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Posts from the "DDC" Category

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Eyes on the Street: It’s Not Easy, Being the Right Shade of Green

Photo: Julia Day

Does something seem… off? It’s not just you: This is not the standard color DOT uses for bike lanes. Photo: Julia Day

With construction on the massive Third Water Tunnel shifting east along Grand Street, the section of the street through Soho, Little Italy, and Chinatown is getting repaved for the first time in years. Along with the new surface comes restoration of Grand Street’s protected bike lane — this time with a twist: Unlike other NYC bike lanes, this lane is being repainted in a bright, Kermit the Frog shade of green.

DOT, which lays down a more bluish-green color on its bike lanes, directed questions about the hue to the Department of Design and Construction, which is in charge of the Grand Street reconstruction. (DDC hasn’t yet responded to a request for comment.) While this color scheme may be closer to the green on display in some other cities, it appears to be the DDC’s shade, not the new standard in bike lane tinting here in New York.

Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

I am green. And it’ll do fine. It’s beautiful! And I think it’s what I want to be. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

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City Begins to Reclaim Space for Pedestrians at Fordham Plaza

The multi-year project to improve Fordham Plaza in the Bronx — a critical transit hub — entered its latest phase yesterday with the groundbreaking for a bigger and better public space for pedestrians.

Each day, more than 80,000 pedestrians flow through Fordham Plaza, the crossroads of a dozen bus lines (including two Select Bus Service routes) and the fourth-busiest station in the Metro-North system. The adjacent intersection of Fordham Road and Webster Avenue ranked in 2010 as the city’s third most dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists.

The plan realigns bus stops and increases pedestrian space by 25 percent. Image: DDC [PDF]

The plan realigns bus stops and increases pedestrian space by 25 percent. Image: DDC [PDF]

Once complete in fall 2015, the project will increase pedestrian space by more than a quarter and reduce the amount of asphalt by almost 40 percent. While yesterday marked the beginning of a new phase of construction, the event was really one of many milestones along the way to transforming the plaza.

A conceptual plan for the space was prepared for EDC by WXY Architecture + Urban Design in 2010. Later that year, DOT received a $10 million TIGER grant from the federal government, and the Department of Design and Construction began work soon after. The area has been in a near-permanent state of construction ever since as the project proceeds through various phases.

Earlier work focused on reconstructing nearby roadways, including the addition of new curb extensions. The latest round of improvements turns inward, to rebuild the plaza itself [PDF].

The plaza, constructed in the mid-1990s, is a rectangle between Fordham Road and East 189th Street, with Third Avenue running along its east side. Currently, bus stops and bus parking line Third Avenue, with an “L”-shaped brick driveway running through the plaza. Bus shelters, retail kiosks, and merchants’ tents sit in the middle of the plaza.

In the new design, buses will use a shorter driveway closer to Third Avenue, opening up a continuous pedestrian space in the middle of the rectangle that’s better connected to retail along the plaza’s western edge. The plan adds vegetation by installing two large concrete planters and ten smaller steel planters with attached wooden seating.

The new plaza will also include wayfinding signs, three kiosks for vendors, and a larger café structure with a canopy. This structure will replace the existing retail building at the north end of the plaza.

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Eyes on the Street: Rehab of Inwood’s 215th Step-Street Finally Underway

Photo: Brad Aaron

Photo: Brad Aaron

After years of delays, work began today to rebuild the 215th Step-Street in Inwood.

These stairs, which technically serve as a car-free street, connect residential blocks in northwest Inwood with shops on Broadway, and they are a link for commuters headed to the 1 train. The step-street is quite steep, with cracked stairs and broken lamps. The city has done a decent job patching the steps as needed, but there’s only so much that can be done in its current state. In 2007 a woman tripped on a hole in the stairs, cutting her legs and face. Several steps had begun to crumble again during the recent cold snap.

In the fall of 2011, the Department of Design and Construction told Streetsblog the stairs would be rehabbed in the summer of 2013. Before that, the timeline called for a 2009 finish date — and before that, Inwood residents were told it would be done in 2005.

DNAinfo reported last July that a contract had been awarded, and now it looks like the wait is over. By 7:30 this morning, crews had cordoned off a segment of the stairs to start work. In addition to new steps, the design will include tracks for bikes to be wheeled up and down the stairs.

Construction is expected to take 17 months, according to DNAinfo, and DDC says the steps will remain open for use throughout.

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Here’s What’s Next for the Flushing Ave Segment of the Brooklyn Greenway

Image: NYC DOT/DDC/Parsons

The next phase of Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway construction on Flushing Avenue will build a raised two-way bikeway and planted buffers alongside the Brooklyn Navy Yard, creating a safer, more appealing environment on what has already become a much-used bike route. Here’s a look at the recently unveiled design from NYC DOT, the Department of Design and Construction, and project consultant Parsons.

As the city builds out the permanent greenway, reconstructing Flushing Avenue is one of the most important capital projects – a mile-long link connecting the Manhattan Bridge approach, DUMBO, and Farragut Houses to Williamsburg Street West, Kent Avenue, and Williamsburg/Greenpoint. The major upgrade entails converting the existing westbound curbside bike lane into a two-way bikeway at sidewalk grade, separated from motor traffic by a three-foot, planted cobblestone buffer. Another planting strip will separate the bikeway from the pedestrian path. For pedestrians, adding this bikeway will narrow crossing distances substantially — about 20 percent.

The Flushing Avenue greenway segment will add an eight-foot-wide, two-way bikeway at sidewalk grade and shorten crossing distances for pedestrians by about 20 percent. Image: NYC DOT/DDC/Parsons

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Queens CB 5 Set to Move Ahead With Bike Lane Planning, Plaza Construction

In Queens, Community Board 2 has garnered attention for its partnership with DOT on bike route planning. Immediately to the southeast, CB 5 has been busy working with the Department of City Planning on a parallel effort to map out routes in Ridgewood, Maspeth, and Middle Village that could receive bike lanes as soon as fall of next year.

Ridgewood, Middle Village, and Maspeth are missing the bike lanes that neighboring areas to the north and west enjoy. CB 5 is looking to change that. Map: NYC DOT

Last year, the community board approached DOT asking for new bike lanes; while DOT will handle implementation in CB 5, it has handed off planning for the area to DCP’s transportation planning division. Community meetings over the spring and summer led DCP to develop a list of routes:

  • Eliot Avenue from Metropolitan Avenue to Woodhaven Boulevard;
  • Juniper Boulevard South from 69th Street to Dry Harbor Road;
  • Woodward Avenue, Onderdonk Avenue, and connecting streets from Metropolitan Avenue to Cypress Hills Cemetery;
  • Central Avenue and Cooper Avenue from Cypress Hills Street to Woodhaven Boulevard;
  • 69th Street from Calamus Avenue to Metropolitan Avenue; and
  • 80th Street from the Long Island Expressway to Myrtle Avenue.

There are four additional routes that could receive further study: Grand Avenue, a north-south route between Ridgewood and Maspeth, a route between Ridgewood and Bushwick, and a loop around Juniper Valley Park. CB 5 transportation committee member John Maier said DCP was also considering a route along Rust Street, connecting to streets near Woodside.

“That’s just what they’re looking at; it doesn’t mean they’re going to get any specific treatment,” Maier said, adding that DCP staff is currently taking measurements of streets and coming up with design treatments for some of the streets. DCP will host another workshop with the community board next month to show its preliminary recommendations. Those projects could be implemented as soon as fall 2014. (DCP and DOT have not responded to questions from Streetsblog.)

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City Releases New Design Recommendations for Sidewalks

The latest update to the city's Active Design Guidelines recommends treatments for the four “planes” framing the sidewalk — the canopy, the ground plane, the building wall, and the roadside. Photo: Center for Active Design

Last month at the the eighth Fit City conference, the same day DOT unveiled a new pedestrian wayfinding initiative, the city released an update to its Active Design Guidelines focusing specifically on sidewalk design. Although the new guidelines are just suggestions, the new document lays out a vision for how the city’s sidewalks can be designed to encourage more walking, and it has the imprimatur of the mayor and the commissioners of transportation, city planning, health, and design and construction.

The two-part document, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, categorizes its recommendations into four “planes” framing the sidewalk — the canopy, the ground plane, the building wall, and the roadside. The authors visited more than 30 sidewalks in six cities to observe and measure what gets people to walk more, and what doesn’t. The guide recognizes the many types of sidewalks in New York, from busy Midtown to quiet residential streets lined with trees and lawns. It identifies six attributes of a good sidewalk: safety, accessibility, sustainability and resilience, human scale, continuous variety, and connectivity.

Although the report does not propose specific regulatory changes, it does include general suggestions for how zoning, agency design guides, and other rules can be used to improve the sidewalk experience.

The report recommends constant variety in retail stores — also known as “skinny storefronts” – to foster an engaging environment for walking. On the Upper West Side, a rezoning last year restricted storefront width to 40 feet, with the goal of keeping blocks from becoming monotonous and uninviting to pedestrians.

These types of policies can make or break a streetscape. On Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, a wave of new development following a 2003 rezoning faced the sidewalk with big blank walls and parking lots. Eventually the Department of City Planning updated the zoning, banning garages next to the sidewalk on the avenue and mandating some retail on ground floors.

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At Pioneering Ped Plaza, Paint and Planters Are Now Curbs and Concrete

All smiles at today's ribbon-cutting for Willoughby Plaza in Downtown Brooklyn. Photo: Stephen Miller

NYC DOT’s plaza program hit a milestone today, when officials cut the ribbon on a block of Willoughby Street reclaimed from car traffic between Pearl and Adams Streets in Downtown Brooklyn. What used to be, essentially, a private parking lot for government placard holders, is now the first plaza program project to make the transition from temporary materials to permanent construction.

The 14,000 square-foot plaza, set in motion in 2006 with a street reclamation by Iris Weinshall’s DOT, was folded into DOT’s Plaza Program after Janette Sadik-Khan took charge of the agency. It then entered the capital project pipeline for the Department of Design and Construction, which raised the plaza to the same grade as the sidewalk and worked with DEP to replace water mains.

The project cost $2 million, paid for by federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds. Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez was on hand for today’s ribbon-cutting, along with Sadik-Khan, DDC Commissioner David Burney, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Tucker Reed, Jeff Kay of Muss Development, and Borough President Marty Markowitz.

“It’s a pleasure when the commissioner and I can be on the same side of a project,” Markowitz said, before launching into a gregarious bit inviting the single people of Brooklyn to make the plaza their new meeting spot.

The overall theme this morning was not match-making, but retail sales. Sadik-Khan cited research showing that plazas help improve retail sales, adding that DOT expects to release a complete study of those effects this summer.

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Greenpoint Gets a Preview of Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway on West Street

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

NYC DOT and consultants for the Department of Design and Construction gave Greenpoint residents a glimpse of preliminary designs for the West Street segment of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway Wednesday night at a full meeting of Brooklyn Community Board 1. The two-way bikeway proposed for West Street is the first of 23 capital projects that will eventually comprise the finished, 14-mile greenway.

While CB 1 voted in 2008 to support a similar redesign of Kent Avenue (a preliminary segment in the greenway), the current board seems to have regressed since then, and residents who support the project shouldn’t take anything for granted. At Wednesday’s meeting, the fundamental premise of establishing a two-way bike lane on the street received some support from the audience, but also a hostile response from the transportation committee chair.

For motor traffic, the plan would convert the length of West Street, currently two-way, to one-way northbound. Approximately 80 parking spaces on the west side of the street would be replaced with a two-way bike lane, separated from motor vehicle traffic by a mountable curb.

A mountable curb is not what Milton Puryear of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative would have preferred for West Street. “It’s not ideal,” he said, noting that the he often encounters parked cars on the Sands Street bike path, which has a mountable curb. While the proposed design will be open to similar incursions, Puryear said, it will be “way better than the way it is.”

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City Says Decrepit Inwood Step-Street on Track for Rehab

After a dozen years of waiting, what's a couple more, give or take? Photo: Brad Aaron

It was supposed to happen circa 2005. Then in 2009. Now the city says the restoration of a crumbling block-long staircase that serves as a pedestrian-only street in Inwood will be finished by summer 2013.

The 215th Step-Street connects Broadway to residential blocks at Inwood’s northern end. For years its cracked stairs and broken lamps have posed a hazard — neighborhood residents have been asking the city to rebuild it since at least 1999. In 2007 a woman tripped on a hole in the stairs, cutting her legs and face, prompting renewed calls for action.

In 2008, DOT officials and then-Assembly Member Adriano Espaillat announced that a reconstruction project would be completed the following year. Instead, in the summer of 2009 the city backed off its pledge.

Now the Department of Design and Construction says plans are moving forward.

“The project is in Final Design and that phase is scheduled to be completed by July 2012,” a DDC spokesperson told Streetsblog. “The project is scheduled to begin construction in FY 13.”

While the news is promising, Inwoodites could be forgiven for not holding their breath.

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In Unanimous Vote, CB 2 Embraces People-Friendly Astor Place

CB 2 voted unanimously to create this new public plaza at Cooper Square, though they want there not to be seating at night. Image: DDC.

CB 2 voted unanimously to create this new public plaza at Cooper Square, with the proviso that seating be removed at night. Image: DDC

Last night, Manhattan Community Board 2 resoundingly endorsed the city’s plans to transform Astor Place and Cooper Square from asphalt expanses into pedestrian-friendly public spaces. After including some language in its resolution to appease the concerns of certain residents, the roughly 40 community board members in attendance voted unanimously for the plan to transform street space into plazas and expanded sidewalks.

The plan includes a new 8,000 square foot pedestrian plaza at Cooper Square, a plaza replacing one block of Astor Place below the cube sculpture, widened sidewalks, 113 bike racks, 64 new trees, and thousands of square feet of new plantings and environmentally-friendly permeable surfaces.

In the days before last night’s vote, some opposition to the plan had emerged from former CB 2 members active in the NoHo community. At the meeting, Jeanne Wilcke, the president of the Downtown Independent Democrats, requested a delay to “fine tune” the plans, which has been in the works for about a decade, worrying about the traffic effects of narrower streets and the management of the new public spaces.

Another speaker, Marty Tessler, demanded that the plan’s hard-surface open space be replaced with landscaping in order to keep too many people from gathering there. “We are hopeful that we will not be subjected to the street performers and all that,” he added.

Following testimony from six people, the community board voted unanimously for an amended resolution supporting the city’s plan. None of those amendments take away from the overall support for the redesign.

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