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Manhattan CB 6 Backs East River Greenway Connector on 37th Street

Compromise: Image: DOT

The East River Greenway, on the other side of FDR Drive to the right, will have a safer connection to the First and Second Avenue bike lanes after DOT moved parking zones closer to a condominium tower. Image: DOT [PDF]

It’s going to become safer and easier to access the East River Greenway, thanks to a vote last night by Manhattan Community Board 6. In a surprisingly drama-free meeting, the board backed the recommendation of DOT and its own transportation committee for a two-way bike path on a single block of 37th Street, connecting the greenway to First Avenue.

The plan had been modified slightly to accommodate the concerns of residents in the Horizon condominium tower, many of whom stormed CB meetings in June over concerns that the bike lane would block curbside car access to their building. Responding to their opposition, the board requested at its June meeting that DOT relocate the path to the south side of the street.

After that meeting, Council Member Dan Garodnick hosted a tour of the site. According to board members, DOT said a southerly alignment would force cyclists to cross two legs of intersections at the FDR Drive service road and First Avenue and put cyclists in the path of turning drivers, posing an unnecessary traffic safety risk. Despite this, many Horizon residents stood firm in their opposition to the plan.

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Want Safer Connections to the East Side Greenway? Tell CB 6 on Monday

Condo owners in Murray Hill could derail a protected bike path connecting to the East River Greenway. Image: DOT

A short protected bikeway on 37th Street would connect on-street bike lanes to the East River Greenway. Residents of a Murray Hill condo are trying to block it because they want direct curb access right in front of their building. Image: DOT

On Monday, the Manhattan Community Board 6 transportation committee is set to reconsider a plan to install a two-way protected bike lane on a block of East 37th Street, connecting First Avenue with the East River Greenway. The plan has run up against stiff opposition from residents of an adjacent condominium tower who don’t want a bike lane on the same side of the street as their building.

The proposal is key to a larger set of changes [PDF] that would create safer, more intuitive bike connections between on-street bike lanes and the East River Greenway. In June, the committee signed off of those changes, 7-3 with one abstention [PDF]. When the plan came to the full board later that month, opposition from condo residents nearly derailed the entire project, until the board approved a resolution supporting a bike path on the other side of 37th Street. That resolution passed 34-4, with one abstention [PDF].

But putting a path on the south side of the street would be a more dangerous configuration. Drivers coming off the southbound FDR Drive and proceeding onto 37th Street often make wide right turns, potentially putting cyclists at risk. Another issue is that the tunnel beneath the FDR connecting to Glick Park and the greenway is on the north side of the intersection. If cyclists use the south side of 37th Street, they would then have to cross two legs of the busy intersection, in conflict with turning cars, instead of just one leg without that type of conflict.

DOT expressed these reservations about a south side alignment to the community board and encouraged it to support routing the bike path on the north side of the street. Given the dangers of a south side bike lane, the agency is coming back to CB 6 to make the case for its plan on the north side.

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What’s the Matter With NYC Community Boards

albert

Andrew Albert has led the Community Board 7 transportation committee since many New Yorkers were in diapers.

It’s 2014. For at least 50 years, it’s been apparent that wider streets don’t make congestion go away. For about a decade, the work of UCLA professor Donald Shoup has popularized the notion that parking prices are key to the efficient operation of commercial streets, and London has shown the English-speaking world how to cut down on traffic by charging for road space. And for the last seven years, new protected bike lane designs have proven effective at preventing deaths and injuries on New York City streets.

If you lead the transportation committee of a New York City community board and a local TV news crew wants you to validate the view that a bike lane has screwed up traffic, maybe some of this thinking should seep into your comments. Maybe you should point out that the bike lane has made people safer, and it makes no sense to blame congestion on a street design when poor curb management and free roads pretty much guarantee gridlock at peak hours.

Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council Member Helen Rosenthal have failed to replace community board members who’ve stifled change for a generation.

But that’s not how Andrew Albert, the co-chair of Manhattan Community Board 7′s transportation committee, responded when ABC 7 went fishing for quotes to pin traffic congestion on protected bike lanes. ”There’s frequent gridlock here,” Albert said in front of the cameras. “If there’s a truck making a delivery on either side of the avenue, you’re sometimes down to one or two moving lanes.” Clearly, if the bike lane went away, no delivery trucks would be blocked by cars at the curb and traffic could flow as God intended.

In his committee chairmanship at CB 7, which represents the Upper West Side, Albert is a gatekeeper for any street reform in a district that’s home to more than 200,000 people. His performance for ABC 7 is an extension of how he’s used this obscure, unelected perch to delay and block proposals like protected bike lanes and a car-free Central Park since the 1990s.

Albert embodies how the community board system can be hijacked by a small number of people to stonewall changes that have broad community support. No matter how many signatures are collected in favor of a street redesign, no matter how many people crowd into the room to show they want change, Albert is a reliable vote against reallocating space from cars. When public support for a project is too overwhelming for him to obstruct, he resorts to gaming the procedure.

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Bowing to Brooklyn CB 3, DOT Puts Bed Stuy Slow Zone on Ice

Bedford Stuyvesant won’t be getting 20 mph streets after all. Despite months of talks after Brooklyn Community Board 3 rejected a request from neighborhood residents for a 20 mph Slow Zone in February, DOT has decided to pull the plug on a traffic calming plan covering 23 blocks of Bed Stuy, effectively giving the community board veto power over this street safety project.

Brooklyn CB 3 has succeeded in keeping lower speed limits out of Bed Stuy. Photo:  Shawn Onsgard/Facebook

Bed Stuy residents who supported a Slow Zone were ignored by CB 3. Photo: Shawn Onsgard/Facebook

Even support from Borough President Eric Adams, who appoints community board members, wasn’t enough to revive the plan. Instead, in what DOT described as a compromise with CB 3, the agency spent yesterday installing four speed humps near three schools that would have been in the Slow Zone.

DOT policy prohibits speed humps on streets with bus routes or with more than one lane of traffic. That rules out Franklin Avenue, which would have received a lower speed limit and traffic calming measures if the Slow Zone was implemented. Elizabeth Giddens is a member of the Brooklyn Waldorf School parents association, which asked DOT to consider the neighborhood for traffic calming. ”Franklin, which needs the most attention, is getting the least,” she said in an email. “It has the worst numbers for speeding, injuries, and deaths.”

Franklin is two lanes wide between Lafayette Avenue and Atlantic Avenue in Bed Stuy, but just one lane wide elsewhere thanks to a recent road diet project. Giddens said she hopes DOT will consider slimming the rest of Franklin to one lane and installing a speed camera on the street.

West of Classon Avenue, the story is different: Implementation of a Slow Zone is expected to be complete this month [PDF]. Why not in Bed Stuy? It all comes down to community board boundaries. Classon is the dividing line between CB 2 and CB 3. In February, CB 2 voted in favor of a Slow Zone bounded by Washington Avenue, Lafayette Avenue, Bedford Avenue, and Fulton Street, while CB 3 rejected it. Board chair Tremaine Wright told Streetsblog days later that dangerous driving is “not an issue in our community.”

“Drivers race on Bedford, Classon and Franklin all the time,” said Coco Fusco, who has lived on Monroe Street between Franklin and Classon Avenues for 15 years. “One guy drove through my front fence a few years ago,” she said. “I find it very strange and problematic that CB 3 has not provided an argument against the Slow Zone. The CB 3 leader dropped it rather than deal with a mountain of popular support.”

CB 3 chair Tremaine Wright has not responded to a request for comment.

Update: “Pursuing anything less than the fully planned Slow Zone sends the wrong message,” Borough President Adams said in a statement.

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PS 41 Parents and Staff Build Momentum for Protected Bike Lane on 7th Ave

What began as a push to extend a neighborhood slow zone has grown into a complete streets request for Seventh Avenue. Image: PS 41 Parents

What began as a push to extend a neighborhood slow zone has grown into a complete streets request for Seventh Avenue. Image: PS 41 Parents [PDF]

Manhattan community boards have already asked DOT to study protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands for Amsterdam, Fifth, and Sixth Avenues. Now a coalition of public school parents, teachers, and administrators is making headway in a campaign to redesign Seventh Avenue with a complete streets focus that protects pedestrians and cyclists.

Last Thursday, CB 2′s transportation committee unanimously passed a resolution asking DOT to study the avenue below 14th Street. CB 4′s transportation committee, covering Chelsea, is likely to take up the request next month.

The push for complete streets on Seventh Avenue began with concerns about intersections on Seventh Avenue South, which runs through the West Village from 11th Street until it becomes Varick Street at the intersection of Clarkson and Carmine. Built along with the IRT subway, the avenue opened in 1919, slashing across the West Village’s diagonal street grid and creating multi-leg intersections that continue to pose a threat to pedestrians.

It’s these intersections that worry a group led by PS 41 principal Kelly Shannon and Heather Campbell, chair of the school’s Parents’ Action Committee. The group had asked DOT to extend the West Village neighborhood slow zone eastward to cover schools between Seventh and Sixth Avenues. After the city rejected that request in July, the parents came back to CB 2′s transportation committee last week, focused on improving safety at multi-leg intersections along Seventh Avenue South.

They presented a complete streets redesign featuring a protected bike lane, pedestrian islands, and a northward extension of the median made out of flexible posts that currently divides traffic on Varick Street approaching the Holland Tunnel [PDF]. The group has also received a letter of support from State Senator Brad Hoylman.

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Tonight: Important Complete Streets Meetings in Manhattan and Queens

Tonight’s a big night for livable streets events, with community board meetings on proposals for Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side, and Long Island City. Plus, join Streetsblog at ARTCRANK if you’re looking for some fun.

Key community board meetings tonight are:

  • Manhattan Community Board 2′s transportation committee will consider a resolution requesting that DOT study complete street treatments for Seventh Avenue South, including protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands. The board has already requested similar changes to Fifth and Sixth Avenues. The effort for Seventh Avenue South grew out of a failed attempt to extend the West Village Slow Zone. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.
  • On the East Side, Manhattan Community Board 3′s transportation committee will hear presentations on the Move NY fair tolling plan and a proposal from DOT to tweak the Clinton Street approach to the Williamsburg Bridge, which is used heavily by bicyclists coming to and from Grand Street. The Lower East Side Business Improvement District will also be presenting its proposals for streetscape improvements on Orchard Street. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.
  • The general meeting of Queens Community Board 2 will hear a presentation from DOT on planned pedestrian safety improvements in Long Island City, covering the Hunter/Crescent Area Triangle. The plan for this area, between Queens Plaza South and 44th Drive, would convert some streets to two-way travel, enlarge pedestrian islands, and add painted curb extensions. DOT already presented an earlier version of the plan to CB 2′s transportation committee in March [PDF]. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.

Not in the mood for a community board meeting? Join Streetsblog at Brooklyn Brewery tonight for ARTCRANK, a celebration of bike culture featuring hand-made, bike-inspired posters created by New York area artists. Plus, there will be food and drink. Limited edition, signed copied of all posters will be available for sale. Admission is free and Streetsblog will be raffling off accessories from Timbuk2 and Shinola, so come show your support.

In other community board news: On Tuesday evening, Manhattan Community Board 7 voted overwhelmingly in support of the West End Avenue road diet. The plan now includes pedestrian islands at 72nd and 79th Streets, in addition to those already planned at 95th and 97th Streets, according to West Side Rag. Milling and paving on West End Avenue has already begun, and Council Member Helen Rosenthal says the new striping will be complete by the end of October.

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CB 7 Committee Unanimously Endorses Road Diet for West End Avenue

The Community Board 7 transportation committee last night unanimously endorsed the DOT proposal to improve pedestrian safety on West End Avenue, where drivers have killed two pedestrians this year.

The plan endorsed last night includes more pedestrian islands than a prior version but no bike lanes. Image: NYC DOT

The plan would convert the street from four through lanes to two, with a flush center median, left turn bays, and pedestrian islands at the intersections where Jean Chambers and Cooper Stock were struck.

The plan presented last night was expanded, according to TA’s Tom DeVito, with pedestrian islands at more intersections. We’ll have specifics in a future post.

No bike lanes are included in the proposal, leaving a lot of street design experts scratching their heads, wondering what happened to the bike-friendly NYC DOT. Cyclists would be left to jockey among moving and double-parked vehicles in a 13-foot lane designated for parking and loading. With bike-share set for a possible expansion uptown, former DOT policy director Jon Orcutt tweeted yesterday that the lack of bike lanes could be a “missed opportunity.”

State Senator Adriano Espaillat and former City Council Member Robert Jackson attended to voice support for the plan. (Jackson is currently challenging Espaillat for his senate seat.) Espaillat said he would like DOT to implement safety measures on Amsterdam Avenue as well. Last December CB 7 asked DOT to study a protected bike lane on Amsterdam. DOT recently said the agency would present its findings soon.

The next CB 7 full board meeting is set for September 2.

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Tonight: Speak Up for Pedestrian Safety on Deadly West End Avenue

Image: NYC DOT

Image: NYC DOT

Tonight, the transportation committee of Manhattan Community Board 7 will vote on a DOT proposal to improve safety on West End Avenue, where drivers have killed two pedestrians in 2014. If you live, work, or play on the Upper West Side, your voice could put this proposal over the top.

West End Avenue serves as a thoroughfare for drivers entering and exiting the Henry Hudson Parkway. It is lined with schools and, as home to a high population of seniors, is within a DOT Safe Streets for Seniors focus area. From 2008 to 2012, 148 pedestrians and cyclists were injured in traffic crashes on West End Avenue from W. 75th Street to W. 106th Street, with 11 severe injuries, according to DOT. During that time, 168 motor vehicle occupants were injured, eight severely, which gives some indication of how fast motorists drive on the street.

DOT proposes to give West End Avenue a road diet, converting it from four through lanes to two from W. 72nd Street to W. 106th Street, and adding a flush center median with left turn lanes, with 13-foot parking lanes on both sides [PDF].

DOT would prohibit northbound left turns at W. 97th Street and southbound lefts at W. 95th Street — intersections where drivers killed Cooper Stock and Jean Chambers, respectively. Pedestrian islands would be installed in the north and south crosswalks at W. 95th and W. 97th Streets.

A southbound right turn lane would be added curbside at W. 96th Street. Parking would be removed from the west side of West End Avenue between 97th and 96th, which would improve pedestrian visibility. A current parking restriction on the south side of W. 95th Street from Riverside Drive to West End Avenue would be lifted.

No bike lanes are included in the DOT proposal.

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Another UWS Pedestrian Killed as Safety Recommendations Sit on the Shelf

Existing conditions at W. 95th Street and West End Avenue, where a driver fatally struck Jean Chambers Thursday. Chamber was hit in the north crosswalk as the driver turned left from W. 95th onto northbound West End Ave. Image: Nelson\Nygaard

Existing conditions at W. 95th Street and West End Avenue, where a driver fatally struck Jean Chambers Thursday. Chambers was hit in the north crosswalk as the driver turned left from W. 95th onto northbound West End Ave. Image: Nelson\Nygaard

A proposal for safety improvements on the Upper West Side might have prevented the crash that killed a pedestrian Thursday, but the plan was not acted upon by Community Board 7 or DOT.

At approximately 11 a.m. yesterday a 50-year-old motorist turning left from W. 95th Street onto West End Avenue struck Jean Chambers in the crosswalk, knocking her underneath the Ford SUV he was driving, according to reports.

Jean Chambers. Photo via DNAinfo

Jean Chambers. Photo via DNAinfo

From DNAinfo:

“She had the walk sign and the light was green for the car too,” said doorman Bilbil Loka, 32, who witnessed the accident from his post at 710 West End Ave. “But the driver made a very short left turn, going uptown.”

“He dragged her for almost 30 feet, everybody heard her scream.”

Chambers, an artist who lived nearby, was pronounced dead at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital. She was 61.

The intersection where Chambers was killed was one of a number of Upper West Side crossings included in a 2013 pedestrian safety study by consulting firm Nelson\Nygaard [PDF]. The study was commissioned by local City Council members, but Community Board 7 sat on the report’s recommendations until a series of pedestrian deaths this year spurred residents to demand action from the city.

Following the deaths of  Cooper StockAlexander Shear, and Samantha Lee — all killed by drivers within the study area last January — DOT added pedestrian space and turn restrictions at Broadway and W. 96th Street, where Lee was struck.

Plans for other intersections remain on the shelf, despite known hazards to pedestrians. The study, for example, describes conditions that led to the crash that killed Jean Chambers: “vehicles turn left northbound from W 95 St onto West End Ave at wide angles and high speeds, creating pedestrian conflicts.”

In the wake of the fourth pedestrian fatality in the same immediate area this year, DOT says it may give pedestrians more crossing time at the intersection where yesterday’s crash occurred, will institute a left turn ban there for 10 hours a week, and is considering a new speed bump.

To slow drivers down, Nelson\Nygaard recommends more substantial changes, including curb extensions, pedestrian islands, and banning left turns.

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One of the Most Dangerous Streets in the Bronx Is Getting a Road Diet

White Plains Road, running 2.8 miles between East Tremont and Birchall Avenues, is one of the Bronx’s most dangerous streets, with more traffic deaths and severe injuries than 90 percent of the other streets in the borough. Most of this wide, overbuilt road is set to receive a road diet by September, converting two lanes to one lane in each direction while adding a striped center median and turn lane. The plan has already gained the unanimous support of both community boards along the street.

It's a start: A road diet would refresh painted markings and drop much of White Plains Road, shown here between Story and Lafayette Avenues, from four lanes to three. Image: DOT

It’s a start: A road diet would refresh painted markings and drop much of White Plains Road, shown here between Story and Lafayette Avenues, from four lanes to three. Image: DOT

Since 2007, there have been eight fatalities on this section of White Plains Road, with an average of 230 injuries each year. The intersection with Morris Park Avenue ranks as one of the top 20 pedestrian crash locations in the city, according to DOT, with five pedestrians killed or seriously injured from 2007 to 2011 [PDF]. DOT brought radar guns out to the street and found that between 48 and 68 percent of drivers were speeding, which is the leading cause of fatal crashes in NYC.

The road diet should cut down on speeding, but there is one section of White Plains Road that won’t be getting a lane reduction. The half-mile section between the Bruckner and Cross Bronx Expressways will retain a layout that squeezes as many car lanes as possible into the street’s 60-foot width. DOT said that it is proposing more modest tweaks to intersections on this stretch because of congestion in this area, which carries more cars than the rest of the street.

On this stretch, DOT is proposing turn restrictions where White Plains Road crosses the Cross Bronx Expressway and Westchester Avenue. The plan would ban left turns from eastbound Westchester Avenue to northbound White Plains Road and from the westbound Cross Bronx service road to southbound White Plains Road. It also adds high-visibility zebra crosswalks to White Plains Road and Westchester Avenue, where markings have worn away.

Areas receiving a road diet will see parking lanes widened to 14 feet. That’s enough space for bike lanes, but there are none in the plan. Similar extra-wide parking lanes have been installed on Southern Boulevard in the Bronx, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in Harlem, and Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, among other locations.

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