Naparstek Steps Down as Editor-in-Chief of Streetsblog

naparstek_headshot_bridge.jpgAaron Naparstek in his Livable Streets Power Broker pose.

This
will be difficult news for those of you who are already reeling from
Oprah’s retirement, Simon Cowell’s abandonment of "American Idol" and Sewell Chan‘s departure from City Room, but here it is: I am leaving my job as editor-in-chief of Streetsblog.

For
all of the readers, commenters, contributors and colleagues who have
made Streetsblog such a powerful tool for transportation policy reform,
high-quality online community and fun and interesting job: Thank you.
It’s been a great four-year run.

I’d say that I’ll miss you
guys except I’m sure I’ll still be seeing you around. I will be moving
over to The Open Planning Project’s board of directors and I plan to
continue to write and work on livable streets issues, among other
things. If you want to keep up with me, you can follow me on Twitter @naparstek. I’ll be dusting off and redesigning the old Naparstek.com
blog as well. And it looks like we will probably be doing a going-away
party on Friday, February 5. Stay tuned for details on that.

Naturally,
I’ve been spending some time taking stock of these last four years and
I can’t help but find myself amazed at how far New York City’s livable
streets movement has come.

It’s almost hard to believe that when we started this blog, ideas like physically-separated bike lanes, car-free Times Square and bus rapid transit
were mostly considered crazy or impossible in New York City. It’s
remarkable to recall that as recently as August 2006 we lamented the
fact that the leaders of cities like London, Paris and even unglamorous
Chicago were rolling out ambitious transportation reforms and long-term
sustainability plans while our own mayor chortled, "We like traffic. It means economic activity. It means people coming here."

When
I first pitched the idea for Streetsblog to Mark Gorton in January 2006
(almost exactly four years ago to the day), New York City’s streets
were improving but still, for the most part, were ruled by a 1950’s traffic engineering mindset
aimed at maximizing the city’s capacity to accommodate motor vehicles.
While other world cities were rapidly reclaiming their public realm
with bike infrastructure, car-free streets, bus rapid transit and congestion pricing,
New York City government still seemed to view traffic as something like
the weather — a force beyond the control of mere mortals. Though few
issues touch New Yorkers lives more personally on a more regular basis,
transportation was a third-tier issue at City Hall and in the local
press.

Streetsblog helped to change that. We initially
had four goals in mind: First, we aimed to generate more of an
awareness of our issues by creating a new journalistic beat ranging
from the intense, neighborhood-level battles over bike lanes to the big question of how New York City planned to address the challenges of climate change.
Second, we wanted to educate and excite policy makers, press and
regular citizens about the transportation and urban planning best
practices that were emerging in other world cities. Third, we hoped to
establish an online community and discussion forum for the people who
were working on and thinking about these issues. And finally, most of
all, we intended to watchdog and reform New York City’s Department of
Transportation. We wanted Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff and his staff reading our blog. We wanted them to feel mildly embarrassed
about the way that New York City’s transportation policies were lagging
behind those of other cities. And we hoped to create a new, more
ambitious set of expectations for what New York City’s DOT could do.

And
we did it. Streetsblog, in many ways, exceeded — and continues to
surpass — the wildest expectations that Mark and I originally had for
it. Today, with Janette Sadik-Khan at the helm, New York City’s DOT is pushing a bold program to create "sustainable streets" through the prioritization of pedestrians, transit and bicycles. The agency is not just reformed, it is transformed,
and widely considered the leading example for transportation agencies
in other U.S. cities to follow. We certainly can’t take all the credit
for the great improvements taking place on New York City streets these
days and we fully recognize that there is a whole lot of work yet to be
done. But looking back at these last four years, I can’t help but think
of Danish urban designer Jan Gehl’s oft-repeated quote: "How nice it is
to wake up every morning and know that your city is a little better
than it was the day before."

Likewise, it has been gratifying this last year to see Streetsblog grow and succeed in other cities. Streetsblog San Francisco is proving that the model that we created here in New York City can be just as powerful and effective in another city. Streetsblog Los Angeles is demonstrating that even a low-budget, one-man version of Streetsblog can reap substantial results. And Streetsblog Capitol Hill,
the only news source covering federal transportation policy as a daily
beat, is showing that we can have a tangible impact on the national
level as well.

sblog_network_map.jpgOur national blog network
has also been a real eye-opener. When we launched Streetsblog in the
spring of 2006 there really wasn’t anything else out there quite like
it aside from BikePortland.com.

Take a look at our Streetsblog Network map
today. There are now more than 300 locally-oriented livable streets
blogs in 45 states. Sure, the "Tea Party" movement gets all of the
media attention. But I believe these 300 livable streets blogs and the
tens of thousands of readers who visit them on a weekly basis represent
one of the most vibrant, genuine and rapidly growing new grassroots
movements underway in the United States today. It will take time —
building new communities and changing the physical design and
infrastructure of existing cities is a slow process. But this is the
start of a movement that is transforming the American city and the
American way-of-life in some very fundamental and positive ways.
Streetsblog will continue to play a critical role in spreading the
ideas and connecting the people who are building this nationwide
movement.

I will be leaving you in very good hands here
at Streetsblog. Ben Fried will continue to edit and run the blog in New
York City, with Bryan Goebel in San Francisco, Elana Schor in
Washington D.C. and Damien Newton in Los Angeles. Sarah Goodyear will
still be building and managing the national blog network and developing
and improving our online community. Livable Streets Initiative managing
director Carly Clark will be picking up the slack on the fundraising
and development front, pushing ahead with plans to open up local
editions of Streetsblog in new cities. Streetfilms, of course, will still be doing the great work that they do. Nick Grossman and the TOPP Labs
crew will continue to do an amazing job of designing, developing and
maintaining our web sites. And TOPP founder Mark Gorton will continue
to provide invaluable financial support and strategic direction to the
whole crew.

So, thanks again for your readership and
support these last four years. As for all of you regular Streetsblog
commenters — I’m pretty sure I heard more from you these last four
years than my own wife and kids. You guys all better show your faces at
my party. You know who you are. Larry.

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