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Posts from the "Inwood" Category

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Daily News Tries Race-Baiting to Gin Up Controversy Over Safer Streets

Is either of these Inwood cyclists invincible in traffic? Ask the Daily News. Photo: Brad Aaron

It’s truly amazing how much work the tabloids put into opposing measures that save lives. Take today’s Daily News, which resorted to race-baiting to gin up controversy over hard-won bike lanes in Upper Manhattan.

Residents of Inwood and Washington Heights have been working for safer neighborhood streets for a long while. My first story on such an effort was published on Streetsblog back in September 2007. A few months later the folks who would eventually form the area’s first known livable streets group proposed separated bike lanes for Dyckman Street.

So for at least six years, my neighbors have waited for Community Board 12 and DOT to come up with a plan for new bike infrastructure, even as DOT whittled away what little exists. Last week, DNAinfo reported that a handful of new bike lanes could finally be coming to Washington Heights (and Fort George — an area south of Dyckman/200th Street which, depending on whom you ask, is part of Inwood).

On cue, the Daily News sent three reporters to get quotes from two people with negative reactions, which the paper presents as evidence that locals are divided. Here’s what reporters Michael Feeney, Stephanie Lacy, and Amber Goodfellow came up with.

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NYPD Rarely Enforces Speed Limit on Deadly Broadway in Upper Manhattan

Twelve pedestrians were killed by motorists in the 33rd and 34th Precincts from 2009 through 2011. Police in those precincts issued a total of 125 speeding summonses in 2011. Image: TSTC

In our Tuesday post on the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s latest “Most Dangerous Roads for Walking” report, we noted the concentration of pedestrian deaths on Broadway in Washington Heights, where pedestrian islands, protected bike lanes and other safety features are not present above 168th Street.

In addition to engineering, another factor in pedestrian fatalities and injuries is, of course, traffic law enforcement. In the 33rd and 34th Precincts, which cover Washington Heights and Inwood, very few motorists are penalized for reckless driving — even those who cause grievous injury.

Washington Heights is an entrance and exit point for the George Washington Bridge. And with two toll-free bridges connecting Manhattan to the Bronx, and, ergo, Westchester County, Inwood is plagued by cut-through traffic (a problem that could be exacerbated by toll hikes on the Henry Hudson Bridge). We wrote that speed enforcement in the 34th Precinct effectively stopped after the installation of Manhattan’s first “Slow Zone” last October, but there wasn’t much enforcement to speak of before then either.

In 2011, the most recent year covered by the Tri-State report, and the first year in which NYPD made traffic summons and crash data available to the public, the 34th Precinct issued just 17 speeding summonses, and 152 summonses for failure to yield to a pedestrian. To the south, the 33rd Precinct issued 108 summonses for speeding, and 80 summonses for failure to yield, for the entire year.

Four pedestrians were killed by motorists in the 33rd Precinct between 2009 and 2011, according to Tri-State. In the 34th Precinct, eight pedestrians died in traffic during that period. Injury numbers by precinct are not known, since NYPD did not begin releasing that data until the middle of 2011.

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34th Precinct Ceases Speed Enforcement After Inwood Slow Zone Goes In

Here’s another example of how James Vacca and Jessica Lappin, if they’re serious about street safety, targeted the wrong agency for a public scolding yesterday.

The 34th Precinct issued 50 tickets in the nine months before DOT installed a Slow Zone in Inwood, and two tickets in the three months after. Photo: Brad Aaron

In September, DOT completed the installation of Manhattan’s first 20-mph “Slow Zone,” between Dyckman and W. 218th Streets west of Broadway, in Inwood. This Slow Zone was requested by my neighbors and approved by Community Board 12. Within its boundaries are two parks, several churches and schools, and at least one daycare center — and of course the homes of thousands of people who want to walk and bike their neighborhood without fear of being harmed by speeding motorists.

Before the Slow Zone was completed, the 34th Precinct, which covers all of Inwood and part of Washington Heights, had issued a total of 50 speeding citations in 2012. In the three months after the speed humps and Slow Zone markings went in, and the speed limit in Inwood west of Broadway was lowered to 20 mph, the precinct handed out two speeding tickets. In November and December, not one driver was cited for speeding by the officers of the 34th Precinct.

We have asked NYPD how many speeding tickets, if any, were issued on Inwood surface streets by the Highway Patrol in October, November, and December, but have yet to hear back.

Vacca has endorsed a 20 mph speed limit for all of New York City. He understands that speed kills. He is also surely aware of the proverbial three “E”s of traffic safety: education, engineering, and enforcement. While DOT has succeeded in educating the public on the concept — there are more applications than DOT can handle — and the engineering cues are impossible to miss, to achieve its full potential the Slow Zone program needs NYPD to provide enforcement. Under Ray Kelly, however, NYPD has demonstrated little to no interest in doing its part to help make streets safer, whether the task is enforcing speed limits or holding dangerous drivers accountable.

The fact is no city agency is doing more to reduce traffic deaths and injuries than NYC DOT. If anything, thanks to lax enforcement by police and electeds who prefer grandstanding to governing, NYPD and the City Council have made it more difficult for DOT to do its job.

If Vacca and Lappin have any doubts about which department has failed to hold up its end of the deal on matters of street safety, I have a Slow Zone to show them.

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Why Does DOT Keep Taking Away Inwood Bike Infrastructure?

Bike lanes on W. 218th Street in Inwood have been replaced by sharrows. An image of the former street layout appears below. Photo: Brad Aaron

A short stretch of bike lanes in Inwood has gone the way of the disappearing bike shelter, further reducing the neighborhood’s scarce cycling infrastructure.

West 218th Street, Manhattan’s northernmost cross street to extend west of Broadway, connects Broadway and Inwood Hill Park, and delineates the southern border of the Columbia University Baker Field complex. It is part of a marked and mapped bike route for cyclists headed to and from Van Cortlandt Park, in the Bronx. Not long ago, the four blocks of W. 218th west of Broadway had bike lanes. When the street was repaved recently, the lanes were replaced by sharrows.

Said a DOT spokesperson, in an email to Streetsblog: “Following a resurfacing project on that street, DOT updated the markings to reflect current design standards, which don’t allow for a five-foot bike lane on a street that width.”

The efficacy of sharrows is a topic of debate. But if a street is deemed too narrow for bike lanes, yet wide enough for two lanes of parked cars, the issue isn’t a shortage of asphalt – it’s the decision to prioritize free curbside parking over safe space for cycling. This in a neighborhood that has few bike lanes as it is, and where DOT has responded to residents’ desire for more bike infrastructure by nipping away at what little exists.

Much is made of securing the blessing of community boards before bike infrastructure can be added, but this is not the case when bike infrastructure is removed or downgraded. We know DOT did not ask Community Board 12 before repossessing Inwood’s lone bike shelter. We asked DOT, twice, if CB 12 was consulted on the decision to remove the bike lanes from West 218th Street. We’re still waiting for an answer.

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Upper Manhattan Assembly Candidates Square Off on Transit Issues

Three candidates vying for the 72nd State Assembly District seat, representing parts of Washington Heights and Inwood, discussed transit issues and the state of MTA service last night at a forum sponsored by WE ACT for Environmental Justice and Transport Workers Union Local 100.

Three of the four Democratic candidates for the 72nd Assembly district attended last night's forum.

As the forum progressed, key differences emerged on congestion pricing and other issues, even as the candidates often dodged the questions asked of them.

There are four candidates running in this Democratic primary, which will be held on Thursday, September 13. Mayra S. Linares, Gabriela Rosa and Ruben Vargas came to last night’s forum. Melanie Hidalgo declined due to scheduling conflicts.

Asked how they would improve bus service, only Linares had a response that addressed the topic. She said that she supports more Select Bus Service and that gains in bus speed are worth the possible inconvenience of having to move parked cars out of rush hour bus lanes.

Dedicating new revenue for the MTA by enacting congestion pricing got a mixed reaction from the candidates.

Linares opposes pricing. “There’s too many of us who drive back and forth,” she said. “If we add another toll, you can imagine it would go up — and go up again.”

After asking the moderators for a definition of congestion pricing, Rosa voiced support for the concept. Vargas took a more cautious approach. “If you are driving downtown, it’s chaos. What the congestion price would do is motivate people to use mass transit,” he said. Noting that he opposes tolls on Upper Manhattan bridges, Vargas said, “I would support a reasonable congestion price.”

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Inwood Cyclist Injured at Broadway and Riverside Last Evening

Photo: Kimberly Kinchen

A cyclist was struck and injured by a driver at the intersection of Riverside and Broadway at Dyckman Street, in Inwood, Wednesday evening. The victim, a male in his 40s, was transported to Presbyterian Hospital in the Bronx, according to FDNY (the spokesperson was presumably referring to the Allen Pavilion on Broadway at W. 220th Street, in Inwood). His condition is unknown. The spokesperson said FDNY got the call at 6:01 p.m. Neither the NYPD public information office nor the 34th Precinct had any details.

Streetsblog reader Kimberly Kinchen (@BornAgainBikist) alerted us to the crash. She has this account:

It looks like a cyclist was hit at the stop sign where Riverside forks off to the right to southbound Broadway. The cyclist was apparently already in the ambulance; there was just one cop car parked on the sidewalk, and, while you can’t see him in this picture, the driver of the car was standing on the driver’s side looking pretty distraught when we walked up. I don’t know the condition of the cyclist, as we didn’t ask any questions. There was no blood, etc. on the street, and while I wasn’t looking for it, I didn’t see any indentations on the car’s hood, so I’m hoping the cyclist is not in too bad a shape.

As we have reported numerous times, this intersection is a mess — a confluence of drivers en route to and from the West Side Highway, the FDR and Inwood’s two toll-free bridges to the Bronx. While physical improvements are reportedly in the pipeline, area residents are bracing for the annual summer invasion of cruising boom-cars and motorcycles. A community-driven plan to calm Dyckman with a separated bike lane connecting the east- and west-side Greenways, a concept first proposed to DOT and Community Board 12 over four years ago, has gone nowhere.

If you know what happened here, or have information on the victim or his condition, please leave a comment or send us an email. See a wider shot of the scene after the jump.

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Eyes on the Street: Driver Goes Wheels-Up Outside Inwood School

Photo: Shannon Park

Via Shannon Park (@GothamGoddess), this was the scene on Park Terrace West at Isham Street in Inwood this morning. Hard to tell how the driver of the SUV managed to mount a parked livery cab, but we do know a few things.

Park Terrace West is not a wide, speed-inducing roadway. It’s northbound-only with parking on both sides, and is flanked by a park and apartment buildings. This block of the street is curvy and, if you’re driving it, goes uphill. Not to say that drivers don’t speed through regularly — they do, of course — but I can only imagine what you’d have to do to catch air at this spot, just a few yards beyond the Isham intersection.

We also know that the building in the background, to the right, is a school. On nice days like today, Isham serves as its playground. While that segment of the street, directly in front of the school, is cordoned by NYPD sawhorses on weekdays, Isham is also a thoroughfare for kids on field trips to Inwood Hill Park, who cross where this driver apparently barreled through. Out of frame to the immediate left: a daycare center.

Isham Street constitutes the southern border of the proposed Inwood 20 mph zone. Would the zone prevent people from getting hurt or killed at the hands of drivers like this one?

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Adriano Espaillat Was for Cut-Through Traffic Before He Was Against It

Adriano Espaillat

I nearly spit out my coffee when I saw that Adriano Espaillat had signed on in support of the Inwood slow zone application.

See, while he endorsed Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan, the state senator from Upper Manhattan adamantly opposes placing tolls on Harlem River bridges, preferring that Inwood remain a bypass for toll-shopping motorists bound for the Bronx and Westchester.

Public remarks indicate that Espaillat is well aware of the added burden on the neighborhood, but he believes it’s worth it to keep motorists’ expenses down. He also claims that most local residents, the vast majority of whom don’t own cars, feel the same way.

So now that he’s helped make sure there will be plenty of rat-running traffic through his constituents’ streets for years to come, Espaillat is concerned about those drivers putting lives at risk as they whip past the schools, parks and playgrounds of northwest Inwood.

I can hear the horns as I type. Thanks for the assist, senator.

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Support For Neighborhood Slow Zones Keeps on Growing

Interest continues to grow in the Department of Transportation’s slow speed zones, which place 20 mph speed limits on residential streets. One month after the application deadline for the program, community boards across the city continue to pass resolutions in support of slow zones.

The city's first 20 mph slow zone, in the Claremont neighborhood of the Bronx, uses "gateway" treatments to slow drivers entering the zone. Neighborhoods across the city want to be the next to get the new safety treatment. Photo: Noah Kazis

In February, Streetsblog wrote about applications or expressions of interest from Mt. Eden and Wakefield in the Bronx, Rego Park in Queens, Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and Brownsville, Fort Greene, Prospect Heights and Park Slope in Brooklyn. Those appear to be only a fraction of the neighborhoods seeking safer, slower traffic. While DOT has not officially said how many applications have been submitted, an agency representative told attendees at a Brooklyn Community Board 7 this week that the department had received over 100 from across the city.

Last week, the transportation committee of Brooklyn Community Board 1 endorsed plans for a slow zone in Greenpoint. The zone, which is sponsored by the Greenpoint Renaissance Enterprise Corporation, had strong local support even before the community board weighed in. Letters of support have already come from Senator Martin Dilan, Assembly Members Joseph Lentol and Vito Lopez, and Council Members Diana Reyna and Steve Levin, as well as a slew of local civic associations.

Eric Brazaitis, who has led the push for the zone, said that the area’s location in between three truck routes makes it ideal for a slow zone. “We get a lot of shortcutters,” he said. “The police can’t be there 24/7 to write tickets on them.” Slow zones not only lower the speed limit, but install traffic calming infrastructure that help to make the lower speed limit self-enforcing.

The application, submitted before the deadline, covers an area roughly between Graham Avenue, Morgan Avenue, Metropolitan Avenue and the BQE. ”This is a perfect candidate area,” said CB 1 transportation committee chair Karen Nieves. “We have parks, we have schools, we have churches.”

This Tuesday, the full board of Manhattan CB 12 voted to support an application submitted for the Inwood neighborhood. “It’s a lovely spot, but the roads are hilly and narrow and tempting to speeders and toll-dodgers,” applicant Dave Thom told DNAinfo. ”A comprehensive neighborhood-wide program like this to reduce speed and deter traffic might be the answer residents have been looking for.”

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Eyes on the Street: Next-Gen No Standing Signs in Inwood

Southwest corner of Park Terrace West and W. 218th Street. Photos: Brad Aaron

The city recently replaced four parking spots at Park Terrace West and W. 218th Street, in Inwood, with a no standing zone. The 34th Precinct reportedly requested the change to give drivers exiting Park Terrace West, a northbound one-way street, a better view of east-west traffic on 218th.

Inevitably, car owners accustomed to parking at the intersection complained, and those complaints, many of which were posted on a neighborhood email list, led to a story by DNAinfo. Here’s a taste:

At least seven residents said they were ticketed or towed after the new signs went up late last month.  Local parenting email list InwoodKids was recently flooded with parent complaints about the new parking regulations.

Inwood mother Beth More said she and her husband were ticketed and towed in the new zone on Jan. 5 after arriving home from the holidays.

“We had no idea the new signs were posted,” she told DNAinfo. “In fact, we were sure our car was stolen at first and never even thought to look up.”

The couple has appealed the $75 parking ticket and will fight for reimbursement of the $185 tow charge.

“I, like many others in the neighborhood, question if this really was a matter of safety or simply an opportunity for the city and police precinct to ticket more,” she said.

Several city and police sources said summonses issued just days after the new signs were installed are likely to be dismissed.

In case the no standing signs still don’t get the message across — a possibility, considering the illegally parked car out of frame in the above photo — on Sunday I saw a couple of homemade posters warning drivers not to park near the intersection.

I have driven this corner. I also walk it regularly. As a driver it was very difficult to detect whether cars on 218th were approaching without either inching into the Park Terrace West crossing or nosing into cross traffic. As a pedestrian I also appreciate that drivers have better sightlines. While it’s understandable that some were angry about being caught off guard, the idea that the city would look to raise revenue by clearing four parking spots at a blind intersection — and installing the proper signage, no less — smacks of Agenda 21-level paranoia.

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