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Posts from the "Chinatown" Category

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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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Canal Street Report Recommends Wider Sidewalks, Smarter Parking

The only thing more congested than Canal Street might be Canal Street's sidewalks. Photo: via Flickr.

The only thing more congested than Canal Street might be Canal Street's sidewalks. Photo: Bertrand Duperrin via Flickr

Canal Street, to put it mildly, is due for a makeover. The street is clogged with traffic from the Holland Tunnel and the un-tolled Manhattan Bridge. Pedestrians jostle for space on the packed sidewalks, and they’re especially at risk of getting hit by a car, according to the city’s Pedestrian Safety Study.

Fortunately, the funds are in place for an eventual reconstruction and re-imagination of the street, thanks to federal World Trade Center emergency relief aid. To help determine how to design Canal Street, which must strike a balance between serving the local community and the regional transportation system, NYMTC, the region’s metropolitan planning organization, has been engaged in a nearly decade-long process of studying the area and drawing up recommendations for the corridor.

In a report released last Thursday [PDF], NYMTC recommends making Canal Street friendlier for pedestrians by adding significant amounts of sidewalk space. But larger changes, in particular the creation of a carpool lane in the Holland Tunnel, weren’t included. According to the NYMTC report, NYCDOT has agreed to use the recommendations to inform its plans, though a DOT spokesperson said only that the agency was reviewing the findings.

The Canal Area Transportation Study process began in 2002, and the first phase ended with some relatively small improvements to the area, like high-visibility crosswalks, new signage, and temporary improvements near Allen Street. Since 2005, the second, larger-scale phase of the study has been underway, bringing together all the regional transportation agencies as well as others with a stake in the project.

The NYMTC team studied a wide array of congestion-busting ideas for the corridor. Some, like two-way tolling on the Verrazano Bridge or congestion pricing, were dismissed because they required legislative approvals well outside the project’s scope. Transit expansions, like bringing the PATH train north from the World Trade Center or building light rail on Canal, were rejected as too costly. Some ideas were nixed because they lacked community support or because they conflicted with New York City’s Street Design Manual. Other ambitious proposals, like keeping traffic off side streets including Pell, Doyers, Mosco, and Mulberry, were referred to the appropriate agency for further study.

What’s left still has a lot to like.

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Upper East Side Workshop Kicks Off New Street Safety Campaign

"You can't control what you can't measure," the saying goes. So to get a better grip on street safety on Manhattan's East Side, Transportation Alternatives started by collecting better data about local traffic collisions and injuries. Last night, a group of Upper East Siders used that information to begin imagining what a safer neighborhood might look like.

The safety data and the workshop are part of a new campaign organized by TA called the East Side Streets Coalition, which aims to dramatically improve safety from East Harlem to Chinatown. The goal is to reduce traffic collisions that injure and kill pedestrians and cyclists by 50 percent over the next ten years.

safety_map_crop_1.jpgUpper East Side workshop participants discussed street safety using a new map of the most frequent sites of traffic collisions that injure pedestrians and cyclists. Click here for the full version of the map, showing the whole East Side. Image: Transportation Alternatives. 
"Other areas of Manhattan have seen significant street improvements in the last few years," said TA campaign coordinator Julia Day. "A lot of the East Side's major corridors haven't benefited from these improvements." As a result, she said, the East Side has some of the most dangerous streets in the city. The densely-populated Community Board 8 district on the Upper East Side, for example, suffers from the third most crashes of any community district in the city.

The campaign started by mapping out precisely where pedestrians and cyclists are most at risk of getting hurt by cars. Using advanced mapping techniques and new data from the state Department of Transportation, TA has identified and visualized the intersections where the most crashes occur along the entire East Side. These intersections will be the principal targets of the campaign. (The campaign will explicitly refrain from focusing on First and Second Avenues, which are already slated to receive major pedestrian and cyclist safety features.)

The coalition is beginning outreach to develop a vision for a redesigned East Side. The first workshop, for Upper East Side residents, was held last night, with about thirty participants meeting in the cafeteria of the Wagner Middle School to share their concerns about local streets and develop solutions.

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Safer Bowery, LES Bike Lanes Clear Manhattan CB3 Committee

LES_bike_routes.jpgNew bike routes will provide safer connections on the Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge, in an attempt to divert cyclists from Delancey Street. Image: NYCDOT

NYCDOT unveiled a slate of pedestrian and bicycle improvements to the transportation committee of Manhattan Community Board 3 last night. Presenters asked for votes on two street safety projects: the construction of a planted center median on the Bowery between Canal and Division streets, and the addition of new curbside bike routes to improve connections to the Williamsburg Bridge.

Despite a few moments of crankiness from one member ("I can’t in good conscience vote for any more bicycle lanes"), the committee approved resolutions in favor of both measures.

The new bike routes on Suffolk, Stanton, and Rivington streets would complement improvements built last year, which extended the Williamsburg Bridge approach to Suffolk. Slated for implementation in May, the painted, curbside lanes are intended fill in key east-west connections north of where Delancey Street feeds into the bridge path.

The changes are important because Delancey remains extremely dangerous even as biking on the Williamsburg Bridge increases rapidly.

This January, 74-year-old Fuen Bai was killed by a school bus driver while riding in the no-man's-land between the bridge and Allen Street. Every year, traffic injures dozens of pedestrians and cyclists on the corridor, according to CrashStat. Meanwhile, DOT bike counts indicate that cycling on the bridge has quadrupled since 2004. Despite all the people biking over the bridge, the tantalizing proximity of the Allen Street bike path, and the dismal safety record of Delancey Street, the new plan does not address Delancey itself.

DOT's strategy is to divert Williamsburg Bridge bike traffic to calmer, safer side streets. "One of the issues is that people don’t know about the alternatives," Bicycle Program Coordinator Josh Benson told the audience last night. "When you get out there and try this route, it’s gonna make sense. It will change people’s behavior." DOT has no plans to add bike infrastructure to Delancey, he said.

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To Thwart Terror Trial Traffic Snarls, Curb Placard Abuse

The pending trial of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has thrown lower Manhattan into a tizzy, for good reasons. Foremost, of course, is the dread of revisiting the horrors of that day, mingled with fears of new attacks linked to the trial. But there are also concerns that the NYPD's aggressive countermeasures will impede movement, worsen traffic and suffocate the economy of the area, pockets of which never recovered fully from police-ordered street closures and other 9/11 aftershocks. These concerns could be assuaged by a tough, zero tolerance stance on parking placard abuse by government employees.

12_20_2007_NYPDTowsNYPD.JPGTo offset the effects of its terror trial security zone, NYPD should adopt a zero tolerance policy for placard abusers.
Two developments last week brought new attention to the traffic issue. First, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly disclosed the boundaries within which police will spot-check vehicles, restrict delivery times and otherwise impose a massive presence. The "soft perimeter" surrounding Foley Square is bounded by Canal and Frankfort Streets, Bowery and Broadway. (An inner “hard perimeter” will “include 2,000 interlocking metal barriers staffed by uniformed officers,” according to The New York Times.) Second, a proposal floated by Community Board 1 chair Julie Menin to move the trial to Governors Island won the support of new Council Member Margaret Chin and is expected to be formally endorsed by the board this Wednesday.

The soft perimeter appears to include around five-and-a-half linear miles of streets comprising 17 "lane-miles." (These figures exclude Park Row and other streets already taken out of service by the NYPD since 9/11.) Clearly, restricting vehicular travel on these streets will aggravate gridlock, but by how much, and at what “time cost” to travelers? City Hall isn’t saying, of course, but with the help of the Balanced Transportation Analyzer, it’s possible to make a rough estimate.

Assuming that the restrictions take away one-quarter of the carrying capacity of the affected streets (one-half for streets within the inner section), vehicles in the area can expect to spend 2,200 additional hours stuck in traffic each weekday. Scaled to a full year, that translates to $30 million in lost time for motorists, truckers, taxi riders and bus passengers. (Go to the “Cordon” tab of the BTA spreadsheet to view derivation.)

This is a mere drop in the regional bucket, which now loses $13 billion a year to gridlock, according to the Partnership for New York City [PDF]. But locally, where most of that lost time will tick away, the impact could be tangible -- particularly in Chinatown, the epicenter of post-9/11 business closings and a major component of the area targeted by the NYPD.

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Bill to Protect Pedestrians and Cyclists Will Resurface in Albany

VUannouncement.JPGAssembly Member Brian Kavanagh, speaking, with Daniel Squadron and Scott Stringer at last year's rally for Hayley and Diego's Law. To Squadron's right are Wendy Cheung, Hayley Ng's aunt, and Jon Adler, representative for the families of Ng and Diego Martinez.

With the state legislative session underway, Albany will soon turn its attention to business that lawmakers never got the chance to address last year. One bill to keep an eye on would give police and prosecutors a new tool to protect pedestrians and cyclists.

After two preschoolers were killed in Chinatown last January by a van driver who left his vehicle idling and unattended, lawmakers and advocates drafted "Hayley and Diego's Law." The bill is what's known as a "vulnerable user law." It would create a new offense called careless driving, which would carry penalties of up to $750 in fines and 15 days in jail for drivers who hit and injure vulnerable street users -- including all pedestrians and cyclists.  

The basic purpose of the bill is to create an intermediate offense appropriate for situations in which prosecutors cannot, or will not, bring criminally negligent homicide or vehicular manslaughter charges. Law enforcement will still need to be pressed to prosecute cases of careless driving, as well as to bring stronger existing criminal charges when warranted. Says Peter Goldwasser of Transportation Alternatives, "Part of our job as advocates will be to make sure that law enforcement knows there are new laws on the books." Passing this law will go a long way toward making it easier for police and prosecutors to pursue justice for victims of traffic violence.

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Gerson Bill Mandating Review of Transpo Projects Is Now Law

gerson_1.jpgIn one of his final acts as a City Council member, Alan Gerson won passage for a bill that may slow down major street projects.

New York City's 2009 legislative session didn't end without a parting gift from outgoing Lower Manhattan rep Alan Gerson. A new law that passed City Council unanimously before the end of the term mandates that any significant changes to the streetscape be subject to comment by both the local council representative and the community board. Though the comments are not binding, the law seems primed to slow down the process of re-designing streets at a time when projects to enhance bus service and improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists are top priorities in New York City, and hundreds of New Yorkers are still dying every year on city streets. Mayor Bloomberg signed the bill into law on December 28.

The law tacks on up to 65 days of back-and-forth between the city, council members and community boards on major street projects, after which DOT is not obligated to make any changes. Ian Dutton, the vice chair of Manhattan Community Board 2's Traffic and Transportation Committee and a resident of Gerson's district, noted the seeming superfluity of the law: "When we really needed it was over the last 50 years when they were pushing highway projects on us that we didn't want. Now we have a DOT that is really responsive to the neighborhoods for the first time." Dutton did add that "it may help going forward if there's an administration that wants to rip up all these bike lanes and pedestrian plazas."

The law is a variation on an idea that Gerson had floated for over a year. An earlier version of the legislation would have required local input into almost any new transportation project, big or small. 

The bill that passed City Council is somewhat more limited. It covers "major realignments of the roadway," particularly the addition or removal of a lane of traffic or parking on more than four blocks or "1,000 consecutive feet of street." That would certainly apply to one of Gerson's chief targets, the Grand Street bike lane, and probably the Chatham Square reconfiguration as well. Any true bus rapid transit project would fall under the scope of the law.

Even on projects where the law applies, however, it might have little effect.

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Concrete Truck Plows Into Canal Street Sidewalk, Injuring Eight

Canal_St_accident_11Nov09.jpgPhoto: Matt Hogan.
Eight people were injured this afternoon after a concrete truck careened into the sidewalk on the one-block diagonal linking Canal Street to the Bowery.

Vehicles exiting the Manhattan Bridge have turned this block, often teeming with people waiting for the Fung Wah Bus, into a constant danger zone. Here's what an employee at the jewelry store across the street told the Tribeca Trib:

"Ever since I was a kid, trucks come flying off the bridge," he said. "It’s at least three or four times a year, this happens, and it’s always these trucks. They fly right off that thing like there’s no tomorrow."

After 10 years at the store, John said he no longer ventures across the intersection for his lunch for fear of becoming the next casualty.

Update: Reader Matt Hogan informs us that the truck bed was packed with what looked like 50-pound bags of cement at the time of the crash. The rear of the vehicle is outfitted with an apparatus for mixing and pouring out concrete.

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Streetfilms Shorties: NYPD Blockage on Manhattan Bridge Approach

The debut Streetfilms Shortie caught an errant scooter blocking a bike lane. This time it's New York's Finest, camped out in the Manhattan Bridge bike path at Canal and Chrystie.

A half-step forward, two steps back.