by New York City-based industrial designer, Ignacio Ciocchini, director of Design for Chelsea Improvement

Company, the CityBench provides comfortable seating with backless and backed styles that are durable and require little maintenance. Made from domestic steel and manufactured in the USA, the bench-es are similar to a design already in use in public areas in Chelsea. They were designed to meet the rigorous demands of New York City’s streets and are coordinated with the look of existing street furniture.

Working with neighborhood groups and institutions, DOT will expand seating at bus and subway stops, outside senior centers, hospitals and community health centers, commercial areas and other locations with high volumes of foot traffic in all five boroughs. All proposed locations will be reviewed to ensure there is sufficient room and clearance on the sidewalks from obstructions to provide a clear path for pedestrians. The final design was reviewed and approved by the New York Public Design Commission. Federal Transit Administration funding accounts for approximately 80 percent of the estimated $3 million cost of the program, while NYSDOT provides an additional 10 percent of the funding.

Outlined as a goal in PlaNYC 2.0, the CityBench program encourages active transportation by making streets more walkable and inviting for shopping and transit users. It also builds on DOT’s Strategic Plan to enhance New York City’s streets as world-class spaces that are safer, more welcoming for everyone using them.

CityBench applies the recommendations of the landmark report “Toward an Age-Friendly New York City” by NYAM, in conjunction with DFTA and the City Council to improve the quality of life for seniors. In NYAM’s surveys of seniors, nearly two-thirds of respondents said that benches for resting are “very important to the well-being of older New Yorkers.” To better inform the placement of CityBenches, DOT is working with NYAM and DFTA to identify locations for benches with Senior Centers around the city, highlighting places where seniors typically walk to, including bus stops, pharmacies, commercial districts and municipal facilities. Members of the public will be able to recommend locations for a CityBench online in the near future or by calling 311.

DOT’s 2008 World Class Streets report also cited the lack of public seating, noting that increasing opportunities to rest or take in their surroundings would improve the quality of life for residents and visitors alike, particularly transit riders and pedestrians, and will connect communities. Similarly, The Active Design Guidelines, a joint publication by DOT and the New York City Departments of Design and Construction, Health and Mental Hygiene, and City Planning, recommends encouraging transit use by providing pedestrian conveniences, such as seating at transit stops and infrastructure that supports increased frequency and duration of walking. To build on this, DOT will prioritize CityBenches at bus stops without shelters.

To date, the agency has identified 250 possible locations.

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