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Posts from the "Chinatown" Category

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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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Construction Begins on Permanent Pike Street Redesign

A rendering of what the intersection of Pike and Monroe will look like once the construction now underway is completed this fall. Image: Parks Dept.

When DOT installed four pedestrian plazas and a protected bike lane along the median of Pike and Allen Streets in 2009, the results were impressive. Traffic injuries dropped 40 percent at the pedestrian malls; at the intersection of Allen and Delancey, injuries dropped 57 percent.

As impressive as those results are, the Pike and Allen improvements were made using low-cost materials, not construction techniques built to last. The plan now is to replace the temporary redesign with more robust permanent features. Construction has started on the final design at the southernmost end of the corridor, between South Street and Madison Street. With additional funding, the redesign could extend one block further north to Henry Street by the time this round of building is complete in November. Another section of the malls, from Grand to Delancey, is scheduled for capital construction beginning this June.

The finished treatment, which will feature more landscaping and higher-quality materials for both pedestrians and cyclists, will bring Allen and Pike Streets closer to the vision for the neighborhood developed over several years by local residents, United Neighbors to Revitalize Allen and Pike, and the Hester Street Collaborative.

For a photo of the construction, head below the jump:

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East Side Coalition Unveils Its Vision for Safer, Transit-Friendly Streets

Image: Transportation Alternatives

A template to prioritize walking, biking, and transit at the intersection of Third Avenue and 117th Street. Image: Transportation Alternatives

Earlier this week, Laurence Renard was killed as she crossed First Avenue when a dump truck driver turned into her path from 90th Street, hitting her from behind. Renard was one of at least six pedestrians and cyclists who have lost their lives in traffic crashes on East Side streets since last August.

People are seriously hurt and killed with terrible frequency on the East Side of Manhattan: 148 pedestrians and cyclists died on its streets between 1995 and 2008, and more than 15,000 were injured. The area is rife with wide streets and intersections that invite speeding and reckless driving. At the same time, the East Side is home to high percentages of walk-to-work commuters, car-free households, and senior citizens. East Siders lead walkable lifestyles and make many trips by foot or bike, but their streets are extremely dangerous.

Last night, more than 100 people gathered at St. Mark’s Church on East 10th Street for the unveiling of Transportation Alternatives’ East Side Action Plan [PDF], which outlines a broad vision for making this part of Manhattan safer and more livable.

In a series of public workshops, more than 600 East Siders helped TA put together recommendations to redesign their streets and put walking, biking, and transit first. The Action Plan came out of those workshops to serve as “a tool for local East Side experts to use as citizen planners, so they can educate their communities and generate the local support needed to engage decision makers around design and policy change,” said TA’s Julia De Martini Day. Dozens of community groups from Chinatown to Harlem have signed on to the campaign.

With political attacks on pedestrian and bicycle improvements fresh in everyone’s mind, the kick-off event last night was something of a rallying cry for the coalition. New Yorkers who want safer streets have to organize and mobilize as effectively as possible, a point that former Bogota Mayor Enrique Penalosa brought home when he told the audience that the allocation of street space “is a political decision, not a technical decision.”

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