Skip to content

Posts from the Midtown Category


CB 5 Committee to DOT: You Oughta Take a Traffic Lane Outta Sixth Avenue

The DOT proposal for Sixth Avenue adds a protected bike lane but doesn’t remove any motor vehicle lanes. Image: NYC DOT

Like their counterparts at Community Board 4, members of the Manhattan Community Board 5 transportation committee think DOT’s proposed redesign of Sixth Avenue isn’t bold enough. Unlike CB 4, the committee voted for the plan anyway in a unanimous decision last night.

The proposal would add a protected bike lane from 14th Street to 33rd Street, narrowing the avenue’s four motor vehicle lanes without eliminating any [PDF]. Committee members were concerned that the plan won’t slow traffic and lacks various treatments that would better protect pedestrians, like wider sidewalks and raised concrete islands.

“This seems to me to prioritize traffic over pedestrians,” said committee chair Alan Miles.

DOT’s Ted Wright said other community boards are not as eager for more drastic changes. “I wish more community boards were asking for radical things,” he said.

“We ask every time you come here,” Miles quipped. “You’re always concerned about parking spaces.”

Read more…


Eyes on the Street: 33rd Street Plaza Gone… Til Next Year?

As planned, the pedestrian spaces installed near Penn Station are being removed this week. A painted sidewalk extension and seating were added to 32nd Street for the summer, while 33rd Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues was converted to a plaza.

The projects were spearheaded by Vornado Realty Trust, which owns major properties in the area, in coordination with DOT and with an endorsement from Community Board 5. The plan was to gauge interest this summer with an eye toward making the changes permanent.

The spaces were a huge hit, but there were complaints from property owners that the 32nd Street sidewalk extension caused problems with curb access for vehicles.

Though the 32nd Street project may be in trouble, all signs point to the eventual return of Plaza 33. Here’s a Streetfilm to remember it by over the winter:

Read more…


Eyes on the Street: DOT Begins Filling Gap in First Av Bike Lane [Updated]

Photo: Stephen Miller

Striping for a protected bike lane, left, and markings where DOT eventually plans to install a concrete pedestrian island, center. Photo: Stephen Miller

The Pope has left town and the United Nations General Assembly is over, meaning it’s time to make First Avenue a better place to bike and walk.

The gap in the First Avenue protected bike lane was baked into the initial plans for it, which called only for sharrows between 49th and 59th streets in order to accommodate motor vehicle traffic heading to 57th Street and the Queensboro Bridge. Now DOT is comfortable repurposing that space for a bikeway, telling Community Board 6 in May that it would start filling the gap this summer. The final few blocks approaching 59th Street would be installed later in the year, DOT said, once new traffic flows had smoothed out.

We found out last month that work would be delayed until after the departure of Pope Francis and the end of the UN General Assembly. The heads of state are gone now, and it looks like progress is afoot:

Read more…


TA, Manhattan Pols Urge DOT to Commit to Fully Redesigning Fifth and Sixth


Bike already account for one in ten vehicles on Fifth and Sixth, a share that will only increase with protected lanes. Graphic: TA [PDF]

Last month DOT announced its intent to add a protected bike lane along 19 blocks of Sixth Avenue. A coalition of advocates, business groups, community board representatives, and elected officials think the city can do better. At a press conference next to the Flatiron Building this morning, they called on DOT to redesign the entire length of Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan.

Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White, right, speaks as Council Member Dan Garodnick, left, and Assembly Member Deborah Glick, center, look on. Photo: Stephen Miller

Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White, right, with Council Member Dan Garodnick, left, and Assembly Member Deborah Glick, center. Photo: Stephen Miller

In a report released today, Transportation Alternatives makes the case for protected lanes on both avenues [PDF]. Protection is needed for the large number of people who already bike on these streets, with cyclists comprising up to one in six vehicles on Fifth Avenue south of 23rd Street, according to TA. Protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands are proven to improve safety for everyone who uses the street. The share of women biking is also higher on avenues where protected lanes have been installed, TA said.

“We’re here today to commend the Department of Transportation and Mayor de Blasio for committing to a complete street redesign on Sixth Avenue between 14th and 33rd streets, but we’re also here today to encourage them to do much more,” said TA Executive Director Paul Steely White. “It’s just irresponsible to have so many cyclists on a main thoroughfare with no protection whatsoever.”

“[We] have been asking for a while that the Department of Transportation make this entire area a bicycle network, so that you don’t simply have to avoid certain avenues because you’re afraid you may be hit or injured,” said Council Member Corey Johnson.

TA conducted traffic counts between April and August, gathering a total of 32 hours of data. Cyclists comprise 10 percent of vehicle traffic on Fifth and Sixth. Bike-share accounts for 26 percent of that bike traffic — more during morning and evening rush hours.

“The numbers do not lie,” said City Council Member Dan Garodnick. “Fifth and Sixth avenues are important corridors for the city and they are important corridors for bicyclists.”

Read more…


The Port Authority Bus Terminal and Our Glaring Lack of Transit Leadership

This plan, known as Concept 3, was supported by the Port Authority's bus terminal working group but not endorsed by the full board of commissioners today. Image: Port Authority

This proposal, known as Concept 3, was supported by the Port Authority’s bus terminal working group but not endorsed by the full board of commissioners today. Image: Port Authority

The effort to replace the aging and overcrowded Port Authority Bus Terminal continues to suffer from the New York region’s inability to coordinate its transit mega-projects.

The bus terminal already handles more than 225,000 passengers per weekday and cannot accommodate all the bus traffic that crosses the Hudson in Midtown. Demand is expected to increase about 50 percent by 2040, but there is no plan in place to build a new terminal.

A working group of four Port Authority commissioners has been considering five concepts to replace the bus terminal with a modern facility that can handle many more passengers. Today they recommended a plan to the full board, but the full board didn’t endorse the working group’s proposal, putting off a vote until a later date, pending further study.

The almost-recommended-plan, known as Concept 3, would move the bus terminal one block west. It appealed to the working group for a variety of reasons, including the fact that unlike the other four options, the Port Authority would not have to build a temporary terminal to handle passengers while the new terminal is under construction.

“It doesn’t require an alternate facility and the complete disruption of the passenger experience for a decade,” said Commissioner Kenneth Lipper. “It’s less expensive, and it opens up billions of dollars in real estate.” Selling off development rights could help finance the project, which has been estimated to cost as much as $10.5 billion.

But moving the bus terminal west poses serious problems, due in part to the mistakes of past projects.

Read more…


DOT Commits to Sixth Ave Protected Bike Lane From 14th to 33rd Streets

What Sixth Avenue could look like. Rendering: The Street Plans Collaborative and Carly Clark for Transportation Alternatives [PDF]

What Sixth Avenue could look like. Rendering: The Street Plans Collaborative and Carly Clark for Transportation Alternatives [PDF]

DOT says it will begin planning and outreach later this year for a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue between 14th and 33rd Streets in Manhattan.

The announcement comes after years of advocacy by the Transportation Alternatives Manhattan activist committee, which called for protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands on Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue. The effort garnered support from local community boards, business improvement districts, and City Council members Corey Johnson and Dan Garodnick. Now, DOT is officially on board.

Currently, there are northbound protected bike lanes on the east side (First Avenue) and west side (Eighth Avenue) of Midtown, but not in between. Nevertheless, there’s a huge appetite for cycling along the spine of Manhattan, and many people on bikes have to mix it up with car traffic on some of the city’s widest and most chaotic streets. In May, DOT added buffers to the existing bike lane on Sixth Avenue between Christopher and 14th streets.

DOT hasn’t committed to a southbound protected bike lane on Fifth Avenue. The agency instead views the Sixth Avenue project as a pair with the southbound protected bike lane on Broadway in Midtown. There is also a buffered bike lane on Fifth Avenue south of 23rd Street.

Will the Sixth Avenue bike lane extend north of 33rd Street, where cyclists face the most intense car traffic? “One step at a time,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said. “The goal is, we’ll continue to work our way north, as we have on a lot of these projects.”

Transportation Alternatives has an online petition to thank City Hall for the Sixth Avenue project and urge the city to bring protected bike lanes to more Midtown avenues.

Read more…


First Avenue Bike Lane Fix on Hold Until Pope and UN Leave Town

Image: DOT

Wait until next month for safety improvements on First Avenue. Image: DOT [PDF]

DOT was supposed to start filling the gap in the First Avenue protected bike lane in Midtown this summer, but the agency says it’s waiting until the Pope leaves town and the UN General Assembly adjourns before moving forward.

When the First Avenue bike lane was installed in 2011, DOT left a gap of 10 blocks south of 59th Street, instead going with sharrows to maximize the number of car lanes approaching the toll-free Queensboro Bridge. Then this May DOT came back and got Community Board 6’s backing to fill the gap.

The plan was to install a protected bike lane and pedestrian islands from 49th to 55th streets over the summer, before coming back to CB 6 in September or October with a design for the final few blocks. That segment, from 55th to 58th streets, is clogged with multiple lanes of drivers turning left across the paths of cyclists.

DOT Bicycle Program Director Hayes Lord explained the process at a meeting of the New York Cycle Club last night. “We couldn’t even model the portion from 55th to 59th,” he said of the traffic challenges. “[CB 5 members] were very pleased that we were taking this approach, that we weren’t just ramming it through. We want to do it right. So we will take our time.”

Read more…


Watch New Yorkers Using the 33rd Street Plaza With Streetfilms

Catch it while you can. Before the temporary plaza on 33rd Street at Seventh Avenue closes on October 3, Clarence Eckerson Jr. of Streetfilms stopped by to grab video of New Yorkers enjoying some breathing room in one of Midtown’s most crowded corners.

The plaza was installed in July, along with a temporary sidewalk extension on 32nd Street between Herald Square and Penn Station. The pedestrian spaces could return permanently after the trial period ends next month.

The plaza has proven immensely popular, getting rave reviews at a recent Community Board 5 meeting. The sidewalk extension, however, has come under attack — both from a tabloid columnist who thinks homelessness can be fixed with car traffic, and from 32nd Street neighbors who want more curbside loading zones.

The projects, supported by DOT and CB 5, were conceived and sponsored by real estate giant Vornado, which owns major properties near Penn Station, including Penn Plaza, the Manhattan Mall, and the Hotel Pennsylvania.

Before the public space is removed and given back to cars in less than three weeks, the 34th Street Partnership is hosting a workshop tomorrow evening to gather feedback on what people think of the plaza. It’s scheduled for tomorrow at 6 p.m. RSVP is required.


32nd Street Finally Has Enough Space for Walking. Will It Last?

This pedestrian space could be replaced with loading zones. Photo: Stephen Miller

This pedestrian space, installed for a summer trial period, may give way to parked trucks because building owners on the south side of 32nd Street want more loading zones. Photo: Stephen Miller

New pedestrian zones near Penn Station have given people more breathing room on some of the most crowded streets in the city. Will they stay or will they go after a trial period wraps up in October?

At a Community Board 5 committee meeting last night, nearby property owners weighed in on the projects. It was smooth sailing for the new plaza on 33rd Street at Seventh Avenue, but a much-needed sidewalk expansion on the north side of 32nd Street faced pushback from property owners who aren’t pleased with how it’s changed the use of the curb in front of their buildings.

The projects were conceived and funded by real estate giant Vornado Realty Trust, which owns a number of properties near Penn Station, including Penn Plaza, the Manhattan Mall, and the Hotel Pennsylvania. The new pedestrian areas relieve crowding on sidewalks near the rail station, where people on foot overflow into the street.

The temporary public spaces, approved by NYC DOT and supported by CB 5 in June, were installed about a month ago and are set to be removed October 11. Based on the results of this evaluation period, the additional pedestrian space could be brought back and made permanent.

Property owners along 32nd Street want to see some adjustments. Fetner Properties owns The Epic, a rental residential tower with its back door on the south side of 32nd Street, across from the Manhattan Mall and the sidewalk extension. “We love the idea,” President and CEO Hal Fetner told a joint meeting of the CB 5 parks and transportation committees last night. “[But] we’re all fighting for the same sidewalk space.”

To replace the parking lane on the north side of the street with pedestrian space, the project shuffled curbside uses, shifting an MTA bus layover and reducing the length of the street’s loading zones from 680 feet to 180 feet. Now, Fetner says, his building’s trash is collected on the same curb where people wait to board the M4 and Q32 buses. When new tenants move in, he has to send staff to sit on the curb until the moving truck arrives, keeping others from taking the space. Fetner said that wasn’t an issue when the street had more loading zones.

Read more…


MTA Bus Driver Kills Senior in Midtown; NYPD, Media Blame Deceased Victim

West 57th Street, looking westbound, where an MTA bus driver killed Rochel Wahrman this morning. Image: Google Maps

West 57th Street, looking westbound, where an MTA bus driver killed Rochel Wahrman this morning. Image: Google Maps

An MTA bus driver killed a senior in Midtown this morning.

At around 9:40 a.m. Rochel Wahrman, 69, was crossing W. 57th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue south to north when the driver of a westbound X5 hit her with the left side of the bus, according to reports.

From the Daily News:

The fatally injured woman was on her knees, leaning up against the bus, in the moments following the crash, witnesses said.

She had her head bowed down… she wasn’t moving,” said Shams Sheikh, 56, manager of a nearby newsstand. “The medics came right away.”

Wahrman died at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

West 57th Street is four lanes, two in each direction, at the site of the crash. Photos of the scene show the bus stopped in the inside westbound lane. If Wahrman was crossing south to north, she would have walked across two lanes, approaching the middle of the street from the bus driver’s left, before she was hit.

DNAinfo and JP Updates cited police sources who said Wahrman was jaywalking and that the bus driver had the right of way. There were no reports of how fast the driver was going, or how he failed to see Wahrman in the street.

NYPD told JP Updates “no criminal activity was suspected” and “police are not expecting to file any charges.”

Wahrman was at least the second person struck by an express bus driver in Midtown in eight days. On August 12, a BxM9 driver seriously injured a man with a cane on Fifth Avenue at 56th Street. The MTA and DNAinfo blamed the victim.