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Posts from the "Sidewalks" Category

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Eyes on the Street: Dodging Drivers on the Sidewalk

Video still: Rob Underwood

Video still: Rob Underwood

Heads up, New Yorkers. You never know when your neighborhood sidewalk will turn into a construction detour for motorists.

A National Grid construction crew blocked Prospect Place between Flatbush Avenue and Sixth Avenue this morning. Since the crew failed to cork the street at the top of the block by Flatbush, drivers were expected to just figure it out once they had already turned down Prospect. Of course, some drivers took the most direct route possible: Jumping the curb and driving on the sidewalk with pedestrians.

Rob Underwood was walking home after taking his kids to P.S. 282 when he came across the scene. “It looked like one of the drivers had gotten out of his car to yell at the construction workers and then got back in his car to drive around on the sidewalk,” he said. Other drivers followed. One SUV driver almost got stuck, with the vehicle fenced in on the sidewalk by an old fire call box. At another point, a livery car driver idled on a curb ramp as a woman walking with a stroller and child tried to get by.

“After probably six cars tried to go through, cars tried to go out in reverse back to Flatbush, which is probably dangerous, but less dangerous than driving on the sidewalk,” Underwood said.

In September, DOT issued a street construction permit to a National Grid subsidiary for gas work on this block of Prospect Place. The permit expires on Sunday.

Update 12:45 p.m.: “As part of our ongoing gas main replacement program, National Grid is upgrading and installing about 200 feet of gas main and new service lines to homes for our customers on Prospect Place. We have appropriate permits from DOT allowing temporary traffic control devices to close the street periodically,” National Grid spokesperson Karen Young said in an e-mail. “Safety is our number one priority; we have a flagger onsite and proper barricades to close off the street as needed to complete work and protect the public and our workers. The barricade was breached this morning and we took immediate action to secure the area to ensure the safety of the community and our crews.”

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Pima County Holds Better Sidewalks Hostage to Get a Road Expansion

Pima County is insisting on widening Broadway Avenue, whether Tucson wants it or not. Photo: Jude Ignacio and Gerardine Vargas via ##http://blog.preservationleadershipforum.org/2014/02/11/sunshine-mile/#.VIi7kWTF9Ns##Preservation Leadership Forum##

Pima County insists on widening Broadway Boulevard, whether Tucson wants it or not. Photo: Jude Ignacio and Gerardine Vargas via Preservation Leadership Forum

West of downtown Tucson, Arizona, the city runs up against the interstate first and then the mountains, cutting off development. But east of downtown, the city sprawls on for miles. The Sunshine Mile, a shopping and dining corridor centered on Broadway Boulevard, stretches two miles just east of downtown, between Euclid Avenue and Country Club Road.

Pima County and its Regional Transportation Authority are pushing the city to widen Broadway for the length of the Sunshine Mile. And they’re threatening to withhold money for bringing the sidewalks into compliance with the Americans for Disabilities Act until Tucson complies.

The long and sordid story begins in the mid-1980s, when engineers predicted that traffic on Broadway would skyrocket from about 35,000 vehicles per day to 56,000 by 2005. To prepare for that veritable onslaught, planners concocted a scheme that involved widening Broadway from less than 100 feet to 150 feet.

The projections never came to pass. Traffic on Broadway has never exceeded 45,000 cars a day, according to Laura Tabili of the Broadway Coalition, which is fighting the road widening. In line with the rest of the country, traffic has actually been declining for the last 10 years. The most recent daily traffic counts on Broadway are now down below 35,000, less than in 1987, and in general the volume is only that high east of the target area.

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Eyes on the Street: Keeping Trash Off the Sidewalks in Buenos Aires

Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Trash on the street in Buenos Aires …

Clarence Eckerson has been following our #sidewalkhogs competition while in South America. He sends this photo from Buenos Aires.

“Not only have I seen very few cars parked on sidewalks,” writes Clarence, “there are hundreds of spaces in the city where trash pick up is located in the street in what were once parking spaces.”

This is a logical alternative to the piles of garbage that obstruct and stink up city sidewalks, attracting vermin and even endangering pedestrians. How nice it would be if NYC, where so many people can barely conceive of using street space for anything other than automobile storage, could get behind it.

Maybe Clarence can find out if these bins require community board approval.

… and NYC. Photos: Clarence Eckerson Jr. and ##https://www.flickr.com/photos/ascentstage/8811078813##John Tolva/Flickr##

… and NYC. Photos: Clarence Eckerson Jr. and John Tolva/Flickr

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Eyes on the Street: Whole Foods Takes the Whole Bike Lane (and Sidewalk)

Who needs newly-built loading docks when you can take over the sidewalk and the bike lane? Photo: Brooklyn Spoke/Twitter

Whole Foods commandeers Third Avenue. Photo: Brooklyn Spoke/Twitter

The huge surface parking lot and inward-facing, suburban-style design were bad enough. Now the Gowanus Whole Foods Market is taking over the Third Avenue bike lane and sidewalk as a private loading zone.

Doug Gordon of Brooklyn Spoke snapped a photo of a Whole Foods forklift and piles of pallets using the Third Avenue buffered bike lane and sidewalk as a private loading zone earlier this week. One would expect a newly-built food market to be well-integrated with existing infrastructure, but since Whole Foods opened late last year, its loading activities have overflowed onto the street and sidewalk along Third Avenue.

“You can’t blame the drivers or the people manning the loading dock for this situation,” Gordon writes. “The design forces them to do this just to keep the store stocked.”

In its 2011 traffic study [PDF], Whole Foods said only that “truck loading docks would be located along Third Avenue” and that all truck loading activity would occur between midnight and 5 p.m. There was no mention of the amount of space needed or required to accommodate deliveries or whether that space would take over the sidewalk and street.

Community Board 6 voted in support of the project in June 2011. According to the board’s minutes, the interaction of loading zones with Third Avenue only came up as a concern briefly during the land use committee hearing on the proposal. As a condition for its approval, the board requested that Whole Foods conduct a traffic study one year after opening.

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DOT Proposes Crosswalk Fix Where Renee Thompson Was Killed

In September, 16-year-old Renee Thompson was walking to the subway after getting off work just after 10 p.m., when, crossing Third Avenue at 60th Street, she was hit and killed by a turning truck driver. Now DOT is proposing shorter crossing distances at the intersection, but  Community Board 8′s transportation committee wants the agency to go further and also look at the dangers pedestrians face just one block away, where drivers jostle along Second Avenue to get on to the Queensboro Bridge.

The plan adds curb extensions to two corners at 60th Street and Third Aveune. Image: DOT

The plan adds curb extensions to two corners at 60th Street and Third Aveune. Image: DOT

The plan [PDF], which adds painted curb extensions and flex-post bollards to the northwest and southwest corners, would shorten crossing distances on Third Avenue from 65 feet to 53 feet, and on 60th Street from 35 feet to 25 feet. It also adds a left-turn lane on Third Avenee and lengthens the existing left-turn lane from 60th Street to Third Avenue, which is heavily used by trucks heading north after exiting the bridge. Both streets are mapped as truck routes.

Sidewalks at the intersection are crowded, and narrowed by enclosed sidewalk cafes, tree pits, and subway entrances on all four corners.

There were 12 pedestrian injuries at the intersection from 2007 to 2011, according to DOT, and in addition to Thompson’s death last September, there was another fatality at the intersection in 2010: Thomas Richards, 67, of Queens Village was in the crosswalk when he was killed by a cab driver who witnesses say was speeding.

A resolution supporting the curb extension at Third Avenue [PDF] passed the committee unanimously last Thursday and now heads to the full board, which is scheduled to meet tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Hunter College.

The resolution also asks DOT to come back within six months with a pedestrian safety plan for the area around the Queensboro Bridge at Second Avenue, an issue CB 8 transportation committee co-chair A. Scott Falk said DOT staff was receptive to.

“We’re very glad that they’re making a proposal for 60th and Third,” Falk told Streetsblog. ”It’s been one of my priorities for the board in 2014 to get real pedestrian improvements around the bridge.”

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Eyes on the Street: NYC Keeps Rolling Out the Bioswales in Queens

Photos: Clarence Eckerson

It’s fair to say that I’ve been geeking out over streetscape improvements in NYC that incorporate plantings to manage stormwater runoff (here, here, and here). These sidewalk expansions are popping up all over the place near my apartment in Jackson Heights.

Recently, I was on Junction Boulevard between the Long Island Expressway and Queens Boulevard and saw some significant street reclamations. Some photos:

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Eyes on the Street: Converting the Sidewalk to Private Parking in the Bronx

Looking to add some extra off-street parking? No problem. Just pave over the sidewalk and fence it in. The handicapped-accessible pedestrian ramp can be your curb cut. Photo: Google Maps

Looking to park at 3059 Bainbridge Avenue in the Bronx? There are plenty of options. The property has a garage, not to mention the free on-street parking. But that wasn’t enough for the owner of this property, who decided to commandeer some of the public sidewalk, pave it over with asphalt, fence it in, and use the handicapped-accessible pedestrian ramp as the curb cut to a personal driveway.

In recent years, there have been a series of complaints and violations registered with the city about the illegal driveway, brought to Streetsblog’s attention by reader Jay Shuffield. In 2006, the Department of Buildings found the the storage of three vehicles at the front of the property to be in violation of parking regulations in a residential district. The property owner — at the time, listed as Maria Aviles-Rodriguez in city records — paid a $480 penalty, but the illegal driveway remained.

In 2008, a complaint was registered with DOB about a fence erected around the illegal driveway, but a violation for work without a permit was dismissed by the Environmental Control Board. Last month, two complaints were registered via 311: A violation was served for illegal parking spaces, and another complaint about an illegal fence was referred to DOT. The agency says it issued a notice of violation.

It seems that paying $480 and putting up with the occasional violation notice from the city is just the cost of doing business when it comes to securing private off-street parking on public space in the Bronx.

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Positively 3rd Street

Did 9th Street in Park Slope formerly have sidewalks as generous as 3rd Street?

Strolling up 3rd Street in Park Slope from 7th Avenue toward Prospect Park, it’s easy to see this is one of the most magnificent streets in what is, let’s face it, one of the prettiest neighborhoods in the city. The homes, built in the late 19th century and often clad in white stone, are set back further. The double flanking of trees lend a calming tone. A bike lane is set along one side of the one-way street.

But what’s most luxurious about this street, if not consciously noticed by its users, are the expansive sidewalks, about 8 paces, which is roughly twice as wide as the sidewalks on surrounding streets. The wide sidewalks on 3rd Street provide room for several people to walk side by side in one direction, without playing the game of dodge a person so common in New York. It’s a strolling street.

If you walk south from 3th Street for just six blocks, you come to a very different sort of street, 9th Street. It’s probably one of the least pleasant streets in the Slope. The sidewalks are narrow. The car portion of the street is wide. A torrent of cars and trucks pour up and down it, making their way to and from the Gowanus Canal, Court Street, and Red Hook. The street has bike lanes on each side, but this is still a chaotic and risky place to cycle, given the trucks and double-parking.

But here’s the thing. Did 9th Street used to be like 3rd Street? My eye, somewhat attuned to urban geography, sees evidence that the answer is yes. Both of the streets, measured by the distance from the homes on each side to each other, are wider than surrounding streets. Both are flanked by particularly elegant townhouses.  I wonder if 9th Street, now so chaotic and workhorse like, used to be a grand strolling street leading up to the prominent entrance to Prospect Park where the statue of General Lafayette awaits you.

What I bet happened is that at some point in the last century the city grabbed some of the width from the sidewalks and setbacks of 9th Street, and gave it over to cars, converting 9th street into a car artery, decidedly unpleasant. I bet the political power of the residents of these beautiful townhouses had reached a nadir, allowing the city to decrease the charm of their street and thus their property values.

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