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National Volunteer Week (week of April 19) was the launching pad for AARP’s NY volunteer initiative to survey hundreds of intersections for walker safety and showcase the need for state Complete Streets legislation. The effort, titled “Complete Streets: Making New York Walkable for all Generations,” engaged volunteers, local partners, elected officials, and NFLPA players to raise visibility for the need for livable communities and the role of Create The Good volunteers in making a difference.
Complete Streets Week press conferences with state legislators, city officials, county executives, and local partners kicked off activities in more than a dozen media markets and drew television, radio, newspaper, blog coverage in every market. AARP NY also released a statewide radio story about the statewide effort that was picked up on Clearwater stations nationally.
The first press event took place on Monday in New York’s Big Apple where CTG volunteers and State Director Lois Aronstein joined city officials and four National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) players who were very excited to begin their roles as AARP’s new service ambassadors. The press conference took place right on a dangerous city while Create The Good volunteers simultaneously performed surveys on four nearby street corners.
This visual painting a picture of the link between Create The Good, livable communities, and volunteer engagement was recreated throughout the week in large media markets, suburban neighborhoods, small rural streets, and multicultural communities across the state.
Some surveys, like those in Staten Island and Long Island, not only brought in media coverage, but also three new Senate co-sponsors. At a Complete Streets Week survey in Harlem, Congressman Charles Rangel showed up to meet volunteers. Following the press conference in Albany, NY, the city announced it would incorporate Complete Streets language into its 2030 Vision Plan.
Visibility for Complete Streets Week was enhanced by capitalizing on AARP’s many resources, such as the Create the Good web site where hundreds of surveys were posted and the “DIY—Sidewalks and Streets Survey” which volunteers used to conduct their surveys . The Bulletin State page will feature a story and a photo and Inside E Street will use video footage for a segment with Transportation Secretary LaHood.
By the end of the week, Complete Streets Weeks surveyed 500 streets and intersections, generated more than 100 media stories, and engaged 60 city and state legislators, 600 AARP volunteers, 2,000 volunteers, and a myriad of community groups.
The effort also gave way to many inspiring anecdotes such as one group of volunteers in Battery Park City who planned to survey one intersection but spent most the day surveying a half a dozen and another community near Genesee that is going to change the timing at two intersections as a result of their surveys. “These are stories that can’t be quantified but they are a testament to the power of volunteer engagement when we pool our resources and work with the right local level issues,” said Lois Aronstein, AARP NY State Director.