Skip to content

Posts from the DDC Category

35 Comments

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.

Read more…

11 Comments

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.

Read more…

2 Comments

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:

Read more…

29 Comments

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.

Read more…

15 Comments

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.

Read more…

47 Comments

Empire Blvd Safety Fixes Run Up Against Parking and Gentrification Politics

A federally-funded redesign and reconstruction of two dangerous Empire Boulevard intersections is in jeopardy, running up against a combination of parking politics and gentrification fears.

DOT has plans to replace a small slip lane that feeds into Empire Boulevard with a pedestrian plaza, but local anger over gentrification could prevent the project from coming to fruition. Image: DOT/DDC/RBA Group

A plan to convert a small slip lane into sidewalk space is being met with resistance at Community Board 9. Image: DOT/DDC/RBA Group

The plan would add sidewalk space by simplifying two complex intersections where several streets converge [PDF]. On the western end of Empire, a slip lane would be closed at the intersection of Washington Avenue and Franklin Avenue. To the east, pedestrian space would be claimed at the even more complicated tangle of streets where Empire meets Utica Avenue, East New York Avenue, and Remsen Avenue.

Empire Boulevard is one of the most dangerous streets in Brooklyn. At these two intersections alone, there were 490 injuries between 2009 and 2013. Removing slip lanes at both locations will eliminate shortcuts where drivers can cut quickly across pedestrians’ paths, without fundamentally changing how traffic flows.

At Wednesday’s CB 9 Transportation Committee meeting, neighborhood residents and community board members joined around 10 representatives from DOT, the Department of Design and Construction, and the RBA Group to discuss the proposal, which the committee approved in a unanimous 4-0 vote in September. Chair Tim Thomas said he invited city officials to come back and make the case after the proposal drew criticism at a meeting of the full community board in November.

Supporters of the proposal presented a petition with nearly 300 signatures Wednesday night. Daniel Kristjansson, who sits on the committee, said in an email to Streetsblog that the project is a small but necessary step to make Empire Boulevard safer. “Empire Boulevard is deadly, and even with these changes it will still kill and subject many more to a lifetime of pain and disability,” he said. “But these improvements will make a noticeable dent in the casualty figures.”

The project has become swept up in the debate over the rezoning of Empire Boulevard, a flashpoint in predominantly black neighborhoods experiencing a rapid influx of more affluent, white residents. “I’ve been living on Washington Avenue all my life and living there has been a great pleasure — until recently, when these changes [have] taken place,” one resident, Felice Robertson, told the committee.

Other complaints were typical of street redesigns anywhere in the city. Robertson also said the neighborhood is “in dire need of parking spaces.” Another resident suggested that instead of pedestrianizing a block of Franklin the city should install a neckdown, which could be done “without taking away 15 parking spaces, which is a critical part of what this community still needs.” (The project would only remove seven spaces.)

Read more…

2 Comments

DOT: Full Woodhaven Boulevard Upgrades Coming Sometime Next Decade

DOT's proposal for the 2017 launch of the new Woodhaven Boulevard SBS will feature far fewer miles of main road bus lanes than originally expected. Image: DOT

Woodhaven Boulevard SBS will launch in 2017, but several miles of center road bus lanes have been pushed to the indefinite future. Image: DOT

DOT and the MTA will roll out enhanced bus service on Woodhaven Boulevard in 2017, but several miles of the promised bus lanes won’t come until the 2020s, agency representatives said yesterday.

While DOT says the Woodhaven overhaul will be built, the city is providing no certainty as to when the Department of Design and Construction will complete the street reconstruction required to deliver the whole project. The vagueness surrounding the construction timetable casts doubt on the future of the full six miles of center road bus lanes DOT had committed to.

Yesterday, at a presentation to the project’s Community Advisory Committee [PDF], the agency said enhanced bus service would begin running on Woodhaven in 2017, including 1.3 miles of dedicated bus lanes next to medians that separate the center roadway from service lanes. Those bus lanes are superior to ones that run next to the curb or the parking lane (which will also be added in 2017), because they’re less susceptible to getting blocked by illegally parked drivers. Earlier this year, DOT said that design would apply to six miles of Woodhaven Boulevard.

Yesterday the agency had no timetable for implementing the rest of the center road bus lanes, which will accompany the reconstruction of the street by DDC. However, Riders Alliance organizers who attended yesterday’s meeting were told to expect the full project to be completed sometime in the 2020s.

Detailed design and engineering will continue next year, with Select Bus Service beginning in 2017. In addition to main road bus lanes and median stops between Park Lane South and Rockaway Boulevard, the 2017 phase will add curbside bus lanes to several other sections of the corridor, as well as off-board fare payment and signal priority for buses.

The BRT for NYC Coalition says the 2017 project will be an important step in convincing Queens residents of the merits of bus rapid transit. “We look forward to the 1.3 miles of BRT and the meaningful results in safety and commute times it’ll offer for Queens,” said Masha Burina of the Riders Alliance. “We’d like to see a timelier implementation of [main road bus lanes] throughout the corridor and anticipate a productive relationship with the DOT/MTA to ensure all of Woodhaven Boulevard receives high-quality BRT as soon as possible.”

DOT said the Woodhaven timetable is consistent with how other SBS projects have been implemented:

Read more…

10 Comments

When Will DDC Build the Brooklyn Greenway on Flushing Ave and West Street?

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 slated for West Street in Greenpoint. Image: DDC

It’s been more than three years since NYC DOT announced its full implementation plan for the 14-mile Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, a series of 23 capital projects that would build out the biking and walking path in high-quality, permanent materials. At the time, DOT said that construction would begin soon on the Flushing Avenue and West Street segments of the greenway, but with 2015 drawing to a close there’s still no sign of progress. What gives?

Both segments have gone through the community board review process. The Brooklyn CB 1 transportation committee voted for the proposal for West Street in 2012, and in 2013 CB 2 voted in favor of the Flushing Avenue segment, which was supposed to reach the construction phase last fall. As is often the case with capital construction projects, however, the Department of Design and Construction hasn’t implemented the greenway segments according to schedule.

DDC only furnished a vague progress report on the greenway projects, without a timetable, so we turned to Brooklyn Greenway Initiative co-founder Milton Puryear, who says that both the Flushing Avenue and West Street segments of the greenway are fully funded, designed, and ready to go.

Puryear pins the delays on Flushing Avenue and West Street on subsurface infrastructure improvements that must precede greenway construction. The West Street portion, for instance, includes bioswales and high-level sewers that will prevent stormwater from overloading the sewage system and from mixing with raw sewage before it goes into the river.

Read more…

13 Comments

Trottenberg Announces Plaza Equity Program at Plaza de Las Americas Reveal

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, and a cast of uptown players marked the opening of Plaza de Las Americas today. Photo: Brad Aaron

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, and a cast of uptown players marked the opening of Plaza de Las Americas today. Photos: Brad Aaron

Just eight months after the groundbreaking ceremony, officials held a ribbon-cutting this morning at Plaza de Las Americas, an impressive new public space in Washington Heights. Also today, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced a City Hall initiative to assist plazas in neighborhoods without the resources of a major business improvement district.

Plaza de Las Americas reclaims one block of W. 175th Street, between Broadway and Wadsworth Avenue, with 16,000 square feet of pedestrian space. Bookended to the north and south by the United Palace theater and a grocery store, respectively, the plaza comes equipped with electric and water service for vendors. Other amenities include a public restroom, decorative pavers, benches, trees, and a fountain by artist Ester Partegás.

The block has been the site of a farmers market since 1980, and since 1994 vendors have set up on the street to sell household wares, clothes, and other items. Sponsored by the Washington Heights and Inwood Development Corporation, the proposal to make those uses permanent received $5 million in city funds when it was chosen in the first round of the plaza program in 2008. The project was designed and built by DOT and the Department of Design and Construction.

“After years of planning, today we come together to celebrate the location our community has valued for decades transformed into an even better venue,” said City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez in prepared remarks. “La Plaza de Las Americas will be a focal point for the communities of Northern Manhattan and assuredly a boon to local business and our very active street vendors.”

Other electeds on hand included Congressman Charles Rangel, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, Assembly Member Guillermo Linares, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

Trottenberg announced the OneNYC Plaza Equity Program, which will allocate $1.4 million from the city budget to provide maintenance and management assistance to 30 “medium and high need” plaza projects, most of them in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Upper Manhattan. Trottenberg said projects are eligible to receive up to $80,000, along with other assistance, such as organizing and fundraising help, for up to three years. Plazas that lack resources for upkeep can quickly fall out of favor with the public.

Another tidbit: Rodriguez said he’d like to see Plaza de Las Americas extended to St. Nicholas Avenue, two blocks east, as a “gateway” to Washington Heights and Inwood.

Read more…

12 Comments

Temporary Red Hook Greenway Plan Looks Better Than the Permanent One

dafs

Currently, plans call for ditching an interim on-street two-way bike lane in Red Hook once a waterfront greenway is built, but there’s no reason DOT couldn’t keep the interim design. Image: NYC DOT

Eventually, New York City intends to build a biking and walking path along the Red Hook waterfront, one link in the longer Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway. It’s going to be several years before that project gets built, so in the meantime DOT plans to make streets a few blocks inland safer for biking and walking. The question is, why not keep the safer, multi-modal surface streets after the permanent project wraps up?

Last night, DOT presented the interim plan [PDF] to the Brooklyn Community Board 6 transportation committee, which voted for it unanimously. The plan would reconstruct bumpy Ferris Street and Beard Street and make room for a two-way curbside bike lane and green infrastructure features. But the long-term plan for the greenway currently calls for moving the bikeway to the waterfront and putting a parking lane back on the street.

Currently, Ferris and Beard are in such poor condition that there is no sidewalk on large sections of each street, which impedes walking. The shoddy pavement and lack of bike lanes also prevent cyclists from comfortably accessing nearby Valentino Pier. The interim treatment will address both problems, and some people at the meeting last night questioned why the on-street bikeway is slated to be removed once the permanent greenway is built.

“I think that having an interim design is an appeasement to people who are worried about parking,” said committee member Bahij Chancey.

Read more…