Eyes on the Street: Adam Clayton Powell Now Safer, With or Without CB 10

DOT has painted wider pedestrian medians on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in Harlem, including this one at 120th Street. Photo: Stephen Miller

Harlem’s Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, connecting Macombs Dam Bridge to Central Park, has long been a dangerous speedway. DOT clocked drivers traveling as fast as 52 mph on the six-lane divided road, with up to two-thirds of evening drivers going above the 30 mph speed limit. Between 2006 and 2012, twelve pedestrians were killed on the boulevard, which sees more serious injuries and fatalities than 88 percent of Manhattan streets.

In 2009, DOT proposed buffered bike lanes, which were supported by Community Board 10′s transportation committee but opposed by its full board. Last year, DOT came back with a new proposal to add pedestrian space and turning lanes by eliminating one through lane in each direction. In response to community board feedback, DOT tweaked signal timing and parking rules, but CB 10′s foot-dragging (the board never passed a resolution supporting the proposal) led the department to only install 19 blocks of the redesign last year, from 134th to 153rd Streets, leaving out 15 blocks north of 119th Street.

Preparations are underway at Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and St. Nicholas Avenue for concrete curb extensions. Photo: Stephen Miller

This year, DOT not only completed the originally proposed safety improvements but also extended the road diet to the end of Adam Clayton Powell at 110th Street. The complete plan [PDF], which was presented to CB 10′s transportation committee in February and began implementation in May, covers 43 blocks. The existing bike lane between 110th and 118th Streets was preserved; north of there, a 13-foot extra-wide parking lane is fair game for both cyclists and double-parked drivers. Like last year, the community board and its transportation committee did not pass a resolution on the proposal, but were notified of the change by DOT, as required by Local Law 90.

On two blocks of St. Nicholas Avenue that cut diagonally across Adam Clayton Powell and 116th Street, the project significantly expands pedestrian space and shortens crossing distances. Along with a painted median extension on Adam Clayton Powell, a painted curb extension on the northwest corner of the intersection reduces the crossing distance from 150 feet to 92 feet.

Between 115th and 116th, pedestrians had to cross 115 feet of asphalt where northbound drivers on St. Nicholas merged with Adam Clayton Powell. DOT’s plan from February reduces that distance to 40 feet with a painted curb extension on the intersection’s south side, but the agency is instead building concrete curb extensions on both the north and south corners. DOT says that, as with many projects, the painted curb extensions on Adam Clayton Powell are slated to be built with concrete as funding becomes available. “In this case, funding became available sooner than expected,” spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera said in an e-mail. “We notified the Community Board in May that work would be done in concrete.”

From 110th Street to 118th Street, DOT retained the existing bike lane, but installed extra-wide parking lanes elsewhere on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard. Photos: Stephen Miller