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Posts from the "Chinatown" Category

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Community-Based Bike Advocacy in Chinatown and the Lower East Side

Local Spokes is a coalition of nine organizations that joined up to engage low-income residents, people of color, immigrants, and young people in the Lower East Side and Chinatown to envision the future of bicycling in their communities. To understand the transportation needs of the neighborhoods, Local Spokes conducted an extensive survey in 2010 and 2011 and held a series of workshops in Chinese, English, and Spanish.

Last summer Local Spokes synthesized everything the coalition had gathered from this process into a neighborhood action plan for bicycling [PDF]. The goal of the action plan is to ensure that residents of the Lower East Side and Chinatown will have a role in decisions about bike-related policies and initiatives for their streets, and to create a model for community-based bike plans in other neighborhoods.

Streetfilms teamed up with Local Spokes in 2012 to document their work, and in this video you can see them in action.

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National Guard Says It Is Not Investigating Fatal Chinatown Crash

The National Guard says NYPD was leading the convoy involved in the November 6 crash that killed 82-year-old Kwok Fu, shown here parked on Centre Street. A witness told Streetsblog that he saw no escort, and there has been no mention of an escort in other published witness accounts. Photo: Ben Fried

Accounts of last week’s fatal crash in Chinatown do not match that of the National Guard, which insists a convoy was following an NYPD escort when the driver of one of the trucks struck an elderly man on Canal Street after reportedly running a red light. The National Guard is not conducting its own investigation into the crash, according to a spokesperson.

The convoy was on its way to the Javits Center to pick up Sandy relief supplies on the afternoon of November 6 when Kwok Fu, 82, was killed as he attempted to cross Canal at Centre Street. Witnesses said convoy truck drivers did not slow down and gave no warning before running a series of red lights on Canal.

National Guard spokesperson Eric Durr said the convoy was following a route set by NYPD, in keeping with protocol for moving troops through urban areas, though he did not know its point of origin. Protocol may vary depending on guidance from the convoy commander and local police, Durr said, but he indicated that it is normal for a convoy to disregard traffic signals, even on a relief mission in an American city.

“Generally a convoy tries to stay together, and that is why there’s a police escort. Stop and think: When the president is in town he has a police escort, right? Does he go through red lights?”

“We can’t just drive around on our own,” Durr said. “We have to coordinate with police. They’ll set up the routes. They send the police escorts. In this case I know there was a police escort, because the convoy commander said ‘I had a police escort.’”

Durr said he does not know how the crash occurred, but believes Fu was struck by the third truck in the 11-vehicle convoy. “The gentleman stepped out from the sidewalk and the driver unfortunately could not stop in time,” said Durr. “That is my understanding.”

The presence of a police escort has yet to be corroborated by witness or media reports. Nor is it clear why, if lights and sirens were blaring, the victim would have stepped into a procession of military trucks.

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Witnesses: National Guard Trucks Were Running Lights Prior to Fatal Crash

Kwok Fu, 82, was run down on Canal Street in broad daylight by the driver of a National Guard truck on Tuesday afternoon. A witness says truck drivers, who were traveling in a procession bound for Hell's Kitchen, did not slow down and gave no warning before running a series of red lights. Photo: Bowery Boogie

Witnesses say a convoy of National Guard trucks was blowing red lights on Canal Street Tuesday afternoon when one driver struck an elderly man, who died from his injuries. Accounts of the crash contradict statements from the National Guard that the victim ignored a police escort before walking into the path of the driver, who may have violated state traffic laws pertaining to military vehicles.

The victim was identified by NYPD as Kwok Fu, 82, of Woodhaven. Police and witnesses say Fu was crossing Canal at Centre Street from north to south when he was struck by the westbound truck, which according to the Times was part of a National Guard procession en route to the Javits Center to pick up Sandy relief supplies.

“Apparently, the gentleman stepped off into traffic,” National Guard spokesperson Eric Durr told the Times. Sam Gustin, a reporter for Time Magazine, spoke with a soldier who said, ”He just ran out in front of the truck. Nobody looks left or right before crossing the street here.”

But according to witnesses, the truck drivers were running lights. David Trimble saw the collision:

I was crossing Canal from south to north. The lights on Canal had turned red and the crosswalk light was illuminated. As I approached the middle of the street I looked to the right and noticed the convoy approaching. You can usually count on approaching traffic to stop at a red light. In an emergency situation you expect sirens and flashing lights to indicate the vehicle is not going to stop. Military trucks are not a normal sight in the city and therefore it took me a few critical moments to realize these vehicles were not following normal traffic rules.

I took a few steps into the east-to-west traffic lane before I understood that these trucks were not slowing down. It is hard to judge the speed of an approaching vehicle when looking straight at it. I instantly retreated back to the west-to-east traffic lane to let them pass. As the convoy passed the driver of the first truck made eye contact with me, tapped the horn and actually accelerated. Had I not retreated from the lane I would have been hit myself.

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Pedestrian Seriously Hurt By National Guard Truck Driver on Canal Street

Photo: Ben Fried

An unidentified man was struck by a National Guard truck driver at the intersection of Canal Street and Centre Street in Lower Manhattan at around 1:30 this afternoon. Witnesses seemed certain that the victim was killed, though an officer at the scene would only say that “a pedestrian got hit” and refused to provide further information.

Update: The victim, identified by DNAinfo as 82-year-old Kwok Fu of Flushing, has died of injuries sustained in the crash.

The truck, part of a convoy that had pulled over further north on Centre Street, was parked on Canal Street between Centre and Lafayette, with some of the victim’s belongings scattered in front of the cab. Witness Tim Coleman told Gothamist that the convoy had been heading west on Canal at the time of the crash. A member of the National Guard declined to discuss what the convoy was transporting.

According to FDNY, the victim was declared “likely to die,” which should trigger a police investigation, and transported to Bellevue Hospital. NYPD’s public information office could not confirm the status of the victim and had no further information at this time.

The convoy of National Guard trucks parked on Centre Street. Photo: Ben Fried

Brad Aaron contributed reporting to this post.

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NYC’s New Curbside Bus Rules Are No Long-Term Fix

Under new regulations passed by Albany last month, curbside bus companies must now go before community boards before receiving a permit from DOT. Greyhound and Peter Pan, jointly launching service to Philadelphia from Chinatown, are among the first to navigate the new process. The bus companies are facing stiff opposition from neighbors before a community board committee vote next week.

New York's streets have become the heart of an interstate transit network. Image: Nicholas J. Klein and Andrew Zitcer via The Washington Post

The expansion of intercity transit wouldn’t come down to community-level fights if capacity limitations at the city’s transportation hubs were addressed. In the meantime, buses will continue to be kicked to the curbs.

Growing demand for commuter and intercity transit has pushed NYC’s existing terminals and tunnels to their limits. The problem is especially problematic for travelers who cross the Hudson River.

Penn Station is connected to the rest of the country by just two tracks, and in the wake of Chris Christie’s cancellation of the ARC tunnel, any expansion will be a very long time coming.

The Port Authority Bus Terminal, where commuter buses have shouldered the demand that the rail system cannot, is operating beyond its capacity, with riders facing mounting delays that show no sign of dissipating.

Now that the Port Authority has filled up, New Jersey Transit is considering using Midtown streets as loading zones for its commuter buses. Chinatown-based intercity bus operators have long offered curbside service; competitors owned by major carriers have joined them in recent years.

A new state law allows the city to regulate curbside pickups, giving the practice some added legitimacy. Instead of expanding capacity at existing hubs, New York has converted its streets into its latest bus terminal.

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Prepping for July Bike-Share Launch, DOT Shows Prelim Station Sites to CB 3

In a few weeks, the bike-share station map that accompanies this legend will be available online. Image: NYC DOT

After several months of public meetings and online feedback on bike-share station siting, NYC DOT is beginning to tour community boards with preliminary station maps in preparation for launching North America’s most expansive bike-share system this July.

Yesterday evening, NYC DOT Policy Director Jon Orcutt walked the transportation and public safety committee of Manhattan Community Board 3 through the current station siting plan for the district, showing roughly a dozen map segments with a handful of stations pinpointed on each. The agency will be making adjustments to the station plan based on feedback from community board members. A preliminary station map of the whole service area will be available online in the next few weeks, Orcutt said, and the system is on track to launch sometime in July.

In the CB 3 district, which encompasses Chinatown, the Lower East Side, and the East Village, DOT aimed to put most stations on the street in response to the board’s request to avoid taking up sidewalk space. The committee was pleased with the site selection, with District Manager Susan Stetzer saying the agency did “a good job” of locating stations. Community board members suggested a few places to add stations and one or two sites they’d like to see shifted elsewhere. Overall they seemed pretty jazzed about getting bike-share up and running.

DOT is waiting until they’ve completed the entire system map before posting station locations online, so I don’t have a map to share, but here are a few takeaways from last night’s presentation.

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Crash Witnesses: NYPD Won’t Charge Cabbie Who Hospitalized Cyclist

Police told crash witnesses there will be no charges for a cab driver who backed into a delivery cyclist on Broome Street, leaving him with severe injuries. Image: Google Maps

For every injury to a New York pedestrian or cyclist that briefly makes news, there are hundreds that get no attention whatsoever. Even when there are witnesses to such a crash, once the wounded are transported and police clear the scene, it becomes nearly impossible to glean information that might prevent another collision or help the next victim.

On Thursday, March 22, at 8:30 p.m., two Streetsblog readers were on Broome Street just west of Elizabeth Street, in Manhattan, when a cab driver “suddenly accelerated in reverse” and hit a cyclist who was riding with the flow of traffic. They wrote to tell us what happened.

He was thrown through the back window of the taxi and his face was crushed. The bicycle was mangled and broken in half.

I noticed after the ambulance took the cyclist away that he had an insulated square bag attached to his bike; he was on the job delivering food.

One of our tipsters, who asked to remain anonymous, was interviewed by NYPD as a witness. The next day they learned from the 5th Precinct that the victim was at Bellevue Hospital with a “broken facial structure.”

“Unfortunately the police have no intention of charging the driver for anything, even though several people saw him accelerating in reverse and crash into a cyclist riding correctly,” they report.

Streetsblog has queried NYPD for details, including the identity of the victim and whether the driver was charged. But unless a victim dies, it is virtually impossible to get a name. And unless a victim dies or is believed likely to die, the police investigation is limited to filling in the boxes. Because NYPD protocol mandates that an officer witness a violation in order to issue a summons under state vulnerable user laws, drivers who maim and kill are routinely exonerated of wrongdoing on the spot.

Writes one of the witnesses: “It is horrifying to think that he is out there driving around right now, having suffered nothing more than an easily replaced broken window while this innocent cyclist will be wearing the damage on his own face, for the rest of his life.”

Of course it’s possible that a civil suit will arise from this incident. But as far as the public is concerned, in all likelihood this crash will be represented as one number among thousands in a data set. Other than that, it will be as if nothing happened.

If you have any information on this crash, let us know.

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NYPD Van Jumps Curb, Kills Chinatown Pedestrian

Photo: DNAinfo

A police van struck and killed a pedestrian in Chinatown this morning.

Reports say the driver of the NYPD Auxiliary van jumped a curb on Elizabeth Street near the 5th Precinct stationhouse at around 11 a.m., striking a 55-year-old man on the sidewalk. He was later pronounced dead at New York Downtown Hospital. Two officers in the van were reported injured.

According to FDNY, two other vehicles were involved in the crash, which is under investigation. NYPD was unable to comment as of this writing.

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‘Local Spokes’ Coalition Brings Grassroots Bike Planning to LES, Chinatown

In Chinatown and the Lower East Side, a new coalition is showing how grassroots, community-based bike planning can be done. Formed six months ago, the nine-member Local Spokes coalition is surveying local residents and workers, holding public meetings, and training youth ambassadors in preparation for the creation of a new bike plan for those two neighborhoods.

The nine coalition members range from organizations with deep community organizing roots in the two neighborhoods, like housing organization Good Old Lower East Side and civil rights group Asian Americans for Equality, to citywide cycling advocates like Transportation Alternatives. In six to twelve months, Local Spokes will compile all the information they’ve gathered, make a concrete plan for building the bike infrastructure the community wants, and present it to elected officials and the city.

One way that Local Spokes will be gathering input from the community is with a survey, available on their website in English, Spanish, and Chinese. It asks people who live or work in Chinatown and the Lower East Side to detail how they get around, what would make them cycle more, how they exercise and who they think has power in their community. According to AAFE’s Douglas Le, they hope to get 1,000 responses.

Those surveys will be augmented by a series of public meetings reaching out to community members, starting at the end of the summer. “Rarely is there this opportunity to have this conversation before it’s too late,” said Karyn Williams, the director of Velo City, an urban planning education group participating in the Local Spokes coalition.

At the same time, Local Spokes will be training a team of 12 youth ambassadors to serve as leaders in local cycling efforts. Over the course of the summer, the ambassadors will learn about issues like immigration and gentrification, mapmaking, and bike safety twice a week, said Recycle-A-Bicycle director Pasqualina Azzarello, a coalition member. On Saturdays, the ambassadors will take group bike rides tied to the week’s lesson. When the public meetings about the bike plan get underway, the ambassadors will attend them. By the end of the planning process they will be leading them.

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Here’s the Chinatown Intersection Where NIMBYs Killed a Pedestrian Overhaul

The view across Chatham Square, looking east from Worth Street. Image: Google Street View

Just a reminder: Chatham Square, the intersection where Chinatown NIMBYs have fended off the reclamation of street space for pedestrians, is a huge expanse of asphalt with chaotic traffic patterns and a terrible safety record. According to CrashStat, dozens of pedestrians and cyclists were injured in traffic crashes at Chatham Square from 1995 to 2005, and five schools are located within three blocks.

In 2008, the city put out a conceptual plan for pedestrian improvements at Chatham Square that would have simplified intersections and added significantly more sidewalk space. But a contingent of opponents, contending that the economic health of Chinatown depends on auto access to Park Row, mobilized against the project. (The Chatham Square project would have altered the street pattern at one end of Park Row, but the street, which goes by NYPD headquarters, has been closed to private traffic since the days after 9/11.)

Today DNAinfo reports that opponents have succeeded. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will be taking the $30 million set aside for those pedestrian improvements and spending it on other things. Jan Lee, owner of the antiques showroom Sinotique and a vocal opponent of the project in his role as leader of the Civic Center Residents Coalition, told DNAinfo that “at least some of the money should remain in Chinatown.” Now that an actual safety improvement is off the table, Lee suggested spending some cash to study the feasibility of re-opening Park Row to traffic.

Here’s one more look at what Lee and other opponents have thwarted:

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