Skip to content

Posts from the "Harlem" Category

4 Comments

Tonight: Tell Manhattan CBs That Harlem Needs a Safer Morningside Avenue

The plan for a safer Morningside Avenue is similar to treatments already in place in Harlem and the Bronx. Image: DOT

Community Boards 9 and 10 in Harlem will again hear from DOT tonight on a plan to calm traffic on Morningside Avenue [PDF]. The proposal was developed in response to a request from the North Star Neighborhood Association, and though there is general agreement that speeding drivers are a major problem on Morningside, the community boards have so far failed to endorse the city’s plan to make the street safer.

City Council Democratic primary winner Mark Levine wants the boards to move forward with the proposal, but as usual Council Member Inez Dickens, whose neighboring district encompasses most of the project area, has not indicated her support.

The plan would revamp Morningside from 116th Street to 126th Street from two lanes in each direction to a narrower single lane in each direction, with a center striped median, concrete pedestrian islands and left turn lanes. Parking lanes on each side would be widened, allowing space for cyclists and double-parked drivers. At entrances to Morningside Park, on the west side of the avenue, DOT has proposed painted curb extensions in the parking lane. The proposal does not include bike lanes.

The plan resembles existing traffic-calming measures on Macombs Road in the Bronx and on St. Nicholas Avenue in Harlem, and has some similarities to the plan for Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard.

DOT presented the proposal in September to the transportation committees of both boards. The CB 10 committee, which has a history of inaction and opposition when it comes to livable streets projects, asked DOT for more data. CB 9 voted 18-15 to table the project, according to The Uptowner. Board members said the proposal needed more vetting, despite committee meetings and positive comments from the public.

Which brings us to tonight’s forum, where DOT will again present its plan and answer questions.

Read more…

24 Comments

The Abbreviated Plan for 125th Street Select Bus Service Is Back

Select Bus Service on 125th Street is back, but bus lanes will only run east of Lenox Avenue. Image: MTA/NYC DOT

State Senator Bill Perkins let it slip during a hearing yesterday, and today the MTA and DOT made it official [PDF]: Select Bus Service is back on track for M60 buses running along 125th Street, scheduled to launch in April 2014.

After community boards and local elected officials raised concerns about the months-long planning process, saying the project wasn’t taking the community’s needs into account during its public meetings, the agencies decided to shorten the route, before shelving plans for SBS altogether a few months ago. Now, after receiving letters from elected officials who wanted to revive the plan, and holding a series of private meetings with community members and elected officials this summer, DOT and MTA have announced that the plan for the shortened route is back, with some new additions.

Bus lanes will not extend west from Second Avenue to Morningside Avenue, as originally planned. Instead, the new plan is similar to the shortened route announced in May, which cuts the lanes in half by ending them at Lenox Avenue. Also like the plan from May, the one announced today adds left-turn restrictions at Fifth and Lexington Avenues. DOT and the MTA say they expect the service will result in a 20 percent decrease in travel times. The M60 local bus will be converted to Select Bus Service, while the Bx15, M100, and M101 will continue to run local service.

As with most other SBS routes, the M60 will have pre-board fare payment, which speeds up the process of getting on a bus. Unlike other SBS routes, the plan does not include curb extensions or bus bulbs, meaning that buses will have to leave the bus lane and pull to the curb to pick up passengers, which can increase wait times.

What’s new in today’s announcement [PDF]? 125th Street will receive 62 new LED street lights [PDF] from Morningside Avenue to Fifth Avenue, paid for with $500,000 from Assembly Member Keith Wright. The 12 SBS bus stops on 125th Street will receive new, larger bus shelters, including maps from the WalkNYC pedestrian wayfinding program and real-time bus arrival information.

Read more…

1 Comment

Harlem CBs Dither on Pedestrian Safety While SI Board Begs for Bike Lanes

Four-lane roads in need of traffic calming: Staten Island Community Board 1 voted to support a community request for bike lanes and traffic calming on Clove Road, left, while Manhattan Community Boards 9 and 10 delayed a community-driven road diet plan for pedestrian islands on Morningside Avenue, right. Photos: Google Maps (left, right)

Last week, Staten Island Community Board 1 passed a resolution asking DOT to install bike lanes, while in Manhattan, a community-requested plan for a road diet and pedestrian islands continues to be delayed by two Harlem community boards.

After months of organizing by Transportation Alternatives — resulting in more than 260 petition signatures and 22 partners signing onto a letter in support [PDF] — as well as a supportive vote from the board’s area committee, CB 1 passed a resolution Thursday asking DOT to bring bike lanes and traffic calming to 2.5 miles of Clove Road from Richmond Terrace to the Staten Island Expressway. This section Clove Road currently has two lanes in each direction for most of its length.

The advocates’ letter recommends protected bike lanes, which would be a first for Staten Island. The text of the CB 1 resolution was not available, so it’s unclear if the community board specifically asked DOT for protected lanes.

The board also requested that DOT investigate “smart traffic lights,” which automatically adjust signal timing in real-time to respond to traffic volumes, and the district manager invited bike lane supporters to join the board for its next budget committee meeting on October 3.

Next, local advocates will try to win the support of Council Member Debi Rose and get a proposal from DOT. Update: “We have not yet received this resolution, but we will review any request we receive from the community,” DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera said in an e-mail.

Update:  ”I am a strong proponent of safe streets and of reducing the city’s carbon footprint; this DOT study would be a good first step in seeing how we can achieve both goals,” Rose said in a statement.

While CB 1 is taking action on Staten Island, it’s a different story in Manhattan. On Thursday evening, Manhattan Community Board 9 failed to advance a resolution in support of a plan for pedestrian islands and a road diet on Morningside Avenue, which would cut down on speeding near Morningside Park.

Read more…

3 Comments

Tonight: Community Boards Weigh Harlem and Staten Island Traffic Calming

Last week, DOT presented a plan to calm traffic on Morningside Avenue in Harlem [PDF] with a road diet and pedestrian islands. Community Board 10′s transportation committee, which has a track record of dithering on and opposing livable streets projects, asked DOT for more data. Tonight, the action shifts to adjacent Community Board 9, which also covers the project area and could be poised to pass a resolution in support of the project.

Pedestrian islands and a road diet like this one on Macombs Avenue in the Bronx could come to Morningside Avenue. Photo: DOT

“I wouldn’t want to predict how the board will vote,” CB 9 member and Friends of Morningside Park president Brad Taylor said. Earlier this month, DOT presented its plan to CB 9′s transportation committee. Although the committee lacked a quorum at that meeting and could not pass a resolution in support, Taylor said the proposal was received favorably and moved forward to the executive committee, which was supportive of a full board resolution. Tonight’s CB 9 meeting is at 6:30 p.m. at the Fortune Society, 630 Riverside Drive.

If CB 9 passes a resolution in support of the Morningside Avenue traffic calming plan tonight, there will be greater pressure for CB 10 pass a resolution, as well. Activists have told Streetsblog that DOT is unlikely to move forward on the plan without community board support. The next CB 10 full board meeting is October 2; the next transportation committee meeting is scheduled for October 9.

On Staten Island, a proposal championed by Transportation Alternatives [PDF] to bring bike lanes, crosswalks, and other traffic calming interventions to Clove Road between Richmond Terrace and the Staten Island Expressway passed CB 1′s Silver Lake/Sunnyside/Westerleigh area committee last night. Tonight, it heads to the full board, which meets at 8:00 p.m. at All Saints Episcopal Church, 2329 Victory Boulevard.

“I am optimistic that the vote will be positive,” TA’s Meredith Sladek said, adding that CB 1 chair Leticia Remauro even suggested a protected on-street bike lane, which would be a first for Staten Island. The next step for TA activists, who have gathered a coalition of community groups in support [PDF], is getting the support of Council Member Debi Rose and DOT.

Also tonight, DOT will update the Brooklyn CB 6 transportation committee on a design for a capital project [PDF] to bring pedestrian improvements to North Flatbush Avenue. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.

14 Comments

Morningside Avenue Traffic Calming Awaits Support From Two Harlem CBs

The plan for Morningside Avenue would add pedestrian islands, left turn lanes, wider parking lanes, and reduce the number of through lanes from two in each direction to one. Image: DOT

From 116th Street to 126th Street, Morningside Avenue is known as a speedway between Harlem’s residential streets to the east and Morningside Park to the west. A traffic calming plan from DOT [PDF] now waits while Community Boards 9 and 10 weigh in. Transportation committees of both boards received presentations from DOT, followed by question-and-answer sessions, but so far, there have been no resolutions advanced from the boards and Council Member Inez Dickens remains supportive of traffic calming in concept but noncommittal about the proposal on the table.

The plan, developed after the North Star Neighborhood Association was unsuccessful in winning a Slow Zone for a larger section of the neighborhood, would transform the avenue from two lanes in each direction to a narrower single lane in each direction, with a center striped median that would include concrete pedestrian islands and left turn lanes. Parking lanes would be widened, creating space for cyclists and double-parked drivers. At park entrances, DOT is proposing painted curb extensions on the west side of the avenue in the parking lane.

The border between Community Boards 9 and 10 runs down the middle of Morningside Avenue from south to north until 123rd Street, at which point CB 9 jogs east by one block to St. Nicholas Avenue and continues north. Within this area covered exclusively by CB 9, the plan includes changes to Hancock Place, a diagonal that crosses Morningside between 125th and 124th Streets, with a new pedestrian signal and crosswalk, left turn lanes, and curb extensions.

Although those changes are beyond CB 10′s borders, that didn’t stop committee members and the public from debating their merits at Wednesday’s meeting. DOT noted that the block serves as many pedestrians as it does drivers (about 500 during the peak evening hour), and that pedestrians looking to continue along 125th Street deserve a safe crossing.

The plan was presented to CB 9′s transportation committee last week. Although the committee did not advance a resolution, advocates say they expect the full board to come out in support during its next meeting on September 19, and they hope to use CB 9′s resolution as a model for CB 10. The next CB 10 full board meeting is October 2; the next transportation committee meeting is scheduled for October 9.

Read more…

11 Comments

Eyes on the Street: Safer Streets Around Marcus Garvey Park

DOT has installed painted curb extensions on Madison Avenue, looking north here at 121st Street, part of a plan spearheaded by the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association. Photo: Stephen Miller

In January, the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association was working with DOT to calm the streets around Marcus Garvey Park. Now, those changes are being implemented.

The project [PDF] aims to make drivers travel at safer speeds heading north on Madison Avenue and south on Fifth Avenue. It reduces the number of lanes, tightens turns, and adds zebra crosswalks. Installation of the markings began weeks ago, with new gravel-and-epoxy surfacing and plastic flexible posts going in more recently.

New pedestrian space helps calm traffic on Mount Morris Park West. Photo: Stephen Miller

2 Comments

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.

26 Comments

In Harlem Council Race, Two Very Different Positions on 125th Street SBS

Last night at a candidate debate hosted by block associations in Harlem, incumbent Council Member Inez Dickens, first elected to the District 9 seat in 2005, faced off against challenger Vince Morgan, a community development banker and former chair of the 125th Street Business Improvement District. While transportation didn’t come up much in the debate itself, some important differences between the candidates were discernible — particularly on the issue of Select Bus Service on 125th Street and the city’s plans for a waste transfer station on East 91st Street.

Council Member Inez Dickens is facing a challenge for her Harlem seat from Vince Morgan. Photos: NYC Council and Vince Morgan

Dickens has a history of staying publicly silent as community boards stonewall pedestrian safety and bus projects in her district. She did not respond to Streetsblog’s requests for comment when Community Board 10 asked DOT to scale back a traffic calming project on Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard. (The complete plan, and then some, was eventually implemented without a resolution of support from CB 10.)

She did not reply to repeated requests for comment about the plan for Select Bus Service on 125th Street. DOT and the MTA cancelled the SBS project after pressure from, among others, State Senator Bill Perkins and Community Board 10.

After the debate, I asked Dickens about the cancelled bus plan. “They had not talked to the community, they had not included the community board,” she said. “They did not take into consideration the local businesses along 125th Street.” In fact, the planning process for the project included a survey of local retailers, as well as representation from three community boards and the 125th Street BID.

When I asked Dickens if she supported bus lanes on the street in principle, she ignored the question and walked away, heading over to talk to aides and supporters.

Morgan took a different position. “Select Bus Service is one of these things where our local politicians have ginned up an issue where they’ve gotten completely out of whack,” he told me after the debate. “It just doesn’t make any sense that we wouldn’t have Select Bus Service on 125th Street.” Morgan added that he supports removing on-street parking from 125th Street and replacing it with bus lanes, more pedestrian space, and potentially bike lanes as well.

During the debate, in response to a question about sanitation enforcement, Morgan brought up parking tickets. “I want to extend it out beyond the unfair tickets that a lot of homeowners are getting,” he said. “Let’s talk about in the morning when you wake up, and it seems like our neighborhood is inundated with traffic enforcement that seems to just prey on communities where working people are.”

When it comes to the proposed solid waste transfer station at East 91st Street, which lies outside of the district, Morgan was equivocal. The transfer station, originally proposed for West Harlem, was moved to the East Side as part of the city’s comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan, which aims to cut down on truck traffic and more evenly distribute environmental burdens that have disproportionately affected low-income areas.

Read more…

13 Comments

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.

Read more…

6 Comments

The Bill Perkins Flip-Flop on Better Bus Service for 125th Street

Well, this takes a lot of chutzpah. After blocking measures that would have sped bus trips for tens of thousands of people on 125th Street every day, State Senator Bill Perkins now claims he supports Select Bus Service.

Bill Perkins

Following the initial workshops and public meetings for 125th Street SBS held by NYC DOT and the MTA, which began last September, Perkins’ office served as the umbrella for various groups that opposed changes to enable buses to move faster. He sent a letter to DOT, ostensibly to complain about process, which said that “feedback” about existing SBS routes “indicated dissatisfaction and even failure.” In May, when DOT and the MTA announced they would scale back the bus lanes, left-turn restrictions, and parking meters in the plan, Perkins’ office said, “We are definitely pleased.”

When the news broke yesterday that DOT and the MTA would scrap the whole 125th Street SBS route, we checked in with Perkins’ office. We have yet to hear back.

But the state senator did talk to the New York World:

In a phone conversation on Tuesday afternoon, Perkins said that the community welcomes Select Bus Service, but that he opposes the way in which it was handled.

“We are unequivocally in support of SBS bus service,” Perkins said. “And we are looking forward to SBS service coming across 125th Street.

“This is not the Bill Perkins show of trying to stop something,” he continued, “quite the opposite.”

To recap, Perkins insisted on a “process” that elevated opponents of proven measures to speed up bus trips. He proposed no alternatives to the DOT/MTA plan. Then when the project died, he said he unequivocally supports Select Bus Service.

If you believe that, there’s a bus lane in Harlem I’d like to sell you.