According to Harlem’s Community Board 10, there is apparently no such thing as a street redesign worth pursuing. Over the course of two-and-a-half hours Tuesday night, members of the board’s transportation committee declined to support a road diet for Morningside Avenue, attacked a community-based street safety plan installed on Mount Morris Park West, and asked DOT to reconsider Select Bus Service on 125th Street again – this time on the pretense that it would harm the elderly and disabled.
The ongoing dysfunction at CB 10 should be a wake-up call to Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who has promised at least 20 Bus Rapid Transit routes and set a goal of eliminating traffic fatalities in 10 years. As it currently stands, New York’s community board process is incompatible with those goals, since in effect it enables a small group of people to veto changes to the street, sometimes without any meaningful community involvement. Community boards can be venues for constructive feedback and criticism, but too often they are simply forums to say “no” to change.
Each community board is supposed to represent the interests of people who live in the district — upwards of 100,000 people per board. In the CB 10 district, the vast majority of those people don’t own cars and rely on walking and transit. On Tuesday, there were just four committee members in the room, most of them threatening the cancellation of safety improvements proposed for Morningside Avenue, criticizing other traffic calming projects, and complaining about bus enhancements on 125th Street.
The Morningside Avenue redesign, requested by the North Star Neighborhood Association, has already been vetted at a public forum jointly hosted by Community Boards 9 and 10, which both cover the project area. CB 9 has already passed a resolution in support of the plan. Tuesday night, Karen Horry, acting chair of the CB 10 transportation committee, said she was surprised that CB 9′s resolution [PDF] did not ask DOT to reconsider the road diet, which is the centerpiece of the plan. ”The community has a great deal of concern about the lane reductions, so we were hoping you could address alternatives,” she said to Josh Orzeck, representing DOT’s Manhattan borough commissioner’s office at the meeting.