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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.


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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DOT Agrees to Make Bike Crossing Over LIE in Long Island City Less Hairy

Image: DOT [PDF]

One lane of car traffic is being removed to make way for two curbside bike lanes over the LIE. Image: DOT [PDF]

Biking over the Long Island Expressway on Greenpoint Avenue is set to get a little less nerve-wracking now that DOT has upgraded its plans for a key block. DOT agreed to add curbside bike lanes to the dangerous Queens crossing in response to local advocates and the community board. The plan comes up for a vote at the CB 2 full board tonight.

The agency had been proposing sharrows on Greenpoint Avenue in Sunnyside, but after years of agitation from members of Community Board 2 and the Transportation Alternatives Queens committee about an especially dangerous location, DOT is tweaking its plan to add bike lanes where Greenpoint crosses the LIE at Borden Avenue [PDF].

One lane of eastbound car traffic on Greenpoint will be reallocated to green curbside bike lanes in both directions. Cyclists will still have to navigate a crush of turning traffic, particularly on the eastbound approach to the intersection, but the change is a big improvement over the status quo.

DOT is also studying whether to adjust signals at the intersections on Greenpoint approaching the highway crossing, to give cyclists in both directions a head start on turning motorists. “That’s key to making the whole intersection work,” said TA Queens volunteer Steve Scofield.

The Queens CB 2 transportation committee supported the bike lane upgrade Tuesday night as part of a larger package of bike improvements in Long Island City and Sunnyside, Scofield said. The plan includes upgrading sharrows on 11th Street to bike lanes by removing one car lane in each direction, adding bike lanes to the Honeywell Street bridge, and adding sharrows to Jackson Avenue.

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CB 6 Panel Unanimously Backs Plan to Fill Gap in 1st Ave Protected Bike Lane

Image: DOT

A shared lane will be replaced by a protected bike lane on 10 blocks of First Avenue. Image: DOT [PDF]

DOT is set to fill a key 10-block gap in the First Avenue protected bike lane this summer, but cyclists might have to wait until the fall for the final piece of the missing link.

The Manhattan Community Board 6 transportation committee voted 12-0 last night to support the plan [PDF], which replaces sharrows with a dedicated protected bike lane. It also includes major curb extensions and pedestrian islands to shorten crossing distances and calm traffic at the intersection of First Avenue and 49th Street.

The changes cover one of the most dangerous sections of First Avenue: There have been five traffic fatalities between 49th and 59th streets — all pedestrians — since 2009, according to DOT. Three of those deaths were at 56th and 57th streets. In contrast, on the rest of First Avenue, between First and 125th streets, six people, including five pedestrians, were killed over the same period on its 115 blocks — a much lower fatality rate per mile.

The project extends the protected bike lane to 59th Street, where it would connect to the Queensboro Bridge bike path. DOT is proposing to do it in two phases, with a brief pause for a couple of weeks after adding protection up to 56th Street, so the agency can assess the traffic impacts of going from five car lanes to four. The second phase would extend the protected bikeway the remaining three blocks.

Last night, CB 6 asked DOT to stop a block early, at 55th Street, before coming back in September or October with a plan for the final few blocks, parts of which are undergoing utility construction.

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Can New York City Reform Its Dysfunctional Community Board System?

New York City’s 59 community boards often serve as the sole venues where the public can assess and vet street design projects. But they are also structured in a way that inhibits any sort of change, giving de facto veto power over street improvements to a small clique who can serve for life.


Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg called community boards “a nice bit of urban democracy” that “actually works very well.” Photo: NYC DOT/Flickr

A bill in the City Council would establish term limits for community board members, but the reform would only go so far. Under the bill, current community board members would be grandfathered in, meaning they would face no term limits while new appointees would. Meanwhile, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg shows no inclination to change the agency’s policy of giving community boards the final say on its street safety projects.

The term limits bill, sponsored by Council Member Daniel Dromm, would limit new community board appointees to six two-year terms. After reaching the maximum term, people could still attend and speak at community board meetings but could no longer hold a voting seat.

Despite allowing all current board members to escape term limits, the bill is opposed by all five borough presidents, whom appoint people to community boards. A spokesperson for Eric Adams said the Brooklyn borough president is “supportive of term limits in concept” but opposes this bill. Queens Beep Melinda Katz supported term limits as a candidate [PDF] but now opposes them.

Staff of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer [PDF] joined district managers and board members from Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx testifying against the bill yesterday before the City Council governmental operations committee, saying term limits would decimate institutional knowledge on the boards.

A united front of good government advocates at the hearing, including Citizens Union, New York Public Interest Research Group, Common Cause New York, and Transportation Alternatives [PDF], supported term limits and argued for further reforms to bring more daylight to the appointment process.

“When it comes to Vision Zero and traffic safety, we often see a large divide between members who have been serving for their entire lives and came of age when the car was king in New York City, and members of all ages who think more in tune with the modern state of urban planning and street design,” said TA’s Paul Steely White. “People are prioritizing a single parking space over daylighting an intersection, for example.”

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Helen Rosenthal Won’t Say Why She Reappointed Street Safety Foe to CB 7

Members of Families For Safe Streets asked Council Member Helen Rosenthal at a town hall meeting last night why she reappointed street safety foe and longtime Community Board 7 transportation committee co-chair Dan Zweig. But Rosenthal refused to answer questions from Upper West Siders who have lost loved ones to traffic violence.

Joan Dean, left, lost her grandson Sammy Cohen Eckstein in a traffic crash. Mary Beth Kelly, right, lost her partner Dr. Carl Henry Nacht. Both live on the Upper West Side and asked Council Member Helen Rosenthal about why she reappointed a street safety foe to Community Board 7. Photo: Emily Frost/DNAinfo

Joan Dean, left, lost her grandson Sammy Cohen Eckstein in a traffic crash. Mary Beth Kelly, right, lost her partner Dr. Carl Henry Nacht. Both live on the Upper West Side and had questions for Council Member Helen Rosenthal at a town hall last night. Photo: Emily Frost/DNAinfo

Zweig has spent years stonewalling street safety plans, particularly community requests to remake the Upper West Side’s most heavily-traveled streets with pedestrian islands and protected bike lanes. Zweig was appointed to the board multiple times by Council Member Inez Dickens. After a City Council redistricting moved his home into the district of Council Member Mark Levine, advocates saw an opportunity for change at CB 7.

Levine opposed Zweig’s nomination to the board and did not reappoint him. Borough President Gale Brewer also told advocates that she would not reappoint Zweig, according to Mary Beth Kelly of Families For Safe Streets. A list of community board appointments released earlier this month indicated Amsterdam Avenue bike lane supporter Helen Rosenthal reached outside her district to recommend Zweig, and Brewer approved the nomination.

“She says she supports safe streets, but then she makes appointments like this,” said street safety advocate Lisa Sladkus. “She went out of her way to reappoint him.”

“It really felt like somewhere along the line, some deal was made,” Kelly said. “I don’t know for sure what went on behind closed doors.”

With Zweig keeping his seat at CB 7, board chair Elizabeth Caputo must decide whether to reappoint Zweig and Andrew Albert as co-chairs of the transportation committee, a post they have occupied for years.

Under their tenure, the board spent years in hours-long meetings over protected bike lanes on southbound Columbus Avenue. While CB 7 ultimately supported the bike lanes, much of the delay and division came from Albert and Zweig, who employ stalling tactics on many bicycle-related projects.

Zweig has repeatedly said he doesn’t believe DOT crash and traffic flow data. He once attempted to scuttle protected bike lanes on Amsterdam Avenue by amending a resolution supporting them, requesting concrete curb extensions that would preclude protected bike lanes in the future. The amendment was defeated, and the board went on to vote unanimously in favor of asking DOT to study protected bike lanes.

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