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Bruckner Boulevard Protected Bikeway Clears Bronx CB 2 Committee

Unused road space on Bruckner Boulevard is being reclaimed for a protected bikeway that will eventually connect the Bronx River Greenway to Randall's Island. Images: DOT

Excess road space on Bruckner Boulevard will be claimed for a protected bikeway that will eventually connect the Bronx River Greenway to Randall’s Island. Images: DOT [PDF]

A DOT plan to add pedestrian space and create a two-way protected bikeway along a key half-mile stretch of Bruckner Boulevard received a unanimous thumbs-up from Bronx Community Board 2’s economic development committee Wednesday night [PDF].

“Bruckner Boulevard is a very wide, multi-lane boulevard,” said DOT project manager Kimberly Rancourt. “It has lots of traffic but it also has excess space that isn’t needed for capacity.” The plan repurposes that unused asphalt, currently striped as a buffer zone, to add protected bike lanes in the Bruckner Boulevard median from Hunts Point Avenue to Longwood Avenue.

The area is dangerous, with 585 injuries at the five intersections in the project between 2009 and 2013, including 65 pedestrian injuries and 10 bicyclist injuries. Both Bruckner and Hunts Point were identified as priority corridors in DOT’s Vision Zero Bronx pedestrian safety action plan, and their juncture — often busy with pedestrians going between the 6 train and the Hunts Point neighborhood — is also named a priority intersection. There, DOT is proposing new pedestrian islands, large curb extensions, and a new crosswalk in the boulevard’s median.

The protected bikeway will provide a key link in the South Bronx bicycle network, though it will need to be extended to provide a seamless ride to points south.

To the north, the project connects with Monsignor Del Valle Square, where a redesign under development by DOT and the Parks Department will include protected bike lanes. Those lanes will link to improvements installed in 2013 that connect with the Bronx River Greenway, including a short protected bike lane on Bruckner between Bryant and Longfellow Avenues.

To the south, the project would strand cyclists when they reach Longwood Avenue. DOT said it is working on a plan to extend the Bruckner Boulevard median bike lanes southward across a “difficult section,” though there is no public timeline for the second phase. The southern extension of the Bruckner bike lane would link to Randall’s Island, where a long-anticipated connector path to the South Bronx Greenway is set to open this summer.

The plan “exponentially” increases the Bronx’s tiny allotment of protected bike lanes, said Transportation Alternatives Bronx organizer Laura Solis, and with the Randall’s Island connector opening soon, DOT should extend it southward as soon as possible. “The goal is definitely to see that continuous connection to Randall’s Island,” Solis said. “This is one step closer.”

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Levine Stands Up for Riverside Drive Road Diet Under Attack By CB 9

A road diet for the speeding-plagued Riverside Drive viaduct is already missing bike lanes. Community Board 9 members want DOT to scrap the road diet, too, but Council Member Mark Levine backs it. Image: DOT [PDF]

A plan to calm traffic on a speeding-plagued stretch of Riverside Drive in West Harlem would be gutted if Community Board 9 members get their way, but Council Member Mark Levine, who represents the area, wants DOT to move ahead with the safety plan.

“It’s all really sensible stuff that’s been succeeding in other parts of this district and this city,” Levine said. “I certainly value all the community input, and it needs to go through all the steps on the community board, but… I think DOT should move forward.”

Council Member Mark Levine.

The proposal features a mix of curb extensions and pedestrian islands on Riverside Drive between 116th and 135th Streets. Between 2008 and 2012, there were 20 serious injuries on this stretch of Riverside, including one pedestrian and 19 motor vehicle occupants [PDF].

The most dangerous section, according to DOT project manager Dan Wagner, is the Riverside Drive viaduct, which runs from just north of the General Grant National Memorial to 135th Street.

The average speed on the viaduct is 36.5 mph, according to DOT, with 79 percent of drivers clocking in above the posted 30 mph limit. In December, Levine and fellow Council Member Helen Rosenthal asked DOT to bring Riverside’s speed limit in line with the citywide 25 mph default [PDF].

DOT says it will do that, but only if the street is also redesigned to reduce speeds. Under the agency’s proposal, the viaduct from the Grant Memorial to 135th Street would be slimmed from two lanes in each direction to one, with the remaining space used for wide striped buffers. (Though Riverside is already a busy cycling route, DOT has refused to propose bike lanes.)

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Will Rodriguez and Brewer Reappoint CB 12 Crank Jim “Honey Child” Berlin?

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer can advance the goals of Vision Zero by retiring Jim Berlin from his CB 12 post.

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer can advance the goals of Vision Zero in Upper Manhattan by retiring Jim Berlin from his CB 12 post.

City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer can remove a barrier to safer streets in Upper Manhattan by relieving Jim Berlin of his spot on Community Board 12, which covers Washington Heights and Inwood.

As Stephen Miller reported Thursday, Berlin and fellow CB 12 member Anita Barberis voted against a DOT plan for protected bike lanes in Washington Heights that would connect the Hudson River Greenway and High Bridge Park. The DOT proposal comes ahead of the highly anticipated re-opening of the High Bridge, a car-free Harlem River span linking Manhattan and the Bronx that has been closed to the public for decades.

Washington Heights and Inwood have precious little bike infrastructure, and at present just one protected bike lane in the pipeline. Berlin can surely claim some credit for that. For years he has used his community board position to waylay projects, from bike and pedestrian infrastructure to a Greenmarket, that would improve safety and give locals the opportunity to see their streets used for something other than free vehicle storage.

Community board votes are supposed to be advisory, but DOT rarely implements a street safety project over a board’s objection. On Monday Berlin succeeded in goading the CB 12 transportation committee to pass a resolution calling for DOT to shorten the proposed protected bikeway on Edgecombe Avenue for the sake of a few free curbside parking spots.

“This is a working-class area,” Berlin said, according to DNAinfo. “People don’t have the luxury of riding their bike in the morning and leaving their Beamer at home.”

It’s possible Berlin is so out of touch that he doesn’t know 75 percent of households in the district don’t own a car, and that working-class households are even more likely to be car-free. But judging by his public antics, it’s more likely he doesn’t care. The majority of residents who attended Monday’s meeting came to show support for the DOT plan, and Berlin dismissed them — even addressing one plan proponent, a staffer for Council Member Mark Levine, as “honey child,” according to multiple sources.

Berlin was last appointed by Rodriguez, and his term expires next month. According to a press release from Brewer, the number of new applicants for Community Board 12 and neighboring Community Board 11 “more than doubled” compared to last year. For the sake of public safety and quality of life in Washington Heights and Inwood, Rodriguez and Brewer should make room for a fresh face by thanking Berlin for his service and sending him on his way.

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CB 12 Committee Puts Parking Over Safety in Vote on Uptown Bike Lanes

DOT is proposing significant bicycle and pedestrian upgrades in Washington Heights, but the Manhattan Community Board 12 transportation committee wants to nibble away at a protected bike lane in the plan. The committee voted to support the DOT plan but with modifications that would shrink a proposed protected bike lane on Edgecombe Avenue to preserve parking.

The plan offers protected bikeways on 170th Street, 158th Street, and Edgecombe Avenue. Map: DOT

The plan offers protected bikeways on 170th Street, 158th Street, and Edgecombe Avenue. Map: DOT

The plan [PDF] would provide river-to-river links between the Hudson River Greenway and High Bridge Park, where cyclists and pedestrians would be able to connect to the Bronx. The proposal comes after the approval of bicycle and pedestrian upgrades for the Bronx side of High Bridge Park [PDF].

The plan would result in a net loss of approximately 20 parking spaces. Most of the change is concentrated on Edgecombe north of 165th Street, where parking would be removed for the bikeway on sections of Edgecombe with two-way car traffic.

At its meeting Monday evening, the CB 12 transportation committee deadlocked, 2-2, on a vote to support the plan after members Jim Berlin and Anita Barberis protested the loss of parking. Berlin has a long history of prioritizing parking over street safety at CB 12, which covers a neighborhood where about three-quarters of households are car-free.

“This is a working-class area,” Berlin said, according to DNAinfo. “People don’t have the luxury of riding their bike in the morning and leaving their Beamer at home.”

“I’ve lived here my whole life, and the working-class people I know have MetroCards,” Maria Lopez replied to Berlin, reported DNAinfo. “I drive, but I support this plan.” Lopez is also a staffer for Council Member Mark Levine. After her reply, according to multiple meeting attendees, Berlin began a condescending response by calling her “honey child.”

“The entire room gasped,” said one person at the meeting. “It was racist, misogynistic and ageist all at once, and it was stunning…I just don’t think he realized how inappropriate that was.”

Eventually, the committee agreed on a compromise resolution, with a 4-0 vote, that supported the plan but asked DOT to shorten the protected bikeway on Edgecombe in order to preserve parking.

“It was somewhat disappointing, because one particular person, their opinion can really influence what happens in an entire community. And it was clear that the people from the community that came out really supported it,” said Ana Reyes, a Washington Heights resident and executive director of I Challenge Myself. The group offers bicycle education courses to high school students, including at the George Washington Educational Campus on Audubon Avenue.

“A lot of people don’t like to ride in traffic,” Reyes said. “The benefits outweigh the loss of parking spaces in terms of the amount of  kids, particularly, that would be able to access this park.”

The plan includes a lot of big improvements for safe walking and biking in the neighborhood.

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Manhattan CB 3 Asks DOT for Protected Bikeway on Chrystie Street

In a unanimous 35-0 vote last night, Manhattan Community Board 3, which covers Chinatown and the Lower East Side, asked DOT to study a two-way protected bikeway for Chrystie Street, an important link to the Manhattan Bridge bike path.

This doesn’t cut it, says CB 3. Photo: Justin Pollock

The vote follows months of dialogue between bike advocates and community groups, and comes on the heels of a unanimous vote supporting the plan by the CB 3 transportation committee earlier this month.

The plan, which would replace faded bike lanes with a protected bikeway alongside Sara D. Roosevelt Park, is receiving consideration now because the bumpy street is scheduled for milling and paving, offering an opportunity to refresh its layout. “We are looking to resurface the road this year, so we will come back to the community once a design is put together,” DOT Manhattan Liaison Colleen Chattergoon said at the transportation committee meeting.

“The community board has spoken,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron spokesperson Danny Weisfeld, “and it’s important for the DOT to follow up on the request.”

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West Harlem CB Members to DOT: Let Drivers Use Neighborhood as Shortcut

Key community board members in West Harlem say having anything less than two lanes in each direction will gridlock Riverside Drive. Photo: Google Maps

Key community board members in West Harlem say anything less than two lanes in each direction will gridlock the Riverside Drive viaduct. Photo: Google Maps

Riverside Drive in West Harlem is shaping up to be another test case for DOT’s commitment to safety improvements, and whether the agency will allow ignorance of basic street design principles and fear of change guide its decisions.

DOT didn’t put bike lanes in its road diet plan for Riverside Drive. Now, key members of Community Board 9 don’t want a road diet in the plan, either. DOT says that without the lane reduction, which will lower the design speed of the street, it won’t go along with requests to reduce the speed limit on Riverside to 25 mph.

The project includes pedestrian islands and curb extensions along Riverside Drive, 116th Street, and 120th Streets between 116th and 135th Streets. Its centerpiece is a road diet, from two lanes in each direction to one, on the viaduct that carries Riverside over West Harlem [PDF].

CB 9 transportation committee chair Carolyn Thompson and Ted Kovaleff, who served as CB 9 chair in the 1990s, spent much of Wednesday night’s meeting trying to maintain as many car lanes as possible on Riverside Drive.

Kovaleff said that he used to frequently drive to Vermont on Friday afternoons, and found that spillover traffic from the West Side Highway would clog Riverside, backing up on the viaduct. Removing one lane, he said, would lead to total gridlock. DOT project manager Dan Wagner said his analysis showed the viaduct road diet would slow driver speeds without leading to excessive back-ups, but Kovaleff wasn’t convinced. It would become a terminal bottleneck,” he said, “and that bottleneck would lead to increased pollution.”

“The asthma rate in this community, it’s horrible,” Thompson added. She also claimed that buses wouldn’t be able to operate on the viaduct with one lane in each direction.

Kovaleff didn’t evince much concern about dangerous speeding on the viaduct — and wasn’t convinced, despite ample evidence, that road diets work. “If people are gonna speed, whether it’s one lane in each direction, or two lanes in each direction, they’re gonna press down on the accelerator,” Kovaleff said. “And, you know, I don’t really care if people go 50 miles an hour on the viaduct.”

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CB 3 Committee Asks DOT for Protected Bikeway on Chrystie Street

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Advocates’ concept for a two-way protected bike lane on Chrystie Street. Streetmix by Dave “Paco” Abraham

The community board covering the Lower East Side and Chinatown is set to ask DOT to transform the Chrystie Street bike lane from barely visible stripes blocked by double-parked cars into a two-way protected bikeway along Sara D. Roosevelt Park, connecting the Manhattan Bridge with the Second Avenue protected bike lane.

The transportation committee of Manhattan Community Board 3 voted unanimously Wednesday night to ask for the upgrades on the recommendation of Dave “Paco” Abraham and other Transportation Alternatives volunteers, who presented the idea last month [PDF]. The request is moving ahead now because Chrystie Street is scheduled for milling and paving this year, providing an opportunity to redesign the street.

DOT staff at Wednesday’s meeting welcomed the resolution. “We are looking to resurface the road this year, so we will come back to the community once a design is put together,” DOT Manhattan Liaison Colleen Chattergoon said.

At the southern end of Chrystie Street, the city is planning to rebuild the Manhattan Bridge bike path landing to include a pedestrian-friendly plaza space next to the bikeway. At Chrystie’s northern end, advocates hope a two-way bikeway on the east side of the street can eliminate the need for southbound cyclists on Second Avenue to maneuver across multiple lanes of car traffic in order to continue southbound.

Believe it or not, there’s a bike lane here. Photo: Google Street View via Brooklyn Spoke

Between Canal and Houston, the two-way bikeway would only cross automobile traffic at Grand and Delancey Streets, since other cross streets in the neighborhood form “T” intersections and do not continue through the park. The two-way bikeway alignment could also create opportunities for pedestrian islands on the crowded street.

The redesign request is supported by the Sara D. Roosevelt Park Coalition. Kathleen Webster, the group’s president, asked the committee to make sure the resolution noted the senior centers, schools, elderly population, and high pedestrian volumes in the area, including a senior center within the park itself. CB 3 District Manager Susan Stetzer asked the committee to request that DOT conduct community visioning sessions to inform the final design. Both requests were added to the resolution.

The resolution now goes to the full board, which meets on February 24 at 6:30 p.m. at P.S. 124, 40 Division Street.

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Harlem CB Chair Complains Bus Lanes Have Slowed Her Cab Rides to Subway

Manhattan Community Board 10 Chair Henrietta Lyle thinks bus lanes have made it harder to get around Harlem. In a conversation with Streetsblog, Lyle disputed our coverage of Select Bus Service on 125th Street and waved off data from the Census and NYC DOT. She also dismissed WE ACT for Environmental Justice, which had worked with bus riders to advocate for Select Bus Service, as “not talking to the community.”

Manhattan CB 10 Chair Henrietta Lyle. Photo: Stephen Miller

Manhattan CB 10 Chair Henrietta Lyle. Photo: Stephen Miller

“You made some comment about people in Uptown, we don’t drive, we don’t have cars. We do drive. I have a car. Come on,” Lyle told Streetsblog after Borough President Gale Brewer’s State of the Borough address on Sunday.

“I don’t know where your facts come from,” Lyle said. “I’m concerned.” The facts Streetsblog cites about neighborhood car ownership and travel habits come from the U.S. Census, whose surveys show that more than three-quarters of Harlem households are car-free.

Lyle said bus lanes have caused problems on her trips to the Lexington Avenue subway. “I do take cabs down 125th Street, and it now costs me two dollars more, and I have not made it yet to the station, and I have to get out and walk,” she said. Meanwhile, “that bus lane is empty.”

Instead of two lanes in each direction, with one often blocked by double-parked cars, most of 125th Street east of Lenox Avenue now has one general lane and one camera-enforced bus lane. DOT says eastbound taxi trips on 125th Street are now slightly faster than they were before the bus lane was installed, and either slightly slower or unchanged in the westbound direction [PDF]. Meanwhile, more than 32,000 people ride buses each day on 125th Street.

Lyle said she was not pleased when a DOT representative cited years of advocacy from Harlem residents looking for better bus service on 125th Street. “He said they had been working with our community for two years, and I asked them who,” she said. “It turns out he was working with WE ACT. That’s not talking to the community.”

Lyle is currently embroiled in a controversy over the validity of her election to the chairmanship last year. Appointed to CB 10 by the borough president at the recommendation of Council Member Inez Dickens, Lyle is up for reappointment by Brewer this year. Brewer’s decision is due by April 1.

Lyle is not alone in her windshield perspective at CB 10. Last week, the panel bucked two neighboring community boards and voted against a years-long effort to improve safety at one of Manhattan’s most dangerous intersections.

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UWS Residents to Brewer: No More Street Safety Obstructionists on CB 7

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, right, speaks with, from left, Mary Beth Kelly, Tom DeVito, and Dana Lerner before her State of the Borough address yesterday. Photo: Stephen Miller

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, right, with Mary Beth Kelly, Tom DeVito, and Dana Lerner before her State of the Borough address yesterday. Photo: Stephen Miller

Will Gale Brewer reappoint noted street safety obstructionist Dan Zweig to Community Board 7? Families of traffic violence victims came to her State of the Borough address yesterday seeking an answer.

Protesters stood outside Columbia University’s Alfred Lerner Hall with signs — “Gale, You Have the Power to Fix CB 7″ and “Lives Matter More Than Parking Spaces” — while handing out flyers to the borough’s politicos as they arrived for the speech.

The advocates, who included Dana Lerner, Mary Beth Kelly, and Sofia Russo — all of whom have lost family members to traffic violence — are asking for new leadership at the CB 7 transportation committee, which has been co-chaired by Zweig and Andrew Albert for at least 15 years. Over the years, Zweig and Albert have blocked or delayed several requests for traffic safety improvements on the neighborhood’s dangerous arterial streets.

Zweig is up for reappointment to the board this year. The decision to keep him on the board or not ultimately rests with Brewer.

On her way into the building, Brewer stopped and talked with the family members. “People are complaining about how nasty you are,” she told them. “I don’t mind meeting with you. I know what you want… We’ll talk. We’ll talk.”

“I’ve been called relentless, but not nasty,” Kelly said after Brewer left.

“She’s been a leader,” Transportation Alternatives Manhattan organizer Tom DeVito said of Brewer. “An elected official can’t make a career of appointing people who have been disappointing communities for decades, and she knows that.”

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Who’s Against Better Sidewalks and Bus Stops? These People…

CB 8 members oppose wider sidewalks and bus stops because they fear it will lead to gridlock. Photo: DOT [PDF]

Some CB 8 members oppose wider sidewalks at bus stops because they fear it will lead to gridlock. Photo: DOT [PDF]

Bus bulbs are sidewalk extensions at bus stops that enable passengers to board without the driver pulling in and out of traffic. They save transit riders time, shorten crossing distances for pedestrians, and keep sidewalks from getting cluttered by bus stop furniture. Who could be against that?

Well, on the Upper East Side, a few members of Manhattan Community Board 8 raised a stink Wednesday night about a plan to add bus bulbs to 86th Street. They were convinced bus bulbs would lead to gridlock and refused to believe a DOT analysis showing otherwise.

The plan from NYC DOT and the MTA to upgrade the crosstown M86 to Select Bus Service also calls for real-time bus arrival information kiosks and off-board fare collection, though not bus lanes. The line carries 25,000 riders daily — more passengers per mile than any other NYC bus route — and serves a neighborhood where about three out of every four households do not own a car. The plan would bring a combination of bus bulbs and neckdowns to the corners of Park, Lexington, and Third Avenues [PDF].

DOT first identified the M86 as a possible candidate for Select Bus Service in 2009, and approached CB 8 in 2012 about adding bus bulbs to 86th Street. At the time, the board didn’t object to the suggestion and, seeing that bus bulbs would provide space for off-board fare payment kiosks, asked for the machines [PDF 1, 2]. CB 7, which covers the M86 on the Upper West Side, followed suit and requested off-board fare payment in 2013.

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