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Posts from the "East Harlem" Category

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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.

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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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