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Posts from the Midtown Category

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Eyes on the Street: More Room to Walk Near Penn Station

Temporary sidewalk extensions are in on 32nd Street near Penn Station.

As Streetsblog reported in June, this is one element of a larger effort, spearheaded by Vornado Realty Trust in partnership with the city, to make more room for people walking in the area. The three-month pilot project also includes a pedestrian plaza on 33rd Street between Seventh Avenue and the Madison Square Garden loading docks.

If they prove popular, Vornado, which owns a lot of properties nearby, may look to make the changes permanent.

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Eyes on the Street: Third Avenue Bus Island Nears Completion

Third Avenue at 57th Street has a new bus stop and a new block-long pedestrian island. Photo: Stephen Miller

Third Avenue at 57th Street has a new bus stop and a new block-long pedestrian island. Photo: Stephen Miller

Pedestrians and bus riders at one of the most dangerous intersections in Midtown now have a bit more breathing room. Work on a block-long pedestrian island on Third Avenue is complete, providing space for pedestrians between drivers turning right onto 57th Street and traffic heading uptown. It also includes a new bus stop and shelter [PDF].

The intersection, crammed with crosstown traffic and cars heading to the free Queensboro Bridge, ranks low for pedestrian safety. There were 39 pedestrian injuries and one death there from 2008 to 2012, according to DOT. Itself a Vision Zero priority intersection, the crossing sits at the juncture of two priority corridors.

The new Third Avenue pedestrian island, viewed from 56th Street. Photo: Stephen Miller

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33rd Street at Penn Station Will Go Car-Free This Summer

33rd Street west of Seventh Avenue will become a temporary pedestrian plaza this summer. The project could be made permanent in the future. Photo: Google Maps

33rd Street west of Seventh Avenue and east of the Madison Square Garden loading docks will become a temporary pedestrian plaza this summer. The project could be made permanent in the future. Photo: Google Maps

Real estate giant Vornado Realty Trust last night unveiled plans to open up space for people on a couple of busy blocks near Penn Station. The proposed car-free zones include a new pedestrian plaza on 33rd Street west of Seventh Avenue. Phase one will consist of a three-month trial this summer and fall, and the changes could be made permanent afterward.

Vornado is proposing to make part of 33rd Street off-limits to through traffic, creating a pedestrian plaza from Seventh Avenue to the Madison Square Garden loading docks about halfway down the block toward Eighth Avenue. Vornado executives told CB 5 the space could be used for seating or events, reports Bloomberg.

The company is also proposing more limited extensions of pedestrian space on 32nd Street between Seventh Avenue and Sixth Avenue. The street will get a sidewalk extension along the entire north side of the block, as well as plantings on the south side of the block near Seventh Avenue, with traffic trimmed to one lane. The pedestrian areas will connect with plazas at Herald Square.

The proposal received a unanimous endorsement at a joint meeting of the Community Board 5 parks and transportation committees last night, reports Transportation Alternatives senior organizer Tom DeVito. It now advances to the full board on June 11.

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Cabbie Faces Right of Way Charges for Critically Injuring Midtown Pedestrian

Image: NY1

Image: NY1

Taxi driver Babul Miah, 29, faces charges under the city’s Right of Way Law after critically injuring a 20-year-old woman who was in the crosswalk at Eighth Avenue and West 57th Street on Saturday at approximately 5:30 p.m.

The woman, who was not identified by police, was crossing 57th Street from south to north on the east side of Eighth Avenue when Miah, driving north on Eighth Avenue, struck her while turning right onto 57th Street, according to NYPD. He then crashed into a payphone on the sidewalk. The woman was taken to Weill Cornell Medical Center in critical condition and is “likely to die,” police officials told the Daily News.

“It was hectic. It was just hectic. Everybody was mad because it was so much people,” a witness told NY1. “Her boyfriend, the people who was watching it, was like, ‘Could you stop, stop, stop.'”

Miah was charged with failure to exercise due care and failure to yield to a pedestrian, misdemeanor charges under the city’s Right of Way Law. His hack license was “immediately suspended” under Cooper’s Law, the Taxi and Limousine Commission told Streetsblog.

Miah is new to taxi driving. He was issued a hack license in April and was still in a probationary period, allowing the TLC to take “more aggressive actions,” including automatic revocation of a license [PDF]. TLC has not yet taken any action other than suspending Miah’s license.

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CB 6 Panel Unanimously Backs Plan to Fill Gap in 1st Ave Protected Bike Lane

Image: DOT

A shared lane will be replaced by a protected bike lane on 10 blocks of First Avenue. Image: DOT [PDF]

DOT is set to fill a key 10-block gap in the First Avenue protected bike lane this summer, but cyclists might have to wait until the fall for the final piece of the missing link.

The Manhattan Community Board 6 transportation committee voted 12-0 last night to support the plan [PDF], which replaces sharrows with a dedicated protected bike lane. It also includes major curb extensions and pedestrian islands to shorten crossing distances and calm traffic at the intersection of First Avenue and 49th Street.

The changes cover one of the most dangerous sections of First Avenue: There have been five traffic fatalities between 49th and 59th streets — all pedestrians — since 2009, according to DOT. Three of those deaths were at 56th and 57th streets. In contrast, on the rest of First Avenue, between First and 125th streets, six people, including five pedestrians, were killed over the same period on its 115 blocks — a much lower fatality rate per mile.

The project extends the protected bike lane to 59th Street, where it would connect to the Queensboro Bridge bike path. DOT is proposing to do it in two phases, with a brief pause for a couple of weeks after adding protection up to 56th Street, so the agency can assess the traffic impacts of going from five car lanes to four. The second phase would extend the protected bikeway the remaining three blocks.

Last night, CB 6 asked DOT to stop a block early, at 55th Street, before coming back in September or October with a plan for the final few blocks, parts of which are undergoing utility construction.

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Monday: See DOT’s Plan to Complete the First Avenue Protected Bike Lane

Image: DOT

Mark your calendars for early next week, when DOT will be presenting its plan to replace sharrows with a parking protected bike lane on First Avenue, filling a gap between protected bikeways south of 49th Street and north of 59th Street.

This 10-block gap in the First Avenue bike lane is a key missing link, and would give cyclists coming from below 49th Street safe passage to both the Upper East Side and the Queensboro Bridge. These blocks were left out of previous plans for First Avenue. In 2011, CB 6 favored buffered lanes for this stretch, not protected lanes, but DOT eventually went with sharrows.

Upgrading to a parking protected bike lane will also bring pedestrian islands, which shorten crossing distances on this extra-wide section of First Avenue.

Even if First Avenue is upgraded to a protected bike lane, southbound cyclists on Second Avenue will continue to be stuck with sharrows north of 34th Street, where the protected lane begins.

DOT is presenting its plan at the next Community Board 6 transportation committee meeting, scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at the NYU School of Dentistry, Room 611, located at 345 E. 24th Street.

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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.