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Posts from the "East Harlem" Category

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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.

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Another Cyclist Killed at East Harlem Intersection, NYPD Again Blames Victim

E. 108th Street and Park Avenue, where two cyclists have been killed by motorists in the past year. Image: Google Maps

For the second time in less than a year, a cyclist has been killed by a motorist at the intersection of E. 108th Street and Park Avenue, in East Harlem.

On Sunday evening at around 7:40 p.m., 18-year-old Marvin Ramirez was riding east on E. 108th when he was hit by the driver of a Dodge sedan, who was traveling north on Park, according to DNAinfo and the Post.

Ramirez suffered head trauma and died at Harlem Hospital. The driver was not charged.

Park Avenue is divided by the viaduct, which limits visibility at intersections, from E. 102nd Street to points north. One cyclist and three pedestrians were killed on Park between E. 97th and E. 132nd between 2000 and 2008, according to Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat.

Published reports included no mention of driver speed. The Post took care to report, however, that “Police said the cyclist sailed through a steady red light.” Unless a motorist who kills a cyclist or pedestrian is drunk or leaves the scene, NYPD normally leaks crash information to the media only when it serves to exculpate the motorist.

Case in point: The Post and the Associated Press reported last week that a cyclist riding a Citi Bike ran a light before she was hit by a livery driver. Fortunately, the victim lived to tell her side of the story. According to writer and occasional Streetsblog contributor Alex Marshall, the victim says she was proceeding through a yellow light when the driver “jumped the green” in an attempt to get in front of another motorist. Many times, the victim of a bike or pedestrian crash is unable to rebut the driver’s version of events.

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DOT Trims Harlem Bus Plan; Bill Perkins’ Office: “We Are Definitely Pleased”

Congratulations are in order for State Senator Bill Perkins, who has successfully condemned more than 32,000 crosstown bus riders to travel on 125th Street at speeds that are often slower than walking. His pressure to revise a plan for dedicated bus lanes and other measures to prioritize surface transit — culminating in an “emergency” town hall meeting last Thursday — resulted in DOT watering down its proposal.

State Senator Bill Perkins' office has no position on improvements for bus service on 125th Street, but Perkins himself has called Select Bus Service a "failure." Photo: NY Senate

When asked how Thursday’s meeting went, Perkins’ office was sunny. “We are definitely pleased,” deputy chief of staff Linda Wood-Guy told Streetsblog, insisting that the senator’s office did not concern itself one way or the other with actual changes to the street — or improvements for bus riders. ”Our office was only concerned about the process,” she said.

That process began last September, when DOT and the MTA held a public workshop sponsored by local community boards and elected officials, including Perkins, that attracted nearly 100 people. A community advisory committee — comprised of community boards, elected officials, community development corporations, the 125th Street BID, NYCHA residents, and transit advocates – began meeting in November and met for a third time in March. The project team also hosted a walking tour with more than 50 people to gather feedback in January.

But when the process resulted in a plan to actually improve conditions for bus riders — by adding bus lanes and left-turn restrictions — Perkins’ office began to marshal opposition, claiming that community members were not being adequately consulted.

Despite his deputy chief of staff’s claims that Perkins does not have a position on specific changes DOT might make to the street, the state senator was full of opinions about Select Bus Service in his April letter to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, ignoring the speed increasesridership gainssales receipts, and high customer satisfaction reported on other SBS lines. “The feedback that we have received,” he wrote, “indicated dissatisfaction and even failure.”

The plan would have converted the M60 to a Select Bus Service route serving six stops along 125th Street with off-board fare collection and signal priority technology to hold green lights for buses. A one-mile, camera-enforced dedicated bus lane between Morningside and Third Avenues would have cut down on double parking, which currently slows buses to a crawl. Metering more parking spaces would have improved parking availability, further reducing incentives to double-park. With one general travel lane in each direction, DOT was proposing adding left-turn restrictions at most intersections to keep traffic flowing.

The new plan, presented by DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione at Perkins’ town hall, shrinks the bus lane in half, ending it at Lenox Avenue instead of Morningside. It also reduces the number of left-turn restrictions and scraps a proposal to add parking meters between Amsterdam and Morningside Avenues, according to DNAinfo. A copy of this plan is not available on the project website; Streetsblog has requested a copy from DOT but has not received a response. Update: A copy of DOT’s presentation is now available online.

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Tonight: Speak Up for Better 125th St. Bus Service at Bill Perkins Town Hall

State Senator Bill Perkins is hosting an "Emergency Town Hall Meeting" tonight because DOT is proposing Select Bus Service improvements to 125th Street. Image: DOT

Spurred by transit activists demanding improvements to 125th Street buses that often crawl slower than walking speed, DOT and MTA have been moving forward with a project to improve bus service along the major crosstown corridor. But last month, State Senator Bill Perkins sent DOT a letter [PDF] in which he said Select Bus Service improvements were a “failure” and demanded that ”the agency slow down” the process of bringing better service to bus riders on 125th Street.

Tonight, Perkins is hosting an “Emergency Town Hall Meeting” about buses on 125th Street. DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione will give a presentation, followed by a rebuttal from the 125th Street Business Improvement District, Disabled In Action of Metropolitan New York, and members of Community Boards 9, 10, 11, and 12. In his letter to DOT, Perkins said that “issues and concerns” raised by some of these groups “are not being adequately responded to or respected.”

In the meeting flyer [PDF], Perkins says there are “major changes coming soon to 125th Street” and encourages people to “come and share your concerns, opinions, ideas and alternative proposals before it’s too late.” In his April letter to DOT, Perkins did not put forth any suggestions for changes that would provide improvements for bus riders.

The meeting is from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at United House of Prayer for All People, 2320 Frederick Douglass Boulevard. Perkins’s office is asking attendees to RSVP by calling his office at (212) 222-7315.

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125th Street Buses Are Slow, But Fixes Are Moving Too Fast for Bill Perkins

State Sen. Bill Perkins wants to slow down a plan to bring dedicated bus lanes to 125th Street. Image: DOT

For years, crosstown bus riders on 125th Street — more than 32,000 per day — have had to put up with a ride that’s slower than walking. After months of planning, fixes are in sight, but State Senator Bill Perkins is objecting to the city’s effort to bring faster bus service to Harlem.

During rush hour, buses on 125th Street crawl at barely more than a third of the already-slow 7.7 mph average pace of other New York City buses. Six out of every ten minutes a bus spends on 125th Street, it’s standing still. A major culprit: double-parking drivers. On the busiest blocks, double-parked cars block at least one traffic lane more than 40 percent of the day, according to a DOT study.

More than three quarters of the households in Bill Perkins's State Senate district don't own cars. Photo: NY Senate

Last fall, after Upper Manhattan transit advocates demanded improvements, DOT began planning better bus service for riders along the corridor. The agency has surveyed merchants, held three Community Advisory Committee meetings, three public workshops, presented before three community boards, and according to DOT spokesperson Nicole Garcia, attended more than 30 private meetings as the plan moved forward.

But that isn’t enough for Perkins, who wrote a letter to Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan asking her to delay the plan because of what he calls a lack of consensus [PDF]. “We believe that your proposal is being forced and implemented without our opinions, suggestions and comments taken seriously,” he wrote.

Perkins goes on to claim that the speed increasesridership gains, sales receipts, and high customer satisfaction reported on other SBS lines aren’t indicative of success. “The feedback that we have received,” he wrote, “indicated dissatisfaction and even failure.”

Perkins, who was the lone committee vote against closing a loophole in the state’s careless driving law last month, doesn’t say what types of bus improvements he and his constituents would like to see implemented. His only demands are that “the agency slow down” and present “alternative plans and proposals.”

In the meantime, outreach for the project continues. On Tuesday, DOT and MTA held a public workshop to gather feedback on the proposal [PDF].

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Questions About Truck Enforcement Linger After Amar Diarrassouba’s Death

It’s been a week since truck driver Robert Carroll ran over and killed Amar Diarrassouba at First Avenue and 117th Street in East Harlem, and although NYPD says its crash investigation is complete, the department has so far failed to address major questions about the legality of the truck Carroll was driving.

The company Carroll works for, McLane Trucking, may have sent a vehicle onto city streets that isn’t allowed anywhere in the city. The truck appears to be long enough to require an oversize permit to operate in NYC, but police have not said whether the vehicle was permitted. Carroll received only two summonses: failure to yield and failure to exercise due care.

NYPD says its investigation is complete, but there are many unanswered questions about the crash that killed Amar Diarrassouba last week. Photo: 1010 WINS via Gothamist

The day after Scott Stringer demanded action from NYC DOT while letting NYPD and District Attorney Cy Vance off the hook, Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito sent letters to both DOT [PDF] and NYPD [PDF].

“It is my understanding that a truck this size is not even permitted to drive on our city’s local truck routes, much less a non-designated street like East 117th Street,” Mark-Viverito wrote to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. In the letter, she requested information about how crossing guards are assigned and enforcement data on truck driver behavior.

This morning Streetsblog sent inquiries to NYPD and DOT as to whether the vehicle has an oversize permit, and we have yet to receive replies. NYPD has also not responded to Streetsblog’s query about whether Carroll had NYC truck route maps in the cab and whether he was legally traveling on a non-designated route. (According to DOT’s website: “Trucks should only use non-designated routes when traveling between their origin/destination and a truck route.”)

Only very broad information about truck route enforcement is publicly available. Citywide, NYPD issued 6,458 tickets to drivers for truck route violations in 2012. (For comparison, police issued 95,866 tickets for tinted windows.) The 25th precinct, covering the area of East Harlem where Diarrassouba died, made truck route enforcement a bigger relative priority than the rest of the NYPD last year, issuing 275 truck route tickets.

Another enforcement issue raised by Diarrassouba’s death is the safety mirror loophole. The state law requiring crossover mirrors on large trucks, which allow drivers to see the blind spot in front of the cab, exempts vehicles registered out-of-state. McLane Trucking, the owner of the truck that crushed Diarrassouba, is based in Texas. NYPD and McLane have not responded to inquiries as to whether the truck is registered in New York.

NYPD said on Monday that its investigation is complete. But with all the unanswered questions about this case, the public is barely any wiser about what contributed to the death of Amar Diarrassouba and how future tragedies can be prevented.

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On Traffic Justice, Stringer Lets Ray Kelly and Cy Vance Off the Hook

After the driver who killed six year-old Amar Diarrassouba on Thursday was let off with two summonses, for failure to yield to a pedestrian and not exercising due care, NYPD says its Accident Investigation Squad has concluded its investigation. Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance refuses to comment.

Assembly Member Robert J. Rodriguez, Borough President Scott Stringer and Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito announce Stringer's letter to DOT. Photo: Stephen Miller

This afternoon, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer was joined by other elected officials and approximately a dozen community leaders on the sidewalk in front of Diarrassouba’s school, P.S. 155 in East Harlem, to show their outrage.

“We mourn, but we also are angry,” Stringer said. “We should never be standing at a press conference like this again demanding action.”

But instead of demanding action from the NYPD and the DA, Stringer announced that he is sending a letter to Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “This is a shot across the bow to the Department of Transportation to take meaningful action,” Stringer said.

It’s a strange tactic, given that DOT is expected to continue its implementation of protected bike lanes and pedestrian refuges in East Harlem this year — a project that was, for a time, obstructed by Stringer appointees to Community Board 11.

Citing the significant safety gains of DOT’s Safe Routes to Schools program, Stringer’s letter calls for some worthy improvements, including bringing more Leading Pedestrian Interval signals to East Harlem (currently the neighborhood only has two, while there are 143 in the rest of Manhattan) and installing reduced-speed school zone signs at P.S. 155, which currently has none. But by focusing his critique solely on DOT, Stringer is letting law enforcement off the hook.

“We’re certainly going to defer to the police and the district attorney on these issues,” said Stringer, who is not sending a letter to the DA or NYPD. His specific policy recommendations to DOT, meanwhile, indicate that he has no problem telling less powerful agencies what to do.

Stringer’s letter doesn’t mention the street safety project that will bring bike lanes and pedestrian islands to First Avenue and has already redesigned a stretch of Second Avenue just west of P.S. 155. It also doesn’t mention that two of Stringer’s community board appointments, Erik Mayor and Frank Brija, delayed the project by claiming it would make asthma rates worse. In the end, the full community board voted to support the traffic calming plan not once but twice.

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East Harlem Doctor: “Trucks This Size Shouldn’t Be on Residential Streets”

Melanie Canon, a doctor based in East Harlem, was the first person to aid 6-year-old Amar Diarrassouba after he has fatally struck by a tractor-trailer driver Thursday morning. The New York Times’ City Room blog published her wrenching account today.

The driver who killed Amar Diarrassouba was operating an oversized truck on a street that is not a designated truck route. Photo: 1010 WINS via Gothamist

Canon raises the question that the city’s tabloid press has been too fixated on an absent crossing guard to bother with: What are big rigs doing on city streets where children walk every day?

People often ask me how I keep calm in such dreadful situations, how I keep thoughts of my own child and her safety from clouding my mind. For me, the anger and sorrow come later, as I reflect on the statistics that tell us that accidents like this are preventable.

We now know that Amar was hit by a tractor-trailer turning from congested, narrow 117th Street onto First Avenue. The driver of that huge truck said he hadn’t seen the boy, couldn’t see him, from the high perch of his mammoth truck. He didn’t hear the sickening thud, either.

This is where I come back to my training – not my medical training, but my training as a mother and community activist — where my sorrow and anger will drive me to act, to join my community in pushing for change.

Trucks this size shouldn’t be on residential streets, especially as kids are walking to and from school. ?In this country, cars and trucks kill more children than guns do. We can do better, for Amar and for all of us.

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Businessman Who Protested 1st Ave Safety Fixes: It’s the 9-Year-Old’s Fault

NYPD and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance are reportedly targeting a crossing guard for her supposed role in the death of 6-year-old Amar Diarrassouba, who was killed by a truck driver in East Harlem Thursday morning. Meanwhile, a local businessman and community board member who waged a campaign against pedestrian refuges and protected bike lanes on First and Second Avenues has publicly pinned the blame on the victim’s 9-year-old brother.

Amar Diarrassouba

Robert Carroll was issued summonses for failure to yield and failure to exercise due care, according to the Post. Reports say Carroll was turning right from E. 117th Street onto First Avenue when he hit Amar with a rear tire of the tractor-trailer. Amar and older brother Youssouf were crossing First Avenue east to west, on their way to nearby P.S. 155.

Community Board 11 endorsed protected bike lanes and pedestrian refuges on First and Second Avenues from 96th to 125th Streets in September 2011, but rescinded its support two months later, when restaurant owners Frank Brija and Erik Mayor, who are also on the board, organized against the project.

Brija and Mayor, owners of Patsy’s Pizza and Milk Burger, respectively, said businesses were not contacted about the proposal for protected lanes and pedestrian islands, a claim refuted by DOT. They also said the safety measures would make traffic congestion worse and increase asthma rates.

The board ultimately endorsed the plan, which had broad community support, a second time, in March 2012. Construction was supposed to begin last spring, but was pushed back after the board waffled. While it’s impossible to know how the First Avenue redesign would have affected this crash, a narrower roadway may have saved Amar’s life by forcing Carroll to make a tighter, slower turn.

On Streetsblog and Twitter this morning, attorney Steve Vaccaro noted that, had the project proceeded as planned, the crash that killed Amar Diarrassouba might not have happened. In response, Mayor tweeted: “Steve you are pathetic to place blame on us. The child was being walked by his nine year old brother who did not pay attention.”

Erik Mayor, owner of Milk Burger and member of CB 11, waged a campaign against safety measures for the intersection where Amar was killed.

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Trucker Kills 7-Year-Old in East Harlem; NYPD and Media Eye Crossing Guard

A 7-year-old boy was killed by a truck driver this morning while walking to school in East Harlem. While no charges were filed against the driver, police and media are focused on the actions of a crossing guard, who was reportedly on a break when the crash occurred.

Trucks over 55 feet are not allowed on NYC surface streets without a permit. According to reports, the truck driver who killed Amar Diarrassouba was driving on a street that is not a designated truck route. He was not charged. Photo: 1010 WINS via Gothamist

Amar Diarrassouba and his 10-year-old brother were crossing First Avenue at E. 117th Street, east to west, when, according to reports, the westbound driver of a tractor-trailer ran over the younger boy while turning right from 117th to First. The driver was stopped by witnesses some distance away. The Post writes:

“It was crazy. I saw a man chasing the truck on 119th Street,” said neighborhood resident Vinny Brasero, 49.

“I saw the boy, there was just so much blood, I knew he wasn’t going to make it. I couldn’t even get too close because when I saw he wasn’t moving and all that blood, it didn’t look good.”

The victim’s big brother was “hysterical, crying” at the scene, according to Brasero.

“I was crying a little bit because I have kids,” he added.

East 117th Street is a narrow, one-way street. It is not a truck route. Trucks exceeding 55 feet in length, like the one involved in this crash, are not allowed on surface streets without a permit. McClane trucking, which apparently owns the truck, is based in Texas. Trucks registered outside New York are exempt from the state’s crossover mirror requirement. It appears from a Post photo that the truck is not equipped with the mirrors, which allow truck drivers to see what is directly in front of them.

Of all the factors that contributed to this fatality — massive trucks allowed on city streets, a loophole in a state law, the truck driver’s failure to yield to two kids while driving on a neighborhood street not designated for trucks — reports say authorities are investigating why a crossing guard stationed at the intersection was not present at the time of the crash. Naturally, this is the detail the city press corps has zeroed in on.

While NYPD focused on the crossing guard, police defended the driver. From DNAinfo:

“Tractor trailers often have to make very wide turns,” said a police spokesman at the scene. “It’s possible, given the height of the vehicle and the kind of turn he had to make, that he just didn’t see the kid.”

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