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Posts from the "Lower East Side" Category

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Local High School Students Create Bike Posters for the Lower East Side

A poster from this summer's Local Spokes youth ambassadors program. Photo: LocalSpokes/Flickr

To finish out the third summer of the Local Spokes youth ambassadors program, a bike-based curriculum for high school students from Chinatown and the Lower East Side, eight teenagers designed and printed posters about bicycling now on display in the neighborhood. The new posters join street signs designed by last year’s participants encouraging local residents to explore the city by bike.

The posters are on display in the windows of Hester Street Collaborative in Chinatown, Recycle-A-Bicycle in the East Village, and Asian Americans for Equality on Pike Street. They range from the intricate detailing of “Girl on an Adventure” to the simple advice, “Keep your eyes open and on the road.”

The multi-week program included bike rides over the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, and along the Hudson River Greenway. “They did a lot of bike riding,” said Dylan House, community design director at Hester Street Collaborative. “We tried to build in more bike riding this year than we did in previous years.”

The curriculum covered a wide range of topics, from river ecology to bicycle-inspired jewelry. The group was based out of Pier 42, where many of the partners behind Local Spokes are also involved in the planning process for a new park on the industrial pier.

The first phases of the Pier 42 park could begin construction in 2015. For now, the space is open for temporary art installations and other public events until the end of November, with another round of events and programming set for next summer.

Copies of the posters are on sale for $10 each. Contact dylan@hesterstreet.org to purchase one.

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Patchwork Upgrades Move Ahead as East Side Waits for Complete Greenway

The East River Greenway, stepchild of Manhattan’s bikeway network, currently consists of segments beneath, beside, and sometimes even above the FDR Drive. A report issued by New Yorkers for Parks yesterday acknowledged that East Siders awaiting a continuous path will have to wait decades before they can walk or bike on a full-length East River Greenway. In the meantime, an uncoordinated series of plans, studies, and development projects attempt to piece together sections of the route.

New Yorkers for Parks found East Siders could benefit from better access to the East River Greenway in four different surveys, but plans for its completion remain scattered. Map: NY4P

For its study, New Yorkers for Parks measured the quality of and access to open space in the council districts represented by Dan Garodnick and Jessica Lappin, who sponsored the survey.

New Yorkers for Parks has now completed four open space audits for neighborhoods from the Lower East Side [PDF] to East Harlem. Eastern parts of these neighborhoods, which are beyond easy walking distance from Central Park, “are situated along the East River Esplanade, which would better serve residents if it were more accessible, continuous, and well-maintained.”

“Anyone who has spent time in Hudson River Park knows that the benefits of a continuous esplanade are quite great,” NY4P Executive Director Holly Leicht told Streetsblog. The Hudson River Greenway is the busiest multi-use path in the nation, and a critical route for bike commuters. “It’s very broken up on the East Side. It’s very piecemeal,” Leicht said.

The East River waterfront has been the subject of numerous studies and plans. The Department of City Planning released its citywide Greenway Plan in 1993, the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway Master Plan in 2004 and a citywide waterfront plan in 2011. There have also been vision plans that look at smaller sections of the riverfront, from the Municipal Art Society, CIVITAS, Hunter College planning students, and 197-a plans from community boards that looked at Stuyvesant Cove [PDF] and the area beneath the Queensboro Bridge [PDF].

In addition, the Blueway Plan lays out a vision from 38th Street to the Brooklyn Bridge, and EDC is leading a planning process that could bring new sections of the greenway online block-by-block between 38th and 60th Streets from 2015 to 2024.

Even when projects make the jump from the pages of a planning document to reality, the result, for the time being, is still a patchwork. But a greenway becomes truly useful only when it is continuous. Will this patchwork coalesce over coming years to create a continuous route?

Read more…

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How Many Parking Spots Will Developers Build at Transit-Rich EDC Site?

Since being cleared for redevelopment in 1967, several city blocks at the base of the Williamsburg Bridge on the Lower East Side — known as the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, or SPURA — have lain fallow. For decades, the largest undeveloped, city-owned land below 96th Street was used only for surface parking lots. After years of planning work, this afternoon marked the deadline for developers to submit bids for the site to the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

This afternoon was the deadline for developers to submit bids for a huge Lower East Side redevelopment project. Per EDC's request, developers will be allowed to build up to 500 parking spaces. Image: EDC

With today’s milestone, it’s worth remembering how EDC’s plan to transform the SPURA parking lots still encourages developers to build more parking than would otherwise be allowed.

The SPURA project, sitting atop four subway lines, includes 1,000 new housing units, half of which would be designated as “permanently affordable,” new commercial uses, and an expansion of the Essex Street Market. Under the city’s parking maximums, which have limited the addition of parking in much of Manhattan since 1982, no more than 345 parking spaces would be allowed. Those “accessory” spaces are meant for use by building tenants. The project’s own environmental impact statement estimates that the project’s maximum demand for parking would be only 257 spaces.

But EDC has received a special permit enabling up to 500 public parking spots at the SPURA development. And the agency told Streetsblog last year that it wants to replace every one of the approximately 400 parking spaces currently on site. As with its other development projects, EDC is apparently unwilling to let this site become a more urban place with less parking than exists today.

“The worst thing we could do,” EDC President Seth Pinsky told Streetsblog in 2010, “is create projects that create a parking need and then not provide that parking.”

Meanwhile, the Department of City Planning is approaching the finish line with its proposal to amend the rules governing off-street parking in Manhattan below East 96th Street and West 110th Street.

The plan, which contains many positive changes, such as eliminating parking requirements for affordable housing and retroactively applying stricter parking regulations to pre-1982 development, also contains some potential pitfalls. For example, it may make it easier for developers to obtain special permits to build public parking garages that exceed parking maximums – the process that EDC has exploited to cram up to 500 parking spots into the SPURA project.

The Manhattan Core parking policy change was approved by the City Council’s Land Use Committee last week, 16-0, with one abstention (Jessica Lappin). Next it goes before the full City Council, followed by a signature from Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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Community-Based Bike Advocacy in Chinatown and the Lower East Side

Local Spokes is a coalition of nine organizations that joined up to engage low-income residents, people of color, immigrants, and young people in the Lower East Side and Chinatown to envision the future of bicycling in their communities. To understand the transportation needs of the neighborhoods, Local Spokes conducted an extensive survey in 2010 and 2011 and held a series of workshops in Chinese, English, and Spanish.

Last summer Local Spokes synthesized everything the coalition had gathered from this process into a neighborhood action plan for bicycling [PDF]. The goal of the action plan is to ensure that residents of the Lower East Side and Chinatown will have a role in decisions about bike-related policies and initiatives for their streets, and to create a model for community-based bike plans in other neighborhoods.

Streetfilms teamed up with Local Spokes in 2012 to document their work, and in this video you can see them in action.

Read more…

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Bike Lanes Mean Business

Photo: Andrew Hinderaker

The East Village and Lower East Side have seen new bike infrastructure flourish in the past few years, and now have some of the best city bicycling infrastructure in the country, including what will soon be the nation’s longest protected bike lanes on First and Second Avenues, several on-street bike corrals, and, coming next spring, bike-share stations blanketing the neighborhood.

The effects of these projects don’t go unnoticed. After a few years of living with streets that are safer for biking and walking, business owners have come to embrace the redesigns and appreciate their widespread benefits – calmer motor vehicle traffic, more space for pedestrians, and better visibility for all. To date, over 150 businesses, theaters, galleries, and community organizations in the East Village and Lower East Side have joined New York City’s first Bike Friendly Business District, and more are signing up every day.

When I started as an intern at Transportation Alternatives’ Bike Friendly Business program, the first business owner I spoke to was Doug Jaeger. Doug is the curator of JsX55, a gallery located on the Clinton Street bike lane in the Lower East Side. He kept thanking me for taking the time to help him request a bike rack and offered to hand out bike safety information to his customers. His response was typical of most business owners I’ve spoken to since.

Veselka’s Tom Birchard is effusive about all the bicyclists rolling by who stop in for a snack at his restaurant. “I never could have anticipated how great having bike lanes outside of Veselka would be,” Tom told me recently. “Thousands of people see my store every day that never would have before the lane went in.”

Read more…

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In Wake of Traffic Fatality Spike, Officials Tout Safer Delancey Street

This morning, elected officials and community leaders unveiled a slate of pedestrian safety improvements to Delancey Street, long ranked as one of the city’s most dangerous places to walk.

Nine people were killed and 742 injured between 2006 and 2010 on Delancey, from the Williamsburg Bridge to the Bowery. In the last six years, there have been 118 pedestrian injuries and six pedestrian fatalities on the corridor, according to DOT.

Local officials cut the ribbon on Delancey Street's pedestrian improvements. Photo: Stephen Miller

The Delancey Street Working Group, convened by State Sen. Daniel Squadron in September 2011, gained new urgency after Dashane Santana, 12, was killed while crossing the busy street in January.

Teresa Pedroza, Dashane’s grandmother, was at today’s press conference, which was convened by DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. Sadik-Khan was joined by State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Rep. Nydia Velázquez, Community Board 3 Chair Gigi Lee and Lower East Side BID executive director Bob Zuckerman.

Delancey Street now has more than 21,000 square feet of new pedestrian space, shorter crossing distances, longer crossing times, new turn restrictions and more consistent lane markings for drivers going to and from the Williamsburg Bridge. Drivers can now access the Williamsburg Bridge via Clinton Street, which also includes a two-way protected bike lane. The improvements were funded through the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program.

Carmen Luna, 60, lives on Clinton Street near its intersection with Delancey, and has lived in the area for most of her life. Her sister was hit by a truck driver while crossing Delancey about two decades ago, she said, and suffered brain damage as a result. Luna welcomed the safety improvements. “This is very important,” she said. “We don’t have enough crossing time.”

Luna also admired the new pedestrian space and seating, which will be maintained by the Lower East Side Business Improvement District.

Traffic enforcement continues to be the missing component for pedestrian safety on Delancey Street. “They don’t do anything,” Luna said of officers directing traffic.

Read more…

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Youth Ambassadors Bring Artistic Bike Signage to Lower East Side

DOT crews, left, install signage designed by Local Spokes youth ambassadors, right. Photos: Local Spokes

On Saturday, youth ambassadors from the Local Spokes initiative held a party in Sara D. Roosevelt Park to mark the end of their six-week summer program and launch a new signage installation on the Lower East Side. The event included bike tours of the neighborhood and came on the heels of the nine-group coalition’s action plan for better bicycling in the community.

(Disclosure: Before beginning at Streetsblog, I interned at a member organization of the Local Spokes coalition.)

Youth ambassadors met with local organizations and government representatives during each week of the program to learn more about the planning process and sustainable transportation. The ambassadors also learned bike maintenance and safe cycling skills from partners including Recycle-A-Bicycle.

“From the perspective of bike advocacy,” said Recycle-A-Bicycle executive director Pasqualina Azzarello, “Our work is all the more effective when it’s inclusive of all bicyclists.”

Saturday’s party also featured “Explore Your Neighborhood by Bike,” a signage installation designed by the youth ambassadors in partnership with DOT’s Urban Art Program. The signs have been installed throughout the neighborhood by DOT crews and Local Spokes is offering a guide listing the sign locations. More photos of the event are available from Local Spokes on Facebook.

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Eyes on the Street: A Better Willy-B Approach on Clinton Street

A reader sends this shot of the new two-way bike path on Clinton Street, looking south from the Williamsburg Bridge bike path approach on Delancey. Before, Clinton Street had two-way traffic lanes with sharrows, and orange construction barrels blocked bridge access, or at least made it more of a pain if you were biking. The reconfigured bike and car access (northbound drivers can now get onto the Williamsburg Bridge from Clinton, relieving some pressure on the local street grid), is part of the broader Delancey Street safety project that DOT is implementing this summer.

The new treatment extends down to Grand Street, and we hear the green paint went on a couple of days ago. Have a look at what it replaced:

Image: NYC DOT

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Video: NYPD Also Ignores Left Turn Ban at Delancey and Essex


After Gothamist posted a video of motorists ignoring the new left-turn ban at Delancey and Essex, we contacted NYPD to ask about traffic enforcement at one of Manhattan’s most notorious intersections. We’re still waiting to hear back. In the meantime, judging from this video by ANIMAL New York, it looks like police are not only not ticketing drivers who continue to put lives at risk while making illegal turns, but are joining in on the fun. See how many Delancey Kong points are racked up over the course of an hour by cops and civilians alike.

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NYPD: Not Even a Ticket for Truck Driver Who Killed LES Pedestrian

We have more details on the August 9 crash that killed a pedestrian on the Lower East Side, though many of them conflict with information previously provided by NYPD.

Memorial for "Lorii," run down by a truck driver who "had the right of way," according to NYPD. Photo: Bowery Boogie

According to a witness account first published by Bowery Boogie, the victim was crossing Allen Street at Stanton Street at around 10 p.m. when she was struck by the driver of a truck who stepped on the accelerator the instant the light turned. NYPD told Gothamist the woman died at Bellevue Hospital on August 11. According to Gothamist, NYPD also said that the Accident Investigation Squad did not investigate the crash.

When Streetsblog first contacted NYPD, the department’s public information office said it had no information on the collision. “We’re not going to have anything unless there’s criminality suspected,” a spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for City Council Member Margaret Chin told Streetsblog today that, according to the 7th Precinct, the department’s Accident Investigation Squad was dispatched to the scene. The precinct said the vehicle involved was a truck, but not a garbage truck or a city vehicle, according to the spokesperson.

The police report said the driver “had the right of way” — had the light — remained at the scene, and had not been drinking, the spokesperson said. No summonses were issued.

An officer at the precinct said police “did not believe the driver was acting to purposefully hit the victim and determined this to be a genuine accident,” the spokesperson said. This is largely immaterial, of course, since state law requires all drivers to operate with due care to avoid hitting pedestrians and cyclists. Nevertheless, only about half of New York City motorists who kill vulnerable street users are cited for careless driving, while those who injure are virtually never ticketed. Unless a motorist is under the influence, and the evidence holds up in court, criminal charges against drivers who maim and kill are extremely rare. Drivers who take a life can expect to retain or regain their driving privileges, even in cases involving alcohol or drugs.

How the driver in this case failed to see a person in the street directly in front of the vehicle before hitting the gas remains an open question.

Attempts by Streetsblog and others to ascertain the victim’s identity have been unsuccessful. An NYPD spokesperson said today that, since the victim did not die at the scene, such information is not readily available to the public information office. The 7th Precinct told Chin’s office it did not know the victim’s age or race. An update posted today by Bowery Boogie reads:

The victim reportedly lived on the fourteenth floor of the Hernandez Houses at 189 Allen Street, where one of her neighbors knew her simply as Lorii. We are told that she was in her late-thirties or early-forties. Not much else is known at this time, other than there’s a “collection for her because no family member has come forward.”

Chin’s office did not have enough information about the crash or the investigation to provide a statement on NYPD’s findings, according to her spokesperson.