DEPUTY Mayor Linda I. Gibbs, Department of Design and Construction Commissioner David Burney, Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas A. Farley and I recently announced a series of first-in-the-nation anti-obesity initiatives that will promote physical activity through the design of buildings and public spaces.

These include the creation of the Center for Active Design, a non-profit organization that promotes changes to the built environment to fight obesity and related chronic diseases and an Executive Order requiring all city agencies to use active design strategies when performing all new construction and major renovation projects.

I also announced two pieces of legislation to promote stairway access in all buildings.

The package of initiatives will promote active design through measures such as making stairways more visible to encourage use, creating more inviting streetscapes for pedestrians and bicyclists, and designing spaces suitable for physical activity for people of different ages, interests and abilities.

New York City has been a leader when it comes to promoting healthier eating and now we’re leading when it comes to encouraging physical activity as well.

Physical activity and healthy eating are the two most important factors in reducing obesity and these steps are part of our ongoing commitment to fighting this epidemic.

Following years of sustained effort by the Bloomberg administration to strengthen nutritional standards and expand physical activity opportunities for New Yorkers, New York City’s rate of childhood obesity decreased by 5.5 percent from 2007 to 2011.

To continue this positive trend, I convened a multi-agency Obesity Task Force in 2012 to recommend solutions for solving the city’s obesity crisis and addressing its associated health risks: obesity-related chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain cancers.

A sedentary lifestyle contributes to obesity and the benefits of physical activity include not only reducing obesity but also reducing rates of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer and depression.

In recent years, it has become clearer that the physical environment influences people’s levels of physical activity and other health-related behavior and the Mayoral Executive Order and legislation announced recently, and the Center for Active Design are key initiatives to emerge from the city’s ongoing effort.

The Center for Active Design promotes four key concepts of active design to reduce obesity through the design of buildings, streets and neighborhoods:

• Active buildings: encouraging greater physical movement within buildings for users and visitors;

• Active transportation: supporting a safe and vibrant environment for pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders;

• Active recreation: shaping play and activity spaces for people of different ages, interests and abilities; and

• Improving access to nutritious foods in communities that need them most.

The Center also supports research, provides professional training, and offers technical assistance to help implement active design strategies. 

The Center is currently working with New York City and other communities in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Brazil.

For more information on the Center for Active Design, visit

To further promote active design, on June 27, 2013, I signed an Executive Order requiring city agencies to review the design of construction and major renovation projects to assess opportunities to implement active design elements.

This requirement applies to the construction or renovation of city buildings and streets.

The Order also requires that agencies assess opportunities to promote the use of stairways, and that agencies train design and construction personnel in the use of the city’s Active Design Guidelines.

A full copy of the Mayor’s Executive Order can be found at

Additionally, the Bloomberg administration plans to submit for City Council approval two items of legislation to promote access to stairways in all new construction and buildings undergoing major renovations in New York City.

The first bill requires that building owners give occupants access to at least one, clearly identified stairway in the building; and post signs that prompt stair use near elevators.

The second bill increases access to and the visibility of stairways by permitting the use of hold-open devices in the doors of one stairway per building, for a maximum of three consecutive floors.

(Hold-open devices automatically shut in emergencies.)

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