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Posts from the "Hell’s Kitchen" Category

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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.

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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.

Read more…

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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

Read more…

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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.”

Read more…

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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.