New York City is the most walkable city in the country, according to Walk Score, a company that rates municipalities based on factors like safety and the amount and accessibility of amenities. Does your community have lots of schools, restaurants, and movie theaters, all clustered together? It probably has a high walk score. “New York has the lowest car ownership, the best public transit, and the most density and diversity of choice in the country,” Walk Score’s Matt Lerner tell us, “so it’s not surprising to many people that it’s the most walkable city in the US.”
Many Brooklyn neighborhoods were among the highest-rated in the city. Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights tied with scores of 98 out of 100. Boerum Hill and Downtown Brooklyn were close behind with 97. DUMBO, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, and Park Slope had scores of 96. “All of Brooklyn is a walker’s paradise,” Lerner tells us. “It is really splitting hairs to say that one neighborhood is more walkable than another in Brooklyn. Most urban planners I know say that Brooklyn is the best example of a walkable place in the United States.” New York City has an average Walk Score of 85.3—a number that would most certainly be higher if not for Staten Island and its sprawl. (Breezy Point in Queens has the lowest score of any neighborhood in the city after Riker’s Island, surely for its remoteness and its shortage of amenities, though most of its “streets” are actually auto-free pedestrian paths. “The definition of ‘walkable’ apparently needs some revision,” says one of our readers.) Brooklyn has its share of neighborhoods with lower walkability scores, too, mostly in southern neighborhoods like Bergen Beach, Mill Basin, and Gerritsen Beach, where the atmosphere is more suburban, the housing doesn’t tend to be so dense, and, with limited public-transit options, residents rely more on their cars to get around. Even Manhattan Beach scored below average, with 77—though surely, with the recent weather, being able to walk to the beach must be the equivalent of having 1,000 supermarkets around the corner? “A truly walkable neighborhood has a mix of essential amenities and recreational amenities,” Lerner tells us. “For example, older people might say that bars don’t matter to them, but in fact having a bar in your neighborhood can provide eyes on the street at night, which can improve safety.”
But is it possible to have too many amenities—to become too walkable? “Walkable neighborhoods are in such high demand in the US that if you have very high walkability you also have very high prices,” Lerner tells us. “I’m just dumbfounded by the prices in New York—and the only way to bring those prices down is to create more walkable places in the US.”
In honor of our Best of New York Issue, we sent our intrepid writer, Adam Bonislawski, on a daylong walk down this city’s great thoroughfare, the one and only Broadway, to see what he could see.
Jul 30, 2008