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Posts from the The Bronx Category


Hit-and-Run Driver Kills Gabriela Aguilar-Vallinos, 27, on City Island Bridge

Three people lost their lives in New York City traffic last weekend, including a woman bicycling home from her job in the Bronx. She was killed by a hit-and-run driver who remains on the loose.

Gabriela Aguilar-Vallinos. Photo via WCBS

Gabriela Aguilar-Vallinos. Photo via WCBS

Gabriela Aguilar-Vallinos, 27, was heading home to Soundview after leaving her job at Sammy’s Shrimp Box on City Island. As she was bicycling west over the City Island Bridge just after 11:45 p.m. Friday, the driver of a white 2015 Hyundai Genesis going the same direction struck her before fleeing the scene.

Aguilar-Vallinos suffered severe head trauma and was taken to Jacobi Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead. The driver remains on the loose. Police have released video of the vehicle leaving a parking lot before its driver killed Aguilar-Vallinos.

“We are devastated,” Lenin Ramirez, a cousin of Aguilar-Vallinos, said through tears to WABC. “This guy, he just ran away.”

“Gabriela, she was really, really energetic person. She was always positive in life. She had so many plans,” Ramirez told WCBS. Aguilar-Vallinos moved to New York from Mexico at the age of 16, he said.

The City Island Bridge is currently under construction. When finished, the new bridge will have two six-foot bicycle lanes on either side. At the moment, there is no shoulder on the bridge, though there is a third center lane, not used by through traffic, across the length of the span.

The crash occurred in the 45th Precinct. To voice your concerns about traffic safety to Captain Danielle E. Raia, the precinct’s commanding officer, you can attend the precinct’s next community council meeting. It is scheduled for October 1 at 7:30 p.m. at the Leonard Hawkins American Legion Post, 550 City Island Avenue.

Aguilar-Vallinos was not the only person killed on New York City’s streets that night.

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Eyes on the Street: Protection for Cyclists on Bruckner Boulevard

DOT crews were out on Bruckner Boulevard yesterday putting in Jersey barriers to protect a new two-way bike lane. The bikeway will run for half a mile between Hunts Point Avenue and Longwood Avenue, the first phase in what should eventually be a link between the Bronx River Greenway and Randall’s Island. For the time being, it will terminate at Longwood, with sharrows pointing to the less-stressful Southern Boulevard.

The bikeway is part of a package of improvements that will help people safely walk and bike between the neighborhoods around Bruckner Boulevard, which many must cross to access the 2, 5, and 6 trains. It’s one of the most dangerous streets in the Bronx: Between 2009 and 2013 there were almost 600 traffic injuries at the five intersections covered by this project [PDF].

The bikeway on Bruckner Boulevard should extend south and connect to Randall’s Island. Image: NYC DOT


Eyes on the Street: A Better Bikeway Linking the High Bridge to Highbridge


This parking-protected contraflow bike lane on 170th Street in Highbridge is ready for some green paint. Photo: Ben Fried

Ten days ago, DOT broke ground on a nice set of new bike lanes linking Upper Manhattan to the reopened High Bridge. Meanwhile, bike access improvements on the Bronx side are already pretty far along.

This is the new contraflow bike lane on 170th Street, leading east from the High Bridge. It’s part of a package of bike lanes (and sharrows) linking the High Bridge viaduct to the neighborhood of Highbridge and the waterfront parks to the north.

As built, this short, two-block contraflow bike lane is a step up from the proposal DOT showed the local community board last year [PDF]. It’s protected from traffic by parked cars instead of putting cyclists between the parking lane and moving vehicles.

The rest of the project includes no protected segments but makes good use of contraflow bike lanes to create coherent routes — mostly on low-traffic streets — tying the High Bridge to the existing bike network.

Update: An anonymous tipster sends a more recent photo. Here’s the view looking toward the High Bridge (looks like the stencils went down too soon):

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The Case for 24/7 Access to the High Bridge

Video of opening day on the High Bridge: Clarence Eckerson.

New York City’s bike network would be a shell of its current self without the segments that run through parks. The most heavily traveled bike route in the city — the Hudson River Greenway — is in a park. Paths in Central Park, Prospect Park, and other public parks provide options for safe, quick bicycle travel that simply aren’t available on the city’s car-centric streets.

But bike routes in parks are not managed like other transportation routes in the city. The Parks Department closes greenways after a rough storm and imposes curfews that shut off legal access well before many people head home for the night.

With the opening of the High Bridge earlier this month, there’s finally a safe route to bike or walk between Washington Heights and the Highbridge neighborhood in the Bronx. The High Bridge, as it happens, is run by the Parks Department. As tremendous an improvement as the restored bridge may be, its curfew is also emblematic of broader problems with how the Parks Department manages critical active transportation routes.

The city has redesigned streets to make biking and walking to the High Bridge safer and more convenient. Anyone can use those streets 24 hours a day. The parks on each side of the bridge are open until at least 10 p.m. The High Bridge, meanwhile, closes at 8.

Reader Steven Kopstein wrote in to express his disbelief that the High Bridge is publicly inaccessible for 11 hours each day. Here’s his message, lightly edited:

I was anxiously anticipating the re-opening of the High Bridge. As a resident of Upper Manhattan with strong Bronx ties, I was very excited to finally have a way to cross into the borough on my bike without having to either ride on a crowded narrow sidewalk or on a dangerously busy bridge. I was also thrilled at the prospect of having a tourist draw and truly unique feature to show off to and enjoy with friends and relatives. I love the prospect of new recreational facilities being developed in an area that has been blatantly underserved for many, many years.

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Eyes on the Street: DOT Installs Missing Speed Hump After Driver Flips Car

After a car crash, some press attention, and pressure from the local council member, DOT finally coordinated with the School Construction Authority to install a long-awaited speed hump on Hull Avenue as part of the Norwood Slow Zone in the Bronx.

The asphalt was poured Wednesday, and markings were striped yesterday, said Elisabeth von Uhl, who lives on the block. Von Uhl began pushing for the speed hump after a driver flipped his vehicle and smashed into parked cars outside her home.

Earlier this month, before the speed hump was installed. Photo: Jay Shuffield

The scene earlier this month. Photo: Jay Shuffield

The speed hump was supposed to be included as part of the Norwood Neighborhood Slow Zone, which was installed more than a year ago, but DOT had been holding off on installation because of adjacent construction at PS 56. “Speed hump installations cannot happen while active construction is in progress,” DOT told Streetsblog earlier this month.

Turns out there’s a way around that.

A week after Streetsblog’s initial report, the Norwood News picked up the story and Council Member Andrew Cohen called on DOT to find a solution. DOT says it worked with the School Construction Authority to install the speed hump, which will remain in place even after school construction finishes.

“The installation of this speed bump is essential for this local street as it is a part of the Norwood Slow Zone and we must ensure the safety of our local residents, as well as the safety of the students who attend the adjacent school,” Cohen told the Norwood News earlier this week. “I would like to thank the DOT and SCA for resolving this issue quickly.”

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Want Safer Biking and Walking Across the Harlem River? Tell DOT Your Ideas

Residents from the Bronx and Manhattan told DOT last night how they want to improve walking and biking across the Harlem River bridges. It was the second of four Harlem River bridges workshops this month.

Bronx and Upper Manhattan residents had plenty of suggestions for DOT last night. Photo: Stephen Miller

Bronx and Upper Manhattan residents had plenty of suggestions for DOT last night. Photo: Stephen Miller

DOT is looking to improve access at all 16 bridges along the Harlem River, including the soon-to-open Randall’s Island Connector. Streets up to a mile inland on both sides of the river fall within the scope of the project.

“We’re not coming here with a plan,” project manager Alice Friedman told the approximately 15 people at last night’s workshop. “We’re really here to hear from you.”

Attendees last night split into three groups to highlight problem areas and offer suggestions. Most wanted wider paths on the bridges, safer intersections where the bridges touch down, and protected bike paths connecting nearby neighborhoods to the crossings. There were also smaller requests, such as better signage, more lighting, mirrors on blind corners, and improved snow clearance.

Mychal Johnson of South Bronx Unite said he often uses Exterior Street on rides to Mill Pond Park. “This is our safest route,” he said. “And there’s nothing protecting bikes. And there should be.”

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DOT Drops Buffer From Bronx Bike Lanes Under Vision Zero Safety Plan

Think buffered bike lanes are a stepping stone to protected paths? Not on Prospect Avenue in the Bronx, where DOT is proposing to remove buffers and add turn lanes. Image: DOT [PDF]

On Prospect Avenue in the Bronx, DOT is proposing to remove bike lane buffers and add turn lanes. Image: DOT [PDF]

DOT is downgrading buffered bike lanes as part of a street safety project on 1.3 miles of Prospect Avenue in the Bronx, a Vision Zero priority corridor. While the street appears to have enough room for protected bike lanes while maintaining the current motor vehicle lanes, DOT instead opted to narrow the bike lanes, remove the buffers, and devote space to a center median and left turn lanes.

The project [PDF] also redesigns two intersections to provide more space for pedestrians and slow down turning drivers. At Rev. James A. Polite Avenue, DOT is closing a “slip lane” that drivers use as a shortcut to avoid the traffic signal at 167th Street. The change will add three parking spaces. DOT is also installing painted curb extensions at Avenue St. John and Dawson Street.

Prospect Avenue (in purple) is a Vision Zero priority corridor. Image: DOT

Prospect Avenue (in purple) is a Vision Zero priority corridor. Image: DOT

The biggest changes, however, are for Prospect Avenue itself, where DOT is removing painted buffers from the street’s bike lanes to make room for a striped median and left-turn lanes. Concrete pedestrian islands will be installed at 152nd, 155th, 162nd, 165th, and Jennings streets.

In its presentation, DOT says that “existing buffered bike lanes encourage double parking” and that removing buffers “improves bike lane design” by making the lane “less susceptible to double parking.” Drivers also often use the bike lane to pass turning vehicles on the right, DOT said.

DOT has already made similar changes to a short section of Prospect Avenue, between Freeman Street and Boston Road, after a repaving project last summer.

Streetsblog asked DOT if it collected before-and-after data to see if removing bike lane buffers on Prospect Avenue has actually reduced double-parking. We also asked if the agency considered upgrading the buffered bike lanes to protected lanes, which could also have included pedestrian islands, instead of removing the buffers, but the agency did not reply to those questions.

From Jennings Street to E. 149th Street, there were 16 serious injuries, including 12 pedestrians and four motor vehicle occupants, between 2009 and 2013, according to DOT. During that period, one person, a motor vehicle occupant, died in a crash on Prospect Avenue. Six bicyclists were injured, none seriously.

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South Bronx Greenway Takes Shape on Food Center Drive

Planting is underway on the latest segment of the South Bronx Greenway on Food Center Drive. Photo: Angela Tovar/Sustainable South Bronx

Crews tend planter beds on the latest segment of the South Bronx Greenway on Food Center Drive, set to open this fall. Photo: Angela Tovar/Sustainable South Bronx

A decade in the making, the South Bronx Greenway segment along Food Center Drive in Hunts Point is almost complete. The loop, which will provide a protected path along a busy truck route past some of the region’s largest food and beverage distributors, is set to open this fall.

First proposed by the city in the 2005 Hunts Point Vision Plan, the greenway along Food Center Drive will provide a safe link between residential areas of Hunts Point and the neighborhood’s waterfront parks.

Currently, Food Center Drive has three lanes in each direction divided by a concrete median. A 2004 traffic study by the city found that 70 percent of truck traffic on the loop moves counter-clockwise, so the street will become one-way under the new design, with both sides of the median carrying counter-clockwise traffic. The project also removes one car lane on the outer loop to make way for the greenway.


The bikeway on Food Center Drive will help link the residential areas of Hunts Point to its waterfront parks. Map: EDC

One-way operation enables the elimination of left turns across the greenway. The change, which has been under discussion for years, entailed mapping Food Center Drive as a city street and receiving approvals through the city’s land use review process, including from the borough president and the local community board.

Some businesses along Food Center Drive, however, launched a last-ditch effort to stop the one-way change at last week’s Bronx Community Board 2 economic development committee meeting.

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Ethan Villavicencio, 7, Killed by Motorist Inside Bronx Restaurant [Updated]

Update: According to court records, Oduro was charged with one D felony count and two misdemeanor counts of leaving the scene of an accident with injury, plus one traffic infraction. Class D felonies carry penalties ranging from probation to seven years in prison. DA Robert Johnson filed no charges for the act of killing Ethan Villavicencio.

A motorist drove into a Bronx restaurant Thursday, killing 7-year-old Ethan Villavicencio and injuring the boy’s sister and father.

Ethan, his 5-year-old sister and their dad were eating ice cream in Kennedy Fried Chicken at 3275 Westchester Avenue in Pelham Bay at around 5:30 p.m. when a man backed an SUV through the storefront, according to reports.

Ethan Villavicencio

Ethan Villavicencio

From the Daily News:

A Mercedes-Benz SUV reversed into the restaurant, shattering glass, overturning tables and pinning the boy against a side wall, witnesses said.

“There was a crater where the boy hit the wall,” said bus driver Luis Cruz, 52.

Ethan lay on the floor, conscious but barely able to move, Cruz said. His sister and father stood over him.

“The father was a bloody mess. He was covered with blood and he was trying to tend to his son. The blood from his face was dripping down on the boy,” Cruz said. “It was heartbreaking.”

As witnesses pounded on the vehicle, screaming at the driver that there were children under the car, the man drove away, heading west on Westchester Avenue before he was stopped by witnesses and traffic enforcement agents, reports said.

“One gentleman opened the door to try to grab the driver out to keep him from getting away,” witness Luis Cruz told the Post. “He [the driver] just pushed the gas and the person just couldn’t hold on.”

Ethan was reportedly conscious at the scene but died at Jacobi Medical Center. His sister and father were hospitalized.

Kwasi Oduro, 73, of the Bronx, was charged with one count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death and two counts of leaving the scene of an injury crash, according to WPIX.

Police said Oduro was attempting to park when the crash occurred. Video of the crash shows the driver backing parallel to the curb before accelerating across the sidewalk into the storefront, pausing for a few seconds, then speeding away.

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Driver Flips Car Where Neighbors Have Waited a Year for DOT Speed Hump

Neighbors say this driver, who will not face charges or even receive a traffic ticket, was speeding when he flipped the car yesterday. DOT has installed a speed hump sign, but not an actual speed hump. Photo: Jay Shuffield

Neighbors say this driver, who will not face charges or receive a traffic ticket, was speeding when he flipped his car yesterday. DOT has installed a speed hump sign, but not an actual speed hump. Photo: Jay Shuffield

A driver who neighbors say was speeding flipped his vehicle Sunday evening on a Bronx street that’s been waiting over a year for a speed hump as part of the Norwood neighborhood Slow Zone.

“We were home making dinner and we just heard a loud bang and a crunch and another loud bang and a crunch, two of them, because he had ricocheted off cars,” said Elisabeth von Uhl, who lives on Hull Avenue between E. 207th Street and E. 209th Street. Von Uhl’s husband and a neighbor went outside to deflate the airbag and pull the driver from the passenger side of the black van at approximately 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

The block has been waiting more than a year for its speed hump (in red). DOT says it can't install it until school construction on the block is finished. Map: DOT [PDF]

DOT says it can’t install the speed hump circled in red until school construction on the block is finished. Map: DOT [PDF]

On a typical weekend evening, the street is busy with children playing, but most were inside because of the rain, von Uhl said. “Our three year-old is always out on the sidewalk either with sidewalk chalk or out on his scooter, and we always have neighborhood kids join us,” she said. “We just kind of sit on our stoops and let the kids play.”

The driver was transported to St. Barnabas Hospital with minor injuries. “It didn’t amount to any collision investigation or anything like that,” said an NYPD spokesperson. The driver was not arrested and did not receive a moving violation. “There was no criminality involved. Vehicle looks like it just crashed and rolled over,” he said. “It’s just a vehicle accident.”

“Wow, not even a ticket for speeding,” von Uhl said when she learned that there would be no consequences for the driver.

The street is part of the Norwood neighborhood Slow Zone, which was installed last year to calm traffic and reduce the speed limit to 20 mph. After a street receives speed humps, injury crashes drop by 40 percent and speeding falls 20 percent, according to DOT. Pedestrians struck by drivers going 20 mph are four times less likely to die than those driving 30 mph [PDF].

DOT says it installed two other speed humps last April on Hull Avenue, between E. Gun Hill Road and E. 209th Street and between E. 205th Street and E. 207th Street. But neighbors on von Uhl’s block are still waiting. DOT installed signage, but not the speed hump itself, because of ongoing work by the School Construction Authority at PS 56.

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