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Posts from the "Parks" Category

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Feds Reject All Three NYC Applications for Latest Round of TIGER Grants

Without a TIGER grant, New Yorkers will have to wait a little longer for the next phase of the Bronx River Greenway (in red). Map: Bronx River Alliance

This morning, U.S. DOT announced the winners in the latest round of its highly-competitive TIGER grant program. While upstate New York won grants for two projects — a highway teardown in Rochester and a complete streets project in Olean — New York City missed out, with applications for ferry improvements, a greenway connection in the Bronx, and the redesign of a busy intersection in Downtown Brooklyn failing to make the cut.

DOT had applied for funding to implement the Brooklyn Bridge Gateway project, a long-anticipated reconstruction of the intersection of Tillary Street and Adams Street that would dramatically improve cyclist and pedestrian access to the Brooklyn Bridge. DOT, which had unsuccessfully submitted the partially-funded project for earlier rounds of TIGER funding before trying again this year, told Streetsblog it was looking at other federal funding sources to fill the gap.

The Parks Department applied for $27.5 million from TIGER to match $10 million in city funds for the completion a section of the Bronx River Greenway between Starlight Park and Concrete Plant Park. The Bronx project includes three bridges — two over the Bronx River and one over the adjacent Amtrak corridor. The project, delayed by negotiations over the Amtrak bridge, saw state funds dedicated to its construction expire in 2009.

A third application, from EDC, would have been dedicated to ferry infrastructure. Streetsblog has inquired with Parks and EDC to see how they plan to fund their projects without TIGER; we’ll let you know if we hear anything back.

New York City has previously won TIGER grants for Hunts Point freight rail infrastructure, Moynihan Station, the city’s Sheridan Expressway study, and the redesign of Fordham Plaza.

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Eyes on the Street: Traffic Calming, 20 MPH Zone at Williamsbridge Oval

Illegal idling by ambulance drivers is still a problem, but recently-installed improvements around Williamsbridge Oval have calmed traffic for Norwood residents accessing the park. Photo: Elisabeth von Uhl

Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem isn’t the only green space receiving traffic calming improvements this summer. In the Bronx, Friends of the Williamsbridge Oval waged a fight with DOT to get crosswalks and pedestrian space near their park in the Norwood neighborhood. Now, a plan [PDFpresented to Community Board 7 this spring has been implemented.

The improvements include a 20 mph speed limit, expanded pedestrian space at intersections, crosswalks connecting to park entrances, additional on-street parking, and new signage. The 20 mph speed limit could be extended to the rest of the neighborhood if local leaders persevere in their effort to receive a Slow Zone from DOT.

Although there is still illegal idling in the area by ambulance drivers, Friends of the Williamsbridge Oval member and Norwood resident Elisabeth von Uhl is thrilled with the changes. ”Finally, our streets are safer and our park is safer,” she told Streetsblog in an e-mail.

New pedestrian space and crosswalks make park access easier for Norwood residents. Photo: Elisabeth von Uhl

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After Long Wait, Bronx Park Slated for DOT Ped Fixes, 20 MPH Speed Limit

Since 2009, Friends of the Williamsbridge Oval and Bronx Community Board 7 have been asking DOT to improve pedestrian safety and access to the Norwood neighborhood’s central public space. Most intersections surrounding the park don’t have crosswalks, and sections of the road surrounding the park are also missing sidewalks. Now, after years of requests from neighbors, DOT has proposed changes that would make it safer to get to the park.

Trying to get to the park? There are no sidewalks or crosswalks now, but that's slated to change. Image: DOT

Williamsbridge Oval, also known as Reservoir Oval, had 15 pedestrian injuries and 22 motor vehicle occupant injuries from 2006 to 2012, according to DOT. Over the same period, there were no bicyclist injuries, while four of the motor vehicle occupant injuries were serious.

DOT’s proposal [PDF], presented at a meeting co-hosted by CB 7 last Wednesday, would reduce the speed limit on the oval from 30 mph to 20 mph and add signage alerting drivers to speed humps and curves in the road. It would also add painted curb extensions and crosswalks at the intersections of Holt Place, Reservoir Place, and at a park entrance near the tennis courts between Wayne Avenue and Bainbridge Avenue.

While painted curb extensions are now a common tool DOT uses across New York,  unlike its counterparts in other cities, the agency doesn’t normally suggest striping crosswalks where there are no traffic signals or stop signs.

“It’s a big step in the right direction,” said Jay Shuffield, a member of both CB 7 and Friends of the Williamsbridge Oval. Shuffield thanked DOT’s pedestrian projects group for the change in tone, since advocates felt they were stonewalled by the agency’s Bronx borough office. ”They suddenly dropped their resistance to common-sense solutions here,” he said.

The proposal also adjusts the oval’s two high-traffic intersections with Bainbridge Avenue. At the avenue’s intersection with West 208th Street, the proposal adds a painted pedestrian island, and at Van Cortlandt Avenue East, it shifts parking to create a painted sidewalk that connects to a park entrance.

Nine additional parking spaces would be added on Reservoir Place as it approaches the oval to calm traffic coming from East Gun Hill Road, and parking spaces are being shifted to accommodate the painted curb extension on the oval at Holt Place.

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Enthusiasm Builds for Slow Zone as DOT Stonewalls on Bronx Park Safety Fix

Residents of the Bronx’s Norwood section have long dealt with missing sidewalks and crosswalks on the street encircling Williamsbridge Oval Park, the neighborhood’s central green space. After getting stonewalled by DOT’s Bronx Borough Office, neighborhood leaders are now hoping a Slow Zone application will get DOT to take action.

DOT's Bronx Borough Office has not been receptive to calls for crosswalks and sidewalks around Williamsbridge Oval Park. Photo: Google Maps

Since 2009, advocates have been asking for basic improvements that would slow speeding traffic and make it safer for people crossing to the park. ”They’re narrow streets and yet, it’s amazing how fast people will go around it,” said Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz, who recently helped secure a Slow Zone for nearby Riverdale.

Instead of a long-term solution, the neighborhood has received piecemeal fixes: a striped buffer at the intersection with Bainbridge Avenue, which drivers have learned to ignore, followed by a fresh coat for existing road markings that had faded away. A speed hump was installed at the request of Council Member G. Oliver Koppell in July 2012, while crosswalks and a sidewalk remain elusive.

In August 2012, fed up after the borough office had failed to make progress, Friends of the Williamsbridge Oval sent a letter to Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan asking her to intervene and deliver the requested safety improvements.

On January 23, DOT and Community Board 7 hosted a forum to discuss potential fixes for intersections next to the park. DOT staff spoke about temporary solutions, such as painted curb extensions and chicanes, but not crosswalks or sidewalks. The agency says it is processing feedback from the workshop and will have a proposal for the community board in the future. DOT did not provide a timeline for the proposal.

Meanwhile, enthusiasm is building for an application to DOT’s Slow Zone program, which would lower the speed limit to 20 mph and introduce traffic calming measures to the neighborhood.

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Proposal for New Park Near Lincoln Tunnel Endorsed by CB 4

Image: CHEKPEDS

A community-driven proposal to create a new public space on a street near the Lincoln Tunnel was endorsed by Manhattan Community Board 4 Wednesday.

The plan, as reported by DNAinfo in December, is to convert three lane-widths of leftover asphalt on Dyer Avenue between 34th and 35th Streets into a park. That stretch of Dyer currently has three lanes for vehicle traffic exiting the tunnel and one lane for inbound vehicles. The Port Authority, which owns the street, plans to eliminate one of the outbound lanes. A coalition of neighborhood groups, including the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association and CHEKPEDS, envisions a park on the east side of Dyer, encompassing about 7,200 square feet.

DNAinfo reports that last night CB 4 voted unanimously to recommend the plan to the Port Authority.

There is still money to be raised, and the board wants “at least two” public feedback sessions. But organizers are upbeat — and with good reason, especially considering that the idea for the park came about only a few months ago.

“We’ve made a tremendous amount of progress so far,” said Jeffrey Peyser, who’s part of the effort to create the park.

“We’ve done outreach for corporate sponsorship to fund the initial aspects of the park and are working on getting matching grant programs.”

Meta Brunzema, an architect who helped create the initial design for the park, said that despite its tiny size, the green space would include new trees, seating areas and other amenities.

“Our group’s intent was really to make this a park for everybody — for seniors, for people with disabilities, for young people, for old people,” she said.

“The goal here is to make a real park.”

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How Will Soccer Fans Get to Proposed MLS Stadium in Queens?

A proposed Major League Soccer stadium in the middle of Queens’ largest park might have some cheerleaders in Albany, but lots of questions must be answered before the first game can be played. Perhaps the biggest issue is the stadium’s transportation plan, the details of which — those that have been made public, at least — differ from what neighborhood advocates say MLS is telling them.

Parked cars sit in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park during the recent U.S. Open. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

On Monday, a coalition of groups known as the Queens Coalition for Fairness, including Make the Road New York and Queens Community House, hosted a meeting in Corona. Donovan Finn, an urban planning professor at Stony Brook University, explained to the crowd of hundreds why the current MLS proposal is a bad proposition.

“I’m not necessarily against the idea of a soccer stadium in this part of Queens,” Finn told Streetsblog. “But I do not think that the specific site MLS has chosen is the best choice.”

“I don’t think MLS has really thought the transportation issues through very much,” said Finn.

MLS is proposing a new, 25,000-seat stadium at the current site of the Fountain of Industry, more than a half-mile from the Mets-Willets Point subway station. That’s twice as far from the subway as the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and eight times farther than Citi Field.

The league says it will build an undisclosed number of parking spaces beneath the adjacent Van Wyck Expressway, but that none of the currently-estimated 13 acres of park land taken for the stadium would be used for parking.

Instead, MLS says that most attendees arriving by car are expected to use existing parking at Citi Field, an arrangement that’s likely subject to negotiation with Mets ownership. One potential problem Finn identified with this plan is double-booking Citi Field parking lots and overloading the 7 train, since soccer and baseball seasons occur at the same time of year.

Citi Field parking is up to three-quarters of a mile away from the proposed MLS site. The league says shuttle service to the subway or Citi Field parking lots is not currently part of its transportation plan, though community activists including Finn say MLS has told them otherwise.

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Bronx Park Group Presses DOT for Commitment to Ped Safety Fixes

In the Norwood neighborhood of the Bronx, there are no crosswalks connecting to the central public space, Williamsbridge Oval Park. Much of the street that surrounds the park even lacks sidewalks. Fed up with what they say is inaction from DOT’s Bronx office, local residents are now appealing to the top with a letter to Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan [PDF].

With no crosswalks to Williamsbridge Oval, and no sidewalks on much of the street surrounding the park, local families often end up walking in traffic. Photo: Friends of the Williamsbridge Oval

Anyone trying to access the park, including students from nearby M.S. 80 and kids going to the playground, must navigate Reservoir Oval. The street has no clear place to walk or cross the street. “People generally believe this is just an accident waiting to happen,” explained Friends of the Williamsbridge Oval member Jay Shuffield.

Requests for pedestrian safety improvements leading to the park from Friends of the Williamsbridge Oval and Bronx Community Board 7 date back to 2009. And this March, Bronx Borough Commissioner Constance Moran met at Williamsbrige Oval with members of the friends group, staff from Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz’s office, a representative from NYPD’s 52nd Precinct, and Community Board 7′s District Manager. In a later email, Moran committed to a pedestrian safety study and said she would update the group on the study by early August.

Advocates were looking to focus initial improvements on the intersection most in need of attention, at Holt Place, while aiming for a comprehensive study of pedestrian access along the Oval. The study’s results could then be used to implement longer-term pedestrian improvements.

In July, a speed hump requested by Council Member Oliver Koppell in April 2011 was installed. In addition to the study, Moran said road markings that had faded would be repainted.

Since then, there has been little action from DOT, say advocates, who are still waiting for the promised early August update on the study.

A DOT spokesperson said the agency is undertaking a study of the intersection of Reservoir Oval and Holt Place and will present its recommendations when the study is complete. In addition, DOT said it is “working on a comprehensive plan for safety enhancements along the length of the Reservoir Oval.”

Park advocates report that the Williamsbridge Oval process stands out compared to other DOT projects in the area, where the agency engaged neighborhood residents. Noting that “community members have been able to talk directly with the planners and engineers” working on the Congested Corridor Study for nearby East Gun Hill Road, Friends of the Williamsbridge Oval are asking DOT staff to meet with them to discuss options for Reservoir Oval. “A firm date is important,” said Shuffield, “so that this doesn’t continue to get kicked down the road for another few years.”

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In Flushing Meadows, Parking Encroaches on Queens Park Space

New parking garages, in the top left and top right of the image, would add 500 parking spaces to Flushing Meadows park. Image: United States Tennis Association via Parks Department

When New York City played host to the 1939 World’s Fair, the most influential attraction in Flushing Meadows was General Motors’ Futurama, a miniature vision of a future with highways crisscrossing through cities and mass ownership of the personal automobile. A science fiction vision at the time, it wasn’t far off from what ultimately happened.

Today, Flushing Meadows is a beloved park for the many Queens neighborhoods that border it, but one that retains an unusual degree of accommodation for the automobile. Residents are cut off from the park by two highways, the Van Wyck Expressway and the Grand Central Parkway, while the Long Island Expressway effectively cuts the park in two. Like the World’s Fair itself, all are Robert Moses creations.

And unlike in Manhattan and Brooklyn, where decades of activism have steadily reduced the amount of space and number of hours where cars are allowed in Central and Prospect Parks, in Queens’ premier park, the city is moving in the other direction. There are no car-free hours on Flushing Meadows’ park drives, for example.

And now, the desire to expand the park’s use as a site for major sports stadiums could bring hundreds or even thousands of new parking spaces inside the park, drawing new automobile trips on park roads.

As first reported by the Daily News, the United States Tennis Association wants to build two new parking garages as part of its proposed expansion of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The expansion, which is focused on adding capacity during the U.S. Open, would turn two existing surface lots into structured garages, adding about 500 parking spaces in the process.

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Parks Drops Dismount Signage at Upper West Side Greenway Exit

A reader sends along this shot from the Hudson River Greenway exit at W. 72nd Street. Cyclists are apparently no longer required to dismount on the shared path that connects the greenway and Riverside Drive, a ham-handed directive issued by the Parks Department last summer. Our tipster says the new signs have replaced dismount instructions, which were reportedly backed up by threats of summonses.

Good to see Parks acknowledge the value of this link to cyclists with an eye toward safety for all users.

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Plans For First Two Crosstown Central Park Bike-Ped Paths Take Shape

Details are emerging about the plan to create shared bike/pedestrian paths cutting east-west across Central Park. The first two paths are likely to officially open on a trial basis in September, cutting across the park at roughly 102nd Street and 96th Street, said Central Park Conservancy community relations manager Caroline Greenleaf at a Community Board 7 meeting last night.

The first two shared bike/ped paths across Central Park are set to open in early September. At 96th Street, the path will run south of the transverse rather than north of it (both are shown on this map). Image:New York Times

Those paths will be clearly marked with new signage and painted diamonds on the pavement, as on the park’s only current bike/ped path, which connects West 106th Street to the loop drive. The paths won’t be divided into separate lanes for those on foot and those on two wheels, said Greenleaf, but the diamonds will be off to one side of the path.

What those signs should say was a point of contention. Greenleaf said they are likely to urge cyclists to go at “walking speed,” but many members of the CB 7 Parks and Transportation Committees found that overly restrictive.

The co-chairs of the Parks Committee, Klari Neuwelt and Elizabeth Starkey, pointed out that they had sent a letter to the Parks Department months ago recommending that shared paths in Central and Riverside Parks use language like “yield to pedestrians” or “go slow,” rather than speed limits that did not leave room for discretion. “It was not intended to have cyclists go so slowly they fall off their bikes,” said Neuwelt.

At one point, the restrictions on the paths may be more stringent still. Where the 96th Street route, which will run just south of the transverse road on a little-used path, crosses the East Drive, said Greenleaf, a dismount zone is under consideration. “There are issues about whether it’s actually safe to cross the drives on your bicycle,” she said, adding that those issues were exacerbated at that crossing by a hairpin turn just east of the loop.

A number of community board members pointed out how much more smoothly these paths could be implemented if cars were taken off the Central Park loop drives altogether. “It sounds like a lot of this is the result of avoiding automobile traffic,” said board chair Mel Wymore. The community board endorsed a car-free park trial by a vote of 32-1 in June.

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