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Posts from the "Sunset Park" Category

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Hylan Blvd SBS Relies More on Fast Payment and Signals, Less on Bus Lanes

The route for proposed Hylan Boulevard Select Bus Service. Bus lanes are planned for the highlighted areas, where congestion is worst. Image: MTA/DOT

When it comes to Staten Island, the Department of Transportation and MTA are considering a different model for Select Bus Service.

The service planned for Hylan Boulevard will provide dedicated bus lanes for less of the route than on existing SBS lines, but high-tech features like transit-friendly traffic lights and even a possible pilot of smart card fare payment technology will be included.

Bus service along Hylan Boulevard is an essential lifeline for transit riders on Staten Island. Sixteen thousand local bus riders travel on the street every weekday, as do another 15,000 express bus riders. One-third of all Staten Island bus commuters live along the corridor. Those numbers might be even higher if transit service weren’t so slow. Almost three-quarters of transit commuters in the area have trips longer than an hour.

A final plan hasn’t been prepared for the new bus service, but DOT and the MTA presented the basic concept at a public meeting last Thursday [PDF]. The project is scheduled to be implemented in 2012 or 2013.

Unlike on the existing Select Bus Service routes on Fordham Road and First and Second Avenue, DOT is not planning to paint dedicated bus lanes along most of the route. Instead, they’re installing bus lanes in the three most congested areas: a roughly two-mile stretch toward the northern end of the route; the area where the S79 bus turns off Hylan and toward the Staten Island Mall; and near the entrance to the mall itself.

The Staten Island service will have a number of features not found in Manhattan and the Bronx, however. “Advance signals” will allow buses to stop a little further forward at an intersection than private vehicles. Currently, buses stopped at the curb and cars trying to turn right have to weave past each other; with advance signals, there’s room to separate the movements, speeding up traffic. The advance signal could also let buses jump to the front of the queue at certain red lights.

Another feature, transit signal priority, holds green lights a few extra seconds when a bus is approaching, giving precedence to vehicles carrying dozens of people rather than one or two. When tested out on Staten Island’s Victory Boulevard, it shaved ten percent of the time off bus trips (and five percent of the time off private automobile trips). This spring’s update of PlaNYC promised that eleven bus routes across the city will get transit signal priority. Hylan Boulevard will be one of them.

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Eyes on the Street: Sidewalk Sinkhole in Sunset Park

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A reader sent in these photos of a sidewalk cave-in next to the office of Assembly member Felix W. Ortiz, on Fourth Avenue and 55th Street in Sunset Park:

Over the weekend, a bunch of neighbors called in the ominous crack in the sidewalk to 311 (resulting in tape! And a safety horse!), and this morning that crack became a gaping sinkhole. Luckily no one appears to have been injured.

Here's what the sidewalk looked like after the slab began to buckle, a situation that festered for a few days:

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I don't want to extrapolate too much from one incident, but maybe it wouldn't take so long to repair NYC sidewalks if the state DOT were releasing the federal funds they're supposed to send to the city -- a story we'll be taking a closer look at here on Streetsblog.

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Sunset Park Greenway: Big Challenges, Bigger Potential

Sunset_Park_Waterfront.jpgA map of potential greenway routes and east-west connections in Sunset Park. Image: UPROSE
A full crowd of about 60 people turned out for NYCDOT's Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway workshop in Sunset Park last night. The meeting was the second of four sessions the city is putting on with the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative and the Regional Plan Association, as the years-in-the-making project of a continuous pedestrian and bicycle path tracing the Brooklyn waterfront moves from the concept phase to more detailed planning and engineering.

Determining a buildable greenway route in Sunset Park is a complicated proposition. The waterfront is an active industrial district filled with the sort of facilities that pose logistical hurdles for safe walking and biking. West of the BQE, the greenway route will have to negotiate obstacles like the 65th Street rail yard, the Brooklyn Army Terminal, and the active freight rail corridor on First Avenue. It won't be easy, but as Brooklyn Greenway Initiative planning director Milton Puryear told me last night, it's a place where you've got to think big.

A finished greenway in Sunset Park would bring huge payoffs. Sunset Park has one of the highest walk-to-work rates in the city, and a major new waterfront park is slated for the Bush Terminal Piers. So in addition to providing a route along the waterfront, the greenway project is a chance to connect the residential areas east of Third Avenue to the new park and the waterfront's industrial job center, using safe walking and bicycling paths. There's already a well-established base of local support for creating those connections: The United Puerto Rican Organization of Sunset Park (UPROSE) started holding public workshops about the greenway and waterfront access in 2005.

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Designing NYC Streets for the 21st Century

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Earlier this week Transportation Alternatives announced the winners of its "21st Century Street" design competition, selecting three entries from more than a hundred submissions re-imagining the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Ninth Street in Brooklyn.

Juror Michelle de la Uz, director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, listed safety and the pedestrian environment as her top concerns. "That intersection has been the site of significant injuries to pedestrians, and it's screaming for a re-design for all the different users," she said. "What's going on at that intersection is representative of the whole stretch. When you go to Sunset Park, there are four, soon to be five schools along Fourth Avenue. Public safety has to be a priority instead of just moving traffic."

The jury split top honors among three designs:

"The entries really ran the gamut," said de la Uz. "There were definitely elements in each one that DOT could cull from, not only for Fourth Avenue but throughout the city."

T.A. wants to see the competition's best ideas factor into the city's long-term plans. "A lot of the City's current work is about triage -- bringing paint and asphalt to streets that really need immediate safety fixes," says Wiley Norvell. "The design competition was about leapfrogging ahead of the current generation of street designs to provide much more active and dynamic public spaces. We hope the DOT and City Planning take note of what's been generated."

Lots of drawings after the jump.

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Last Weekend of Summer Marked by Child’s Death

The city's public schools are back in session today, and students, parents and staff at P.S. 24 in Sunset Park should have a safer intersection to contend with at 38th St. and Fourth Ave., near a BQE off-ramp, following a simple signal timing adjustment.

christian.JPGThe Daily News reports:

After months of community pressure, city Department of Transportation officials promised Brooklyn News the traffic-light timing would be adjusted over the weekend ... with an increased interval allowing pedestrians more time to cross the street.

"A little call from a reporter never hurt anything," said Principal Christina Fuentes who was notified by Brooklyn News late last week - not the DOT - that the light would be adjusted.

A third-grader was hit by a car and injured near the school last spring, prompting parents and others in the neighborhood to seek safety improvements -- along with Transportation Alternatives, which has consistently cited signal timing as an easy and effective means of reducing pedestrian injuries and deaths.

Transportation Alternatives has requested safety measures for other schools along dangerous Third and Fourth Aves., said TA official Brooke DuBose.

More than 30 pedestrians have been killed along the avenues since 1995 - including six children since 2004, according to TA figures.

Meanwhile, in Bushwick, a 7-year-old who was looking forward to starting first grade today was run down by two vehicles on Sunday as he crossed Bleecker Street with his mother and 8-year-old brother. Christian Acteopan died after being hit by a Mitsubishi Eclipse, which fled the scene, and a second vehicle traveling behind. The driver of the Eclipse was found and charged with leaving the scene of an accident; the second driver stayed at the scene and was not charged.

Acteopan's death comes less than a week after the unveiling of the heart-rending monument to three children killed by motorists on Third Avenue. The event included an announcement that DOT will be making long-awaited pedestrian safety improvements to intersections throughout Downtown Brooklyn.

Photo: New York Post

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Senator in Gridlocked Brooklyn District Has Doubts About Pricing

Montgomery.jpgFor a sense of the challenge that lays ahead for congestion pricing supporters, take a look at the mailer that Brooklyn Democratic State Senator Velmanette Montgomery sent to all of her constituents last week. Montgomery has a smart, engaged staff when it comes to transportation policy and she has often been helpful when it comes to Livable Streets issues.

Her 18th Senatorial District covers Bed-Stuy, Boerum Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, Gowanus and Sunset Park -- a swath of Brooklyn that is absolutely pummeled by regional through-traffic and epidemic asthma rates. Clearly, Montgomery's district stands to gain more than most from reductions in traffic congestion and improvements to mass transit and air quality.

Yet, in her mailing, Montgomery says Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan "is silent as to the benefits for the outer boroughs and for upper Manhattan." For that and other reasons she has "major reservations" about the proposal. Montgomery then presents a number of informational points and objections to the pricing plan while offering no suggestion of any benefits to her constituents. 

One of the arguments stands out. Montgomery writes, "The congestion pricing measure will not help asthma sufferers." That one appears to be pulled directly from pricing opponents' talking points and, by most reliable accounts, is not based in fact.

If the Senate Democrats matter in the coming debate then, clearly, congestion pricing supporters have some work to do.

If you get congestion pricing mailings and letters from your elected officials, please send them to Streetsblog. Find Montgomery's mailing, in full, after the jump...

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6-Year-Old Boy Fatally Hit by Truck in Brooklyn

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Three mornings a week I ride past the South Brooklyn Casket Company on Union Street with my two-year-old son strapped to the back of my bicycle on our way to the nursery school. Though the Casket Company always has trucks parked and unloading all over the sidewalk (and someone, I assume it's the boss, likes to park his Mercedes right next to the building's front door), I've always had a real soft spot for the Casket Co.. It is one of the last functioning light industrial companies in the neighborhood. And I know that my block, the stretch of little townhouses on the south side of Union between 4th and 5th was once filled with Italian funeral parlors. Bearing the pre-gentrifcation name, "South Brooklyn," the Casket Company is one of the last genuine remnants of the old neighborhood.

So, it was doubly depressing to hear that a Casket Company truck driver blew through a red light and ran over and killed a 6-year-old boy in Sunset Park yesterday. It is triple depressing that guy doesn't even get charged with anything. What is going to make New Yorkers stop driving like careless, sociopathic maniacs when there is absolutely no enforcement, no penalty and not a peep from the Mayor or any other elected official -- even when a child is slaughtered by a trucker who told police he was trying to beat a red light

Here is Gothamist's coverage of the sad, disturbing story:

Yesterday afternoon, a 6 year old boy was fatally hit by a truck in Sunset Park. The boy, Andy Vega, apparently ran ahead of his babysitter when crossing Third Avenue and 46th Street, and a truck carrying empty coffins from Milso Industries struck him. The driver stayed at the scene.

Another pedestrian, Randolph Charles, who was crossing the street at the same time told the Post, "The boy was on the other side of the street. We were both crossing. The truck was coming, and all I heard was a big bang. The truck ran a red light. We had the walk sign. I told him, 'You know, you just hit the kid.' And he said, 'I thought I had the green light.' Then he grabbed his head, and you could see he was in shock."

Granted, it sounds like this whole thing was a horrible accident and the driver is shattered. But why, in New York City, do killer drivers consistently walk away from the scene of the crime with little more than a summons? How in the world is that O.K.? In the Spring of 2004 Transportation Alternatives Magazine ran a Q&A with veteran Brooklyn prosecutor Maureen McCormick, head of the Vehicular Crimes Bureau at the Brooklyn District Attorney's office. Here is what she said:

T.A. Executive Director John Kaehny: Let's say a mom is walking hand in hand with her young son across the street. They are coming back from a nice morning in the park, it's broad daylight, they are in the crosswalk and have the walk signal. Suddenly, a motorist runs the red light and kills them both. The motorist pulls over and is found to be sober. Would that motorist be charged with a crime?

A.D.A McCormick: Limited to those facts, that motorist would be summonsed for running a red light. A criminal prosecution requires showing that the motorist ran the red light because of more than carelessness or inadvertence. The driver's behavior at the time of running the light is usually the only way to prove the driver's state of mind. The state of a person's mind is a difficult thing to prove. They don't generally yell out "I'm going through this light on purpose."

Photo by Venus in Furs on Flickr