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Posts from the "East Harlem" Category

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Safety Fixes to Park Ave, Triboro Bridge Ramps Clear CB 11 Committee

Poor visibility leaves pedestrians at risk on Park Avenue in East Harlem. Curb extension have already been installed at 104th Street, right. Photos: DOT

Poor visibility leaves pedestrians at risk on Park Avenue in East Harlem. Curb extension have already been installed at 104th Street, right. Photos: DOT

A deadly section of Park Avenue in East Harlem is on track for safety fixes, as is the dangerous confluence of ramps and streets at 125th Street and the RFK Triborough Bridge, following a unanimous vote by the Manhattan Community Board 11 transportation committee Tuesday evening.

The Park Avenue viaduct carries Metro-North trains over the center of the street north of 97th Street. South of 111th Street, it’s a stone structure with poor visibility around corners. From 2007 to 2011, there were 19 severe injuries, including six pedestrians and one cyclist, on that stretch, according to DOT. It’s only gotten worse since then: In July 2012, 18-year-old Shaquille Cochrane was killed on his bike by a cab driver at 108th Street. Last June, cyclist Marvin Ramirez, also 18, was killed at the same intersection. Last November, a taxi driver struck a box truck at 102nd Street, sending it onto the sidewalk, killing 65-year-old Olga Rivera. A vehicle occupant was also seriously injured in the crash.

In 2009, DOT installed concrete neckdowns and new pedestrian signals at 104th and 105th Streets as part of a safety project near PS 72. Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito and CB 11 asked the agency to extend similar improvements to the rest of the viaduct. Now DOT is proposing narrower lanes on cross-streets, concrete curb extensions, and new pedestrian signals [PDF]. It is also planning to upgrade lighting in pedestrian tunnels beneath the viaduct and re-stripe crosswalks as high-visibility “zebra” markings.

Read more…

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NYPD Ticketing People for Riding Bikes on the Willis Avenue Bridge Bike Path

NYPD is at it again, handing out tickets to cyclists for riding on a bike path. This time, the 25th Precinct was handing out sidewalk-riding summonses to people riding the shared bicycle-pedestrian path on the Willis Avenue Bridge between East Harlem and Mott Haven.

If it looks like a bike path and is marked as a bike path, NYPD will ticket you for cycling on it. Image: DOT

If it looks like a bike path and is marked as a bike path, NYPD will ticket you for cycling on it. Image: DOT

Just before 9:00 this morning, reader Joe Rienti was commuting from East Harlem to Fordham University when he was stopped by an officer immediately after getting on the bridge path at 125th Street. He wasn’t the only one. Rienti said officers had pulled over four other cyclists. Streetsblog also received a report from a reader who escaped getting a ticket but was told to dismount by officers who were already busy handing out summonses.

Rienti says the officer told him that the precinct had received complaints about cyclists using the path. Rienti told the officer that it’s a shared-use path where cyclists are allowed. ”He sort of just shrugged his shoulders and wrote the ticket,” Rienti said. ”I thought he was going to give me some sort of warning.”

“There used to be signage saying you can’t bike there because they were doing construction, but they took it down,” Rienti said. In fact, DOT’s work to replace the Willis Avenue Bridge wrapped in 2010; the project website touts a “combined pedestrian/bicycle pathway along its north side.” In a video describing the project, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan says “the new bridge has important safety enhancements…[including] new pedestrian walkways and bikeway.” The city’s bike map [PDF] indicates that the bridge’s north side is a designated “bike/pedestrian path.”

Streetsblog asked the 25th Precinct about the ticketing, but the precinct referred questions to One Police Plaza, which has not replied to our inquiries. Rienti said he contacted Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito about the ticketing blitz and will fight his summons in court.

Update: Rienti says in a followup e-mail that he received another ticket on his commute home tonight on the Willis Avenue Bridge after an officer brushed away the DOT bike route information Rienti showed him. “He told me that you can only bike where there is a sign telling you it’s okay,” Rienti said, adding that he also plans to fight the second ticket in court.

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NYC Motorists Killed Three Pedestrians on City Sidewalks Today


An unidentified man drove this yellow Chevrolet Camaro onto a Queens Boulevard sidewalk, killing two pedestrians. Photo: Christina Santucci/Times-Ledger

Three pedestrians were killed on NYC sidewalks today in two separate crashes. Just before 7:30 a.m. on Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst, a 22-year-old man driving a new Camaro ran over and killed two men on the sidewalk, and just before 1 p.m., a woman was killed on an East Harlem corner after a taxi driver struck a box truck, which careened onto the sidewalk. So far, no charges have been filed, though witnesses say the Queens Boulevard driver was speeding and the East Harlem cabbie ran a red light, according to reports.

The driver of a yellow 2014 Chevrolet Camaro was heading westbound on Queens Boulevard when he crashed into two parked vehicles at Van Loon Street before jumping the curb and striking a phone booth, a lamp post, and two pedestrians — Man Chit Cheng, 59, and Muang Lin, 41 — who died at Elmhurst Hospital, according to FDNY.

Cheng, identified by the Post as Min Tin Cheng, was walking to work at a nearby construction site. He is survived by a wife and four grown children.

The driver, who has not been identified by police, was also transported to Elmhurst Hospital with minor injuries and is now in police custody on two outstanding warrants for failure to appear in court to face previous unspecified charges. The Collision Investigation Squad is investigating, and as of yet no charges have been filed relating to this crash. According to Gothamist, witnesses say the driver was speeding and crashed when he attempted to brake.

“The driver must’ve been speeding,” Council Member Danny Dromm told Streetsblog, adding that while speeding enforcement in the precinct has increased dramatically over last year, it’s not enough. “It’s going to take a while for it to sink in for drivers,” he said. “When people find out where speed cams or red light cams are, drivers take note and obey the law.” Dromm urged NYPD to take the investigation of these two men’s deaths seriously, and pointed to a march scheduled for tomorrow evening in his district to protest pedestrian deaths in Jackson Heights. “This is something that we can’t fool around with anymore,” he said. “We have to change people’s mentality on this. This is totally unacceptable.”

The crash occurred in the 110th Precinct, which issued 198 speeding tickets in September, the latest month for which information is available. Through the end of September, the precinct had issued 2,243 speeding tickets so far this year [PDF]. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector Ronald D. Leyson, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 110th Precinct council meetings happen at 7:00 p.m. on the third Monday of the month at the Flander’s Field VFW Post #150, 51-11 108th Street. Call 718-476-9311 for information.

At 12:51 p.m., a taxi driver traveling westbound on East 102nd Street crashed into a box truck traveling southbound on Park Avenue, sending the truck into the southwest corner of the intersection, where it struck Olga Rivera, 65, who was standing on the sidewalk. She was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai Hospital.

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Tomorrow: Celebrate a Safer East Side With TA and Melissa Mark-Viverito

First Avenue at 79th Street, with bike and pedestrian improvements. Photo: DOT

Tomorrow, Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito and Transportation Alternatives will take a well-deserved victory lap on the First and Second Avenue protected bike lanes.

Streetsblog readers know how difficult it was to overcome the misinformation campaign waged by a small number of business owners who didn’t want to see street improvements come to East Harlem. But there are a lot more businesses that support safer streets, and they will be joining in tomorrow’s celebration.

From a TA press release:

“This ride is about celebrating the work we did as a community to bring protected bike lanes to El Barrio/East Harlem,” says City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “The local businesses that Transportation Alternatives will be visiting understand that the bike lanes will help, not hinder, their ability to thrive in our community. I thank Transportation Alternatives, El Museo del Barrio and our local businesses for helping to organize this tour.”

“Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito has demonstrated tremendous leadership by uniting community residents and local businesses around the shared goals of safe neighborhood streets and a strong local economy,” says Caroline Samponaro, Senior Director of Campaigns and Organizing for Transportation Alternatives.

DOT completed work on the First Avenue project on October 15, bringing a smoother, safer ride for cyclists and shorter crossing distances for pedestrians from 72nd to 125th Street.

The tour will visit several bike-friendly businesses and murals in Mark-Viverito’s district. Participating businesses include East Harlem Café, El Paso Taqueria, Heavy Metal Bike Shop, Amor Cubano, Camaradas El Barrio, Spaha Soul, Sabor Borinqueno, El Barrio Juice Bar, and Coco Le Vu Candy Shop and Party Room.

Tomorrow’s ride starts at El Museo del Barrio, at Fifth Avenue and E. 105th Street, at 1 p.m.

Also tomorrow, the TA Queens committee will lead a walking rally for traffic calming and pedestrian safety improvements to 21st Street in Astoria. Queens Community Board 1 has shown interest in making improvements to the street, and has indicated the board may request a study from DOT. City Council members and candidates are expected to be on hand for the walk, which starts at 2 p.m. at the entrance to Queensbridge Park, at Vernon Boulevard and 41st Avenue.

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A Look at the Safer, Smoother First Ave in East Harlem and Upper East Side

Photo: Stephen Miller

We mentioned this briefly in a post about the bike access improvements on the Manhattan side of the Queensboro Bridge, but the redesign of First Avenue in East Harlem and the Upper East Side is completed and worth a closer look.

On October 15, DOT announced that work had wrapped up on the First Avenue project, which included the protected bike lane and pedestrian refuges that neighborhood advocates and Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito had worked so hard for. As you can see in these photos, the pedestrian crossings with islands are now a good 25 to 30 percent shorter. That’s going to make a big difference, especially for older people walking across the street.

The project also repaved the rutted, 30-year-old concrete surface of First Avenue from 72nd Street to 125th Street with fresh asphalt. The resurfacing was done using a new technique that didn’t require a costly reconstruction of the entire road, instead “applying a one-inch layer of highly modified asphalt” on top of the concrete, according to DOT. Riding on the old surface was guaranteed to send jolts up your spine. Here’s a look at the before and after:

First Avenue at 79th Street, before. Photo: NYC DOT

First Avenue at 79th Street, today. Photo: NYC DOT

Among other benefits, the completion of this project means there’s now a protected bikeway linking East Harlem to the Willis Avenue Bridge, leading to a striped bike lane on Willis Avenue in Mott Haven. If you haven’t tried out this new connection in the bike network yet, it should be an excellent route for anyone heading to the Tour de Bronx this Sunday from the other boroughs.

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Will Letters From Two Uptown Electeds Get DOT to Restart 125th Street SBS?

The plan for 125th Street Select Bus Service died on the vine after a lack of support from community boards and elected officials. But now, Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito [PDF] and State Senator Adriano Espaillat [PDF], along with council candidate Mark Levine, are asking Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan to restart plans to bring SBS to the crosstown route.

Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, and council candidate Mark Levine are urging DOT to restart planning for SBS on 125th Street. Photo: Benjamin Engle/Instagram

In their letters, all three note that the vast majority of area residents are car-free, that SBS would deliver significant improvements to thousands of crosstown bus riders on a notoriously slow route, and that SBS has the potential to bring more customers to businesses along 125th Street.

Shortly before DOT and the MTA pulled the plug on the SBS project last month, Community Board 11′s transportation committee voted [PDF] to reverse a supportive resolution it had passed earlier in the spring, rejecting SBS unless the M35 bus to Randalls Island — an unrelated bus line — was rerouted. Neighbors had long complained about the route’s passengers hanging out at the busy corner of Lexington Avenue and 125th Street.

In her letter urging DOT to restart SBS planning, Mark-Viverito backed a proposal to move this bus stop, though she did not condition her support of SBS on the stop’s relocation. “I have heard the concerns of El Barrio/East Harlem residents regarding the placement of the M35 bus stop,” she wrote. “The alternate proposal to move the stop in front of the Pathmark is one that I support.”

I asked Mark-Viverito why she had not spoken out publicly in support of SBS as the project was being attacked and scaled back earlier this year. “We had made very clear in conversations throughout the debate around the 125th Street SBS that we supported the project,” Mark-Viverito said in a statement. “When the DOT released a scaled back proposal for SBS, it still kept the project whole in El Barrio/East Harlem, which is the area that I represent.”

When DOT cancelled SBS, the agency said it would be implementing other bus improvements on 125th Street, but there has been no further information about what those changes might be or when they would be implemented. “We received the letters from the elected officials and will be responding,” DOT spokesperson Nicole Garcia said via e-mail. ”We still hope to work to improve bus service throughout the corridor in dialog with the community.”

This post has been corrected to note that CB 11′s transportation committee, and not the full board, voted on resolutions regarding 125th Street SBS. At no time did CB 11′s full board express an opinion on the project.

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Patchwork Upgrades Move Ahead as East Side Waits for Complete Greenway

The East River Greenway, stepchild of Manhattan’s bikeway network, currently consists of segments beneath, beside, and sometimes even above the FDR Drive. A report issued by New Yorkers for Parks yesterday acknowledged that East Siders awaiting a continuous path will have to wait decades before they can walk or bike on a full-length East River Greenway. In the meantime, an uncoordinated series of plans, studies, and development projects attempt to piece together sections of the route.

New Yorkers for Parks found East Siders could benefit from better access to the East River Greenway in four different surveys, but plans for its completion remain scattered. Map: NY4P

For its study, New Yorkers for Parks measured the quality of and access to open space in the council districts represented by Dan Garodnick and Jessica Lappin, who sponsored the survey.

New Yorkers for Parks has now completed four open space audits for neighborhoods from the Lower East Side [PDF] to East Harlem. Eastern parts of these neighborhoods, which are beyond easy walking distance from Central Park, “are situated along the East River Esplanade, which would better serve residents if it were more accessible, continuous, and well-maintained.”

“Anyone who has spent time in Hudson River Park knows that the benefits of a continuous esplanade are quite great,” NY4P Executive Director Holly Leicht told Streetsblog. The Hudson River Greenway is the busiest multi-use path in the nation, and a critical route for bike commuters. “It’s very broken up on the East Side. It’s very piecemeal,” Leicht said.

The East River waterfront has been the subject of numerous studies and plans. The Department of City Planning released its citywide Greenway Plan in 1993, the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway Master Plan in 2004 and a citywide waterfront plan in 2011. There have also been vision plans that look at smaller sections of the riverfront, from the Municipal Art Society, CIVITAS, Hunter College planning students, and 197-a plans from community boards that looked at Stuyvesant Cove [PDF] and the area beneath the Queensboro Bridge [PDF].

In addition, the Blueway Plan lays out a vision from 38th Street to the Brooklyn Bridge, and EDC is leading a planning process that could bring new sections of the greenway online block-by-block between 38th and 60th Streets from 2015 to 2024.

Even when projects make the jump from the pages of a planning document to reality, the result, for the time being, is still a patchwork. But a greenway becomes truly useful only when it is continuous. Will this patchwork coalesce over coming years to create a continuous route?

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Who Killed 125th Street SBS: A Timeline

After years of advocacy and months of meetings, 125th Street bus riders will still be stuck with bus rides that are often slower than walking. Image: DOT

Throughout the development of the 125th Street Select Bus Service project, local elected officials and community boards never came out in support of actual bus improvements. Instead, they cloaked their opposition in concerns about “process.” Following yesterday’s announcement from the MTA and NYC DOT that they will no longer pursue Select Bus Service on 125th Street, now is a good time to review that process.

Here is a timeline of events, from initial advocacy to the end of SBS on 125th Street. Which parts look broken to you?

  • Summer 2011: WE ACT for Environmental Justice launches its Transit Riders Action Committee (TRAC) in response to fare hikes. Reaching out to neighborhood riders at bus stops and subway platforms, TRAC decides to make better bus trips on 125th Street one of its priorities.
  • Spring 2012: TRAC focuses its 125th Street advocacy on bringing Select Bus Service to the corridor.
  • September 19, 2012: DOT and the MTA launch the 125th Street SBS project with a public workshop sponsored by elected officials and all three community boards to identify problems on 125th Street and solicit feedback on how SBS measures could be implemented.
  • October 11, 2012: DOT and the MTA announce that SBS routes on 125th Street and Webster Avenue in the Bronx, as well as buses in Queens, will tie into a comprehensive plan for improved access to LaGuardia Airport. (Only 10 percent of M60 riders are airport-bound.)
  • November 28, 2012: The project’s Community Advisory Committee (CAC), which included elected officials, business interests, transit advocates, and community boards, holds its first meeting. The project team provides updates on its parking and traffic analysis, and merchant and shopper surveys. After the meeting, WE ACT’s Jake Carlson tells Streetsblog that he is concerned about the role of community input in the planning process.

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Council Member Jackson “Pleased” With Cancellation of 125th Street SBS

Reactions have been rolling in since DOT and the MTA announced this morning that they are canceling plans for Select Bus Service on 125th Street.

Council Member Robert Jackson, whose district includes West Harlem, welcomed the news. “He’s pleased that they listened to concerns and didn’t move forward with Select Bus Service,” Jackson spokesperson Frances Escano told Streetsblog. “He hopes that they come together and move forward with a whole study to come to complete solutions.” According to the 2000 Census, 78 percent of households in Jackson’s district do not own a car [PDF].

Update: Jackson’s office contacted us after publication, seeking to clarify his position. ”DOT was only going to do Select Bus Service for the M60,” Escano said in a follow-up call. “If you’re going to do SBS, do it for all of them, don’t just do it for one.” While the M60 has a reputation as serving only LaGuardia customers, only one in ten M60 riders are going to the airport. Riders on local routes would also see faster service thanks to the bus lanes and parking management proposed in the SBS project. Scuttling the SBS project deprives all bus riders on 125th Street of faster service.

When Streetsblog asked whether Jackson believes dedicated bus lanes would benefit all 125th Street bus riders, Escano said only that the council member supports a comprehensive study. Escano would not say whether the council member supports specific improvements — such as dedicated lanes — that would improve trip times for bus riders.

At a forum last week, most candidates looking to succeed the term-limited Jackson, who is running for Manhattan borough president, said they support SBS on 125th Street. Council candidate Mark Levine e-mailed a statement to Streetsblog this afternoon calling the SBS cancellation “outrageous [and] nonsensical.”

After today’s SBS cancellation, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, the local advocacy group that initially led the push for better bus service in Harlem, said it will re-evaluate its approach. After Senator Bill Perkins hosted a town hall meeting where DOT announced that it had trimmed the bus plan, WE ACT did not host a counter-event or action. “We have to have a conversation about what strategy looks like moving forward,” said Jake Carlson, WE ACT’s transportation equity coordinator.

“We knew that there had been concerns from the community about the process around this project,” he said, adding that, despite numerous community meetings, a number of residents felt that DOT and the MTA were unresponsive. “We want to work to play a better role in trying to lead those conversations,” Carlson said.

Update: Carlson e-mailed Streetsblog with a clarification: “We stand with Senator Perkins in calling for a comprehensive planning process,” he said. “We also aren’t looking to ‘lead’ the conversations and be out in front of anyone… I don’t want folks to get the impression that we’re presuming to be out in front of the community boards and elected officials.”

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First Downsized, Now Cancelled: DOT and MTA Drop 125th Street SBS Plan

Facing opposition led by State Senator Bill Perkins, NYC DOT and the MTA have cancelled the plan to bring Select Bus Service to 125th Street in Harlem. The plan, which was trimmed in half in May, cutting bus lanes out of West Harlem, has now been shelved. As a result, tens of thousands of daily bus riders in Harlem are still condemned to travel at speeds that are often slower than walking.

“This hit us by surprise this morning,” the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Joseph Cutrufo said. “We just got an email… It’s very vague.”

The full e-mail from the project management’s PR firm reads:

Thank you for your dedicated participation and engagement on the M60 Select Bus Service (SBS) Project. You have given us a tremendous amount of feedback about bus service on 125th Street, as well as other issues affecting pedestrians and motorists along the corridor.

There are still a number of concerns about the project from the local Community Boards and elected officials that we have not been able to resolve to date. As a result, NYCDOT and MTA New York City Transit have decided not to proceed with the M60 Select Bus Service project at this time. We do hope to have a continued dialogue with community stakeholders about ways that we can continue to improve bus speed and service, traffic flow, parking, and pedestrian safety along 125th Street. In the short term, we plan to work with the Community Boards to explore whether any parking or traffic improvements discussed during the SBS outreach process can improve 125th Street for all users.

Again, thank you for the time and effort that you put into this project, and we hope that you will continue to be a part of the discussion for how to improve 125th Street.

Streetsblog will update the story as we get more information.