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Posts from the Chinatown Category

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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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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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