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Manhattan Goes Car-Free for Earth Day (Sort Of)

HOST INTRO:  Manhattan is having a car-free day—kind of. Broadway between the Flatiron Building and Union Square, as well as a section around Washington Square Park and a stretch up in Washington Heights will be closed to all traffic today in honor of earth day. Erin Golackson (Go-LACK-son) went to see the car-free streets herself.

((Sound: birds, street))

GOLACKSON 1: It’s a car-less day in New York,

((Sound: honking, truck.. Bring up Ambi of street)

Or maybe more of a less-cars day.

((Sound: street, cars))

GOLACKSON 2: On the diagonal stretch of Broadway between 14th and 23rd streets , police set up their blue barricades to block off the road for a few hours. According to New York City Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez (ee-don-uss) the point was to get people thinking about how much they drive. Rodriguez helped organize today’s event.

RODRIGUEZ 1: This is because climate change is real. This is something that NO ONE can dispute. And we can contribute here.

GOLACKSON 3: At the UN today, more than one hundred leaders say they’ll sign the Paris agreement, which requires each country to submit a plan to cut down on CO2 emissions. The goal is to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

Cities like Bogota and Paris have been having Car-Free days for awhile now, to cut down pollution caused by vehicles. But this is New York City’s first shot.

Dan Tagerelli was trying to photograph the empty streets, but it seems some drivers didn’t get the message.

((Sound: more cars))

TAGERELLI 1: It’s always nice to have a car free street but, you know, it’s being done for earth day and it’s probably causing more traffic on other streets. And more pollution but uh, what’re you gonna do.

GOLACKSON 4: By ten though, most of the cars were gone, sent down other streets. Linda was walking her little Boston Terrier down the middle of broadway. She was dropping him off at doggie daycare before work.

((bring up ambi))

GOLACKSON she didn’t want to share her full name because her dog, Rudeboy

LINDA 1: (talking to dog: okay can you sit?)   

is a kind of a big deal on social media. He has an Instagram, and she’s worried his devoted fans will track him down.

As for Rudeboy, he seemed a bit nervous walking in the middle of the street for a change

LINDA 4 I think it’s nice, being a bit more compassionate to the pedestrians in addition to the (someone doting over dog) drivers. You don’t have to worry about your dog getting run over. (laugh)


GOLACKSON: Rudeboy had no comment.

According to Dr. Steven Cohen, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia, a totally car free day just isn’t going to happen soon. Even in a city like new york where a lot of people do take public transport.

COHEN 1: We have a development pattern in America of suburbs and people whose work is not by where they live and so you have to get from here to there, and that in many places requires a car.

GOLACKSON: But for him, it’s still an important symbolic gesture.

COHEN 2: We have to get off of fossils fuels. Eventually we’re going to get off of fossil fuels. The sooner the better. So a car free day gets people to think oh I’m using fossil fuels in my everyday life, I’m part of the problem.  


Traffic down Broadway will be back to normal tomorrow, but the City hopes to expand Car Free NYC on occasional weekends throughout the spring. And the hope is that the Earth Day event will be even bigger in the future.

Erin Golackson, Columbia Radio News

((Sound: cars street, birds))

((Fade Ambi))

Golackson: When it comes to Earth Day, David de Rosthchild is on the radical side. He’s trying to get Mother Nature a seat at the UN. But he says little steps like the car free streets today, are kind of a gimmick, but they do matter. They remind us of our relationship to earth.

ROTHSCHILD 1: I would rather celebrate the light in the darkness than curse the darkness. And it’s easy to call things a gimmick but if they instigate one notion of curiosity in one person to affect something bigger than themselves, then that’s more important.

Golackson: Because after all, though sometimes it’s hard to see it in the big city, every day is earth day.

((Sound: cars street, birds))

Erin Golackson, Columbia radio news


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