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Posts from the Financial District Category

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Cy Vance Files Felony Charges for Beekman Street Sidewalk Hit-and-Run

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has filed felony charges against a woman accused of driving onto a downtown sidewalk, striking a pedestrian, and leaving the scene.

Heather Hensl was walking on Beekman Street near William Street on April 13 when a motorist struck her, knocking her to the ground, lacerating her head and fracturing her leg. The driver did not stop.

Cy Vance. Photo: Manhattan DA

Video showed the driver “backing up several times in order to be able to make the turn onto the sidewalk and head west past a traffic jam” prior to the collision, according to Downtown Express. DNAinfo reported that the driver barely missed hitting other people, including children, who were able to get out of her path. The crash occurred near Spruce Street School, where, according to parents who have kids there, it’s not unusual for motorists to use the sidewalk to drive around traffic.

Police said the same car was involved in a second hit-and-run crash, involving a pedestrian in Brooklyn, shortly after Hensl was hit.

Earlier this month, Hensl said NYPD was prepared to close the case without filing charges because the woman identified as the vehicle’s owner lives in New Jersey. Police also said they were unable to find a witness who saw the driver through the vehicle’s tinted windows.

But on Wednesday the alleged driver, Tiffany Murdaugh, appeared in New York Criminal Court on multiple charges, according to Downtown Express and court records. Vance charged Murdaugh with assault, reckless endangerment, and leaving the scene of an accident, court records say. Assault and reckless endangerment are both class D felonies, with penalties ranging from probation to seven years in prison.

From Downtown Express:

According to the complaint, on Tuesday evening at the First Precinct, Murdaugh was shown video of the incident and identified the 2013 white Dodge Challenger in it as her vehicle. She also told police that “she had taken the Holland Tunnel into Manhattan that morning and that no one else had driven her vehicle that day,” according to the complaint.

“I’m very relieved,” said Hensl in a phone interview. “I’m glad that she is in jail right now and not on the street.”

Hensl said the assistant district attorney who called her felt confident in the case and she will testify before the grand jury.

Read more…

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Will NYPD Charge Driver Who Rammed Woman on Sidewalk and Left Scene?

Beekman Street, with Spruce Street School and New York Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital at right, where a driver hit Heather Hensl on the sidewalk and left the scene. Parents say motorists routinely drive on the sidewalk in front of the school to get around traffic. Image: Google Maps

Beekman Street, with Spruce Street School and New York Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital at right, where a driver hit Heather Hensl on the sidewalk and left the scene. Parents say motorists routinely drive on the sidewalk in front of the school to get around traffic. Image: Google Maps

A motorist who deliberately drove down a Manhattan sidewalk, rammed a pedestrian, left the scene and reportedly hit a second person in Brooklyn might not be charged with a crime, according to one of the victims.

Heather Hensl was walking on Beekman Street near William Street on April 13 when a motorist struck her, knocking her to the ground, lacerating her head and fracturing her leg. The driver did not stop. In an email to Downtown Express, Hensl, a 37-year-old physician assistant, said she is on crutches and may require knee surgery, in addition to physical therapy.

The crash occurred near Spruce Street School. Parents of kids who attend the school say it’s not unusual for motorists to use the sidewalk to drive around traffic.

From Downtown Express:

Video viewed by Downtown Express shows the driver backing up several times in order to be able to make the turn onto the sidewalk and head west past a traffic jam.

Captain Mark Iocco, the First Precinct’s commanding officer, said the same car was involved in an accident in Brooklyn about 30 minutes after that incident. The car was pulling into a parking spot and hit an elderly lady, he said at last week’s meeting of the First Precinct Community Council. The elderly woman couldn’t identify her, and could only confirm that the driver was a female, he said.

The suspect has filed an insurance claim. The police are working with the insurance company and they are “investigating her up and down,” said Iocco.

The driver barely missed striking other people on Beekman, including children, who were able to get out of her path, DNAinfo reported. “[The driver] drove on the sidewalk as if it was a lane,” one witness said. “So fast that I turned my head and I didn’t see the car.”

Read more…

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City May Turn Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel Ramp Into Pedestrian Space

Elizabeth H. Berger Plaza and Trinity Plaza, currently separated by a Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel ramp, may be merged into a large pedestrian plaza. Image: Google Maps

Elizabeth H. Berger Plaza and Trinity Plaza, currently separated by a Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel ramp, may be merged into a large pedestrian plaza. Image: Google Maps

A nice-sized pedestrian space is shaping up in the Financial District, thanks to the Downtown Alliance, City Council Member Margaret Chin, and Community Board 1.

Elizabeth H. Berger Plaza is separated from Trinity Plaza by a redundant exit ramp for the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. The Broadsheet Daily reports that the Alliance wants the city to close the ramp so the plazas can be merged into an 18,000-square foot space.

Berger Plaza is bordered by Edgar Street, Greenwich Street, Trinity Place, and the tunnel ramp. Broadsheet Daily describes Trinity Plaza, to the immediate south on the other side of the ramp, as “a forlorn, irregularly shaped expanse of concrete that is bordered by Trinity Place on the east, but largely cut off from the surrounding community on all other sides by fencing and guard rails for the tunnel.”

Former City Council member Jessica Lappin, who is now Downtown Alliance president, said DOT has completed its studies and a Parks Department design is pending approval from Commissioner Mitchell Silver. Community Board 1 asked the city to fund the project, and Chin allocated the capital funds.

“As the Financial District’s residential population continues to grow,” Chin told Broadsheet Daily, “we must make it a priority to improve and increase public open space within the neighborhood.”

Lappin says the Alliance hopes to bring the proposal to CB 1 soon after Silver reviews it.

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Shared Space: The Street Design NYC’s Financial District Was Made For

Long studied, little implemented: This 1997 Department of City Planning map identified streets ripe for pedestrianization or plazas. Adding shared streets to the mix could open up more possibilities. Image: DCP

Long studied, little implemented: This 1997 Department of City Planning map identified streets ripe for pedestrianization or plazas. Adding shared streets to the mix could open up more possibilities. Image: DCP

For people in cars, the Financial District is a slow-speed maze. For everyone else, it is one of the city’s most transit-rich destinations. Despite this, most of the street space in the area is devoted to cars.

The Financial District is an ideal candidate for pedestrianization, but while it has seen redesigns on a handful of streets, it has yet to see the large-scale creation of car-free space that has been studied and talked about for ages. Could introducing shared space to the mix help transform some of New York’s oldest streets into truly people-first places?

If not for the the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, the Financial District would effectively be a large cul-de-sac — there is no reason for through traffic to use its local streets. The evil twins of West Street and the FDR Drive feed cars to the tunnel and ring off the neighborhood from the waterfront. But within the Financial District itself, most of the streets are narrow and have far more pedestrians than cars.

There are a few places in the Financial District where car-free streets have taken hold over the years. Too often, the goal has been not to create an open, accessible city, but to build a fortress against the threat of truck bombs.

Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: New Pedestrian Spaces Pop in Financial District

Photos: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Clarence snapped these photos of painted sidewalk expansions on Water Street, where DOT and the Downtown Alliance are working to revitalize street life in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The top photo shows one end of the newly car-free Coentis Slip, between Water and Pearl Street.

A couple of weeks ago the City Council cleared the way for privately owned public spaces (POPS) on Water Street to host public events (markets, concerts, etc.) and amenities (like plazas) without requiring the approval of the City Planning Commission chair. The zoning text amendment will be in effect until January 1, 2014, after which the results will be evaluated by property owners, people who use the spaces, and Community Board 1.

Painted curb extension at Water and Broad.

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Eyes on the Street: Bike-Share Takes Manhattan

Citi Bike's first Manhattan installation, at Fulton Street and Cliff Street in the Financial District. Photo: CitibikeNYC/Twitter

Citi Bike station installations began in Bed Stuy about ten days ago, working west through Fort Greene and Downtown Brooklyn. Now, with about 60 stations installed, bike-share has crossed the East River, the Citi Bike Twitter feed informs us that the system’s first Manhattan installation has gone in at Cliff Street and Fulton Street in the Financial District. The system is scheduled to launch next month, and thousands of New Yorkers have subscribed since annual memberships went on sale Monday.

So, after this latest development, will any Manhattan City Council members join their Brooklyn counterpart in signing up for bike-share?

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New Plazas Could Reclaim Two Blocks in the Financial District

With painted curb extensions expanding the pedestrian realm on Broadway and Whitehall Street in the Financial District, public space projects are now expected to spread around the corner to Water Street. The area is also on track to receive a first-in-the-city rule rule change making it easier to host public events in privately-owned off-street plazas.

DOT is proposing to transform two short streets in the Financial District to plazas. Above, Coenties Slip. Image: DOT

The proposals come after a 2010 plan from the Downtown Alliance, the local business improvement district, to transform Water Street into a boulevard and boost the area’s street life.

On March 6, DOT presented a plan to Manhattan Community Board 1’s Financial District Committee that would expand pedestrian space and install new pedestrian plazas along Water Street [PDF].

The existing pedestrian plaza at Whitehall Street would be expanded and extended an additional block to Broad Street, while Coentis Slip, between Water and Pearl Streets, and Gouverneur Lane, between Water and Front Streets, would be converted to pedestrian plazas. The plan also adds painted curb extensions to shorten crossing distances between Whitehall and Fulton Streets.

In addition, traffic moving southbound on Water Street beyond Old Slip would be reduced from two lanes to one. The travel lane would be replaced with a striped buffer zone between curbside parking and the remaining moving lane.

The changes could be completed by Labor Day, according to DNAinfo. DOT may also consider reducing or adjusting the number of bus stops on Water Street in the future.

Also last week, CB 1’s planning committee voted unanimously to support a regulatory change from the Department of City Planning that aims to bring more programming and events to privately owned public spaces — the bonus plazas developers created in exchange for the right to build taller, for instance — along Water Street.

Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Sidewalk Extensions Sprout in Financial District

Sidewalk extensions on Broadway and Whitehall Street in the Financial District. Photo: Stephen Miller

Late last week, DOT completed the installation of gravel epoxy sidewalk extensions in the Financial District along Broadway and Whitehall Street, from the area surrounding the famous bull statue south to an existing plaza between Pearl and Water streets. The additions feature planters and flex-post to keep drivers out, but no seating.

Before the sidewalk widening, DOT counted 390 pedestrians walking in the street south of Stone Street during the peak afternoon hour.

Left, a customer orders from Houda Elali's food truck. Right, pedestrians near Bowling Green. Photos: Stephen Miller

Food truck operator Houda Elali said her truck was back to its usual location on Friday after construction wrapped up on Whitehall Street. “It’s not bad,” she said. Saying that she preferred the gravel epoxy to the usual blacktop, she added that the expanded pedestrian space is useful. “Lots of tourists come through here,” Elali said.

When the plan was unanimously approved by the Community Board 1 Financial District Committee in May, committee chair Ro Sheffe said, “What’s not to like?”

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70 Year-Old Man Crushed, Killed by Security Truck Driver in Financial District

A reader sent in this photo of the crash that killed a man this afternoon on Broad Street.

At least two pedestrians were pinned by a pickup truck used as a movable security barrier on Broad Street near the New York Stock Exchange at approximately 1:30 p.m. this afternoon. One of the pedestrians, an unidentified 70 year-old man, has died. NY1 is reporting that the victim was a NYSE security guard who was eating lunch when the crash occurred.

Police say a woman was taken to New York Downtown Hospital with scraped knees after jumping out of the way. According to eyewitness reports, at least one other pedestrian had an injured leg.

The pickup trucks are moved to allow other vehicles to continue up Broad Street from Beaver Street at a security checkpoint. Gothamist is reporting that the drivers of the trucks, which are used when the security barriers are broken, have a reputation for dangerous behavior.

The driver in today’s crash, a 50 year-old man employed by T&M Protection Resources, a security company contracted by NYSE, remained on the scene and has not been charged with anything. NYPD says that no criminality is suspected. “Looks like an accident,” an NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog. Because the crash resulted in a death, NYPD’s Accident Investigation Squad is investigating.

“Not sure if the pictures show it,” our tipster writes, “but there’s a large puddle of blood next to the wall. Having those trucks pull in and out of the path has always seemed like a bad idea.”

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Big Sidewalk Extensions Coming to Bowling Green

Proposed sidewalk extensions along Whitehall Street would keep pedestrians out of auto traffic. Image: NYC DOT

Pedestrians at the southern-most tip of Manhattan are getting a lot more space to walk, thanks to a DOT proposal [PDF] first reported by DNAinfo last week.

New sidewalk extensions along Whitehall Street, as well as a new plaza at the famous statue of the bull at Bowling Green, will make conditions safer for people walking to the subway, the Staten Island Ferry, or the Battery.

Right now, there’s just not enough room for all the pedestrian activity in Lower Manhattan. Along one block of Whitehall, for example, 390 pedestrians walk in the roadway during a single peak hour, according to DOT. Existing sidewalks can’t handle the capacity.

Under the DOT plan, sidewalks on both sides of Whitehall would be extended into the street between Broadway and Pearl Street. The extensions would be even larger at intersections in order to shorten crosswalk distances. The effect is a sizable expansion of the pedestrian realm.

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