Contested Streets: Four Cities, Four Ways

Streetfilms, the sharp media end of the innovative www.streetsblog.org program out of New York City, has recently put on line an excellent and thoroughly updated and extended version of a documentary originally produced in 2006 as part of the New York City Streets Renaissance Campaign. The film, “Contested Streets: Breaking New York City Gridlock“, explores the history and culture of New York City streets from pre-automobile times to present. Even now, five years later, it gets its important points across.

Quick history:

Back in the summer of 2006 an American film crew got in touch to see we might have any bright ideas about a couple of European cities that might provide some eventual lessons for New York City on the theme “Breaking New York City Gridlock”. We swapped ideas with them about eventual European candidates and ended up suggesting Paris and Copenhagen for their short list, and both cities made it into the final four.

The film crew lead by director Stefan Schaefer then spent several days with us here in Paris as well as three other European cities, with the result of “Contested Streets” a documentary produced by the New York City advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, and made by Cicala Filmworks that explores the rich diversity of New York City street life before the introduction of automobiles and shows how New York can follow the example of other modern cities that have reclaimed their streets as vibrant public spaces. The 57 minute film was premiered in New York City on 27 June 2006 and is available for purchase at cost from Transportation Alternatives.

Contested Streets features new footage of reclaimed streets in London, Copenhagen and Paris and features interviews with New York savvy notables such as Ken Jackson, Mike Wallace, Bob Kiley, Eric Britton, Jan Gehl, Majora Carter, Kathryn Wylde, Enrique Penalosa, James Howard Kunstler and many more – — who help us to make our way through the morass of problems, resistances and opportunities that all our cities face.

2011 Summary notes:

The Streetfilms team introduces this latest version as follows:

This examination allows for an understanding of how the city — though the most well served by mass transit in the United States — has slowly relinquished what was a rich, multi-dimensional conception of the street as a public space to a mindset that prioritizes the rapid movement of cars and trucks over all other functions.

Central to the story is a comparison of New York to what is experienced in London, Paris and Copenhagen. Interviews and footage shot in these cities showcase how limiting automobile use is in recent years has improved air quality, minimized noise pollution and enriched commercial, recreational and community interaction. London’s congestion pricing scheme, Paris’ BRT and Copenhagen’s bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure are all examined in depth. New York City, though to many the most vibrant and dynamic city on Earth, still has lessons to learn from Old Europe.

An excellent and rich reminder that there is a great deal yet to be done. In every city in the world.

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