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Creating Safer Streets Linking the South Bronx to Randall’s Island

Current conditions on 132nd Street, which will provide access to the Randall’s Island Connector greenway segment. All photos and renderings by Civitas courtesy of New York Restoration Project

132nd Street as envisioned in The Haven Project recommendations.

The South Bronx neighborhoods of Port Morris and Mott Haven are a stone’s throw from 480-acre Randall’s Island, but a ring of highways and industry separates residents from all that parkland. Now, the New York Restoration Project (NYRP) is working with local advocates and health researchers to create better walking and biking connections between the South Bronx and Randall’s Island, taking advantage of a long-planned greenway segment set to open this summer.

The South Bronx has high rates of asthma, diabetes, and obesity, making it especially urgent to provide opportunities for physical activity. The Randall’s Island Connector, a nearly-complete greenway segment running beneath the Hell Gate Bridge, will help by linking the South Bronx to Randall’s Island with a car-free path. But to reach the connector after it opens, residents will still have to navigate streets overrun by trucks and lined with industrial uses.

That’s where NYRP and its initiative, The Haven Project, come in. Launched after a community meeting last June, the project aims to create safer access to the greenway. The first round of recommendations has been released [PDF] — including plans for waterfront greenways, new street trees, protected bike lanes, and safer pedestrian crossings — and a full report is scheduled for June.

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DOT Safety Plan for Corona’s 111th Street Faces Uphill Battle at Queens CB 4

This road diet and protected bike lane is too much for Queens CB 4 to handle. Image: DOT [PDF]

This road diet and protected bike lane, which will improve connections between Corona residents and Flushing Meadows Corona Park, doesn’t have enough car lanes for some Queens CB 4 members. Image: DOT [PDF]

A dangerous street that Corona residents have to cross to get to Flushing Meadows Corona Park is in line for a serious traffic-calming plan, complete with a two-way protected bike lane [PDF], but local community board members are balking at the proposal.

Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the largest park in Queens, is ringed by highways that cut off access from the neighborhoods around it. The one exception is 111th Street on the west side of the park. But instead of functioning as a welcoming entrance to the park, 111th Street is designed like a surface highway, with three southbound car lanes divided from two northbound lanes by a planted median. Residents have to walk up to 1,300 feet, or five blocks, before finding a marked crosswalk, and 84 percent of cyclists ride on the sidewalk, according to DOT.

Last year, Make the Road New York, Immigrant Movement International, the Queens Museum, and Transportation Alternatives organized for better walking and biking access to the park. Council Member Julissa Ferreras signed on, asking DOT last fall to install bike lanes throughout her district, including on 111th Street [PDF].

The DOT proposal delivers: It would calm the street by narrowing it to one lane of car traffic in each direction. The edge of the street along the park would receive a two-way parking-protected bikeway with pedestrian islands. Moving lanes would be replaced by parking along the median on the southbound side. At intersections, median extensions would shorten crossing distances for pedestrians, which currently stretch up to 94 feet.

This seems to be too much for some key members of Queens Community Board 4.

DOT presented its plan to three members of CB 4 at a special meeting of its transportation committee last Tuesday. “It was definitely a heated, emotional meeting,” said Amy Richards, who coordinates the Partnership for a Healthier Queens program at Make the Road New York. The board members were very “change-averse,” Richards said. “The meeting was tricky.”

“It’s a tough call,” CB 4 District Manager Christian Cassagnol said of the plan. “We told them to go back to the drawing board and change a couple of the small issues we were questioning.” DOT says it used the feedback to draft minor changes the original plan, which Cassagnol received this morning.

Board members last week were actually looking for major changes to the DOT plan. The big complaint from transportation committee members was “not enough traffic lanes, basically,” Cassagnol said. “That seems to be the main thing.”

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The New Plan to Connect Downtown Brooklyn to Its Waterfront

The "Brooklyn Strand" covers blocks cleared for expressways and parks in the 20th Century. Map: WXY Architecture [PDF]

The “Brooklyn Strand” seeks to improve walking and biking connections in an area cut up by highway ramps in the 1930s. Map: WXY Architecture

Starting in the 1930s, entire city blocks in Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, and DUMBO were razed for expressways and parks. Today, this jumble of on-ramps and disconnected green space separates Brooklyn’s waterfront from its downtown core. A new public-private initiative, called “The Brooklyn Strand,” seeks to knit these disjointed areas back together.

On Monday evening, Claire Weisz of WXY Architecture + Urban Design presented the design [PDF] to the Brooklyn Community Board 2 parks committee, Curbed reports. The project is a joint effort of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Mayor’s Office, the Parks Department, and the Department of City Planning.

The plan recommends turning a quiet block of Cadman Plaza East into a pedestrian plaza. Image: WXY Architecture

The plan recommends pedestrianizing a lightly-trafficked block of Cadman Plaza East. Image: WXY Architecture

The plan has been in the works for a year and builds on other initiatives already underway, like bicycle and pedestrian improvements in DUMBO and near the Brooklyn Bridge entrance at the intersection of Tillary and Adams Streets. It also echoes many of the public space proposals from Transportation Alternatives and the Brooklyn Tech Triangle strategic plan.

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Hudson Square Plaza Revamp Leaves Shared Space Street for Another Day

The plaza on the left is getting refurbished, but a shared space plan for this street was tabled in part because it's used as a display space for a motorcycle dealership. Photo: Google Maps

The plaza on the left is getting refurbished, but a shared space plan for the street was tabled because, among other reasons, it’s used as a display space for a motorcycle dealership. Photo: Google Maps

A plan to convert a two-block street on the border of Soho and Hudson Square into shared space is going to sit on the shelf — for now.

The Parks Department and the Hudson Square Connection Business Improvement District are splitting the cost of a $6 million plan to overhaul a triangular park along Sixth Avenue between Spring and Broome Streets. Conceptual plans for the space from 2012 showed Little Sixth Avenue, a two-block street on the west side of the park, being converted to a pedestrian-priority street that would slow drivers by blurring the line between street and sidewalk. But that was dropped from the project over concerns about utility work, costs, and loss of on-street parking.

“We’re not precluding it, but we don’t have the budget to include it,” said Signe Nielsen of landscape architecture firm Mathews Nielsen, which is designing the revamped plaza and worked on the previous conceptual plan. “We’re totally in favor of it. It was an initiative that we actually recommended in our master plan study, but we’re aware that DOT requires a lot of backup before they will allow such a thing to go through.”

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Eyes on the Street: Un-Plowed Bikeway on Parks Department Turf

Photo: Commenter BBNet3000

Pike Street has a bikeway and a pedestrian path, but you wouldn’t know that based on the Parks Department’s snow removal practices. Photo: Commenter BBnet3000

Most of NYC’s bridge paths and protected bikeways seem to have been cleared well in the aftermath of this week’s snowstorm, judging by the lack of snowed-in bike lane photos in the Streetsblog inbox.

It’s a different story on Parks Department turf. This stretch, flagged by commenter BBnet3000 yesterday morning, is the center median bikeway on Pike Street leading to the East River waterfront. (It remained unplowed late this morning.)

The Pike Street bike and pedestrian paths have been ignored by the Parks Department. Photo: Stephen Miller

The Pike Street bike and pedestrian path this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

Landscaped malls run down the middle of Pike and Allen Streets on the Lower East Side. While the street is under the purview of the Department of Transportation, the malls themselves fall under Parks.

DOT redesigned the street in 2009 to add protected bike lanes and more pedestrian space. Since then, a few blocks have been upgraded from paint to permanent materials. On those blocks, the bikeway is now controlled by the Parks Department. So when it snows, that means a patchwork of agencies are responsible for keeping the bike lane passable on a single street.

North of Division Street, Allen Street’s bikeways are mostly cleared, whether the section is maintained by Parks or DOT. On Pike Street south of Division, the bike lanes managed by Parks are snowed-in. Pedestrian walkways along the entirety of the mall, also maintained by Parks, are completely covered in snow.

The Parks Department, responsible for 29,000 acres of land, says it has 900 staff working on snow removal. It operates 44 plow trucks assigned to a Sanitation Department detail and has 200 additional vehicles on snow removal, including smaller plows and salt spreaders.

“Our first priority is to clear park perimeters to ensure safe access for pedestrians,” said Parks Department spokesperson Sam Biederman. He added that crosswalks, bus stops, hydrants, and catch basins along park perimeters in high traffic locations — such as transit hubs and civic centers, or near schools, recreation centers, and senior centers — top the department’s priority list for snow removal. “Interior paths of all types are a lower priority during snow storms,” Biederman said. “We will be clearing snow from interior play spaces and interior walkways throughout the week.”

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70th Precinct Fines People for Choosing a Safe Place to Walk or Bike at Night

Brooklynites are asking the city to stop penalizing people for walking and biking on a park path that lets them avoid dangerous traffic on a nearby street.

Map: DOITT

The 70th Precinct has deemed the north-south biking and walking path through the Parade Ground off-limits after dark, fining people for using a bypass around dangerous Coney Island Avenue. Map: DOITT

The paved path through the Parade Ground south of Prospect Park links the park loop with low-traffic neighborhood streets, serving as an alternative to Coney Island Avenue, a wide street with four lanes of through traffic. In particular, the path allows people to avoid the intersection of Coney Island Avenue and Caton Avenue, where drivers injured an average of two pedestrians or cyclists per year between 1995 and 2009, according to Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat. The path is also a designated bikeway on the New York City bike map.

It’s common for people to use the path at night, and over the summer, local residents asked the 70th Precinct to stop issuing criminal court summonses on the path after sunset.

At a September meeting of the 70th Precinct community council, Deputy Inspector Richard DiBlasio said NYPD was issuing summonses for the safety of people walking and biking, reported Ditmas Park Corner. “Unfortunately, there’s been some recent crime in that area — there’s been an increase in crime in that area,” said DiBlasio. “We don’t want to prevent anyone from using our park, but when it gets dark in that park there are different rules because it’s not safe.” The Prospect Park Alliance posted new signs emphasizing that the path closes at night.

But people who use the park path are more concerned about traffic on Coney Island Avenue than traveling through the Parade Ground after dark.

“Many are coming and going to Prospect Park while others are walking home from the F train,” wrote local resident Olgierd Bilanow on a petition asking the Prospect Park Alliance and the city to change the rules and keep the path open until 1 a.m. “For all these people walking through the Parade Ground path is the easiest, safest and most pleasant way to go between home and Park Circle.”

On Tuesday, Bilanow posted an update: “The 70th Precinct has vetoed any changes to the hours at the Parade Grounds.”

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Julissa Ferreras Joins Corona Residents in Planning for a Safer 111th Street

111th Street is a barrier to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Local residents, advocates, and Council Member Julissa Ferreras want to change that. Image: Google Maps

111th Street is a barrier to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Local residents, advocates, and Council Member Julissa Ferreras want to change that. Image: Google Maps

Residents and community groups in Corona are working to tame traffic on an extra-wide street that separates their neighborhood from the largest park in Queens. They’re backed by a council member who, in addition to putting aside funds for the project, is asking the city to bring bike lanes and traffic calming to the rest of her district.

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is surrounded almost entirely by highways, making access from surrounding neighborhoods difficult. One section of the park, home to the New York Hall of Science, crosses the Grand Central Parkway and extends to 111th Street. Corona residents must cross the street to get to the park. Even though it’s not an arterial road, 111th is designed like one, with up to three lanes in each direction and a center median.

“It’s a legacy of the planning for the World’s Fair,” said Jose Serrano, a community organizer at the Queens Museum, which is located within the park. “It’s a legacy of a fair that was meant to be a regional destination, and not necessarily about planning for connectivity between the park and the local community.”

Earlier this year, the Queens Museum began working with Immigrant Movement International, Make the Road New York, and Transportation Alternatives to hear what local residents have to say about street safety. In July, the groups hosted a Vision Zero workshop to gather feedback.

“What stood out overwhelmingly was that neighbors wanted to see big-time change on 111th Street, both for pedestrians and for cyclists,” said Celia Castellan of Transportation Alternatives. “It connects everyone to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.”

“We have a beautiful park here in Queens,” said Cristina Camacho, a member of Make the Road. “The people who live along 111th Street, they were having a lot of concerns about their children.”

In September, the groups organized a daffodil planting on the 111th Street median. At the event, they asked for more feedback on how residents thought the street should be designed. There were lots of ideas, from more stop lights and crosswalks to a protected bike lane. Some residents suggested converting the northbound lanes to a bike and pedestrian zone that could also have space for vendors, Serrano said.

Their ideas could become a reality. In fiscal year 2014, Council Member Julissa Ferreras allocated $2.7 million in discretionary capital funds to a redesign of 111th Street. On Thursday, she is meeting with DOT to get an update on how the money could be spent.

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Momentum Builds for Car-Free Trials in Central Park and Prospect Park


The very first Streetfilm was released 10 years ago, for a campaign that’s on the verge of a major milestone today.

On Tuesday, Council Members Mark Levine and Helen Rosenthal introduced a bill that would make the entirety of the Central Park loop car-free for three months next summer. The city would be required to release a report on the trial before the end of the year. Momentum is also building for a car-free trial in Prospect Park, which has received the backing of Borough President Eric Adams.

While recent summer car restrictions by DOT have kept the Central Park loop south of 72nd Street open to motor vehicles, the bill introduced this week would make the entire park loop car-free from June 24 to September 25 next year, with exceptions for emergency vehicles, service vehicles, vendors, and vehicles needed for events within the park. The bill directs the city to conduct a study of the impact on car traffic, pedestrian flow, and other factors. (The legislation directs the Parks Department to lead the study, but a Levine spokesperson said it will be amended to give that responsibility to DOT.)

There are other changes rumored to be on the table for Central Park, as well, including design modifications to the loop, changes to traffic signals, and a speed limit as low as 15 or 20 mph. Levine suggested a 20 mph speed limit after cyclists killed pedestrians in two separate park crashes this summer.

While Central Park has gotten most of the attention lately, Levine said Prospect Park also deserves a car-free loop. “I believe we should ban cars in both parks,” he said. “I am looking for a Brooklyn co-sponsor.”

Council Member Brad Lander, whose district covers most of Prospect Park, is a likely sponsor, but his office did not have a response to Streetsblog’s questions. Borough President Eric Adams, however, came out in favor of such a bill. “I am supportive of potential legislation that would create a car-free trial and study of Prospect Park,” he said. “I welcome any of my Brooklyn colleagues in the City Council discussing such a plan with me.”

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Bronx Advocates Push for New Pedestrian Plaza in Soundview

Today, Harrod Place separates a green triangle from a busy park. A local group hopes to convert it to a plaza. Photo: Google Maps

Harrod Place separates an underutilized green triangle (left) from a park. A local group hopes to convert it to a plaza. Photo: Google Maps

Near the intersection of Morrison and Westchester Avenues in Soundview, just a block from the Bronx River Parkway, one block separates a forlorn green triangle from Parque de Los Niños and its well-used benches and baseball diamonds. Now, a local group is hoping to phase in public space upgrades to the area through DOT’s plaza program. The first step received support from Community Board 9 last month.

Last fall, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice applied to the plaza program, hoping to eventually convert a section of Harrod Place into a plaza linking the commercial area along Westchester Avenue with the park. In May, DOT hosted a workshop at the public library on Morrison Avenue to present concepts and gather feedback.

The plan would start with curb extensions and plaza upgrades. The local group behind the plan hopes for a full plaza eventually. Image: DOT

Improvements would start with curb extensions and public space upgrades. The local group behind the plan hopes to eventually pedestrianize one block of Harrod Place  — the side street in this plan. Image: DOT

DOT came back with a plan to add painted curb extensions, planters, benches, tables and chairs [PDF]. It would remove three parking spaces while DOT says four spaces could be added elsewhere on Harrod by adjusting regulations. YMPJ, advised by the Neighborhood Plaza Partnership, has promised to maintain the space and aims to program it with public art, a farmers market, and exercise groups. The plan gained the support of CB 9 on June 19.

“It’s a pretty underutilized street in many ways,” YMPJ executive director David Shuffler said. His group has spoken with many of the adjacent businesses, which he said do most of their loading through front doors on Westchester Avenue.

While DOT’s proposal doesn’t make Harrod car-free, Shuffler hopes the project can evolve into a fully pedestrianized plaza. “My understanding is that this would be the first phase, and they would be looking for funds for the second phase, which is the complete plaza,” he said. ““We talked to the local businesses, and they said it was okay.”

DOT says its crews have patched potholes and addressed other road conditions in preparation for the first round of changes, which Shuffler hopes to see implemented within a month.

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Eyes on the Street: New Bike Channel on Inwood Hill Park Rail Bridge

Reader Kimberly Kinchen tweeted this photo of a new bike channel on the stairs of the bridge over train tracks that separate Dyckman Fields, on the Hudson River, from the rest of Inwood Hill Park, to the east.

“It’s only on the second flight so far,” wrote Kinchen. “I assume they’ll install them on the first flight, too — still an improvement for sure.”

We’ve asked the Parks Department if this retrofit will be applied to other stairways, or if there was a request for bike channels on this particular bridge. We’ll update here if we hear back. In the meantime, let us know in the comments if you’ve seen other stairways with newly-installed ramps.