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Posts from the Pedestrian Infrastructure Category


Trottenberg Announces Plaza Equity Program at Plaza de Las Americas Reveal

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, and a cast of uptown players marked the opening of Plaza de Las Americas today. Photo: Brad Aaron

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, and a cast of uptown players marked the opening of Plaza de Las Americas today. Photos: Brad Aaron

Just eight months after the groundbreaking ceremony, officials held a ribbon-cutting this morning at Plaza de Las Americas, an impressive new public space in Washington Heights. Also today, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced a City Hall initiative to assist plazas in neighborhoods without the resources of a major business improvement district.

Plaza de Las Americas reclaims one block of W. 175th Street, between Broadway and Wadsworth Avenue, with 16,000 square feet of pedestrian space. Bookended to the north and south by the United Palace theater and a grocery store, respectively, the plaza comes equipped with electric and water service for vendors. Other amenities include a public restroom, decorative pavers, benches, trees, and a fountain by artist Ester Partegás.

The block has been the site of a farmers market since 1980, and since 1994 vendors have set up on the street to sell household wares, clothes, and other items. Sponsored by the Washington Heights and Inwood Development Corporation, the proposal to make those uses permanent received $5 million in city funds when it was chosen in the first round of the plaza program in 2008. The project was designed and built by DOT and the Department of Design and Construction.

“After years of planning, today we come together to celebrate the location our community has valued for decades transformed into an even better venue,” said City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez in prepared remarks. “La Plaza de Las Americas will be a focal point for the communities of Northern Manhattan and assuredly a boon to local business and our very active street vendors.”

Other electeds on hand included Congressman Charles Rangel, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, Assembly Member Guillermo Linares, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

Trottenberg announced the OneNYC Plaza Equity Program, which will allocate $1.4 million from the city budget to provide maintenance and management assistance to 30 “medium and high need” plaza projects, most of them in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Upper Manhattan. Trottenberg said projects are eligible to receive up to $80,000, along with other assistance, such as organizing and fundraising help, for up to three years. Plazas that lack resources for upkeep can quickly fall out of favor with the public.

Another tidbit: Rodriguez said he’d like to see Plaza de Las Americas extended to St. Nicholas Avenue, two blocks east, as a “gateway” to Washington Heights and Inwood.

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The Randall’s Island Connector Is Finally Here

This spring, the Highbridge re-opened between the Bronx and Manhattan, the first car-free crossing linking the two boroughs. Now the second one in less than a year is open with the debut of the Randall’s Island Connector. The project has been in the pipeline for what seems like forever, and on Saturday it opened to the delight of many South Bronx residents.

The connector provides a direct and easy link between the developing South Bronx greenway network and Randall’s Island, with its athletic fields, picnic tables, miles of beautiful greenways, and stunning views of the Manhattan skyline. From Randall’s Island, you can bike or walk to the big island via the 103rd Street footbridge.

Advance apologies for some of the sound. When the winds are gusting over 30 mph and you are below an Amtrak train trestle, well, those aren’t ideal conditions. But kudos to the hundreds of people who showed up on a cold and blustery fall morning to celebrate the occasion.


Eyes on the Street: Randall’s Island Connector to Open in “Coming Weeks”

The Randall’s Island Connector is still fenced off, but not for long. EDC says an opening date will be scheduled “in the coming weeks.” Photo: Stephen Miller

The Randall’s Island Connector, a greenway link between the South Bronx and Randall’s Island, is almost complete. Bronxites are anticipating a ribbon-cutting any day now from the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which is building the project.

The new path crosses the Bronx Kill, a narrow waterway separating Randall’s Island from the Bronx. Without it, the only way to bike or walk from the Bronx to Randall’s Island is over narrow paths on the Triborough Bridge that include stairs, sharp curves, and a steep ascent to bridge level.

In contrast, the connector will provide a flat, direct crossing from E. 132nd Street in Port Morris to 330 acres of public parks and greenways on Randall’s Island.

Construction crews are currently finishing up handrail installations and minor fencing work, EDC says, before the city schedules a grand opening.

EDC wouldn’t give an exact opening date — but it should be soon. “As we put the finishing touches on the Randall’s Island Connector and schedule a grand opening event in the coming weeks, we are excited for the many opportunities that this neighborhood asset will provide for the community,” an agency spokesperson said.


Brooklyn Beep Eric Adams Funds Eight Concrete Curb Extensions

Eight new concrete curb extensions are coming to five Brooklyn intersections after a $1 million pledge from Borough President Eric Adams.

Curb extensions reduce crossing distances for pedestrians and help drivers make slower, safer turns. Photo: DOT [PDF]

Curb extensions reduce crossing distances for pedestrians and help drivers make slower, safer turns. Photo: DOT [PDF]

Curb extensions, also known as neckdowns or bulb-outs, extend the sidewalk at intersections to shorten crossing distances for pedestrians and slow drivers as they turn around a corner.

“Our youngest and oldest Brooklynites are at particular risk when crossing some of our busiest streets,” Adams said in a press release. “Redesigning our crossings through sidewalk extensions is a common-sense approach that helps take our most vulnerable out of harm’s way.”

Eight concrete neckdowns will be added to five intersections in Sheepshead Bay, East Flatbush, Prospect Lefferts Gardens and Borough Park. The intersections were chosen because they are high-crash locations in areas with an above-average concentration of senior citizens. Three of the five intersections are located in areas included in NYC DOT’s Safe Streets for Seniors program.

Here’s the full list:

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Watch New Yorkers Using the 33rd Street Plaza With Streetfilms

Catch it while you can. Before the temporary plaza on 33rd Street at Seventh Avenue closes on October 3, Clarence Eckerson Jr. of Streetfilms stopped by to grab video of New Yorkers enjoying some breathing room in one of Midtown’s most crowded corners.

The plaza was installed in July, along with a temporary sidewalk extension on 32nd Street between Herald Square and Penn Station. The pedestrian spaces could return permanently after the trial period ends next month.

The plaza has proven immensely popular, getting rave reviews at a recent Community Board 5 meeting. The sidewalk extension, however, has come under attack — both from a tabloid columnist who thinks homelessness can be fixed with car traffic, and from 32nd Street neighbors who want more curbside loading zones.

The projects, supported by DOT and CB 5, were conceived and sponsored by real estate giant Vornado, which owns major properties near Penn Station, including Penn Plaza, the Manhattan Mall, and the Hotel Pennsylvania.

Before the public space is removed and given back to cars in less than three weeks, the 34th Street Partnership is hosting a workshop tomorrow evening to gather feedback on what people think of the plaza. It’s scheduled for tomorrow at 6 p.m. RSVP is required.


32nd Street Finally Has Enough Space for Walking. Will It Last?

This pedestrian space could be replaced with loading zones. Photo: Stephen Miller

This pedestrian space, installed for a summer trial period, may give way to parked trucks because building owners on the south side of 32nd Street want more loading zones. Photo: Stephen Miller

New pedestrian zones near Penn Station have given people more breathing room on some of the most crowded streets in the city. Will they stay or will they go after a trial period wraps up in October?

At a Community Board 5 committee meeting last night, nearby property owners weighed in on the projects. It was smooth sailing for the new plaza on 33rd Street at Seventh Avenue, but a much-needed sidewalk expansion on the north side of 32nd Street faced pushback from property owners who aren’t pleased with how it’s changed the use of the curb in front of their buildings.

The projects were conceived and funded by real estate giant Vornado Realty Trust, which owns a number of properties near Penn Station, including Penn Plaza, the Manhattan Mall, and the Hotel Pennsylvania. The new pedestrian areas relieve crowding on sidewalks near the rail station, where people on foot overflow into the street.

The temporary public spaces, approved by NYC DOT and supported by CB 5 in June, were installed about a month ago and are set to be removed October 11. Based on the results of this evaluation period, the additional pedestrian space could be brought back and made permanent.

Property owners along 32nd Street want to see some adjustments. Fetner Properties owns The Epic, a rental residential tower with its back door on the south side of 32nd Street, across from the Manhattan Mall and the sidewalk extension. “We love the idea,” President and CEO Hal Fetner told a joint meeting of the CB 5 parks and transportation committees last night. “[But] we’re all fighting for the same sidewalk space.”

To replace the parking lane on the north side of the street with pedestrian space, the project shuffled curbside uses, shifting an MTA bus layover and reducing the length of the street’s loading zones from 680 feet to 180 feet. Now, Fetner says, his building’s trash is collected on the same curb where people wait to board the M4 and Q32 buses. When new tenants move in, he has to send staff to sit on the curb until the moving truck arrives, keeping others from taking the space. Fetner said that wasn’t an issue when the street had more loading zones.

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Construction Begins on New 151st Street Bridge to Hudson River Greenway

The view from what will be the eastern landing of a new bike/ped bridge linking 151st Street to the Hudson River Greenway. Photo: Delphine Taylor

The state broke ground this month on a new pedestrian and bicycle bridge linking West Harlem with the Hudson River Greenway.

For cyclists, the bridge will provide stair-free access between the greenway and the intersection of 151st Street and Riverside Drive, spanning the Henry Hudson Parkway and the Amtrak line that runs along the Hudson. Right now the nearest access points, at 148th and 155th streets, have stairs and no ramps. The nearest crossings with ramps are at 135th Street, south of Riverbank State Park, and 158th Street.

The 158th Street connection received a $2 million staircase and ramp from the state Department of Transportation in 2006. Earlier this summer, NYC DOT installed a two-way bike lane on 158th Street as part of a larger package of bikeway improvements linking the Hudson River Greenway to the High Bridge.

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Turn Times Square Back Into Traffic Hell? Tell Bratton and de Blasio: No Way

Replacing people with cars? Not a good idea, public space advocates say. Photo: Nicolas Vollmer/Flickr

Try to picture ramming a road through this crowd and cramming them onto the sidewalk. Photo: Nicolas Vollmer/Flickr

Since Mayor Bill de Blasio won’t rule out the threat of removing the Times Square plazas, first raised by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, it’s time to take action. Two petitions are circulating to urge the mayor not to give Times Square back to cars.

One petition organized by the Design Trust for Public Space and backed by the Municipal Art Society and a similar petition from Transportation Alternatives call on Bratton and de Blasio to do the right thing by the hundreds of thousands of people who walk in Times Square every day.

“Commissioner Bratton and Mayor de Blasio want to rip up the pedestrian plazas. We can’t let that happen,” the Design Trust’s petition says. “Aggressive street performers and ‘desnudas’ are an enforcement problem. They aren’t a plaza problem.”

Here’s what some of the signatories are saying…

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Bratton Won’t Stop Talking About Removing Times Square Plazas

It wasn’t just an offhand remark. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has reiterated his desire to eliminate the public plazas at Times Square and go back to the days when people were spilling off the sidewalk into the path of traffic. This time, he’s insisting that taking away space for people won’t just cure Times Square of topless women and costumed characters — it’ll actually improve traffic safety.

He's the Energizer bunny of car-centric thinking. Photo: Policy Exchange/Flickr

He’s the Energizer bunny of windshield perspective. Photo: Policy Exchange/Flickr

The year after the plazas were installed, pedestrian injuries fell 40 percent at Times Square, and injuries to car drivers and passengers dropped 63 percent along Broadway in Midtown, according to a 2010 DOT report [PDF]. At the same time, pedestrian volumes in Times Square increased 11 percent after the plaza opened.

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal crunched the numbers and found that total traffic injuries in Times Square have fallen nearly 25 percent in the five years since the redesign compared to the five previous years. Times Square is safer now than it was before the plazas were installed.

Not so, says Bratton.

“That story was really, very inappropriate in its findings. It took a look at Seventh Avenue and Broadway. It didn’t look at the cross streets, it didn’t look at the larger Times Square area,” he said on WGTK-AM 970, reports Politico. “When you look at the larger Times Square area, actually, accidents have gone up. So, all the traffic that has been pushed into the side street… it tells a very different story.”

Whatever stats Bratton is referring to, they clearly don’t account for the huge growth in foot traffic to Times Square since the plazas arrived. Even if injuries haven’t declined — and all indications are that they have — with all the added people walking in Times Square now, the average person is clearly safer from traffic.

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Eyes on the Street: Clinton Street’s New Bikeway

The bikeway isn't complete yet, but it's already getting used. Photo: Stephen Miller

The bikeway isn’t complete yet, but it’s already getting used. Photo: Stephen Miller

A new two-way bikeway is under construction to provide a connection between the Williamsburg Bridge and the East River Greenway.

The route along Clinton Street extends the existing two-way protected bike lane between Delancey and Grand an additional five blocks to South Street, where it connects to the waterfront bike path beneath the FDR Drive.

The waterfront greenway, which runs along South Street, will also be getting an upgrade: concrete barriers to protect greenway users from cars and trucks. DOT says the installation schedule for this component of the project is still being determined.

Cinton Street is getting a two-way bikeway and painted curb extensions. Image: DOT [PDF]

Clinton Street is getting a two-way bikeway and painted curb extensions. Image: DOT [PDF]

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