Introducing Sidewalk Chorus
A new newsletter for motivated New Yorkers to explore our city's problems and work towards a bigger, bolder, happier, healthier, and more prosperous place to call home.
Sidewalk Chorus is a new blog where I want to explore the issues that impact New Yorkers and ideas to make our city better.
New York is a great city. It’s vibrant, dense, and diverse. It’s welcoming, open-minded, and liberal. You can eat food from dozens of cuisines in any neighborhood and for $2.75 the subway or bus will take you anywhere in the city quickly, safely, and without needing to drive. New York City is one of the safest places in the whole country. Our parks and waterfronts are beautiful. We’ve got amazing entertainment, museums, and nightlife. New Yorkers are free to be themselves. If you like city living, it’s a great place to be.
Amid all this greatness, there are still a lot of things that suck about New York. It’s really expensive to live here. The piles of garbage on the sidewalk stink, especially in summer. It’s noisy. 145 pedestrians and cyclists died in crashes with motor vehicles in 2021. Did I mention how expensive housing is?
But there is good news:
The solutions to New York’s problems exist: On many of New York’s top issues there are workable solutions. We just need the curiosity, courage, and skill to implement them. We can build more homes, we can more efficiently allocate space on our streets, and we can containerize our trash.
The actions of New York City’s government has a big impact on our lives: Our city government decides what can be built where, which directly impacts how many people can live here. The city controls the layout and use of our streets. The city runs a school system for 1.1 million children and a public hospital system that serves 1.4 million patients. New Yorkers produce far lower average emissions per household than suburbanites, so the success or failure of the city can have a meaningful impact on global climate change.
Motivated New Yorkers can make a difference: The power to write laws and spend public money is concentrated in a small number of fairly accountable elected officials. There’s no separate layer of county government, no “senate”, and no filibuster. To make change, all that’s required is for the mayor and a simple majority of city council members to agree. You can turn up at a meeting of a community board or council committee and speak directly to the people in power.
Despite this encouraging foundation, most New Yorkers never even attempt to influence our city’s governance. Only a quarter of eligible voters participated in the 2021 elections for mayor and city council (source). Even New Yorkers who are highly educated and passionate about federal politics often have essentially no knowledge of how local government works.
Who am I?
I’m Sebastian. I work at Google as a product manager on Google Maps, focused on helping people to discover great places to visit and to navigate around the world. I’m originally from New Zealand. I lived in New York when I was a kid, then kept moving around the world, living in London, Paris, and back to New Zealand. I came to the US for college, and moved to NYC at the beginning of 2021.
What Sidewalk Chorus is
Sidewalk Chorus is a space for us to explore the issues that impact New Yorkers and ideas to make our city better. I’m particularly interested in housing, transportation, and how we use our public space.
I want to use Sidewalk Chorus as a place to share what I’m excited about and a way to clarify my own opinions about how to improve New York. My goal is to post around once a week with something provocative, interesting, and actionable. I’ll mostly focus on New York, but many other cities have similar issues.
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