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Brooklyn CB 3 Votes Against Saving Lives in Bed-Stuy and Clinton Hill

Heat map of crashes within the proposed Clinton Hill/Bed-Stuy Slow Zone from August 2011 through December 2013. Click to enlarge. Image: ##http://nyc.crashmapper.com/11/8/13/12/standard/collisions/2/17/40.685/-73.960##NYC Crashmapper##

Heat map of crashes within the proposed Clinton Hill/Bed-Stuy Slow Zone from August 2011 through December 2013. Click to enlarge. Image: NYC Crashmapper

On Monday, Brooklyn Community Board 3 voted against a Slow Zone in a crash-prone area that encompasses parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Clinton Hill. Opponents said slowing down drivers would cause gridlock, and the board doubted that slower speeds would reduce crashes, according to DNAinfo.

The proposed zone is bordered by Washington Avenue, Lafayette Avenue, Bedford Avenue, and Fulton Street. DOT data show the .2-square mile area has an average of 62.4 traffic injuries a year, and six severe injuries or fatalities per road mile. There are four schools inside the zone and eight pre-K or daycare centers. Scores of pedestrians and cyclists were injured by motorists within the proposed zone area between August 2011 and December 2013, according to NYPD data mined by NYC Crashmapper.

DOT only proposes Slow Zones where residents apply for them. DNAinfo reported that 14 local groups and officials endorsed the Clinton Hill/Bed-Stuy zone, which is one of five slated to be installed this year. The Community Board 2 transportation committee voted in favor of the Slow Zone last month, with a vote by the full board expected Wednesday.

After a 45-minute presentation from DOT, CB 3 members voted 27-4 against writing a letter of support.

[T]he department struggled on Monday to make its case for the plan with a presentation critics called confusing. They said it lacked specific details on how the plan would lead to a decrease in accidents.

“Was there a traffic study done?” asked board secretary Kimberly Hill. “Your presentation lacks the data necessary for us to feel comfortable and confident.”

“Classon Avenue is a traffic jam during the morning hours, and they blow their horns and blow their horns,” said Demetrice Mills, president of the Classon-FulGate Block Association, which rescinded its support for the zone. ”Making the speed limit even slower will make things even worse.”

First, if people are honking, they’re already going slower than 20 miles per hour. A 20 mph zone won’t make gridlock worse, but it will slow drivers on streets where they are currently able to drive at unsafe speeds.

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Manhattan Community Boards Want to Fix 57 Dangerous Places for Peds

Yesterday, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer compiled a list of 57 pedestrian danger hotspots identified by community board district managers and sent it to city agency heads serving on Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero task force. Many of the locations in Brewer’s list have a long track record as dangerous locations, including many where people have died crossing the street.

Photo: Camila Schaulsohn/AIA-NY

Photo: Camila Schaulsohn/AIA-NY

“It’s essential that the proper resources be dedicated to implementation and enforcement” of safety fixes at these and other locations, Brewer wrote in her letter to Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg [PDF]. “This list is not meant to be exhaustive or definitive… but represents community input to help inform the Task Force.”

The mayor’s Vision Zero task force is charged with coming up with a strategy by February 15 to eliminate traffic fatalities within a decade. It includes the police, transportation, health and taxi commissioners.

In her letter, Brewer also said that district managers wanted more comprehensive and uniform crash data from DOT and NYPD so they could be better informed about pedestrian safety needs in their neighborhoods. “Many advocates have expressed frustration with the way that NYPD has historically published many datasets in static, PDF formats,” she wrote. As a council member, Brewer led the push for city agencies to release easily-accessible data. “I would urge NYPD and all City agencies to publish real-time data in open, machine- readable formats, such as CSV or Excel.”

The locations identified by district managers [PDF] were chosen for a number of reasons, including a history of fatalities or injuries, confusing design or signal timing, wide crossing distances and insufficient crossing times, high volumes of turning drivers, and lack of traffic enforcement.

Brewer requested three locations from each district manager. Some replied with only one location in need of pedestrian safety improvements, while others listed as many as 15 intersections and streets. At some of the locations, DOT has not proposed safety enhancements. At others, plans are awaiting community board support or have already been installed.

A couple of these locations have been the site of NYPD traffic enforcement operations, including some against pedestrians, but most are not known to have already been targeted by police.

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CB 9 Stands by Morningside Road Diet, But DOT Does Not

Council Member Mark Levine, left, and CB 9 support the Morningisde Avenue road diet, but DOT is coming up with a second plan because Council Member Inez Dickens, right, and members of CB 10 oppose removing car lanes. Borough President Gale Brewer, center, who appoints CB members, has not weighed in. Photos: NYC Council

Council Member Mark Levine, left, and Manhattan Community Board 9 support the Morningisde Avenue road diet, but DOT is coming up with a second plan because Council Member Inez Dickens, right, and members of CB 10 oppose removing excess car lanes. Borough President Gale Brewer, center, who appoints CB members, has not weighed in. Photos: NYC Council

A plan to improve pedestrian safety on speeding-plagued Morningside Avenue in Harlem, supported by one community board but stalled by another, is on track for months of additional meetings as DOT goes back to the drawing board.

The current plan, which would remove excess car lanes to create space for turn lanes and pedestrian islands, received a vote of support from Community Board 9 back in November. Earlier this month, Council Member Mark Levine and State Senator Adriano Espaillat urged DOT to move ahead to prevent crashes on a 10-block stretch that had 102 injuries from 2007 to 2011 according to city data. But many members of CB 10, which also covers the area and, like CB 9, plays an advisory role on the issue, are vociferously opposed to removing car lanes — the central safety measure in the plan.

So far, DOT has allowed CB 10 to block the traffic safety plan. This week, the agency said it’s preparing “additional design proposals” to present to both boards in the coming months.

“They’re going to come up with an alternate plan,” said Jonathon Kahn, a steering committee member of the North Star Neighborhood Association, which requested action from DOT after its members expressed concerns about the danger of crossing Morningside. “I expect pretty vigorous discussions once the alternate plan is out.”

Kahn said that, in his discussions with DOT, it did not appear that the agency was completely scrapping its design, but instead coming up with a second proposal that could incorporate CB 10′s objection to removing car lanes.

DOT did not respond to questions about what its new plan will include, but North Star, which will be holding a meeting to discuss Morningside Avenue in about a month, wants the focus to remain squarely on pedestrian safety. “We definitely want to see measures that slow traffic,” Kahn said. “We would also like to see more safe opportunities to cross the street.”

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Brewer Asks Community Boards to Identify Dangerous Places for Walking

When it comes to street safety improvements, New York’s community boards are usually in a position where they react to proposals from NYC DOT. Now, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer could turn that dynamic on its head: She’s asked each board’s district manager to identify three traffic safety hotspots, saying that she’ll work with city agencies to make sure they’re addressed.

Photo: Camila Schaulsohn/AIA-NY

Photo: Camila Schaulsohn/AIA-NY

The issue tops the agenda at the monthly meeting Brewer will hold with community board district managers tomorrow evening.

“Citywide proposals such as lowering the speed limit will help, but a plan that will work has to be detailed and comprehensive. That means working with Community Boards and the Department of Transportation, as well as NYPD,” Brewer said in a press release. “I support Mayor de Blasio’s ‘Vision Zero’ plan and look forward to submitting a master list of these hotspots to his traffic task force.”

De Blasio has directed his Vision Zero task force to come up with a plan by February 15 outlining how to eliminate traffic fatalities within a decade.

Streetsblog has asked all 12 Manhattan district managers about locations they’ve identified for traffic safety improvements.

CB 11 manager George Sarkissian is hoping DOT will make improvements along the Park Avenue Metro-North viaduct, which has poor visibility for drivers and pedestrians, resulting in a history of deadly crashes. DOT has installed curb extensions at a few locations; Sarkissian said he hopes they can be added along the entire stretch of Park Avenue between 102nd and 111th Streets. Also of concern: Heavy car traffic accessing the 96th Street Transverse across Central Park and along Pleasant Avenue from 114th to 120th Streets heading to and from the big-box stores at East River Plaza.

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Video: Drivers Endanger Lives on Morningside Avenue as CB 10 Dithers

While Manhattan Community Board 10 fails to take action, proposed measures to make Morningside Avenue safer for pedestrians continue to languish.

Among other changes, DOT has proposed restriping Morningside between 116th Street and 126th Street from two lanes in each direction to one lane in each direction with a center striped median, concrete pedestrian islands and left turn lanes [PDF]. Community Board 9 voted in favor of the road diet last November, but the plan is stuck in the CB 10 transportation committee, which has held numerous meetings on the project without taking a vote.

At their latest meeting, held earlier this month, people who attended told Streetsblog that CB 10 members passed a resolution calling for more information from DOT, which they said is necessary before deciding whether to endorse traffic-calming on Morningside.

For this video, Harlem resident Maurice Sessoms interviewed people about conditions on the wide avenue, where he clocked motorists traveling as fast as 47 miles per hour. As indicated in the video, a pedestrian struck by a vehicle moving at 40 mph has only a 15 percent chance of surviving.

“I don’t think that it’s safe at all,” said a crossing guard. “I’ve been working on this corner for three years now. The cars speed, they go across the crosswalk. They don’t slow down when it’s raining, when it’s snowing. In bad weather they’re speeding.”

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DOT Proposes Crosswalk Fix Where Renee Thompson Was Killed

In September, 16-year-old Renee Thompson was walking to the subway after getting off work just after 10 p.m., when, crossing Third Avenue at 60th Street, she was hit and killed by a turning truck driver. Now DOT is proposing shorter crossing distances at the intersection, but  Community Board 8′s transportation committee wants the agency to go further and also look at the dangers pedestrians face just one block away, where drivers jostle along Second Avenue to get on to the Queensboro Bridge.

The plan adds curb extensions to two corners at 60th Street and Third Aveune. Image: DOT

The plan adds curb extensions to two corners at 60th Street and Third Aveune. Image: DOT

The plan [PDF], which adds painted curb extensions and flex-post bollards to the northwest and southwest corners, would shorten crossing distances on Third Avenue from 65 feet to 53 feet, and on 60th Street from 35 feet to 25 feet. It also adds a left-turn lane on Third Avenee and lengthens the existing left-turn lane from 60th Street to Third Avenue, which is heavily used by trucks heading north after exiting the bridge. Both streets are mapped as truck routes.

Sidewalks at the intersection are crowded, and narrowed by enclosed sidewalk cafes, tree pits, and subway entrances on all four corners.

There were 12 pedestrian injuries at the intersection from 2007 to 2011, according to DOT, and in addition to Thompson’s death last September, there was another fatality at the intersection in 2010: Thomas Richards, 67, of Queens Village was in the crosswalk when he was killed by a cab driver who witnesses say was speeding.

A resolution supporting the curb extension at Third Avenue [PDF] passed the committee unanimously last Thursday and now heads to the full board, which is scheduled to meet tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Hunter College.

The resolution also asks DOT to come back within six months with a pedestrian safety plan for the area around the Queensboro Bridge at Second Avenue, an issue CB 8 transportation committee co-chair A. Scott Falk said DOT staff was receptive to.

“We’re very glad that they’re making a proposal for 60th and Third,” Falk told Streetsblog. ”It’s been one of my priorities for the board in 2014 to get real pedestrian improvements around the bridge.”

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Harlem CBs Look to Weaken Safety Plan; Levine: DOT Should Move Ahead

CB 10′s transportation committee chair is against a road diet on Morningside Avenue, and she wants to bring CB 9 along with her — even though CB 9 already voted in support of the traffic safety plan. Photo: DOT

A 10-block road diet proposed for Morningside Avenue in Harlem continues to face resistance from Manhattan Community Board 10. In the latest development, it seems the transportation committee chair of CB 10 is trying to convince neighboring Community Board 9, which contains the west side of the avenue, to amend its vote in favor of the road diet and fight against it instead. Meanwhile, Council Member Mark Levine says DOT has heard more than enough input from the community boards and urged the agency to move ahead with the project.

Tonight, CB 10′s transportation committee, which has a history of failing to support street safety projects, is set to continue its discussion of the Morningside Avenue proposal, after the full board refused to take action on the matter last week. CB 10′s committee has been discussing the project since at least as far back as September, with members regularly blasting the road diet. Tonight’s committee meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the third-floor conference room of the Harlem State Office Building, 163 West 125th Street.

CB 9 passed a resolution in support of the plan in November [PDF], but board staff and transportation committee chair Carolyn Thompson tell Streetsblog that the committee will reopen the matter at its next meeting on February 6. Under consideration: An amendment that would ask DOT to “identify alternative measures to lane reductions.”

Reducing the number of through lanes from two to one in each direction is the central component of the Morningside Avenue safety plan, imposing order on an excessively wide street that currently encourages a majority of drivers to speed, according to DOT counts. The road diet also creates space for a center median with concrete pedestrian islands and left-turn pockets. Vehicle flow would essentially not be affected, since left-turning vehicles already occupy an entire lane in the current design, except to become safer and more predictable. These features, common in other traffic calming plans throughout the city, have reduced injury-causing crashes 40 percent on Gerritsen Avenue in Brooklyn, which like Morningside borders a park.

The push against the road diet appears to have originated in CB 10, which has fought against traffic calming elsewhere in the neighborhood. Karen Horry, acting chair of CB 10′s transportation committee, said last month that she contacted Thompson, the CB 9 committee chair, to express her surprise that CB 9′s resolution didn’t ask DOT to eliminate the road diet.

“It was agreed between both boards that there will be no lane reduction… CB 9 forgot to put that part on their resolution,” CB 9 staffer Hleziphi Zita told Streetsblog. “So that is why they had to do an amendment.”

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CB 5 Votes Unanimously for DOT Study of Fifth and Sixth Avenue Redesign

Sixth Avenue in Midtown. Photo: Google Maps

After a unanimous vote by its transportation committee last month, Manhattan Community Board 5 voted unanimously last night for DOT to study a complete streets redesign of Fifth and Sixth Avenues to better accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders on two of the busiest avenues in Midtown.

The resolution asks NYPD “to more stringently enforce automobile and bicycle laws” while also requesting a study from DOT “of the merits and feasibility of re-designs of Fifth and Sixth Avenues.” The resolution was amended at last night’s meeting to ask DOT to take the needs of food cart vendors into account with any design it may propose.

Ilona Kramer, chief of staff to Council Member Dan Garodnick, told the board last night that due to redistricting, starting next year Garodnick will represent a large portion of CB 5. Kramer said Garodnick, who has expressed support for a safety study of Fifth and Sixth Avenues, was aware that the board had a resolution about the issue on its agenda last night.

Transportation Alternatives volunteers had collected 10,000 petition signatures and 1,500 handwritten letters, which were delivered to the board last night. “Ten thousand signatures is not insignificant,” said Raju Mann, CB 5′s transportation committee chair, who spoke in favor of the resolution.

In addition, 59 businesses have signed on in support of a complete street redesign. Volunteer Janet Liff said the owner of a Jamba Juice told her: ”Complete streets? Pedestrians love those. And whatever’s good for pedestrians is good for business.”

Eight people spoke in favor of the resolution, and only one, who called for a ban on bicycles on Fifth Avenue at last month’s committee meeting, spoke against it. Attorney Steve Vaccaro, who attended last night’s meeting, praised CB 5′s “no drama, no hate” approach to the issue, which stands in stark contrast with some other community board meetings on street redesign requests.

A redesign of Fifth and Sixth Avenues would also include portions of Community Boards 2 and 4, which are likely to take up the issue in the new year.

Thanks to Steve Vaccaro and Albert Ahronheim for notes from last night’s meeting.

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Harlem’s CB 10 Continues Assault on Safer Streets and Better Buses

This modest change to Morningside Avenue is too radical for Community Board 10. Will it be too radical for Bill de Blasio’s DOT? Image: NYC DOT

According to Harlem’s Community Board 10, there is apparently no such thing as a street redesign worth pursuing. Over the course of two-and-a-half hours Tuesday night, members of the board’s transportation committee declined to support a road diet for Morningside Avenue, attacked a community-based street safety plan installed on Mount Morris Park West, and asked DOT to reconsider Select Bus Service on 125th Street again – this time on the pretense that it would harm the elderly and disabled.

The ongoing dysfunction at CB 10 should be a wake-up call to Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who has promised at least 20 Bus Rapid Transit routes and set a goal of eliminating traffic fatalities in 10 years. As it currently stands, New York’s community board process is incompatible with those goals, since in effect it enables a small group of people to veto changes to the street, sometimes without any meaningful community involvement. Community boards can be venues for constructive feedback and criticism, but too often they are simply forums to say “no” to change.

Each community board is supposed to represent the interests of people who live in the district — upwards of 100,000 people per board. In the CB 10 district, the vast majority of those people don’t own cars and rely on walking and transit. On Tuesday, there were just four committee members in the room, most of them threatening the cancellation of safety improvements proposed for Morningside Avenue, criticizing other traffic calming projects, and complaining about bus enhancements on 125th Street.

The Morningside Avenue redesign, requested by the North Star Neighborhood Association, has already been vetted at a public forum jointly hosted by Community Boards 9 and 10, which both cover the project area. CB 9 has already passed a resolution in support of the plan. Tuesday night, Karen Horry, acting chair of the CB 10 transportation committee, said she was surprised that CB 9′s resolution [PDF] did not ask DOT to reconsider the road diet, which is the centerpiece of the plan. ”The community has a great deal of concern about the lane reductions, so we were hoping you could address alternatives,” she said to Josh Orzeck, representing DOT’s Manhattan borough commissioner’s office at the meeting.

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Starting Tonight, Learn How You Can Join Your Local Community Board

Tuesday’s vote at Manhattan Community Board 7 is a reminder that the road to livable streets progress often goes through the local community board. With that in mind, Transportation Alternatives is kicking off a series of community board join-up meetings this week, where you can apply to serve on your local board.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio addresses Brooklyn Community Board 1 in 2011. Photo: Bill de Blasio

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio addresses Brooklyn Community Board 1 in 2011. Photo: Bill de Blasio

Community boards, while technically advisory in nature, often decide the fate of projects to make streets safer and more livable. “While they are only officially advisory, they do have tremendous impact on what policies end up being pursued,” TA organizer Tom DeVito said. This year’s round of join-up meetings, with one in each borough over the next few weeks, are a continuation of events TA has hosted annually since 2008. ”It started because of the importance that community boards have in the process of determining how our streets look,” DeVito said.

DOT has long presented plans for major street redesigns to community boards, a practice that was codified into law in 2010. Community boards sometimes act to block or slow down livable streets projects. They can also be the venue — as in Brownsville, Staten Island, and western Queens – where communities develop their own plans and ask the city for improvements. The addition of one or two new faces can spell the difference between a community board that says “no” to change, and one that says “yes.”

The first join-up meeting is happening in Manhattan this evening, and an event in Brooklyn is also scheduled for tonight. Borough president-elect Gale Brewer is scheduled to attend the Manhattan session, and TA is awaiting final confirmation from several Manhattan council members. A panel of current community board members will talk about their experience, and a notary will be on hand so attendees can submit their community board applications on the spot.

Community board members are appointed by borough presidents, and many are nominated for consideration by council members. In Manhattan, the community board application review process has already been launched by Borough President Scott Stringer and will be completed by Brewer, with terms beginning in April 2014.

TA says it’s reached out to current and elected borough presidents in all five boroughs, inviting them to the local join-ups. Next week, TA is hosting a meet-up in Queens on Tuesday and the Bronx on Wednesday. A Staten Island event is planned for December 19.