In Wake of Traffic Fatality Spike, Officials Tout Safer Delancey Street

This morning, elected officials and community leaders unveiled a slate of pedestrian safety improvements to Delancey Street, long ranked as one of the city’s most dangerous places to walk.

Nine people were killed and 742 injured between 2006 and 2010 on Delancey, from the Williamsburg Bridge to the Bowery. In the last six years, there have been 118 pedestrian injuries and six pedestrian fatalities on the corridor, according to DOT.

Local officials cut the ribbon on Delancey Street's pedestrian improvements. Photo: Stephen Miller

The Delancey Street Working Group, convened by State Sen. Daniel Squadron in September 2011, gained new urgency after Dashane Santana, 12, was killed while crossing the busy street in January.

Teresa Pedroza, Dashane’s grandmother, was at today’s press conference, which was convened by DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. Sadik-Khan was joined by State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Rep. Nydia Velázquez, Community Board 3 Chair Gigi Lee and Lower East Side BID executive director Bob Zuckerman.

Delancey Street now has more than 21,000 square feet of new pedestrian space, shorter crossing distances, longer crossing times, new turn restrictions and more consistent lane markings for drivers going to and from the Williamsburg Bridge. Drivers can now access the Williamsburg Bridge via Clinton Street, which also includes a two-way protected bike lane. The improvements were funded through the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program.

Carmen Luna, 60, lives on Clinton Street near its intersection with Delancey, and has lived in the area for most of her life. Her sister was hit by a truck driver while crossing Delancey about two decades ago, she said, and suffered brain damage as a result. Luna welcomed the safety improvements. “This is very important,” she said. “We don’t have enough crossing time.”

Luna also admired the new pedestrian space and seating, which will be maintained by the Lower East Side Business Improvement District.

Traffic enforcement continues to be the missing component for pedestrian safety on Delancey Street. “They don’t do anything,” Luna said of officers directing traffic.

The 2012 Mayor’s Management Report, released last week, showed that traffic fatalities were at their highest level since 2008, while NYPD moving violations summonses were at a 10-year low.

When Streetsblog noted that NYPD was not at the press conference, Squadron defended the agency’s involvement. “NYPD has been an active, cooperative member of the working group,” he said. “They’re not here today because these are physical changes.”

“We continue to work with our partners at the police department on enforcement,” Sadik-Khan added.

A reporter from CBS 2 asked if Sadik-Khan agreed with Paul Steely White’s assessment that NYPD was shirking its traffic enforcement responsibilities. “I don’t think that enforcement is lax,” Sadik-Khan said. “It’s about targeting resources where they are needed.”

Sadik-Khan said DOT is calling on Albany to expand the city’s allotment of red-light cameras and to pass legislation allowing the use of speed cameras, saying they could be particularly useful during overnight hours, when city streets can be especially dangerous.

NYPD did not respond to a request for comment on its safety enforcement plans for Delancey Street.