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CB 7 Committee Asks DOT for Amsterdam Protected Bike Lane “Immediately”

On Tuesday, the Manhattan Community Board 7 transportation committee unanimously passed a resolution asking DOT to immediately install a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue in the neighborhood.

Will DOT finally tame this street? Photo: Daniel/Flickr

Will DOT finally tame this street? Photo: Daniel/Flickr

DOT has built out a southbound protected bike lane on Columbus Avenue from 110th Street almost to Columbus Circle over the past five years, but the city has not created a parallel route for people biking uptown. With Citi Bike on track to arrive on the Upper West Side this summer, time is running out to build a safe northbound bike route in the neighborhood before a new wave of cyclists hit the streets.

The latest request for a northbound protected bike lane comes more than a year and a half after the board unanimously asked DOT to redesign Amsterdam Avenue. Elected officials and the community board are asking DOT to stop delaying. In April, Council Member Helen Rosenthal called on DOT to install a protected bike lane on Amsterdam.

“CB 7 called for immediate implementation of a northbound protected bike lane,” said committee member Howard Yaruss. The resolution now goes to the CB 7 full board on July 7.

Asked if it is going to come out with a proposal, DOT again told Streetsblog that it is reviewing possible safety enhancements on Amsterdam.

Tuesday’s meeting was marked by hemming and hawing from some board members, including transportation committee co-chairs Andrew Albert and Dan Zweig. The issue of bike lanes didn’t even come up until about two hours into the meeting.

“I was honestly worried that we weren’t ever going to get to talk about street safety,” said Upper West Side resident Willow Stelzer. “The goal was to sideline and delay.”

“At every turn, at every mention of this, the chairs seemed to brush it aside,” said Upper West Side resident Finn Vigeland. “It just seemed like the chairs were not receptive to this issue.”

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Queens CB 2 Votes Unanimously in Favor of Queens Blvd Protected Bike Lane

Queens Boulevard will be redesigned this summer before being reconstructed in 2018. Image: DOT [PDF]

Queens Boulevard will be redesigned this summer before being reconstructed in 2018. Image: DOT [PDF]

Big changes are coming to Queens Boulevard in Woodside this summer after a unanimous vote last night from Queens Community Board 2 for a DOT redesign.

The plan will add protected bike lanes and expand pedestrian space on 1.3 miles of the “Boulevard of Death,” from Roosevelt Avenue to 74th Street [PDF]. Six people were killed on this stretch of Queens Boulevard between 2009 and 2013, including two pedestrians and one cyclist, according to DOT. Over the same period, 36 people suffered serious injuries, the vast majority in motor vehicles.

DOT plans on implementing the design in July and August with temporary materials before building it out with concrete in 2018. It’s the first phase in a $100 million, multi-year project to transform the notoriously dangerous Queens Boulevard between Sunnyside and Forest Hills.

“It was an incredibly important and, dare I say, historic moment for Queens and for the safe streets movement,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. “Having a bike lane on Queens Boulevard — I can remember several years ago, people saying to me, ‘That is the most pie-in-the-sky, ridiculous harebrained notion ever. It’ll never happen.’ But, you know, it’s gonna happen. It’s happening. That is seismic, in terms of the shift in where the thinking has gone.”

“We have come up with what I consider to be one of our most creative and exciting proposals that this department has ever put together,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told CB 2 last night. “It’s going to greatly enhance safety. It’s going to make the road more pleasant and more attractive for pedestrians, for cyclists, for the people who live and have their business on Queens Boulevard. And it will keep the traffic flowing, as well.”

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DOT, CB 12 Hold Firm as Cranks Attack Fort George Hill Bike Lane

Some residents of Fort George Hill were upset by a new protected bike lane. Image: DOT [PDF]

Fort George Hill co-op owners had a freak-out over a new protected bike lane at a Manhattan Community Board 12 transportation committee meeting Monday evening.

The bike lane, installed earlier this year to provide a safe two-way connection between Washington Heights and Inwood, was among a handful of streets CB 12 suggested to DOT for bike lanes in 2012. The agency came back with a proposal for Fort George Hill last year, and received the board’s sign-off before installing it this spring. Installation is still underway.

That didn’t keep some residents of Fort George Hill co-op buildings from getting upset about the change. About 25 people packed Monday’s meeting to show their displeasure. “How come we didn’t have an open meeting with the buildings before this thing was built?” asked Paul J. Hintersteiner, president of the co-op board at 17 Fort George Hill. “Nobody knew anything about it until it happened.”

Things escalated from there, with some residents yelling at DOT staff and demanding that the bike lane be removed.

“They don’t care about anybody in the neighborhood. They care about putting in the bike lanes,” said Abraham Jacob, 58, who didn’t like the street redesign because his car gets snowed in during the winter. (The bike lane was installed this spring.) “When the winter comes, I don’t like to take the subway. I don’t take the subway. I haven’t taken the subway since I graduated high school in 1974,” he said. “So I have the choice of either taking the subway or losing my job. So where’s DOT’s concern on that?”

The audience applauded in support. “Thank you,” said CB 12 member Jim Berlin.

DOT and most CB 12 members tried to take the verbal abuse in stride. “We understand that it is a very upsetting situation for the residents there,” replied committee chair Yahaira Alonzo. “Going back to the way it was is not an option.”

Some spoke in support of the changes. Fort George Hill residents Sergiy Nosulya and Jonathan Rabinowitz spoke separately about how grateful they they are to be able to ride bikes down the hill legally and without heading straight into oncoming car traffic.

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2 Queens Community Board Members Hold Up a Safety Project for Thousands

Are two Community Board 4 members enough to stop a redesign of this Corona speedway? Photo: DOT [PDF]

Are two Community Board 4 members enough to stop a redesign of this Corona speedway? Photo: DOT [PDF]

The transportation committee of Queens Community Board 4, which covers Corona and Elmhurst, is comprised of three people. On Monday evening, two of them showed up to a meeting — that’s quorum, apparently — and they really, really did not want any changes to 111th Street.

Here’s the backstory: The Queens Museum, working with Immigrant Movement International, Make the Road New York, and Transportation Alternatives, began working last year with local residents to make 111th Street — a multi-lane speedway dividing Corona from Flushing Meadows Corona Park — safer and more beautiful. In July, the groups hosted a Vision Zero workshop to gather suggestions. In September, they organized a daffodil planting on the 111th Street median.

The effort garnered the support of Council Member Julissa Ferreras, who allocated $2.7 million in discretionary capital funds for a street redesign. Earlier this year, DOT presented its plan, which would reduce the number of car lanes to make room for wider medians, a two-way protected bike lane, and parking. The plan also includes new crosswalks.

The CB 4 committee members were not pleased. They feared that reducing the number of car lanes on this extra-wide street would lead to traffic congestion, and asked DOT to come back.

The agency tweaked its plan, moving a bike route in the proposal from 114th Street to 108th Street. DOT measured traffic during special events, and concluded that any congestion could be mitigated by adjusting signal timing, rerouting traffic bound for Citi Field, and working with NYPD to deploy traffic agents.

On Monday evening, DOT presented the revised plan [PDF] to the committee of two — James Lisa and Ann Pfoser Darby. (Joseph DiMartino, the chair of the committee, was not there.) Ferreras came to show her support for the plan.

Lisa and Darby didn’t care.

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DOT Waffles on Bed-Stuy Ped Safety Project After Resistance From CB 3

A plan to improve safety at a busy Bedford-Stuyvesant intersection [PDF] may not move forward after members of Brooklyn Community Board 3 opposed it, according to two CB 3 transportation committee members.

DOT buckled after Bed-Stuy community board members said pedestrian safety changes at this intersection would lead to traffic congestion. Image: DOT [PDF]

DOT buckled after Bed-Stuy community board members said pedestrian safety changes at this intersection would lead to traffic congestion. Image: DOT [PDF]

DOT’s Claudette Workman revealed the news at the CB 3 transportation committee meeting on May 13, said Shawn Onsgard, a public member of the committee. “She just said [it] off the cuff,” he told Streetsblog. “She was taking the safety changes off the table.”

“They said they may not do it, but then again they may do it,” said CB 3 member Doug Williams. “It depends on how much support they get.”

Asked for the status of the project, DOT spokesperson Bonny Tsang said the agency is “still discussing the project with local stakeholders.” DOT did not reply to a question asking if it has stopped moving forward with the design, which it presented to the committee last month.

Update 1:45 p.m.: “We are still discussing this project with the local stakeholders — in fact, we will be meeting with the Council Member, the District Manager and the CB Chair,” Tsang said. “We never said that we are not doing the safety improvements. As we do with many projects, we discuss with the local community if they have concerns about the project and try to address them.”

Onsgard and Williams said most board members were worried that closing two “slip” lanes, which allow drivers to make quick right turns from Fulton Street to Utica Avenue and Malcolm X Boulevard, would create congestion. Closing the lanes would create additional space for pedestrians, reducing crossing distances for people transferring between the B46, B25, and A/C trains.

“That slip turn is dangerous,” Williams said. “I would hope that they would change it.”

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CB 7 Chair Says Its Street Safety Task Force Isn’t About Street Safety

At the beginning of 2014, drivers killed three people — Cooper Stock, Alexander Shear, and Samantha Lee — on the Upper West Side in a matter of days. Neighbors turned out by the hundreds at vigils for the victims, and came out again to pack meetings demanding action. In response, Community Board 7 formed a street safety task force. More than a year later, there’s little to show for it, and now CB 7 chair Elizabeth Caputo says the task force wasn’t created to tackle street safety issues in the first place.

"." Photo: LinkedIn

“The intent was never to be a street safety task force,” says CB 7 chair Elizabeth Caputo. Photo: LinkedIn

The task force was created a month after Mayor de Blasio unveiled his Vision Zero agenda at an Upper West Side school near where Stock, Shear, and Lee were killed. Led by board member and city planner Ethel Sheffer, it was formed to address “street safety, design, and livability,” according to minutes from March 2014 [PDF]. Sheffer said the group would meet monthly or bi-monthly, reported DNAinfo.

“We want to make it clear that we are working hard on this,” Caputo said at the time.

More than a year later, the task force has stalled, and Caputo says it was never meant to be a street safety task force.

“It was never designed to meet more than a couple times a year,” she told Streetsblog on Tuesday. “It was not, and it was never intended to be, a way to remove safety issues out of [the transportation] committee and onto another committee.”

Longtime transportation committee co-chairs Andrew Albert and Dan Zweig have stood in the way of street safety improvements in the neighborhood since the 1990s.

“The intent was never to be a street safety task force,” Caputo continued. “CB 7 is committed to safety on every committee, and in particular on this one, on transportation.” Next month’s transportation committee meeting, she said, will be devoted to a broad range of bicycle safety and education issues.

One task force member had a very different take on the current situation. “It just sort of disappeared,” he said. “I understood that the goal was supposed to be traffic safety and then I was told it wasn’t traffic safety, but that it was some sort of amorphous design of the community. I don’t know what that means.”

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Why Is Queens BP Melinda Katz Refusing to Divulge 2015 CB Appointments?

Streetsblog has filed a freedom of information request after Queens Borough President Melinda Katz refused to provide us a list of 2015 community board appointments.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz thinks parking mandates are more important than Photo: MelindaKatz/Twitter

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. Photo: MelindaKatz/Twitter

Community boards play an outsized role in determining how safe New York City streets are for walking, biking, and driving. Though their votes are supposed to be advisory, DOT rarely implements a project without the blessing of the local board. This holds true even for proposals that are intended to keep people from being injured and killed by motorists.

In Queens, community boards have skirted voting rules to renounce livable streets projects, rejected a request from a small business for a bike corral, declared that secure bike parking has “no purpose,” and prioritized auto traffic lanes over safety at Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

On the upside, Queens CBs endorsed safety measures for Northern Boulevard, Broadway, and Queens Boulevard, three of the borough’s most dangerous streets for walking and biking. With DOT poised to make improvements prescribed by the agency’s pedestrian safety action plan, including the long-awaited redesign of Queens Boulevard, community boards will help shape the borough’s streetscape, for better or worse, for the foreseeable future.

Community board members are nominated by council members and borough presidents, though beeps ultimately decide who is appointed. For some idea of how fossilized boards can become, safe streets opponents Vinicio Donato and Lucille Hartmann made news recently by stepping down from Queens CB 1 after 40 years. As a candidate for borough president, Katz said she supported term limits for community board members, but she now opposes them.

Given the power wielded by community boards, borough presidents should release appointee lists publicly as a matter of course, with each person’s professional affiliations, length of tenure, and the elected official who recommended them. Of the five current borough presidents, Manhattan’s Gale Brewer comes closest to the ideal — though it remains a mystery why Brewer continues to reappoint people who are obstacles to safer streets and better transit.

The appointment process is normally completed by early April of each year. Katz, who took office in 2014, released the names of her first round of new appointees last June, but not a list of every appointee.

After Streetsblog submitted multiple inquiries to Katz’s office requesting a list of 2015 community board appointees, press coordinator Michael Scholl declined to send one and recommended filing a freedom of information request instead.

Why would Katz’s office withhold information that other borough presidents make public via press release? That’s an open question. Meanwhile, I filed a FOIL for 2015 and 2014 Queens community board appointees.

We’ll have updates on this story as it develops.

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Canarsie Set to Get On-Street Bike/Ped Connection to Jamaica Bay Greenway

The proposed bikeway (in red) joins a lane installed last year on Paerdegat Avenue North. Map: DOT

The proposed 1.75-mile biking and walking path (in red) will connect to the Jamaica Bay Greenway. Map: DOT

DOT has proposed a 1.75-mile on-street biking and walking path from Flatlands Avenue to the Jamaica Bay Greenway [PDF]. The plan received the support of Brooklyn Community Board 18, which had rejected bike lanes proposed for other streets in the neighborhood.

The project route follows Shore Parkway, E. 102nd Street, Seaview Avenue, and E. 108th Street, which border Canarsie Park and Fresh Creek Nature Preserve. It would function as a protected path for both biking and walking on streets that currently lack sidewalks along park edges. To create a safe bike connection to the Jamaica Bay Greenway and Canarsie Pier, Jersey barriers will be added along the northern edge of Canarsie Circle. The multi-lane rotary will also get a road diet and high-visibility crosswalks, improving safety for the 16,000 visitors who get to Canarsie Pier by walking or biking each year.

To making room for the path, eastbound Seaview Avenue will be trimmed from three lanes to two between E. 102nd and E. 108th Streets. Car parking will be removed from E. 102nd Street but will be added to Seaview, resulting in a net addition of approximately five parking spaces, plus a new bus stop island. The northbound traffic lane on E. 108th Street will also be eliminated.

Community Board 18 voted to support the project at its meeting on April 15, according to DOT. The agency expects to install it early this summer.

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DOT Proposes Road Diets for Two Uptown Avenues

Two dangerous uptown avenues could get road diets and bike lanes this summer under a DOT plan presented to the Manhattan Community Board 12 transportation committee on Monday [PDF]. A plan for Sherman Avenue received the committee’s support, while a design for St. Nicholas Avenue is headed for at least one more month of review.

Map: DOT [PDF]

The CB 12 transportation committee backs a plan for Sherman Avenue but wants more time to consider an identical proposal for St. Nicholas Avenue. Map: DOT [PDF]

There were 25 serious injuries on the 1.2 miles of St. Nicholas Avenue between 169th and 193rd streets from 2009 to 2013, according to DOT, putting it in the most dangerous third of Manhattan streets. Five intersections — at 175th, 177th, 178th, 181st, and 185th streets — are more dangerous than 90 percent of the borough’s intersections.

On Sherman, there were seven serious injuries and two fatalities from 2009 to 2013, according to DOT. Two of its intersections, at Academy and Dyckman streets, ranked in the top 10 percent of Manhattan’s most dangerous intersections.

Sherman and St. Nicholas are both 60 feet wide. Each would receive a road diet replacing two car lanes in each direction with one car lane plus a center turn lane and a striped bike lane. CB 12 had asked for bike lanes in the area in 2012. The projects do not include concrete pedestrian islands, though DOT says they could be added at a later date.

The biggest changes would come to the intersection of Sherman Avenue and Broadway, where the slip lane from northbound Broadway onto Sherman would be replaced by an super-sized curb extension that forces drivers to slow down when turning (see below). A median pedestrian island would be added on Sherman, and an existing triangle island on the north side of the intersection would be enlarged. DOT says pedestrian crossing distances will be shortened by 38 percent, from 118 to 73 feet.

“People didn’t really have issues with the proposal for Sherman,” said Liz Ritter, who attended the meeting and sits on the board but not the transportation committee. “It looks like that’s totally going to work out.”

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Here’s Where Citi Bike Stations Will Go on the Upper East Side

Map: DOT [PDF]

DOT is planning 39 bike-share stations on the Upper East Side between 59th and 96th Streets. Stations below 86th Street could be up and running by late summer or early fall. Map: DOT [PDF]

At a meeting hosted by the Manhattan Community Board 8 transportation committee last night, DOT unveiled a map showing 39 planned Citi Bike station locations on the Upper East Side [PDF]. The city said it expects service to be operating as far north as 86th Street by late summer or early fall, with further expansion next year.

The station locations were identified after a multi-year planning process, followed by a public workshop in February, where DOT asked the public to suggest station locations.

With narrow sidewalks throughout much of the neighborhood, most of the 37 stations, with an average of 35 docks each, will be installed in the roadbed. DOT is still working with NYCHA and tenants associations on exact locations for two stations near Isaacs Houses and Holmes Towers between 91st and 96th streets and between First and York Avenues.

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