Posts from the "Chinatown" Category
The changes underway right now rely mainly on paint, planters, and paving surfaces to set aside space for public plazas and bike lanes. It's a great example of what you can do on a shoestring, but without a second phase of construction, the reclamation will have a temporary feel to it. The next iteration of this project might include plazas raised to sidewalk grade, for instance, or bike lanes with more robust physical protection. A solid showing in favor of further upgrades could help secure Parks Department funding for more long-term construction.
Representatives from Parks and DOT will be on hand at tonight's CB3 meeting. To voice support for investment in this promising livable streets project, head over to the BRC Senior Services Center at 30 Delancey Street (between Chrystie and Forsyth). The meeting starts at 6:30.
A reader sends this view of Pike Street, taken from the Manhattan Bridge bike path late last week. You'll notice the square of light pavement connecting two mall segments. That's the intersection with Monroe Street, one of four locations slated for pedestrian plazas in DOT's most recent plan for Pike and Allen Streets [PDF]. A center median protected bike path running from Houston Street down to the water -- the first of its kind in New York City, I believe, depending on how you categorize the Sands Street bike path -- is also in the works. DOT's project presentation characterizes these changes as interim improvements that can help generate support for further funding and more permanent construction.
The pedestrian and bike improvements on this corridor are the result of a painstaking bottom-up process that Sarah wrote about last September. Residents have been clamoring for safer walking, safer biking, and more welcoming public spaces on Allen and Pike for a long time. Soon, they'll be able to enjoy the benefits of more humane streets. (We have a request in with DOT to find out when the project will wrap up.)
City Council member Alan Gerson didn't have much new to say at his sidewalk protest of the Grand Street bike lane. But a handful of reporters and a few cyclists pressed him to defend the idea that projects designed to improve street safety should be subject to greater City Council review.
Gerson's assertion of "dangerous conditions" on Grand Street basically amounted to this: The row of parked cars on the south side used to protect only pedestrians; now it protects pedestrians and cyclists, so there's a perception among some of the older residents that they're at greater risk because cyclists are riding next to the curb.
But do the data back up the perception? In a word, No. According to DOT's study of Grand Street, injuries are down 28.8 percent since the protected lane was installed nine months ago. Which only makes sense, because the parking-protected bike path has narrowed the traffic lane, sending cues for drivers to slow down and making a safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists.
Gerson was not swayed by statistical evidence. "Sometimes anecdotal testimony reflects the reality," he said. For bike lane opponents, however, reality intruded rather inconveniently this afternoon.Read more...
Anyone heading over to Chinatown for lunch? If not, and you work in Manhattan, you might want to change your plans. This rally, promoted by Council Member Alan Gerson, promises to be a can't-miss event:
Rally to Protest Dangerous Conditions with the Grand Street Bike Lane
WHEN: Friday, August 21, 2009 at 12:30pm
WHERE: Corner of Grand St and Mott St
WHAT: Rally to protest dangerous conditions caused by the Grand Street bike lane and to demand that the NYC Department of Transportation conduct more community outreach before deciding where to place bike lanes.
WHO: NYC Council Member Alan J. Gerson, local business owners and residents
That would be the same "dangerous" bike lane that has calmed traffic by narrowing the right-of-way for motorists. Oh, and it gives cyclists a nice, protected east-bound link in Lower Manhattan's bike network.
Alan Gerson wants "more community outreach." That's one way to put it. Given that the bike lane was vetted by Community Board 2, which approved the project in a nearly unanimous vote last year, isn't this more like a demand to give small, vocal groups veto power over street safety projects? I think it's pretty much official at this point: The District 1 City Council contest is a race to the bottom when it comes to livable streets.
To reiterate, the place to be at 12:30 today is the corner of Grand and Mott. After the jump, more pictures of the hazardous Grand Street bike lane.Read more...
Reader Ian Dutton sends this dispatch from last night's candidate debate for the District 1 City Council seat representing Lower Manhattan, organized by the Downtown Express and the Villager. If you're a District 1 resident who values safer streets and a well-funded transit system, tough luck.
Last night at the Council District 1 candidates debate, in the "lightning round" (one-line answers), a question was "Grand St. bike lane: good or bad."
All the candidates came out strongly against it to the cheers of some in the crowd. Only PJ Kim, the last to comment, tempered his statement with, "but we must not demonize bikers." They all either flatly opposed congestion pricing or want carve-outs for residents (pandering, hmmm?) and opposed East River tolls.
On the congestion pricing question (about 1:31:00 into this audio file posted on the Lo-Down), Pete Gleason and Alan Gerson were the two to outright oppose the idea -- although the incumbent Gerson voted for pricing last year. Margaret Chin, the only candidate to express any support for bridge tolls (check the 1:32:00 mark), qualified her answer by saying that car-poolers should be exempt.
Any exemption for congestion pricing or bridge tolls, of course, opens the door to more exemptions. The first people who will take advantage? Exactly the same placard-holders whom District 1 candidates rightly blame for clogging downtown streets.
We're talking about a district that is absolutely pummeled by bridge traffic, where about 80 percent of the households don't own a car. Those who do own one earn nearly two-and-a half times those who don't, on average [PDF]. There was a great opportunity here for a savvy candidate to
separate from the pack on livable streets issues. And yet, no one chose to
Earlier this month Albany approved the expansion of New York City's red light camera program. Media coverage tends not to play up the benefits of automated enforcement, so it was refreshing to see State Senator Dan Squadron, who represents Lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, put the emphasis squarely on safety at a press event in Chinatown yesterday.
Standing near the foot of the Manhattan Bridge, where more than 40 pedestrians have been injured and two killed since 1995, Squadron brought attention to the most dangerous intersections in his district. He called for DOT to install an enforcement camera at Bowery and Canal and at these "danger spots":
- The intersection of Essex and Delancey Streets (87 pedestrians injured and one killed from 1995 to 2005)
- Targeted intersections on West Street between Canal Street and the entrance to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel (114 pedestrians injured and one killed)
- Tillary Street from Adams Street to Flatbush Avenue extension in Brooklyn (81 pedestrians injured and one killed)
DOT will have to make its selections judiciously. The city is now authorized to use 150 cameras (50 more than the old limit), with more than 12,000 signalized intersections to choose from.
Having observed New York City traffic enforcement pretty closely these last three years as editor of Streetsblog, I can safely offer the following advice to would-be murderers: If you ever need to kill someone in New York City, do it with a car.
As long as you are sober and licensed, you can go ahead and run over a 4-year-old and his babysitter walking in the crosswalk and drive off with nothing more than a failure-to-yield summons. You can plow your 2008 Ranger Rover into a bike commuter at a busy intersection and count on the NYPD only to interview the passengers in your vehicle, your buddies, before closing the case and letting you drive home despite numerous prior convictions on your driving record. You can rip down the narrow streets of Lower Manhattan at 60 mph, kill a woman, flee the scene, refuse to take a Breathalyzer test and get a plea deal for a mere eight weekends in jail because the victim happened to have a couple of drinks before she got in the way of your speeding Mercedes SUV. You can even let your van slam into a class of preschoolers walking on the sidewalk with their teachers, kill two of them, traumatize the rest, and be assured that the NYPD, the District Attorney and the local media will treat the case not as manslaughter or negligent homicide, but as an "accident."
When a construction crane falls or a New York Giants wide receiver accidentally discharges his gun, New York City's law enforcement community flies into a frenzy of justice-seeking. But when the killing is done by a sober, licensed driver, you can pretty much hear crickets chirping at the District Attorney's office. Though the total number of traffic fatalities and injuries has declined in recent years, for the friends and families of the 271 people killed by automobiles on New York City streets in 2007, the concept of "traffic justice" was virtually non-existent.
With Manhattan's 89-year-old District Attorney Robert Morgenthau finally stepping down, this year's campaign to succeed him is a great opportunity to make sure the next DA is committed to doing a better job of protecting New Yorkers from reckless and negligent drivers. Streetsblog met with Manhattan District Attorney candidate Leslie Crocker Snyder to learn more about where she stands when it comes to traffic justice.
* * * * *
Though Snyder acknowledged that she has "never been an expert in traffic-related issues" she said the horrific killings of preschoolers Diego Martinez and Hayley Ng in Chinatown have brought these issues to her attention and she is "learning more."
She believes the Manhattan DA's office has become "stale and reactive" and non-responsive to community concerns with the same man at the helm for 35 years. Rather than ignore traffic fatalities as Morgenthau has done, Snyder would bring killer-driver cases before grand juries. "I would want a grand jury to know the law of criminally negligent homicide, vehicular assault and reckless endangerment," she said.
Even when the law prevents her from pursuing criminal prosecution, Snyder said, "I would meet with the families. I would hear their grief as a mother" and, at the very least, explain to them what her office can and can not do for them. "You have to be a human being and acknowledge that these families must be going through hell."
Snyder said that the biggest traffic safety complaint she hears from community leaders these days is not about reckless motorists but "bicyclists being dangerous" and "messengers running us over." If she is elected DA, she invites livable streets advocates to educate her on the issues and "meet with me regularly and make sure I'm staying on top of it."
Here is an edited transcript of my interview with her:
On the morning of January 22, Diego Martinez and Hayley Ng were walking with their preschool class on East Broadway when an unattended delivery van jumped the curb in reverse and killed them. The three-ton vehicle had been left double-parked and idling by its operator before it backed onto the sidewalk with deadly force. To date, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau has taken no action to prosecute the driver.
About 70 New Yorkers joined the families of Hayley and Diego today and called on the DA to convene a grand jury to investigate the case. Gathered outside the DA's office in Lower Manhattan, they made an impassioned plea for justice.
"I cannot understand why the Manhattan District Attorney refuses to prosecute," said Hayley's cousin, Lauren Ng, on behalf of the victim's mother, May Ng. "Accidents happen, but someone still bears the burden of responsibility. What kind of city is this that does not protect its most vulnerable citizens?"Read more...
We're re-posting the notice for this demonstration, which is back on for Monday after being postponed due to the snowstorm earlier this week. Note that the rally is on for noon, not earlier in the day as previously scheduled.
The families of Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez, the two preschoolers killed by a van while walking with their class on a Chinatown sidewalk last month, are organizing a rally calling on Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau to indict the driver who left the van unattended, double-parked and idling.
The victims' families are asking New Yorkers concerned about traffic violence to join them in front of the DA's office at One Hogan Place, Monday at noon. "We want everybody to stand behind this cause," said Wendy Cheung, Hayley Ng's aunt. "We don't want this to happen to anyone else. We need justice here."
It's not too late for Morgenthau, who has announced that he will not seek re-election, to start holding reckless and negligent drivers accountable. "We're hoping for the DA to set a precedent and prosecute this person or convene a grand jury," said Cheung. The van driver has not received so much as a summons and still carries a valid license. Morgenthau's office told the victims' families that the decision whether or not to prosecute would be made by the end of February, but so far, says Cheung, they are still waiting.
"They claim their hands are tied," she said. "We need to keep pressure on the DA and untie their hands. This was not an accident. If you step into a vehicle, you are responsible for that vehicle and the people around you."