If there's been any sort of silver lining to the pandemic in NYC, it has to be the significant reduction in traffic throughout the Five Boroughs—which, besides lowering pollution levels, has given New Yorkers a taste of what life could be like without the fear of being run over. This, in turn, has raised hopes that that post-Covid New York could be car-free, or at least more car-free than it currently is.
The notion is not as farfetched as it sounds. Congestion pricing schemes are being considered, which would sharply discourage traffic in Manhattan below 96th Street. Plus, there are already pedestrian plazas and bike lanes taking up space on roadways that were once the exclusive domain of automobiles. Finally, miles of streets have been made pedestrian-only during the lockdown, while outdoor dining areas have been taking up lanes reserved for traffic. And there are already calls to make these changes permanent.
It's in that spirit that The Van Alen Institute and the New York City Council launched a design competition for re-imagining the pedestrian promenade of the Brooklyn Bridge to create more room for people than cars. Six finalists were just announced, and some of their proposals resemble something like the High Line on steroids.
While it's highly unlikely that any of these ideas will be implemented, they do point to a future New York free of cars, something that's become suddenly easier to imagine.