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Eyes on the Street: Bike Corrals Protect Ninth Avenue Bike Lane

A new bike corral on 9th Avenue, between 39th and 40th Streets. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Bike parking corrals adjacent to a protected bike lane — a first for New York City, and perhaps the nation — have been installed along Ninth Avenue in Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen. Check out these pics from Clarence, snapped on Thursday.

First requested by Community Board 4 in fall 2011, and receiving a supportive 11-0 committee vote in February, the corrals provide 18 bike racks along the “floating” parking lane the between the bicycle lane and general traffic lanes.

At the request of the community board, sidewalk bike racks on blocks that are receiving bike corrals will be removed.

A pedestrian island and bike corral on 9th Avenue at 36th Street. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Casa di Isacco restaurant is maintaining a four-rack corral between 39th and 40th Streets, Pomodoro restaurant is maintaining a seven-rack corral between 38th and 39th Streets, and Ora Thai Cuisine is maintaining a seven-rack corral by a pedestrian island between 35th and 36th Streets.

In the words of Streetsblog reader Eric McClure: Is there a higher form of bike lane than the bike-parking-protected bike lane?

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No Charges Filed as Six Are Killed by NYC Drivers in Seven Days

A Brooklyn woman who was struck by a truck driver in Red Hook Wednesday was the latest victim among six city pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in the last week.

Lillian Cruz, hit by the driver of a tractor-trailer in Red Hook Wednesday, was at least the fifth pedestrian killed by a city motorist since Ray Kelly announced changes to the NYPD crash investigation squad. Image: News12 via Gothamist

At approximately 6:40 a.m. yesterday, Lillian Cruz, 60, was crossing Hamilton Avenue at Court Street when the signal changed and the driver of a tractor-trailer, westbound on Hamilton and stopped at the light, accelerated and ran her over, according to NYPD.

Cruz, of Bushwick, died at the scene. The driver was summonsed for failure to exercise due care.

Cruz was at least the second pedestrian killed by a semi truck driver in the last two weeks, following the February 28 death of 6-year-old Amar Diarrassouba. Tractor-trailer drivers have killed at least three other pedestrians on city streets since last August, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. The victims include Ignacio Cubano, Ken Baker, and Jessica Dworkin.

Many of the trucks involved in these fatal collisions are too long to be operated on surface streets without a permit. Despite recent deaths, the presence of trucks in areas that should normally be off-limits has not been a focus of NYPD or the media.

The type of collision that killed Cruz is supposed to be prevented by crossover mirrors, which allow drivers of large trucks to see directly in front of them. It is not known whether the truck was equipped with the mirrors. Trucks registered outside New York are exempt from the mirror requirement.

Monday evening at around 8 p.m., 75-year-old Roberto Baez was struck by the driver of a Nissan in the Bronx. Baez was crossing Soundview Avenue mid-block near Taylor Avenue when he was killed, a police spokesperson said. No summonses were issued.

Monday morning, 16-year-old Tenzin Drudak was among several people hit by a curb-jumping motorist near LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City. Drudak was killed and four others were injured. NYPD told the media the driver was speeding and reaching for a carton of milk when the crash occurred. Nevertheless, no charges were filed.

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West Side and Sunset Park Community Boards Advance Bike Lanes and Plazas

A capital reconstruction of this pedestrian plaza on Ninth Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets got a positive vote from Community Board 4's transportation committee last night. Photo: Google Maps

Last night, two community boards in Sunset Park and Manhattan’s West Side voted to support bike lanes, bike parking and permanent pedestrian plazas. As a result, Sunset Park will be receiving shared lane markings on Fifth Avenue, the permanent reconstruction of a plaza at Ninth Avenue and 14th Street will move ahead, and bike lanes and on-street corrals are on track for the West Side of Manhattan.

In Sunset Park, Brooklyn Community Board 7 voted to support the extension of shared lane markings on Fifth Avenue from 23rd to 65th Streets. (On Fifth Avenue between 23rd and Dean Streets, there are already bike lane and sharrow markings.)

The proposal received a supportive transportation committee vote in July, but stalled after a 15-9-10 vote at the full board in October. CB 7’s first vice chair, Daniel Murphy, reintroduced the sharrows resolution last night, and it passed, 23-5, with seven abstentions.

“We always planned to reintroduce it, it was just a question of when,” Murphy said, adding that a few board members who opposed the plan in October switched to support it this time around. “We didn’t get angry. We got rational,” he said. Murphy said he doesn’t believe this will delay DOT’s ability to install the markings this spring. Streetsblog has asked DOT to confirm an implementation schedule.

In Manhattan, Community Board 4’s transportation committee passed a resolution in support of the permanent reconstruction of a 9,000 square-foot plaza on Ninth Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets. DOT will add street trees on the east side of the plaza; the committee is asking DOT to add greenery to the center of the space, as well.

The Ninth Avenue protected bike lane, which shrinks to a standard painted lane at this location before becoming a buffered lane on Hudson Street, is often full of double-parked cars and trucks. “They told us there is not enough space on the avenue to create a protected bike lane,” committee co-chair Christine Berthet said. “We’re definitely not happy about it.”

A median pedestrian island on Ninth Avenue at 15th Street will be removed and replaced with a curb extension. The design will include cobblestones to match the aesthetic of plaza spaces on Ninth Avenue as it approaches Gansevoort Street.

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Details on Fatal Midwood Crash Don’t Mesh With NYPD Victim-Blaming

Avenue O, looking east, with E. 7th Street indicated by the marker in the background. Police say Sara Mishik, 15, stepped between parked cars into the path of the driver who killed her, but NYPD also says she was crossing from north to south (left to right) when she was struck. Image: Google Maps

The driver of a Ford van killed a 15-year-old girl in Midwood Tuesday. It was the second crash in which a child has died in city traffic in less than a week, and at least the fourth time a motorist has killed a pedestrian in the course of six days.

Sara Kishik was crossing Avenue O near E. 7th Street, a residential area where homes line both sides of the street, at approximately 2:50 p.m. when she was struck, according to reports. NY1 says the van was a “private ambulette.” A bystander told DNAinfo that Kishik was thrown into the air upon impact.

A witness, who only gave his name as Vinny, 52, said that the girl was crossing midblock when she was struck by the van, catapulting her into the air.

“She went into the air and hit her head on the ground,” he said.

If the witness account is accurate, it’s a sign the driver may have been speeding. In addition, multiple reports indicate the driver was eastbound on Avenue O, and that Kishik was crossing from north to south. If that is the case, she would have been at least halfway across the street when she was hit, having already crossed the westbound lane. It is impossible to imagine an attentive driver traveling at 30 mph or less on a clear afternoon failing to see a 15-year-old crossing the street directly in front of him.

Nevertheless, NYPD immediately assigned blame to the deceased victim. The Daily News says that according to police Kishik “stepped in the road from between two parked cars.” Within hours, NYPD issued its standard “No criminality suspected” statement to the press.

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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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Driver Cleared by Manhattan Jury in Hit-and-Run Death of Marilyn Dershowitz

Ian Clement, the U.S. Postal Service employee who drove a truck over cyclist Marilyn Dershowitz, then left the scene, has been found not guilty of hit-and-run by a Manhattan jury.

Marilyn and Nathan Dershowitz. Photo via New York Post

The crash occurred on July 2, 2011, as Dershowitz and her husband Nathan rode their bikes on W. 29th Street, near Ninth Avenue, in Chelsea. Video of the crash showed Clement’s truck rock back and forth at the moment of impact, stop for a time with flashers blinking, then drive away.

Clement testified on the stand that he never saw Dershowitz, either before or after the fatal collision, and said it did not occur to him until later that he may have hit someone, despite the immediate convergence of passersby and, soon after, emergency vehicles at the scene.

Clement was charged by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance with leaving the scene of an incident resulting in death, a felony that requires prosecutors to prove that the motorist knew or had reason to know that injury had been caused.

Media coverage of the trial tended to reflect a city press corps that is by and large unable or unwilling to report on vehicular crimes in any meaningful way. Outlets including the Daily News fixated on the notoriety of the victim’s brother-in-law, and eagerly propagated the defense narrative that Clement should not have been prosecuted. WPIX incorrectly reported that Clement was on trial for intentionally running Dershowitz over, but managed to name-check O.J. Simpson and Mike Tyson, former clients of Alan Dershowitz.

Though it was far and away the most publicized vehicular crimes trial in recent memory, the scourge of hit-and-run crashes and the difficulty in holding drivers accountable, thanks in part to ineffectual state statutes, was not directly addressed.

Vance released this statement just after noon today:

“We respect the jury’s verdict. However, far too many cyclists and pedestrians are killed in crashes with motorists each year, in every borough of our city. Often times these deaths are not crimes, but they are of grave concern to this Office, as they forever change the lives of victims, their families, and the drivers involved. We will continue to file charges where we believe the evidence merits them, and do everything we can as an office to make our streets safer for everyone.”

According to Vance’s office, prosecutors have filed charges for leaving the scene 127 times, including 33 incidents involving serious injury or death, so far in 2012.

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Excitement at First Bike-Share Workshop, Especially for Stations in the Street

People who live and work in Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen hard at work identifying where they'd like to see bike-share stations. Photo: Noah Kazis

Residents of Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea packed into a room last night to discuss the more than 50 bike-share stations planned to open in their neighborhoods this summer. No one was there to complain — this crowd was there to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

I sat in with a table of nine, where participants uniformly supported bike-share and overwhelmingly believed that the stations should go in parking spaces rather than on crowded Midtown sidewalks. With little disagreement over those broader questions, they dove right into a table-sized map of the area, picking out sites that would and wouldn’t work well for stations.

The workshop, sponsored by Community Board 4, local elected officials and NYC DOT, kicked off with brief overviews from DOT staff of how bike-share works. Streetsblog has already covered most of that, but there were a few new tidbits of information. The Bronx, Queens and Staten Island will each have a small, satellite bike-share system, for example, opening a bit later than the core service area in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Annual members, who would mostly be residents, might also get to take the bikes out longer without paying a surcharge than the tourists purchasing daily or weekly passes.

Everyone at the table I observed was excited to see bike-share come to their neighborhood, so long as the stations are mainly placed in the street. Photo: Noah Kazis

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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.

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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.”

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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.