Skip to content

Posts from the "Chelsea" Category

2 Comments

In Chelsea, Adding Parks to the Street Could Free Up Room For Housing Too

Two 25th Street residents sit in a makeshift "micropark" in an Eighth Avenue island. Under a proposal to build 100 public spaces in on-street parking spots, one Chelsea group envisions a variety of more comfortable options around every corner. Photo: Park Chelsea

This Friday, New Yorkers will take part in Park(ing) Day, repurposing dozens of parking spaces around the city to show what you can do with valuable curbside real estate besides storing cars. Last year, participants set up everything from “alternate side mulching” to an entire dorm room, complete with walls and a television set, to help New Yorkers re-imagine the potential uses of their streets.

One New Yorker who needs no help re-imagining the curb is Arnold Bob, who prefers to go by “Ranger Bob, commissioner of Park Chelsea.” As reported by DNAinfo’s Matthew Katz, he’s proposing to turn one parking space on every block from 14th to 34th Streets, between Fifth Avenue and the Hudson River, into a what he calls a micropark. All told, it would add up to more than 100 small-scale public spaces where neighbors could meet up, take a breather, or plant a garden.

Bob started lobbying for the microparks after realizing that they offered a way to resolve one of the neighborhood’s most intractable planning disputes. “In Chelsea, there was a debate going on over affordable housing versus parks,” he explained. “I could get affordable housing done and parks at the same time.” All it would take is a willingness to rethink street space — leave the developable land for housing, and put the parks next to the curb.

Park Chelsea, Bob’s organization, has already set up their own permanent micropark — not in a parking spot but on the planted section of an Eighth Avenue pedestrian island. The Eighth and Ninth Avenue redesigns, or as Bob called them, “greenways,” could be just the beginning of bringing public pedestrian space to the streetbed in Chelsea.

His ideal microparks, he said, would have protective fencing and public seating like New York’s pop-up cafés, as well as features like community bulletin boards and green infrastructure to prevent stormwater overflows from dumping sewage into the Hudson. “If you put these on every block,” said Bob, “you’ll have a park within a one or two minute walk of everybody.”

Ranger Bob said he’s spoken with Community Board 4 about the proposal. They were supportive of the concept, though skeptical of its feasibility at full scale. With only a handful of pop-up cafés in place so far, they’re probably right that 100 is a distant goal. Still, Bob has a plan to win over opponents who don’t want to see fewer parking spaces: Pair each micropark with on-street space for car-share vehicles. Bob argued that the addition of each shared car would make up for the removal of multiple parking spaces for personal vehicles — a tradeoff he believes can create some physical and political room for his vision.

15 Comments

Questions Arise Over Placement of Chelsea Bike Lanes

Image: NYC DOT

On Wednesday, DOT outlined a proposal for new Class II bike lanes in Chelsea between Eighth and Ninth Avenues and the Hudson River Greenway. While safe streets advocates welcomed the news, there is concern that their planned location, on W. 29th and W. 30th Streets, may not be ideal for unprotected lanes.

According to DOT’s presentation to the Community Board 4 transportation committee (PDF), W. 30th ranks in the 89th percentile in fatalities and serious injuries. Lincoln Tunnel traffic and trucks en route to and from a USPS facility are ever-present. Marilyn Dershowitz was struck and killed by the driver of a postal truck earlier this summer while cycling on 29th between Ninth and Tenth Avenues. All things considered, committee members worried that unprotected lanes won’t make the two streets safe enough.

“To encourage bicyclists on these streets is a little like leading sheep to a herd of wolves,” said Bret Firfer, as quoted in a DNAinfo report on the meeting.

DOT emphasized that 29th and 30th are the only streets between 23rd and 34th that would allow for an eventual uninterrupted river-to-river route for crosstown cycling. But members of the committee offered 25th and 26th Streets as an alternative, while acknowledging that 25th would mean a couple of turns to reach the Greenway, and in the future would require riding around Madison Square on the East Side.

DOT reps believe 29th and 30th would be no more dangerous than other area streets, and said they don’t believe cyclists would take a detour to find a safer route.

“We are also very concerned about this block, but the fact of the matter is that there are cyclists that exist on this road,” said DOT’s Josh Benson. “We’re very limited in what routes work at all for cyclists. I don’t know if there are better choices out there.” At this point, DOT plans to stripe lanes on the south side of 29th and 30th, along with other traffic lane alterations, in the fall.

“I am not sure there is a right or wrong answer,” transportation committee member Christine Berthet told Streetsblog. “We are just trying to find which pair the cyclists would use most.”

1 Comment

Tonight: DOT to Unveil Plans for Bike Lanes on 29th and 30th Streets

Marilyn Dershowitz was fatally struck by the driver of a USPS truck on W. 29th St. in July. Will planned bike lanes offer adequate protection for crosstown cyclists? Photo: DNAinfo

Cyclists looking for a safer route between protected bike lanes on Eighth and Ninth Avenues and the Hudson River Greenway could soon see a measure of relief. Tonight, DOT will meet with the transportation committee of Community Board 4 to discuss plans for dedicated lanes on 29th and 30th Streets.

Currently, cyclists traveling east-west between 17th and 43rd have few options that don’t include jockeying with car and truck traffic on wide streets.

“There are concerns about the large USPS trucks,” says Christine Berthet of the Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen Coalition for Pedestrian Safety. In July, cyclist Marilyn Dershowitz was killed by a postal truck driver while riding underneath a building overhang that straddles W. 29th between Ninth and Tenth Avenues, a stretch dominated by USPS vehicles. Following the Dershowitz crash — a hit-and-run; no charges filed — Berthet noted that a neighborhood advisory committee has “proposed a number of east-west connections” to DOT. “Unless these bike paths are protected,” said Berthet, “nothing will prevent another tragedy like this one.”

How much help Class II lanes would provide remains to be seen. DOT declined to release design details prior to the meeting. To find out what’s in store, and to speak up for giving cyclists the means to travel crosstown without risking their lives, head to the Holland House, Piano Room, 351 W. 42nd Street, this evening at 6:30.

12 Comments

Top Traffic Cops Promise Pedestrians-First Enforcement at West Side Forum

Michael Pilecki (center) promised to strengthen traffic enforcement and focus on pedestrian safety at a community board meeting last night. Photo: Adams/Daily News.

Top NYPD brass expressed surprise at West Side residents’ unhappiness with the department’s traffic enforcement policies and vowed to do better at a meeting of Manhattan CB 4′s transportation committee last night. They also announced a new citywide “pedestrians first” policy for the department.

Four officers attended the CB 4 meeting, according to committee co-chair Christine Berthet, including Michael Pilecki and Scott Hanover, the commanding officer and executive officer of the NYPD’s traffic enforcement division. “It was fabulous,” said Berthet. “They took copious notes on everything.”

Berthet said that committee members had a wide array of complaints with NYPD’s current traffic enforcement practices in the area and pushed for more aggressive enforcement focused on pedestrian safety. “They were surprised how strong the message was from the community,” said Berthet. “We want fewer agents [who can only issue tickets for very limited violations like parking] and more tickets, summonses and towaways.”

Certain NYPD practices earned specific criticism from the West Siders. Police wave cars through red lights even when there isn’t any threat of gridlock, they said, or wave turning vehicles right into crossing pedestrians. “They said they had heard that, but needed to reinforce that message,” reported Berthet.

The officers also agreed to enforce anti-idling laws against buses and vans as well as automobiles.

To ensure that the police follow through on their commitments, said Berthet, she’ll hold another meeting of the transportation committee in three months to gather community feedback. “If there was no visible change,” she said, “we’ll re-invite them.”

Pilecki and Hanover also told the community board that the police had made a new citywide commitment to “pedestrians first” enforcement. “This is their new priority,” said Berthet. The campaign will include retraining traffic officers and stressing the “pedestrians first” mantra inside the department with visual reminders like stickers. A Streetsblog request to the NYPD press office for more information on the “pedestrians first” commitment was not returned.

12 Comments

Eyes on the Street: Two Lanes of Ped Space Coming to Chelsea Subway Stop

Construction has started on a new pedestrian refuge island and plaza at 23rd Street and Seventh Avenue. Photo: Mike Epstein

Construction is underway at the intersection of 23rd Street and Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, where DOT is building new pedestrian refuge islands and a sidewalk extension to provide some extra space around a busy subway station. The intersection, currently in the 99th percentile for severity-weighted traffic injuries in the city, will also have its signals adjusted to give pedestrians more conflict-free time to cross the street. The new plaza extends across two of Seventh Avenue’s six lanes on the southern side of the intersection.

As the weather continues to get warmer, expect construction to heat up across the city.

No Comments

Cyclist Struck at Seventh Avenue and 28th Street

The driver of a motor vehicle hit and injured a cyclist at the corner of Seventh Avenue and 28th Street in Manhattan at 1:56 this afternoon, according to the NYPD. The cyclist was taken to Bellevue Hospital. The police didn’t have any additional information about the crash at this time.

We’ll post more information as it becomes available.

14 Comments

Dangerous Chelsea Intersection To Get DOT Safety Treatment

DOT plans to redesign the dangerous intersection of Seventh Avenue and 23rd Street to enhance pedestrian safety.

DOT plans to redesign the dangerous intersection of Seventh Avenue and 23rd Street to enhance pedestrian safety.

One of the city’s most dangerous intersections, in the middle of a neighborhood full of senior citizens, is due for a safety upgrade. As part of the city’s Safe Streets for Seniors program, NYC DOT will be installing new pedestrian refuge islands and a small “transit plaza” to the corner of Seventh Avenue and 23rd Street in Manhattan, along with more conflict-free crossing time for pedestrians [PDF].

The crowded intersection — with pedestrians headed to the 1 train and the senior-friendly Penn South co-op one block away — is badly in need of a safety upgrade. According to the DOT, it’s at the 99th percentile for severity-weighted injuries in the city. Between 2004 and 2008, an average of eleven people were injured in traffic crashes at the intersection each year. Two people died in traffic crashes at the intersection since 2004. Though the intersection already had some safety features, notably a leading pedestrian interval to give those on foot a head start crossing the street, with two very wide streets meeting it wasn’t enough.

“This is one of those intersections where you have two-way streets that are very dangerous for pedestrians,” said Christine Berthet of the Clinton Hell’s Kitchen Coalition for Pedestrian Safety. Berthet noted that DOT’s landmark pedestrian safety study singled out two-way arterial streets like 23rd as particularly dangerous for pedestrians.

Read more…

7 Comments

Council Members Vow to Back AARP Pedestrian Safety Goals

QuinnAARP.JPGFrom left to right: Council Members Jessica Lappin, Christine Quinn, and James Vacca, AARP State Director Lois Aronstein, and NYC Aging Commissioner Lilliam Barrios-Paoli. Photo: Ben Fried
Electeds and other officials gathered with representatives from AARP today to pledge support for street improvements and to call on Albany to pass complete streets legislation.

Kicking off a day of street surveys across the state, the group met at the corner of Ninth Avenue and 23rd Street, an intersection that had been particularly hazardous for the older residents of the nearby Penn South co-op.

One Penn South resident recounted her memories of living above the intersection before a redesign of the corridor brought refuge islands along Ninth to protect both pedestrians and cyclists. "Every time I heard a siren on Ninth Avenue," she said, "I ran out to see if it was one of our seniors."

Council Speaker Christine Quinn praised "the success we've had at 23rd and Ninth," and promised that the city would "replicate" it. "I'm looking forward to more safely strolling across intersections across the city," Quinn said. Quinn also noted the development of Age-Friendly NYC, a set of 59 initiatives to help New York City become more hospitable to a growing senior population. Traffic calming and street redesigns were an important piece of that document.

AARP's top pedestrian safety priority is complete streets legislation working its way through the state legislature. That bill, which has the support of the chairs of the transportation and aging committees in both the Assembly and Senate, would ensure that all streets statewide are designed with the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, people with disabilities, and transit riders in mind.

Read more...

30 Comments

Meet the (Alleged) Road Rage Thug of Ninth Avenue: Gus Gonzalez

gus_gonzalez_1.jpgInset: No day at the beach. Photo: Belly of the beast?

So, based on the accumulated evidence, we can safely say that the man who allegedly blocked the Ninth Avenue bike lane with his 7,000 lb. Ford Excursion, exploded in a fit of rage when cyclist Ray Bengen tried to ride by without getting crushed, and sped off after knocking Ray to the ground (severely bruising his leg and damaging his bike), is this guy:

Gus Gonzalez.

Here's how Streetsblog commenters crowd-sourced his identity:

  • A commenter identifying himself as a lawyer obtained registration information -- name, address, and date of birth -- for the license plate pictured in photos of the confrontation. The car is registered to "Dispirito-Gonzalez, L."
  • The DMV records matched information available through a reverse address look-up for a Laura DiSpirito, who resides in Flushing.
  • Streetsblog commenters quickly found Laura DiSpirito's Facebook page (a "fan" of celebrity chef and Queens native Rocco DiSpirito!) where they came across photos of a man who resembles the SUV driver who allegedly doored Ray Bengen. Photo captions identify him as Laura's husband "Gus," leading to speculation that the alleged perpetrator is named "Gus Gonzalez." (As of this afternoon, the Facebook page is no longer online.)
  • Streetsblog called Laura DiSpirito's home a few times to confirm this information, but to no avail. A CBS2 news crew visited the house in Flushing and also was not able to ascertain the driver's identity.
  • Finally, we called the Manhattan DA's office yesterday afternoon and the communications staff confirmed that a defendant named Gus Gonzalez has a court date scheduled for July 13, when he will face a charge of third degree assault arising from an incident on May 21. That matches information about Ray Bengen's assailant which was already public.

It's worth mentioning here that third degree assault is a Class A misdemeanor, same as the criminal mischief charge filed against Ray Bengen. The message from Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau's office is clear: slapping an SUV with your palm in self-defense is tantamount to violently knocking someone to the pavement, injuring him, and driving away before the authorities arrive at the scene.

Which brings us to the reason we're posting Gus Gonzalez's name and photo. If you drive away from the scene of a confrontation after inflicting bodily harm on someone, and you get to preserve your anonymity, it's a license to act like a sociopath. Unless you are somehow identified and apprehended, you can go about your business and present yourself as someone who doesn't intentionally harm other people.

Even as this investigation unfolded, police did not tell Ray Bengen the name of his scene-fleeing assailant. That information usually doesn't come out until the case goes to court. Luckily, this time, there were witnesses and photographs.

92 Comments

DA Files Charge Against Cyclist Attacked by SUV Driver in 9th Ave Bike Lane

20090521_AssaultOnCyclistD_1.jpgRay Bengen, pictured here lying on the sidewalk beneath the driver who knocked him off his bike, will face charges of criminal mischief in Manhattan criminal court next month.

The Manhattan DA's office is filing charges of criminal mischief against a cyclist, Ray Bengen, because he allegedly caused property damage to a multi-ton SUV in the process of getting doored by the driver. Too ridiculous to be true? Sadly, no. Here's how it happened.

Bengen, 63, was riding down the Ninth Avenue bike lane on May 21 when he encountered the Ford Excursion you see in this photo (curb weight: 7,190 lbs). A long-time city cyclist, Bengen had a green light and wasn't quite sure what to make of the vehicle in front of him. The car wasn't moving and its brake lights were off.

The bike lane on this stretch of Ninth Avenue is part of the city's first on-street protected bike path. At the 20th Street intersection, where Bengen came across the car, there's a left-turn bay for vehicles and an exclusive green phase for cyclists. The Excursion, as you can see below, was in the bike lane, not the left-turn bay.

Bengen rode slowly by on the left. Then he sensed the car start to move as he was passing. Alarmed, he slapped the side of the car with his palm in an effort to alert the driver as to his presence. A witness, who Bengen says has agreed to testify in court, snapped three pictures of what happened next. We'll let Bengen describe it:

The driver then went berserk. Talk about road rage. He threw open his door forcing me and my bike to the ground giving me some awful bruising down my leg. As I was now on the ground yelling at him that he's in a bike lane and was just about to run me over, he started to scream at me "Don't even think about it, don't even think about it." I'm still not sure what he meant by that. With me lying on the ground quite shaken, he suddenly stopped his assault and did something very unexpected. He moved away from me, picked up my bike where it was nearly underneath his truck. He then stood it up on its kickstand, and got back in the truck and drove away left into 20th street.

If the episode had ended then and there, one might assume that the driver, who remains unidentified, had counted to ten and wrestled his anger under control. But it looks like the guy may hold a grudge.

excursion_plate.jpg

Read more...