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Posts from the "Hell’s Kitchen" Category

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Eyes on the Street: Lines Forming for Ninth Ave Protected Bike Lane

Photo: Hilda Cohen

Construction on Midtown protected bike lanes continues apace. Reader Hilda Cohen sends in the above shot from Ninth Avenue, where she says “contractors are out marking lines between 47th and 39th.”

“Traffic was already moving smoother,” writes Hilda.

Photo: Andrew Neidhardt

On Twitter, @andrewneidhardt posted this photo of Ninth at 38th.

Regular Streetsblog readers may know that I don’t ride a bike. While the pedestrian safety benefits are often overlooked, as one who walks the city I am much more likely to linger, shop and eat in places where the sidewalk is bounded by a bike lane. I doubt I’m the only one.

Exciting stuff. Keep ‘em coming, folks.

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CB 4 Wins Sidewalk Expansions, Bike Corrals For West Side Bike Lanes

Bike traffic on the Eighth Avenue protected bike lane. Photo: BicyclesOnly/Flickr

One of the year’s most exciting street safety projects is on track to get better. Thanks to a recent set of recommendations from Community Board 4, the extension of the protected bike lanes on Eighth and Ninth Avenues will include additional sidewalk expansions and on-street bike parking. Though DOT didn’t adopt all of the board’s ideas — most notably, the agency is leaving a gap in the physical protection for cyclists in front of the Port Authority Bus Terminal — on the West Side, the community board’s requests are helping to build a better bike lane.

The Eighth and Ninth Avenue project, which will extended protected bike lanes from the low 30s to 42nd Street this spring and then up to 59th Street in the fall, was first approved by CB 4 last October. The chaotic Midtown streets badly need the redesign: Between 2005 and 2011, 14 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes on these blocks. In addition to the new bike and pedestrian infrastructure, the project is expected to improve safety by narrowing each travel lane by two feet.

While the community board wholeheartedly endorsed the project, it had a number of recommendations to make Eighth and Ninth Avenues even better places for walking and biking. Some of those have been incorporated into the project and are now set to become a reality.

In three locations, pedestrians packed into cramped Midtown sidewalks are going to get a little bit of breathing room. Sidewalk extensions will be added to the west side of Eighth Avenue between 42nd and 43rd Streets, the northeast corner of Ninth and 41st, and the southwest corner of Eighth and 57th, according to a draft of letter from the board to DOT, which the board shared with Streetsblog.

Even more sidewalk space could be cleared up by adding on-street bike racks in former parking spaces, or bike corrals. Believing that bicycles locked to poles and scaffolding were taking away too much pedestrian space, the board requested the corrals last fall. DOT said that the bike parking could be installed in 2013 (though the board wants them now), and would most likely be placed next to bike-share stations. The city’s first bike corral was just installed last summer.

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Excitement at First Bike-Share Workshop, Especially for Stations in the Street

People who live and work in Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen hard at work identifying where they'd like to see bike-share stations. Photo: Noah Kazis

Residents of Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea packed into a room last night to discuss the more than 50 bike-share stations planned to open in their neighborhoods this summer. No one was there to complain — this crowd was there to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

I sat in with a table of nine, where participants uniformly supported bike-share and overwhelmingly believed that the stations should go in parking spaces rather than on crowded Midtown sidewalks. With little disagreement over those broader questions, they dove right into a table-sized map of the area, picking out sites that would and wouldn’t work well for stations.

The workshop, sponsored by Community Board 4, local elected officials and NYC DOT, kicked off with brief overviews from DOT staff of how bike-share works. Streetsblog has already covered most of that, but there were a few new tidbits of information. The Bronx, Queens and Staten Island will each have a small, satellite bike-share system, for example, opening a bit later than the core service area in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Annual members, who would mostly be residents, might also get to take the bikes out longer without paying a surcharge than the tourists purchasing daily or weekly passes.

Everyone at the table I observed was excited to see bike-share come to their neighborhood, so long as the stations are mainly placed in the street. Photo: Noah Kazis

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The Upside of Cuomo’s Convention Center Plan: Urbanism on the West Side

Most of the Javits Center site is devoted to a single superblock that divides Hell's Kitchen from the waterfront. Image: Hell's Kitchen Neighborhood Association

After Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address last week, Streetsblog looked a little closer at the governor’s plan to build the nation’s largest convention center at the Aqueduct racino in Ozone Park, Queens. Counting on a huge convention center near JFK airport to deliver economic development seemed like a dubious proposition, but the other side of the plan — converting the Javits Center site on the West Side of Manhattan into a mixed-use neighborhood — has a lot to recommend it.

The Javits Center, built in the 1980s, controls 18 acres on the far West Side, from 33rd Street to 40th Street. Most of the site is an enormous superblock occupied by the main convention center building. The only cross street that provides access to the waterfront and Hudson River Park is 34th Street. (39th Street, while not part of the main building, is barricaded off to serve the facility’s needs.)

The Hell's Kitchen Neighborhood Association proposes an integrated street grid with housing, parks, and a mix of other uses at the Javits Center site.

“You look down the street and all you see is a black wall,” said Meta Brunzema, an architect and professor at the Pratt Institute who chairs the planning committee of the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association. “It’s very difficult for the community to have waterfront access.” Meanwhile, the area around Javits never caught on as a retail environment, said Brunzema, because the convention center is empty 100 days out of the year.

Cuomo’s plan to redevelop the Javits site using “the Battery Park City model” — presumably by offering long-term leases piece-by-piece to different developers, working from a set of planning guidelines — could create a cohesive district on the western edge of the neighborhood and finally reconnect city streets to the waterfront. “It’s really important that the Javits site be an extension of urban fabric, with a critical mass of residences, commercial uses, cultural facilities, and parks,” said Brunzema, noting that Hell’s Kitchen is also divided by bulky, traffic-choked approaches to the Lincoln Tunnel. “The neighborhood is completely fragmented.”

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DOT Hell’s Kitchen Study Produces Slate of Pedestrian Safety Upgrades

Under a proposal from NYC DOT, a crosswalk will be extended across a Lincoln Tunnel entrance at Ninth and 36th. The angled NYPD parking on 36th will be converted into green space. Image: NYC DOT.

The Department of Transportation presented the findings [PDF] of its five-year study of transportation in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood at a packed public meeting last night. The massive transportation analysis included many critical projects that have already been announced, such as the 34th Street Select Bus Service route and extensions of the protected bike lanes along Eighth and Ninth Avenue, as well as a full slate of new improvements for the neighborhood, from signal retimings meant to improve pedestrian safety to new plaza space and a continuous sidewalk by the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel.

The neighborhood study emerged from a pedestrian safety campaign conducted under the banner of the Ninth Avenue Renaissance, which started in 2006. DOT received federal funding for a study, solicited hundreds of public comments, walked through the neighborhood five times, built a powerful traffic model for the complicated Midtown area and analyzed 86 separate intersections.

Certain improvements were implemented as DOT studied the neighborhood. Leading pedestrian intervals, which give pedestrians time to establish their presence in a crosswalk before traffic gets the green light, were installed at six dangerous intersections, while pedestrian signal times were extended to provide for slower walkers.

Some of the biggest changes within the study area, which runs from 29th Street to 55th Street between Eighth Avenue and the Hudson River, are projects that have already been announced. Select Bus Service along 34th Street will speed bus trips, add new loading space and shorten pedestrian crossing distances with new bus bulbs. The extension of Eighth and Ninth Avenues, by far the two most dangerous corridors for cyclists and pedestrians, according to DOT, is expected to significantly improve safety for all users.

Other improvements, though, will be brand new. Pedestrians will again be able to walk down the west side of Ninth Avenue past the Lincoln Tunnel under DOT’s recommendation. Currently, the sidewalk is interrupted at 36th Street by an unsignalized tunnel entrance. “We would provide a crosswalk and a stop light for the traffic,” said Andrew Lenton, the project manager for the transportation study.

Another sidewalk will be restored around the corner on 36th Street. “Right now, it’s occupied by NYPD vehicles parking on the sidewalk such that you can’t even walk,” said Lenton. Under DOT’s proposal, the sidewalk and parking lane would be turned into green space.

At Ninth Avenue, the two sides of 41st Street don’t quite line up, forcing drivers to maneuver to the right and slowing traffic. By installing what they called a “mini-plaza,” DOT can smooth traffic flow while shortening crossing distances for pedestrians and creating new public space. Read more…

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West Side Protected Lanes Get Thumbs Up From CB 4

Bike traffic on the Eighth Avenue protected bike lane. Photo: BicyclesOnly/Flickr

By a vote of 26 to 10 Wednesday night, Manhattan Community Board 4 endorsed DOT plans to extend the protected bike lanes on Eighth and Ninth Avenue from 34th Street to 59th Street. The bike lanes will improve safety for all users on some of Midtown’s most chaotic streets, which pass by Penn Station, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and the Lincoln Tunnel entrance.

Though there were objections from a couple of businesses when the CB 4 transportation committee discussed the project last month, last night only one person testified about the lanes.”I’m just someone who got injured and started biking to heal the injury,” said Detta Ahl. “I found it was a good way to get around the city. I want to get around the city safely.”

Ahl also pointed out that the redesigned streets will improve safety for pedestrians and motorists as well as cyclists; further south on Eighth Avenue, a similar redesign reduced traffic injuries for all street users by 35 percent.

On the community board, opponents of the bike lane focused on what they saw as bad behavior by cyclists. Calls for additional education and enforcement of traffic laws earned loud applause.

Construction will take place in two phases next year. The lanes will be extended to 42nd Street in the spring and to 59th Street in the fall.

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Wednesday: CB 4 to Vote on West Side Protected Bike Lanes

Community Board 4 will vote Wednesday on the DOT plan to extend protected bike lanes on Eighth and Ninth Avenues north from 34th to 59th Streets.

As Noah reported in September, the lanes will offer a much safer route for commuters, delineating protected space on wide avenues sorely in need of taming, particularly near Penn Station, the Port Authority, and the Lincoln Tunnel (though two blocks of Eighth in front of the Port Authority will not be protected). According to DOT, eight pedestrians and one motorist were killed in traffic crashes on this stretch of Eighth Avenue since 2005, while six pedestrians were killed on Ninth. Similar safety improvements on a stretch of Eighth Avenue further downtown precipitated a 35 percent drop in injuries for all street users.

The lanes got the go-ahead from the CB 4 transportation committee last month, but true to form the anti-bike minority got the headlines. As always, the more friendly voices heard on this vital measure for safer cycling and walking, the better.

Wednesday’s meeting will be held at Roosevelt Hospital, 1000 Tenth Ave., at 6:30 p.m. The full agenda is here.

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CB 4 Committee Says Yes to West Side Protected Bike Lanes Up to 59th Street

DOT’s plan to extend the protected bike lanes on Eighth and Ninth Avenues from the low 30s north to 59th Street won unanimous approval from the transportation committee of Community Board 4 last night. With the exception of two blocks of Eighth Avenue in front of the Port Authority, the lanes will be fully protected through the length of Midtown.

Bike traffic on the Eighth Avenue protected bike lane. Photo: BicyclesOnly/Flickr

The redesign will make cycling a more attractive option to access the city’s biggest employment center and the theater district, and it will bring badly needed safety changes to the wide and chaotic west side avenues where they pass by Penn Station, the Port Authority, and the Lincoln Tunnel. Since 2005, eight pedestrians and one motorist were killed in traffic crashes on this stretch of Eighth Avenue, according to DOT; six pedestrians were killed on Ninth. Similar safety improvements caused traffic injuries for all street users to drop by 35 percent on a stretch of Eighth Avenue further downtown.

On each avenue, the space for the protected bike lane and pedestrian refuge islands will come from narrowing the existing travel lanes by two feet each, not removing a travel lane, DOT officials said. With the addition of left-turn space in the form of mixing zones — where bike traffic and turning cars overlap — and signalized turn bays at major intersections, traffic capacity will in fact increase on Eighth and Ninth Avenues. “If anything, speed should actually improve,” said DOT Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione.

Construction would occur in two phases. The lanes would be built south of 42nd Street in the spring of next year with the northern sections completed that fall. The full board of CB 4 will meet to vote on the proposal next month.

Unlike the bike lanes on the east side, DOT’s plans do not call for the lanes to run without protection for any significant distance. Between 40th and 41st Streets on Eighth Avenue, however, the protected lane will become a buffered lane running to the right of the Port Authority cab stand. The plastic bollards currently in place there will remain to the right of the bike lane, however, providing some protection at that location. On the following block, cyclists would share the second lane from the left with motor vehicles turning left.

The need for this design stems from the double left-turn lanes onto 42nd Street, said DOT bike and pedestrian direct Josh Benson. “If the bike lane was between those two left lanes and the curb,” he said, “it would be very difficult to go straight on your bike.”

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Top Traffic Cops Promise Pedestrians-First Enforcement at West Side Forum

Michael Pilecki (center) promised to strengthen traffic enforcement and focus on pedestrian safety at a community board meeting last night. Photo: Adams/Daily News.

Top NYPD brass expressed surprise at West Side residents’ unhappiness with the department’s traffic enforcement policies and vowed to do better at a meeting of Manhattan CB 4′s transportation committee last night. They also announced a new citywide “pedestrians first” policy for the department.

Four officers attended the CB 4 meeting, according to committee co-chair Christine Berthet, including Michael Pilecki and Scott Hanover, the commanding officer and executive officer of the NYPD’s traffic enforcement division. “It was fabulous,” said Berthet. “They took copious notes on everything.”

Berthet said that committee members had a wide array of complaints with NYPD’s current traffic enforcement practices in the area and pushed for more aggressive enforcement focused on pedestrian safety. “They were surprised how strong the message was from the community,” said Berthet. “We want fewer agents [who can only issue tickets for very limited violations like parking] and more tickets, summonses and towaways.”

Certain NYPD practices earned specific criticism from the West Siders. Police wave cars through red lights even when there isn’t any threat of gridlock, they said, or wave turning vehicles right into crossing pedestrians. “They said they had heard that, but needed to reinforce that message,” reported Berthet.

The officers also agreed to enforce anti-idling laws against buses and vans as well as automobiles.

To ensure that the police follow through on their commitments, said Berthet, she’ll hold another meeting of the transportation committee in three months to gather community feedback. “If there was no visible change,” she said, “we’ll re-invite them.”

Pilecki and Hanover also told the community board that the police had made a new citywide commitment to “pedestrians first” enforcement. “This is their new priority,” said Berthet. The campaign will include retraining traffic officers and stressing the “pedestrians first” mantra inside the department with visual reminders like stickers. A Streetsblog request to the NYPD press office for more information on the “pedestrians first” commitment was not returned.

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Applications for Special Parking Permits Keep Rolling in to City Planning

City Planning needs to decide whether to legalize this parking garage make its illegal extra cars

City Planning will decide whether to let this 44th Street parking garage buck the Clean Air Act and store 90 more cars than currently allowed by law. Image: Google Street View.

With two days until the City Planning Commission votes on the parking-heavy Riverside Center mega-project, the commissioners had a chance yesterday to ask any final questions about the project before the vote. As it happened, they didn’t bring up parking at that section of the meeting, but parking was a hot topic elsewhere on the commission’s agenda, including a pair of requests for special permits to build more parking below 60th Street.

First up, though, was an example of more enlightened planning: Courtlandt Crescent, slated to be the next development in the South Bronx’s much-heralded Melrose Commons revitalization project. This 217-apartment project, which will also house a 10,000 square foot child-care center, will include 29 spaces for cars, according to Department of City Planning staffer Vineeta Mathur. Courtlandt Crescent will also have parking for 110 bicycles.

When planning commission member Angela Battaglia wondered why there was so little car parking included, chair Amanda Burden responded, “It’s expensive. As you know, it would affect the affordability.” Battaglia then agreed that the affordability levels were indeed admirable.

Next was a request for a special permit to build a 42-space garage on the ground floor of a downtown office building. The building, located at the corner of Water and Broad Streets, is going to be the new home of the New York Daily News, and the News is requesting the garage so that its reporters and photographers can quickly get in a car and drive off to cover a story, according to DCP’s Grace Han. The garage would convert an existing loading bay and an under-used mailroom.

The desire to use ground floor space for a parking garage stands in sharp contrast to the Downtown Alliance’s new vision for Water Street, which calls for remaking the entire length of the corridor to put pedestrians first and revitalize street life. That vision has started to take shape with a DOT pedestrian plaza at Water and Whitehall Streets [PDF].

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