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Posts from the DDC Category

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Wider Sidewalks Coming to Flushing’s Crowded Main Street

Pedestrians crossing Roosevelt Avenue at Main Street, the location of the Flushing-Main Street subway station, at around noon today. Photo: David Meyer

Foot traffic on Roosevelt Avenue at Main Street, the location of the Flushing-Main Street subway station, at around noon today. Photo: David Meyer

Main Street in Flushing gets more foot traffic than anywhere else in New York after Times Square, but its sidewalks are too narrow to handle all those people. So later this month, the city will begin expanding the sidewalks on four blocks of Main Street, Council Member Peter Koo, DOT, and the Department of Design and Construction announced this afternoon.

Set to begin next Monday, the project will also add a one-block bus lane and high-visibility crosswalks, part of a bottom-up reconstruction of Main Street between 37th Avenue and 40th Road.

This section of Main Street is located at the convergence of the 7 train, the Long Island Railroad, 13 MTA bus routes, and many private bus lines. At any given point in the day, the sidewalks are overflowing with commuters and shoppers, 83 percent of whom arrive by foot or transit, according to DOT.

Council Member Peter Koo (center) spoke this afternoon alongside DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora and DOT Queens Commissioner Nicole Garcia. Photo: David Meyer

Council Member Peter Koo (center) with DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora and DOT Queens Commissioner Nicole Garcia. Photo: David Meyer

Downtown Flushing’s streets are designed primarily to move motor vehicles, however, and people walking on Main Street have to contend with heavy car traffic. In 2015 alone, 28 pedestrians were injured and two were killed along the .9-mile stretch of Main Street between Northern Boulevard and Elder Avenue, according to Vision Zero View.

The $7.8 million reconstruction project will add between two and eight feet of sidewalk space, depending on the location, building on a 2011 project that used paint and flexible bollards to narrow the roadway and expand space for pedestrians. That project led to an 11 percent decline in traffic injuries, according to DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia. Casting the wider sidewalks in concrete, she said, will “deliver on Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero goals.”

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Eyes on the Street: Pedestrians Get Room to Breathe at Astor Place

The new "Alamo Plaza" awaits the return of the "The Cube" and the installation of new planted trees. Photo: David Meyer

People can walk across the new “Alamo Plaza” without worrying about Astor Place traffic. Photo: David Meyer

"The Alamo," also known as "the Cube," in July 2013. Google Maps

The 2013 Street View of Alamo, also known as “The Cube,” and the chunk of Astor Place that’s been pedestrianized. Image: Google Maps

The redesign of Astor Place and Cooper Square, first unveiled in 2008, is nearly complete. The new layout greatly expands pedestrian space in an area with lots of foot traffic.

While some construction work is still in progress around the subway entrance between Lafayette Street and Fourth Avenue, the rest of the sidewalk expansions are all but finished — missing only final landscaping touches.

The capstone will be the reinstallation of Alamo, the sculpture famously known as “The Cube,” which previously stood on a traffic island between Astor Place and 8th Street. When it returns in August, the sculpture won’t be surrounded by traffic on all sides, instead sitting squarely in “Alamo Plaza” thanks to the pedestrianization of one block of Astor Place. Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: First Signs of Greenway Construction on West Street

west_street_cuts

These cuts in the asphalt are one sign that DDC is about to dig up West Street to install a two-way protected bike lane.

More than three years after it was approved by Brooklyn Community Board 1’s transportation committee, construction on the West Street segment of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway is finally underway. The Department of Design and Construction confirmed that current work on West Street is related to the greenway.

The project will turn West Street into a one-way northbound route for cars with a two-way protected bike lane on the west side of the street. The redesign from Quay Street to Eagle Street is part of the 14-mile Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway that will stretch from Sunset Park to Greenpoint.

West Street will be entirely reconstructed from top to bottom. In addition to the bikeway, DDC will construct bioswales and high-level sewers to prevent stormwater from overloading the system and sending raw sewage into the city’s waterways. The current construction work also includes the replacement of “century old watermains on Calyer Street from Franklin Street to West Street,” according to DDC.

A preliminary rendering of the two-way bikeway and planted buffer slated for West Street in Greenpoint. Image: DDC

A preliminary rendering of the two-way bikeway and planted buffer slated for West Street in Greenpoint. Image: DDC

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Take a Look at What’s on the Table for Long Island City Streets

"Option 2" for the Pulaski Bridge gateway, right, would provide pedestrians and cyclists more space and safer crossings. Image: DDC/DOT/Parsons

“Option 2” for the Pulaski Bridge gateway, right, would expand pedestrian space and create a two-way bike connection to Vernon Boulevard on 49th Avenue. Image: DDC/DOT/Parsons

Every street in Long Island City is in line for a top-to-bottom reconstruction, and as part of the project DOT and the Department of Design and Construction are proposing several improvements for walking and biking. Here’s the presentation the agencies gave to Queens Community Board 2 earlier this month, showing the preliminary redesigns. The project covers several streets and intersections, and some of the options on the table go a lot farther than others to make walking and biking safer.

With the Queensboro Bridge to the north and the Midtown Tunnel and Pulaski Bridge to the south, Long Island City is plagued by car and truck traffic. The neighborhood’s population is growing rapidly, but its streets still suffer from wide car lanes, excessive speeding, and chaotic intersections that make for a poor walking and biking environment.

DOT and DDC are looking to address these shortcomings at several places. In many cases, the city showed different design options for each location, some clearly preferable to others. Overall, there’s a lot more to like if the city follows through on the more ambitious designs.

At the foot of the Pulaski Bridge, one option would create a much better connection to Vernon Boulevard by adding a two-way bike lane on 49th Avenue. It would also make a short block of 48th Street car-free to create a more continuous walking environment. But another option includes neither of those improvements.

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What’s Up With the Short Raised Bike Lane By Times Square?

Yes, there is now a short segment of raised bike lane on Seventh Avenue at Times Square. TransitCenter’s Jon Orcutt tweeted the picture above last month.

The Department of Design and Construction, which is building the permanent pedestrian plazas and other street improvements at Times Square, has so far only put down the raised lane between 46th Street and 45th Street. It’s supposed to be part of a short detour for cyclists using the Broadway bike lane to bypass the pedestrian plazas.

We checked in with DDC about the project, and a spokesperson directed us to DOT. DOT said more is coming. The finished product will provide a contraflow protected lane from Broadway to Seventh on 47th Street. From there cyclists would be directed to the eastern side of Seventh, and for the block between 47th Street and 46th Street there would only be sharrows. Then the raised lane will extend from 46th to 42nd, and the detour will conclude with sharrows on 42nd Street from Seventh to Broadway.

Bike lanes were not in the original design for the permanent plaza project but were added later in the process at the request of DOT, according to a spokesperson from the Times Square Alliance. Raised bike lanes are unusual in NYC but there are a few precedents, like the block of Sands Street between Navy and Gold near the Manhattan Bridge.

I checked in on the progress along Seventh Avenue recently and there was some construction going on south of 46th Street, where the rest of the raised lane is supposed to be built.

DDC’s online database of capital projects list an April 14 completion date for the plaza construction, but judging by the current conditions it will likely finish later than that.

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Eyes on the Street: The New 215th Step-Street Officially Opens Today

The 215th Step-Street, looking west from Broadway. Photos: Brad Aaron

The new 215th Step-Street, looking west from Broadway. Photos: Brad Aaron

Over a decade after the project’s first expected delivery date, the reconstruction of Inwood’s 215th Step-Street is complete.

West 215th Street crosses the width of Manhattan island’s northernmost neighborhood, from Inwood Hill Park to the Harlem River. Between Park Terrace East and Broadway, W. 215 is a step-street — one of many car-free street segments in Upper Manhattan and other parts of the city — connecting Broadway shops, buses, and the 1 train with residential blocks to the west.

Inwood history blogger Cole Thompson traced the origin of the double-wide staircase to 1915, when Broadway was paved with cobblestones and “the automobile was still a relatively new contraption.”

By the late 20th century, the long, steep staircase was in sad shape. Resident requests to renovate the stairs date at least as far back as the 1990s, and the city once pledged to get the work done by 2005. For years afterward, however, the step-street continued to deteriorate, requiring periodic repairs as locals contended with ice patches and busted street lamps. In 2007 a woman was injured when she tripped on a hole in the stairs.

The stairway in 2008.

The stairway in 2008.

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Total L.I.C. Street Rebuild to Include Safety Overhauls for Key Intersections

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer alongside the DDC and DOT Commissioners this morning. Photo: David Meyer

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer alongside DDC Commissioner Feniosky Pena-Mora (to the left) and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg (on the right) this morning. Photo: David Meyer

The streets of Long Island City are getting a total rebuild, and as part of the project four major intersections along Jackson Avenue and Vernon Boulevard will get redesigned for greater safety.

Many other intersections could get curb extensions or other traffic-calming treatments as part of the $38.47 million neighborhood-wide street reconstruction. Speaking this morning at the foot of the Pulaski Bridge, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer said DOT will prioritize four intersections: 21st Street and Jackson Avenue, 23rd Street and Jackson Avenue, Vernon Boulevard and Jackson Avenue, and Vernon Boulevard and 44th Drive.

Jackson and 11th Street, a complex multi-leg intersection that pedestrians and cyclists have to navigate to get to the Pulaski Bridge, will also be improved. Once the Pulaski Bridge bikeway opens this spring, there will be a lot more room for walking and biking, and the approach on the Queens side could use an upgrade.

Long Island City’s population is on track to soar as new development hits the market. But sandwiched by the Queensboro Bridge to the north and the Pulaski Bridge and Midtown Tunnel to the south, the neighborhood is often overrun by car and truck traffic, creating an unpleasant and unsafe environment for pedestrians.

In December, Van Bramer, DDC, and DOT hosted a public workshop where local residents and business owners overwhelmingly cited Vernon Boulevard and Jackson Avenue as streets in need of safety improvements. Jackson Avenue feeds into the Pulaski and is the site of several popular attractions, including MOMA P.S. 1, but has few safe crosswalks. In 2015 alone, 31 people were injured on Jackson Avenue within the project boundaries.

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Four More Street Redesigns That Are Taking Forever to Build

Part of the first round of DOT's NYC Plaza Program, the Myrtle Avenue Plaza will replace part of a service road with greenery and pedestrian space. Image: Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership

Part of the first round of DOT’s Plaza Program — which launched in 2008 — the Myrtle Avenue Plaza is still not finished. Image: Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership

On Monday, we posted a list of seven street redesign projects that remain unfinished years after they went through the city’s public planning process, with the Department of Design and Construction far behind schedule.

DDC gave varying reasons for the delays, citing subsurface infrastructure work that precedes above-ground construction, as well as “changes and updates during the design phase of the project,” and “additional work by our client agency.”

One thing I consistently heard from local businesses and community groups is that DDC leaves them in the dark as it pushes project completion dates further and further into the future. DDC contested that and said it works with client agencies, such as DOT, to provide updates on construction as it advances (or stalls). Every DDC project also has a community liaison who is supposed to work with the project engineer to pass on updates to local businesses and neighbors.

Still, many of the BID directors and residents I spoke to about these projects said their community liaisons often lack information about project timelines.

After we ran the post on Monday, readers asked about other redesign projects that are languishing. Here are updates on four more — some of which DDC is handling better than others:

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Seven Street Redesigns That DDC Is Taking Forever to Build

Progress has been hard to spot at Roberto Clemente Plaza in Mott Haven, according to BID director Steven Fish. Photo: Steven Fish

DDC construction projects like Roberto Clemente Plaza in Mott Haven are years behind schedule. Photo: Steven Fish

How long does it take the Department of Design and Construction to build out a pedestrian plaza with permanent materials? How about a protected bike lane separated from traffic by concrete curbs? Sidewalk extensions?

The answer, if you can call it that, is “anyone’s guess.” Or, to be slightly more specific, “anyone’s guess, but at least a few years and maybe several.”

When the city has to move curbs or tear up subsurface infrastructure like sewers to redesign a street, the project gets built by DDC. But DDC takes so long to build things that DOT has become adept at avoiding this process. Whenever possible, DOT uses paint, planters, and light construction techniques to implement projects without digging up the guts of a street.

When DDC is involved in street redesigns, the agency tends to miss one deadline after another, taking years to complete projects. Not only does the public have to wait for the benefits of a redesign to materialize, but by the time DDC gets around to building something, the public process is usually a distant memory and all the energy that went into advocating for the project has dissipated. As we saw recently with the West Street segment of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, this creates openings for misinformation to spread and leads to even more drag on getting projects done.

So what takes so long? Why can’t DDC deliver projects in a reasonable amount of time?

Streetsblog checked in with DDC to get status reports on seven delayed street projects. Here’s what they told us, and how the current timetables measure up to what was promised initially.

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Merchants: DDC Taking Forever to Finish Plaza at Bronx Hub [Updated]

Progress has been hard to spot at Roberto Clemente Plaza in Mott Haven, according to BID director Steven Fish. Photo: Steven Fish

Construction at Roberto Clemente Plaza in Mott Haven has seen minimal progress this year. Photo: Steven Fish

In 2008, DOT repurposed street space at the Hub in Mott Haven to greatly expand and improve Roberto Clemente Plaza. The first version of the project was made with low-cost materials — paint, planters, and gravel. Afterward, the city committed to building out the project in concrete. But the agency in charge of delivering capital projects, the Department of Design and Construction, has been working on it for years and still has no definite timetable for completion.

DDC broke ground on the project more than two years ago, with an expected 18-month construction timeline. Today the site is still a jumble of construction equipment and vehicles. Local retailers say the construction zone is an eyesore, providing cover to gangs and drug users and driving people away from surrounding businesses.

“General consensus is that this is a hellhole and there’s no end in sight,” Third Avenue BID Director Steven Fish told Streetsblog. Fish organized a forum in October for local business owners and residents to vent their frustrations with the project delays.

Representatives from DDC attended the forum but could not give a concrete completion date, Fish said. DDC’s online database says construction will wrap by August, 2016, but officials at the forum said it was more likely to last through 2017.

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