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Posts from the "Midtown" Category

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“Boulevard 41″ Poised to Reclaim Space for People Near Bryant Park

While Vision42 might not happen soon, Boulevard 41 is more likely. The plan from the Bryant Park Corporation has approvals in hand but needs funding from adjacent property owners. Image: Bryant Park Corporation [PDF]

A plan from the Bryant Park Corporation to replace car parking with seating has approvals in hand but needs funding from adjacent property owners. Image: Bryant Park Corporation [PDF]

A crowded Midtown block could get more space for people and plantings if adjacent property owners decide to foot the bill.

The local business improvement district, the Bryant Park Corporation, wants to convert the curbside lanes of 41st Street between Sixth Avenue and Broadway into a pedestrian seating zone as part of proposal it’s calling “Boulevard 41″ [PDF]. The plan, which received approvals from DOT, FDNY, and Community Board 5 [PDF] last year, is on hold, however, until the Bryant Park Corporation secures funding from adjacent property owners.

“The intention was to cover the entire cost of the project with private money coming from the buildings on the block,” said Ignacio Ciocchini, vice president of design for the Bryant Park Corporation. The block is split between about seven property owners whose territory falls under three BIDs covering Bryant Park, Times Square, and the Garment District, so Ciocchini had additional hoops to jump through before getting a green light for the project.

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Take a Look and Vote on the New Proposals for a Car-Free 42nd Street

A group of planners and architects is advocating for 42nd Street to be transformed into a car-free street with light rail. Image via Vision42 [PDF]

One of the four final design concepts for transforming 42nd Street into a car-free street with light rail. Image via Vision42 [PDF]

For nearly 15 years, a group of architects and planners who go under the banner of Vision42 have advocated for a car-free 42nd Street with light rail and expanded pedestrian space [PDF]. Hoping to catch the interest of the de Blasio administration, last spring the group launched a competition seeking conceptual designs for a re-imagined 42nd Street. Now the four finalists are up for a public vote.

Vision42 received 123 submissions from around the world in a contest run by The Architect’s Paper. A panel of judges narrowed the field to four final entries. Each won a $3,000 prize funded by a grant from the New York Community Trust, and now you can vote online for your favorite design concept.

Another conceptual design extends the greenery of Bryant Park out onto 42nd Street. Image via Vision42 [PDF]

Another conceptual design extends the greenery of Bryant Park out onto 42nd Street. Image via Vision42 [PDF]

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Surviving a Walk in NYC Should Not Depend on Luck

As far as Bill de Blasio's NYPD and TLC are concerned, this never happened. Image: CBS 2

As far as Bill de Blasio’s NYPD and TLC are concerned, this never happened. Image: CBS 2

The Taxi and Limousine Commission says it doesn’t know anything about a cabbie who drove onto a Midtown sidewalk, hit a pedestrian, and crashed into a building earlier this week. Other than to deflect blame from the driver, NYPD has refused to release information about the crash.

It happened Monday morning. From the Post:

“He [the pedestrian] was literally flying. He fell right here in front of this window,” said Elsa Gomez, 28, who works in Macaron Cafe on East 59th Street near Madison Avenue.

The cab careened onto the sidewalk at around 11:50 a.m. and continued into the front of an eyeglass store, shattering its window.

“It was a huge, scary noise,” said James Escobar, 50, owner of Page and Smith Opticians.

“We were working inside … and we heard a big, huge boom,” Escobar told CBS 2. “I couldn’t even open the door.”

The pedestrian was hospitalized with a leg injury, reports said. “We were lucky,” said Escobar.

NYPD declined to release information about the cab driver or the victim to the press, other than the normal exculpatory statements about the driver. Police told CBS 2 “the cabbie somehow lost control of his vehicle,” and the Post reported that “his license was valid and there were no signs of criminality.”

When I called the department’s public information office, I was told to send an email request. This is NYPD’s polite way of saying “Go away.” I have emailed NYPD many times in seven-plus years at Streetsblog, and have never received a response. We’ll update if we hear back.

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Vance Brings Manslaughter Charge in Death of Pedestrian Charity Hicks

A motorist charged with manslaughter for the death of a Manhattan pedestrian is scheduled to appear in court later this week.

Charity Hicks. Photo via Gothamist

Charity Hicks. Photo via Gothamist

Thomas Shanley, 35, was texting when he drove a Dodge SUV onto the curb on 10th Avenue near W. 34th Street at around 8:20 a.m. on May 31, striking a fire hydrant and a bus stop signpost and mortally wounding Charity Hicks, according to a criminal court complaint and reports from Gothamist and the Daily News. A second pedestrian was also injured.

The criminal court complaint says video reviewed by NYPD showed the SUV moving northbound on 10th Avenue when the driver “swerve[d] across two lanes of traffic and onto the sidewalk.” Records from Shanley’s iPhone, found at the scene, indicated that the user was sending a text message at the time of the collision, according to the complaint.

Hicks was policy director for the East Michigan Environmental Action Council, according to a Detroit news outlet, and was visiting NYC for a conference. She suffered severe head trauma, broken ribs, and injuries to her lungs. Hicks died on July 8.

Shanley fled the scene on foot, reports said, and was arrested in New Jersey on August 1. Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance charged Shanley with one count of manslaughter and one count of felony leaving the scene, according to court records.

Whether or not they remain at the scene, sober drivers are not usually charged with manslaughter, or the less serious charge of vehicular homicide, for killing New York City pedestrians. There are exceptions, but it’s difficult to discern why some drivers involved in serious crashes are prosecuted while others are not, since city district attorneys do not generally discuss vehicular crimes cases, even when cases are closed or no charges are brought.

Cell phone evidence and video of the crash may have factored into the DA’s decision in this case, as could leaving the scene. In addition, Shanley was reportedly on parole at the time of the crash. Other New York City DAs — former Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes especially — seemed more inclined to issue felony charges against drivers with criminal records.

Manslaughter is a class C felony with possible sentences ranging from probation to 15 years in prison. Shanley’s next court appearance is set for Friday.

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Will Cy Vance Fail to Prosecute Another Serious Midtown Curb-Jump Crash?

New Yorkers have seen this before.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance sees no evidence of recklessness here. Photo: ##https://twitter.com/FDNY/status/496750617613066240##@FDNY##

No evidence of recklessness here, says Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance. Photo: @FDNY

On a beautiful summer day, a professional driver with a history of recklessness behind the wheel drives onto a crowded Midtown sidewalk, striking multiple people and causing serious injuries. The driver lays blame elsewhere, on factors he claims were beyond his control. Meanwhile, staff from Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s office, who don’t normally discuss vehicular crimes with reporters, issue statements assuring the public that prosecutors are on the case.

It was one year ago this month that yellow cab driver Mohammad Faysal Himon severed the leg of tourist Sian Green. In November, Vance’s office announced that no charges would be filed.

On Tuesday afternoon, William Dalambert crashed a Gray Line double-decker bus into an SUV and another sightseeing bus at 47th Street and Seventh Avenue, then jumped the curb and knocked over a light pole, injuring 18 people. Dalambert has anywhere from 11 to 20 license suspensions on his record, according to reports. He has been cited for speeding, using a cell phone while driving, and driving without a license. Video reportedly shows him accelerating before Tuesday’s crash, as the light in front of the bus turned red. Dalambert claimed the brakes on the bus failed, but investigators found no evidence of a mechanical problem.

Dalambert was arrested for driving while ability impaired, but further tests indicated no intoxication, and to this point Vance has filed no charges.

“[A]t this present stage of the investigation, there is not sufficient basis to conclude that the defendant was operating the tour bus in a reckless manner,” read a court notice filed by Vance’s office. Vance spokesperson Joan Vollero said the office is still investigating: “We are awaiting results of the full toxicology report. We are taking this matter seriously.”

Whether or not Dalambert was under the influence, that he drove into two vehicles, mounted the curb and injured multiple bystanders is not in dispute. Only through sheer luck did the people in his path escape death, and the severity of the victims’ injuries is not publicly known.

There is video of this crash, and, as with the Sian Green case, no shortage of witnesses. And yet — as with the Sian Green case — Vance has issued no charges for recklessness or criminal negligence.

Time will tell if DA Vance steps up in this instance to protect New Yorkers from dangerous drivers, or if the outcome of this serious crash will be déjà vu all over again.

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East River Greenway Links, Third Ave Bus Lane Upgrades Go Before CB 6

east_side_gway

Dotted blue lines show new shared lane markings, the dotted purple line indicates a new two-way bikeway, and the dotted green line shows improvements to the existing greenway route. Map: NYC DOT

From sudden collapses to botched repairs, the current condition of the East River Greenway is a far cry from the vision of a continuous path on Manhattan’s eastern shore. While filling in the greenway’s gaps could take at least a decade, there are some small, short-term gains on the table. On Monday, Community Board 6′s transportation committee backed a slate of bike improvement that aim to make accessing the greenway from Murray Hill a little bit easier.

The East River Greenway could get some upgrades in Murray Hill. Image: DOT

The East River Greenway could get some upgrades and better connections in Murray Hill. Image: DOT

The plan, first reported by DNAinfo, aims to improve access to Glick Park, a Citi Bike station on the greenway, and the 34th Street landing for the East River Ferry. After presenting the plan to the committee on May 5, DOT held a walk-through of the project with committee members on May 19.

The proposal [PDF] would improve the greenway surface and markings between 34th and 37th Streets, and add a short, two-way bikeway on the north side of 37th Street between the FDR Drive service road and First Avenue. It also adds shared lane markings on a pair of crosstown streets and converts one block of the First Avenue protected bike lane to a two-way path.

Southbound cyclists looking to avoid the chaotic Queens Midtown Tunnel entrance at Second Avenue and 37th Street would be able to turn right at 38th Street, which would have shared lane markings for one block until First Avenue. From there, they could turn right onto the two-way block of the First Avenue protected bike lane before making a left onto the new two-way path on 37th Street to connect to the greenway.

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Post Wonders What Woman Did to Get Herself Run Over by Cab Driver

It's unclear if this cab driver was violating traffic laws when he ran over a pedestrian, but Post reporters do not appear to be paying attention.

It’s unclear if this cab driver was violating traffic laws when he ran over a pedestrian, but Post reporters do not appear to be paying attention.

It used to be that the tabloids would focus on any mistake by an injured or deceased pedestrian while ignoring what a motorist did, or didn’t do, to cause a crash. Now, in the absence of actual evidence that a pedestrian was in any way at fault, the Post has taken to spreading innuendo.

Yesterday afternoon a woman was run over by a cab driver in Midtown. Here’s what happened according to Post reporters Minsi Chung and Natasha Velez:

A puddle of blood next to a crosswalk on 6th Avenue marked the spot where the woman was struck as she crossed the wide avenue. A taxi turning left from W. 38th Street clipped the woman moments after she stepped off the sidewalk.

It was unclear if the pedestrian was jaywalking, but a witness said the woman did not appear to be paying attention as she crossed the busy street.

See what Chung and Velez did? They insinuated the victim was jaywalking through pure speculation. And for good measure added a vague but damning detail from an unnamed witness.

It may be unclear if the woman was “paying attention” before she was struck in a crosswalk on a city street teeming with pedestrian traffic. Since there is no rule against distracted walking, and the law puts the onus on drivers to avoid running people over, this is irrelevant.

But here’s what else is unclear: We don’t know if the cabbie who hit her violated her right of way, was driving at an appropriate speed, or using the cell phone he’s shown holding in the Post photo. And the reason it’s unclear is because the tabloids routinely fail to address motorist behavior in their zeal to blame the woman who ends up under the cab or bus.

Implying without cause that a fallen pedestrian might have been asking for it is not reporting. Post reporters and their editors should provide readers with fact-based traffic violence coverage and leave the gossip to Page Six.

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DOT Proposes Crosswalk Fix Where Renee Thompson Was Killed

In September, 16-year-old Renee Thompson was walking to the subway after getting off work just after 10 p.m., when, crossing Third Avenue at 60th Street, she was hit and killed by a turning truck driver. Now DOT is proposing shorter crossing distances at the intersection, but  Community Board 8′s transportation committee wants the agency to go further and also look at the dangers pedestrians face just one block away, where drivers jostle along Second Avenue to get on to the Queensboro Bridge.

The plan adds curb extensions to two corners at 60th Street and Third Aveune. Image: DOT

The plan adds curb extensions to two corners at 60th Street and Third Aveune. Image: DOT

The plan [PDF], which adds painted curb extensions and flex-post bollards to the northwest and southwest corners, would shorten crossing distances on Third Avenue from 65 feet to 53 feet, and on 60th Street from 35 feet to 25 feet. It also adds a left-turn lane on Third Avenee and lengthens the existing left-turn lane from 60th Street to Third Avenue, which is heavily used by trucks heading north after exiting the bridge. Both streets are mapped as truck routes.

Sidewalks at the intersection are crowded, and narrowed by enclosed sidewalk cafes, tree pits, and subway entrances on all four corners.

There were 12 pedestrian injuries at the intersection from 2007 to 2011, according to DOT, and in addition to Thompson’s death last September, there was another fatality at the intersection in 2010: Thomas Richards, 67, of Queens Village was in the crosswalk when he was killed by a cab driver who witnesses say was speeding.

A resolution supporting the curb extension at Third Avenue [PDF] passed the committee unanimously last Thursday and now heads to the full board, which is scheduled to meet tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Hunter College.

The resolution also asks DOT to come back within six months with a pedestrian safety plan for the area around the Queensboro Bridge at Second Avenue, an issue CB 8 transportation committee co-chair A. Scott Falk said DOT staff was receptive to.

“We’re very glad that they’re making a proposal for 60th and Third,” Falk told Streetsblog. ”It’s been one of my priorities for the board in 2014 to get real pedestrian improvements around the bridge.”

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CB 5 Votes Unanimously for DOT Study of Fifth and Sixth Avenue Redesign

Sixth Avenue in Midtown. Photo: Google Maps

After a unanimous vote by its transportation committee last month, Manhattan Community Board 5 voted unanimously last night for DOT to study a complete streets redesign of Fifth and Sixth Avenues to better accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders on two of the busiest avenues in Midtown.

The resolution asks NYPD “to more stringently enforce automobile and bicycle laws” while also requesting a study from DOT “of the merits and feasibility of re-designs of Fifth and Sixth Avenues.” The resolution was amended at last night’s meeting to ask DOT to take the needs of food cart vendors into account with any design it may propose.

Ilona Kramer, chief of staff to Council Member Dan Garodnick, told the board last night that due to redistricting, starting next year Garodnick will represent a large portion of CB 5. Kramer said Garodnick, who has expressed support for a safety study of Fifth and Sixth Avenues, was aware that the board had a resolution about the issue on its agenda last night.

Transportation Alternatives volunteers had collected 10,000 petition signatures and 1,500 handwritten letters, which were delivered to the board last night. “Ten thousand signatures is not insignificant,” said Raju Mann, CB 5′s transportation committee chair, who spoke in favor of the resolution.

In addition, 59 businesses have signed on in support of a complete street redesign. Volunteer Janet Liff said the owner of a Jamba Juice told her: ”Complete streets? Pedestrians love those. And whatever’s good for pedestrians is good for business.”

Eight people spoke in favor of the resolution, and only one, who called for a ban on bicycles on Fifth Avenue at last month’s committee meeting, spoke against it. Attorney Steve Vaccaro, who attended last night’s meeting, praised CB 5′s “no drama, no hate” approach to the issue, which stands in stark contrast with some other community board meetings on street redesign requests.

A redesign of Fifth and Sixth Avenues would also include portions of Community Boards 2 and 4, which are likely to take up the issue in the new year.

Thanks to Steve Vaccaro and Albert Ahronheim for notes from last night’s meeting.

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CB 5 Closes in on Requesting Complete Streets Study for 5th and 6th Avenues

Fifth Avenue at 48th Street: Lots of space for cars; bike riders and walkers on the margins. Photo: Google Maps

Fifth Avenue at 48th Street: Lots of space for cars, with people walking and biking on the margins. Photo: Google Maps

The campaign for a more bike- and pedestrian-friendly design on crowded Fifth and Sixth Avenues has crossed its first major milestone, with Community Board 5′s transportation committee advancing a resolution asking DOT for a complete streets study.

The resolution, which passed the committee last Monday in a unanimous vote, is set to be taken up by the full board on December 12. “It’s just acknowledging that there’s a problem and that they need to be studied,” said Transportation Alternatives volunteer Janet Liff. “The proposal is really to take a look at the concept of a complete street, which includes pedestrian space, bulb outs, bike lanes, and express bus service.”

TA’s campaign for to make Fifth and Sixth Avenues safer is “emphasizing that pedestrians do come first,” Liff said. Committee chair Raju Mann also told Streetsblog that discussion of the resolution last month focused primarily on pedestrians.

Even with scarce accommodations for bicycling, Fifth and Sixth Avenues continue to rank among the busiest Manhattan avenues for cyclists. Over an 18-hour period in September 2012, DOT counted more than 5,000 people biking on the pair of avenues, exceeding every other northbound/southbound pair in Manhattan, though Eighth and Ninth Avenues, which have protected bike lanes, sometimes do see more bicycle traffic [PDF].

When activist group Right of Way painted guerrilla bike lanes on Sixth Avenue in September, DOT spokesperson Seth Solomonow said the agency would consider street design requests from the local community board. Monday’s vote puts CB 5 closer to making that request happen.

Short stretches of Fifth and Sixth Avenue are also part of Community Boards 2 and 4. Caroline Samponaro, TA’s senior director of campaigns and organizing, said approaching those boards would be a “next step” after securing support from CB 5. In addition to a coalition letter signed by block associations, commercial landlords, and small businesses, TA’s online petition for the complete streets study has garnered more than 10,000 signatures. “People are aware that on just two avenues in each direction there are these improvements,” she said. “They’re asking: ‘What about us?’”

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