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Posts from the "Hell’s Kitchen" Category

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Vance: Tour Bus Driver Who Killed Pedestrian Convicted of Manslaughter

A tour bus driver who killed a pedestrian in Hell’s Kitchen while driving drunk has been convicted of manslaughter and homicide.

Victim Timothy White. Photo via ##http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2011/05/08/philadelphia-man-killed-in-tour-bus-accident-in-new-york-city/##KYW-TV##

Victim Timothy White. Photo via KYW-TV

Steve Drappel, now 60, was making a left turn from 47th Street onto Ninth Avenue at around 10 p.m. on May 7, 2011, when he ran over 29-year-old Timothy White, according to published reports and a press release from Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.  White, who was in a crosswalk, was dragged for half a block before witnesses alerted Drappel by screaming and banging on the bus.

White was in town from Philadelphia to visit family and was walking to his cousin’s home after dinner, according to a DNAinfo story published the day after the crash.

“He was the perfect son,” his father Robert White, 67, said Sunday from his Pennsylvania home.

The devastated dad said his son had battled health problems and “was an inspiration to all of us.”

“Tim was a hero,” his mom Julia said. “He was a hero to all of us.”

Police found a cup containing vodka next to Drappel’s seat, and an open bottle of vodka in the luggage compartment of the bus, which reports said Drappel admitted was his. His blood alcohol level was .14.

The Post reported that Drappel had been in three crashes since 1997, and had citations for speeding and driving with a suspended license. Drappel was driving a bus owned by TraveLynx, a Florida company, for Chinatown-based tour operator L & L Travel, reports said.

According to the Vance press release, Drappel was convicted this week, following a bench trial in New York State Supreme Court, of second degree vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and two counts of driving while intoxicated.

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Eyes on the Street: From Parking to Parklet in Hell’s Kitchen

Courtesy of Christine Berthet of CHEKPEDS, here are photos of what could be Manhattan’s newest public space, a pocket park on Dyer Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen.

This plaza, conceived by area residents, occupies a sliver of traffic island on Dyer between 34th and 35th Streets, near the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. The space was formerly used for motorcycle parking.

Berthet says this is an interim installation, since plans are on hold to convert three lanes of leftover asphalt on Dyer into a park.

See the before shot after the jump.

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Council Candidates on the Issues: Yetta Kurland, District 3

In anticipation of primary day on September 10, we continue our series on City Council candidates with a Q&A with civil rights lawyer Yetta Kurland, who’s running to represent District 3. The district covers Midtown, Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, and the West Village, and it’s currently represented by Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Yesterday we posted responses from District 3 candidate Corey Johnson. A third candidate, Alexander Meadows, did not respond.

City Council District 3 candidate Yetta Kurland. Photo: Yetta Kurland/Facebook

Streetsblog: Protected bike lanes on 8th and 9th Avenues involved extensive planning efforts with CB 4. Does the district benefit from the bike lanes and pedestrian islands? Would you like to see similar treatments on other avenues in the district?

Yetta Kurland: Protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands are a benefit to the Lower West Side in a number of ways. Most prominently, bicycle safety, traffic calming, shortened pedestrian crossing distance and reduced particulate emissions. The most urgent need for bicycle lanes in Manhattan is currently on 5th/6th Avenues, as bicycle transit is still dangerous in the middle of the island.

SB: The City Council will soon vote on changes to the Manhattan Core parking regulations. What direction would you like to see off-street parking policy take in the future?

YK: While I firmly believe that new development should take the holistic needs of the community into account, parking is not the right need to start with. New development should include affordable housing, access to adequate school seats, community oriented retail and more. The focus on parking stymies those other goals, and is out of touch with the culture of Manhattan.

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City Council Candidates on the Issues: Corey Johnson, District 3

Campaign season in New York is already well underway. And when New Yorkers vote in the primary election on September 10, it won’t just be for the next mayor. They’ll also be choosing City Council members, borough presidents, the comptroller, and the public advocate.

In a series of candidate interviews, Streetsblog will be focusing on contested City Council races. In addition to proposing and voting on legislation, council members recommend Community Board appointees and occupy a powerful bully pulpit that can make or break proposals for safer streets and effective surface transit. Witness Dan Dromm’s support for “Diversity Plaza” in Jackson Heights, Melissa Mark-Viverito’s advocacy for East Harlem protected bike lanes, and Brad Lander’s defense of the Prospect Park West bike lane. Conversely, look at Peter Vallone, Jr.’s obstruction of a pedestrian plaza in Astoria, or the bellyaching from Staten Island’s Vincent Ignizio that’s made it harder for bus riders to use Select Bus Service.

City Council District 3 candidate Corey Johnson. Photo: Corey Johnson/Facebook

On the West Side, three Democratic City Council candidates — Community Board 4 Chair Corey Johnson, civil rights lawyer Yetta Kurland, and Community Board 2 member Alexander Meadows — are vying to replace Christine Quinn, who is vacating the District 3 seat she first won in 1999. The district covers Midtown, Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea and the West Village, an area that has been a hotbed of livable streets progress, from protected bike lanes to pedestrian plazas to parking reform.

Streetsblog sent questionnaires to the campaigns to get a better understanding of where the candidates stand on transit, traffic safety, and transportation policy. We begin in alphabetical order with responses from Corey Johnson and will run Yetta Kurland’s answers in a separate post. Alexander Meadows did not respond.

Streetsblog: Protected bike lanes on 8th and 9th Avenues involved extensive planning efforts with CB 4. Does the district benefit from the bike lanes and pedestrian islands? Would you like to see similar treatments on other avenues in the district?

Corey Johnson: I was proud to partake in the Community Board 4 planning efforts that resulted in the bike lanes and street redesign including sidewalk expansions and on-street bike parking. There are still areas with outstanding safety concerns that I will continue to push DOT to address but I stand behind dedicated bike lanes as part of a more comprehensive plan that includes increasing mass transit options, reducing congestion, and enforcing traffic laws for cyclists, as well as for cars and trucks.

SB: The City Council will soon vote on changes to the Manhattan Core parking regulations. What direction would you like to see off-street parking policy take in the future?

CJ: In July 2012, I wrote a letter to City Planning Commission Chair Amanda Burden expressing the opinion of CB 4 that opening accessory parking to transient public use will negatively affect the pedestrian safety and quality of life in residential districts and encourage the building of excessive parking capacity. We need to reinforce the current market trends towards reduced parking demand and increased transit use, rather than add to parking availability that encourages driving and car oriented development and undermines the clean air and health objectives of PlaNYC 2030.

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Eyes on the Street: Bike Corrals Protect Ninth Avenue Bike Lane

A new bike corral on 9th Avenue, between 39th and 40th Streets. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Bike parking corrals adjacent to a protected bike lane — a first for New York City, and perhaps the nation — have been installed along Ninth Avenue in Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen. Check out these pics from Clarence, snapped on Thursday.

First requested by Community Board 4 in fall 2011, and receiving a supportive 11-0 committee vote in February, the corrals provide 18 bike racks along the “floating” parking lane the between the bicycle lane and general traffic lanes.

At the request of the community board, sidewalk bike racks on blocks that are receiving bike corrals will be removed.

A pedestrian island and bike corral on 9th Avenue at 36th Street. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Casa di Isacco restaurant is maintaining a four-rack corral between 39th and 40th Streets, Pomodoro restaurant is maintaining a seven-rack corral between 38th and 39th Streets, and Ora Thai Cuisine is maintaining a seven-rack corral by a pedestrian island between 35th and 36th Streets.

In the words of Streetsblog reader Eric McClure: Is there a higher form of bike lane than the bike-parking-protected bike lane?

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No Charges Filed as Six Are Killed by NYC Drivers in Seven Days

A Brooklyn woman who was struck by a truck driver in Red Hook Wednesday was the latest victim among six city pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in the last week.

Lillian Cruz, hit by the driver of a tractor-trailer in Red Hook Wednesday, was at least the fifth pedestrian killed by a city motorist since Ray Kelly announced changes to the NYPD crash investigation squad. Image: News12 via Gothamist

At approximately 6:40 a.m. yesterday, Lillian Cruz, 60, was crossing Hamilton Avenue at Court Street when the signal changed and the driver of a tractor-trailer, westbound on Hamilton and stopped at the light, accelerated and ran her over, according to NYPD.

Cruz, of Bushwick, died at the scene. The driver was summonsed for failure to exercise due care.

Cruz was at least the second pedestrian killed by a semi truck driver in the last two weeks, following the February 28 death of 6-year-old Amar Diarrassouba. Tractor-trailer drivers have killed at least three other pedestrians on city streets since last August, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. The victims include Ignacio Cubano, Ken Baker, and Jessica Dworkin.

Many of the trucks involved in these fatal collisions are too long to be operated on surface streets without a permit. Despite recent deaths, the presence of trucks in areas that should normally be off-limits has not been a focus of NYPD or the media.

The type of collision that killed Cruz is supposed to be prevented by crossover mirrors, which allow drivers of large trucks to see directly in front of them. It is not known whether the truck was equipped with the mirrors. Trucks registered outside New York are exempt from the mirror requirement.

Monday evening at around 8 p.m., 75-year-old Roberto Baez was struck by the driver of a Nissan in the Bronx. Baez was crossing Soundview Avenue mid-block near Taylor Avenue when he was killed, a police spokesperson said. No summonses were issued.

Monday morning, 16-year-old Tenzin Drudak was among several people hit by a curb-jumping motorist near LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City. Drudak was killed and four others were injured. NYPD told the media the driver was speeding and reaching for a carton of milk when the crash occurred. Nevertheless, no charges were filed.

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CB 4 Still Pushing DOT for Time to Cross Deadly Hell’s Kitchen Intersections

Shu Ying Liu was killed by a driver turning right at Ninth Avenue and 41st Street. Community Board 4 asked DOT for exclusive pedestrian crossing time here in 2008. Image: Google Maps

Manhattan Community Board 4 has renewed its call for safety improvements at the Hell’s Kitchen crossing where an elderly woman was killed by a driver last week. The request comes five years after a resolution that asked for exclusive crossing time for pedestrians at the deadly intersection, and is the latest episode in a years-long, and largely futile, campaign by neighborhood residents for split phase signals.

Shu Ying Liu, 69, was struck by a dump truck driver on the morning of February 5 as the driver made a right turn from Ninth Avenue to 41st Street, according to reports. Jack Montelbano, of Bayonne, was later arrested for leaving the scene.

“Ms. Shu Ying Liu lived on 54th Street in Hell’s Kitchen,” wrote Christine Berthet, of CB 4 and CHEKPEDS, in an email to Streetsblog. “She used to be the managing editor of a large magazine in China. According to both her attorney and her son, she was an optimist, cheerful with an outgoing personality.”

“She was doing research in healthy food, healthy living and was coaching and teaching her children to live a healthy life. Her son would talk to her once or twice weekly and relied on her for advice on health.”

In early 2008, a resolution adopted by CB 4 said that a recent reconfiguration of the intersection of Ninth and 41st, which sees heavy traffic from New Jersey-bound cars, trucks, and buses, posed a danger to pedestrians. The board asked for “emergency interim measures,” including a neckdown on 41st Street, to reduce crossing distance, and a shift in location for the crosswalk on the south side of the intersection, to increase pedestrian visibility.

Finally, the resolution stated: “On the west side, install a turn arrow red signal to give pedestrians a dedicated phase to cross safely.” If the crash that killed Liu occurred as described by the media, with adequate exclusive crossing time it’s less likely she would have been in the driver’s path.

“This issue is not new — there have already been 46 injuries and two fatalities in recent years at this corner,” reads a letter from CB 4, sent to DOT yesterday [PDF]. “The time has come to tackle this issue with urgency.”

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Shu Ying Liu, 69, Killed by Hit-and-Run Truck Driver in Hell’s Kitchen

The driver of a private dump truck accused of killing an elderly woman in Hell’s Kitchen Tuesday has been charged with leaving the scene.

Shu Ying Liu, 69, was crossing 41st Street at Ninth Avenue at around 10:00 a.m. yesterday when she was hit by Jack Montelbano, who was making a right turn from Ninth to 41st, according to reports. The Times reported that Montelbano, of Bayonne, was alerted to the collision by witnesses but continued driving. He was tracked down in New Jersey and brought back to the city by police, who questioned and arrested him.

Liu, who lived on West 54th St., was pronounced dead at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt.

If Montelbano were versed on New York traffic law, he could have saved himself a lot of trouble. Minus the presence of intoxicants, deadly reckless driving is rarely prosecuted in New York, and assuming he possesses a valid license and was sober at the time of the crash, the odds that Montelbano would have been allowed on his way after a cursory NYPD investigation are close to 100 percent.

Even now, though indications are that Liu had a walk signal, at this point Montelbano reportedly faces no charges for killing her. (The office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance was not ready to confirm charges at this writing.) If he pleads not guilty to leaving the scene, and goes to trial, there’s a chance he’ll walk away with nothing more than a bill for attorney fees.

This fatal crash occurred in the 10th Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector Elisa Cokkinos, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 10th Precinct council meetings happen at 7 p.m. on the last Wednesday of the month at the precinct, 230 West 20th St. Call 212-741-8226 for information.

The City Council district where Shu Ying Liu was killed is represented by Speaker Christine Quinn, who has yet to take a position on NYPD crash investigation reforms. To encourage Quinn to take action to improve street safety in her district and citywide, contact her at 212-564-7757 or @ChrisCQuinn.

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Proposal for New Park Near Lincoln Tunnel Endorsed by CB 4

Image: CHEKPEDS

A community-driven proposal to create a new public space on a street near the Lincoln Tunnel was endorsed by Manhattan Community Board 4 Wednesday.

The plan, as reported by DNAinfo in December, is to convert three lane-widths of leftover asphalt on Dyer Avenue between 34th and 35th Streets into a park. That stretch of Dyer currently has three lanes for vehicle traffic exiting the tunnel and one lane for inbound vehicles. The Port Authority, which owns the street, plans to eliminate one of the outbound lanes. A coalition of neighborhood groups, including the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association and CHEKPEDS, envisions a park on the east side of Dyer, encompassing about 7,200 square feet.

DNAinfo reports that last night CB 4 voted unanimously to recommend the plan to the Port Authority.

There is still money to be raised, and the board wants “at least two” public feedback sessions. But organizers are upbeat — and with good reason, especially considering that the idea for the park came about only a few months ago.

“We’ve made a tremendous amount of progress so far,” said Jeffrey Peyser, who’s part of the effort to create the park.

“We’ve done outreach for corporate sponsorship to fund the initial aspects of the park and are working on getting matching grant programs.”

Meta Brunzema, an architect who helped create the initial design for the park, said that despite its tiny size, the green space would include new trees, seating areas and other amenities.

“Our group’s intent was really to make this a park for everybody — for seniors, for people with disabilities, for young people, for old people,” she said.

“The goal here is to make a real park.”

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Wild, Wild West Side Has Its Own Vigilante Traffic Cop

You’ve got to already be a little bit crazy to choose to drive into Midtown for work each day (as the record-breaking ridership numbers on the PATH train attest). Sitting in traffic, dodging the even crazier driver next to you — perhaps the only thing worse than driving near the Lincoln Tunnel is trying to walk safely along those traffic-clogged streets.

Last Thursday, evening rush hour congestion caused one tunnel-bound commuter to finally snap. This driver, captured on video by Animal New York, decided she’d waited long enough to get out of Manhattan and took actions into her own hands. She got out of her car, walked into the middle of Eleventh Avenue and W. 43rd Street, and did her best impression of a traffic cop. One key difference: She waved cars through in just one direction — hers.

It’s impressive as a work of urban anthropology — look at that deference other drivers show to the trappings of authority — but even more so as a case study in psychology. This is your brain on traffic.

The city has the power to make this neighborhood, which is becoming an increasingly residential community, a little less exhaust-addled. The Lincoln Tunnel is already tolled (and last year’s sizable toll hike helped drive people toward transit), but there’s another way to do it, through parking policy. Every time the city lets a little piece of Midtown and the West Side get  gobbled up by automobile storage, it becomes that much more appealing and affordable for drivers to try and squeeze through the Lincoln Tunnel (and during the evening, when there is no Lincoln Tunnel bus lane, that much slower for transit riders thrown into mixed traffic).

In just the first five months of 2008, before the real estate market fell apart, the city approved special permits for 500 new parking spaces in Hell’s Kitchen alone. Now, the city wants to allow more parking to be built in the Theater District. If nothing else, it’s a good way of encouraging more vigilante traffic cops.