To fulfill our mission and to engage and empower residents, we will amplify the problem, advocate for structural changes, and demonstrate the value of hyperlocal, simple changes.
City agencies, such as Parks, DOT and Sanitation, are not responding to neighborhood problems, even when the solutions are uncomplicated. They are simply not equipped, structured, or sufficiently agile to address block-by-block requests. Nor do city agencies understand individual communities the way that residents do. As a result, public space changes happen slowly or not at all, and most citizens simply do not engage. Those who do engage often are frustrated and exhausted by the byzantine processes required for even modest improvements.
To raise awareness of this problem, we will investigate how engaged community members and community boards view the current request process and whether or not they consider it effective. Armed with this information, NEP will launch a media campaign that highlights the stories and the backlog of community board requests, the small changes people would like to see but do not feel empowered to make, and the many ways that our neighborhoods are being ignored.
For instance, why does it take years to get bike parking in front of a school? Why do residents have to routinely walk in the streets on garbage day because our sidewalks are clogged with trash? We will also write about how less-affluent neighborhoods are often the most neglected because many residents lack the time to advocate for change; these neighborhoods are rarely included in BIDs; and do not have building staff and funds to plant and maintain tree pits, organize garbage and clean the sidewalks.
We will advocate for every neighborhood to have a public space manager and support staff. This staff will be housed in the neighborhood it serves, either in the District Office or City Council office, and be mandated and funded by the city to implement small-scale changes in an efficient, responsive way. He/she will guide local stakeholders through the consensus building and approval process, vet incoming requests, implement small changes and keep the neighborhood informed of their progress.
Within this work, the NEP will advocate for DOT to institute a street hierarchy – major streets under city control and smaller streets under community control – and, in cooperation with other agencies, create a toolkit for neighborhoods and their manager that includes a list of pre-approved options for locally controlled streets. For a project to be approved, the applicant will need to show block support. To that end, NEP will create a system that solicits feedback and tallies votes from the surrounding households.
NEP will demonstrate the value of this program by winning a fully-staffed pilot project connected to a particular council district or neighborhood and/or choosing a few local campaigns to illustrate how they nurture a neighborhood, especially those without built-in caretakers like BIDs and building staff. To choose the neighborhood interventions, NEP will identify the best techniques to solicit neighbors’ opinions and votes or pick a project from the long list of unmet neighborhood requests.
NEP will also create its own neighborhood toolkit to help communities appreciate how small changes can make a big difference on their blocks — changes such as relocating trash and recycling from the sidewalk onto the curb, creating loading zones so residents can receive deliveries without creating traffic jams, installing car share spaces or even a Street Seat, so neighbors can sit and chat. After a project’s implementation, NEP will measure the impact: Do people on the street interact more? Do they feel safer? Do they have a stronger sense of community and pride of ownership in their neighborhood?