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Posts from the Union Square Category


Eyes on the Street: New Bike Lanes Around Union Square

DOT crews installing a new protected bike lane on 4th Avenue between 12th and 13th Streets earlier this week. Photo: NYC DOT

DOT crews installing a new protected bike lane on Fourth Avenue between 12th and 13th streets earlier this week. Photo: NYC DOT

DOT began installing new bike lanes leading to and around Union Square this week.

The project — which will eventually include a two-way protected lane around the park’s eastern and northern edges — is not nearly complete, but fresh paint along Fourth Avenue between 12th and 15th heralds bigger changes on the way.

In addition to the new protected lanes, the project adds painted lanes on 15th Street between First Avenue and Union Square East, on 16th Street between Stuyvesant Square and Union Square East, and on 17th Street between Union Square West and Sixth Avenue.

Riding on Fourth Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets. Photo: David Meyer

Fourth Avenue between 14th and 15th streets. Photo: David Meyer

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DOT Plans to Beef Up the Bike Network Around Union Square

DOT will make the protected lane on Union Square East two-way this summer. Image: DOT

DOT will make the protected bike lane on Union Square East two-way this summer. Image: DOT

The Manhattan bike network breaks down around Union Square, where southbound and northbound bike lanes currently dump riders into the chaotic confluence of 14th Street, Park Avenue, and Broadway. DOT presented a plan to fix some but not all of those gaps last night [PDF], garnering a unanimous vote in favor from Manhattan Community Board 5.

The major change will be the extension of the northbound protected bike lane on Fourth Avenue from 12th Street past the irregular intersection at 14th Street, and along the east and north sides of Union Square. This entails widening the current one-way bike lane alongside the park to eight feet and making it two-way. Biking south past 14th Street from Union Square East, however, would remain treacherous.

In addition, a new painted crosstown lane would extend from Union Square to Sixth Avenue, and another pair of painted lanes would extend east from the park on 15th and 16th streets. The 16th Street lane, however, will stop at Stuyvesant Park without a direct connection to the Second Avenue bike lane.

DOT's plan would also bring new bike lanes to East 15th, East 16th, and West 17th Streets. Image: DOT

The expanded bike lanes are in orange, brown, and purple. Map: DOT

Last night, Transportation Alternatives volunteer Janet Liff suggested that DOT expand the project to include a protected lane on Fifth Avenue, which could help with southbound bike trips. The bike lane on Fifth is currently unprotected and frequently blocked by service trucks and double-parked cars. Liff shared photos of the motor vehicles that obstruct the bike lane throughout the day. “Fifth Avenue from 23rd to 14th Street is actually kind of nasty,” she said.

DOT Bicycle and Greenway Program Director Ted Wright said that while a protected lane on Fifth excites him, he sees it as a separate project. “That’s a big project. It involves, perhaps, concrete,” he said.

Later on, Wright said that for the moment DOT doesn’t have the staff resources to take on a Fifth Avenue project. “We’re getting a lot of push on these things right now, and I would love to see this happen,” he said. “This year, we’re so over-booked on projects — that’s the hesitancy.”

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A Safer, Saner Lafayette Street Is on Its Way This Summer After CB 2 Vote

Under the plan, a buffered bike lane would be converted to a protected bike lane with pedestrian islands. Image: DOT

After a unanimous vote at its transportation committee earlier this month, Manhattan Community Board 2’s full board last night unanimously passed a resolution supporting an upgrade of the buffered bike lane on Lafayette Street and Fourth Avenue to a protected bike lane. The project [PDF] runs from Spring Street to 14th Street and will include a northbound protected bike lane from Prince Street to 12th Street, pedestrian islands, and narrower car lanes to slow drivers.

The project is set to finish construction this summer. Crews have already started grinding pavement on Lafayette to repave the street, which currently has faded markings and a pockmarked surface.

At last night’s meeting, five people spoke in support of the plan, including Scott Hobbs, deputy director of the Union Square Partnership, and William Kelley, executive director of the Village Alliance BID. Transportation Alternatives also submitted a petition with signatures from nine business owners and 76 people on the street.

“We felt there were tremendous advantages,” transportation committee chair Shirley Secunda said of the plan, noting that it will keep the same number of car lanes while slowing drivers down, upgrading the bike lane, and improving signal timing at crosswalks. “Right now it’s in terrible, terrible shape and very unsafe,” she said. “It’s a tremendously wide street and the way the street will be reconfigured would allow for shorter crossings.”

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CB 2 Panel Unanimously Supports Lafayette-4th Avenue Protected Bike Lane

Under the plan, a buffered bike lane would be converted to a protected bike lane. Image: DOT

Under the plan, a buffered bike lane would be converted to a protected bike lane. Image: DOT

In a unanimous 9-0 vote last night, Manhattan Community Board 2’s transportation committee endorsed a DOT plan to upgrade a buffered bike lane on Lafayette Street and Fourth Avenue to a parking-protected lane, complete with new pedestrian islands, car lanes of an appropriate width for the city, and improved signal timing for pedestrians. The plan now moves to CB 2’s full board meeting on March 20.

“We’re here as part of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero campaign,” DOT project manager Preston Johnson said, pointing to safety gains similar projects have yielded on other Manhattan avenues. “This is a project that fits in with that by improving safety for all road users.” From 2007-2011, he said, six pedestrians, one cyclist and five motor vehicle occupants were severely injured in crashes on this section of Lafayette Street and Fourth Avenue.

The proposal [PDF] does not remove any car lanes, but instead narrows them on the avenues. Currently, lanes on Fourth Avenue feature a 14-foot-wide travel lane and a 21-foot-wide shared parking and moving lane. Under the plan, car lanes would be narrowed to 11 feet, with the right-hand lane on Lafayette slimming down to 10 feet.

“You really have a highway standard… which is inappropriate for this context,” Johnson said. “These moving lanes are just overly wide, and we’re able to repurpose that space more efficiently.”

Under the plan, the existing buffered bike lane, which ranges from nine to 11 feet wide on the left side of the street, will shift to the curb. Pedestrian islands will be added to the floating parking lane to shorten crossing distances, which are currently 71 feet on Fourth Avenue and 48 feet on Lafayette Street, curb-to-curb.

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Union Square Skateboarder Was Killed on Rejected Pedestrian Plaza Space

The crash that killed a skateboarder near Union Square yesterday occurred on a block that DOT intended to use as a part-time pedestrian plaza until the agency capitulated to neighborhood NIMBYs.

Union Square West between E. 17th and E. 16th Streets, where a man was killed by a truck driver yesterday, was proposed as a part-time pedestrian space in 2010. DOT dropped the plan in response to NIMBY objections. Image: NYC DOT

At around 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, the 24-year-old victim, whose name had not been released as of this morning, was run over by the driver of a delivery truck on Union Square West just south of E. 17th Street. Accounts vary, but according to NYPD the man was riding his skateboard when he “lost control” and fell underneath the passing truck.

Though there seem to be as many versions of the crash as there were witnesses, at 3:15 p.m. the Post reported that NYPD had declared the crash an “accident” and would not be filing charges against the driver.

As part of its 2010 plan to give room to pedestrians and cyclists around Union Square, DOT proposed that Union Square West between 17th and 16th Streets be designated as “flex space,” to be closed to motor vehicle traffic at certain times of day.

DOT did not announce the exact hours the space would be car-free before that facet of the plan was dropped in response to complaints from area residents. However, if the block was intended to be programmed as part-time plaza space, it seems likely that it would have been open to pedestrians and closed to motor vehicle traffic at lunchtime on a weekday.

Yesterday’s fatality occurred a short distance from where Roxana Sorina Buta was run over by a hit-and-run truck driver, at Broadway and 14th Street, in May.

This fatal crash occurred in the 13th Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector David Ehrenberg, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 13th Precinct council meetings happen at 6:30 p.m. on the on the third Tuesday of the month at the precinct, 230 E. 21st Street. Call 212-477-7427 for information.

The City Council district where this crash occurred is represented by Rosie Mendez. To encourage Mendez to take action to improve street safety in her district and citywide, contact her at 212-677-1077, or @RosieMendez.


NYPD: No Video of Driver Who Killed Roxana Sorina Buta

The woman killed by a hit-and-run truck driver at Union Square last week has been identified as Roxana Sorina Buta.

Roxana Sorina Buta

Last Thursday at approximately 1:30 a.m., Buta, 21, was walking east across Broadway at 14th Street, in the crosswalk and with the light, when an eastbound dump truck driver made a right turn and ran her over, according to reports. The driver continued south on Broadway.

Buta, an aspiring actress who came to the U.S. from Romania at age 11, was on her way home to East Harlem from her waitressing job. Cristina Oprea, Buta’s mother, has asked the driver to come forward. The Daily News reports that NYPD has told Oprea that there is no surveillance video of the truck.

Pending corrective action from Albany, motorists in New York have strong incentives to flee the scene of a crash. As we’ve written before, even when they surrender or are caught by police, the current system is weighted to favor drivers who kill. It’s likely that the driver who struck Buta would face only a misdemeanor and would see little to no time in jail. In many cases, all a driver has to do to satisfy police and prosecutors is say he didn’t see the victim.

Roxana Sorina Buta was killed at the intersection of the 6th, 9th and 13th Precincts. To voice your concerns about area traffic safety directly to local commanding officers, go to the next community council meeting. Community council meeting and contact information may be found on each precinct’s respective web page.


Pedestrian Killed by Hit-and-Run Truck Driver at Union Square This Morning

A 21-year-old woman was killed by the driver of a dump truck in a hit-and-run crash at Union Square early today.

According to reports the woman was walking east across Broadway at 14th Street, in the crosswalk and with the light, when the truck driver, also heading east, made a right turn. The driver continued south on Broadway.

From the Daily News:

“He didn’t see her. It was a big truck, a dump truck,” said William Cayame, 22. “The light was for her. She had the walk sign,” he said.

“She fell on the floor. I just heard the sound, like bones breaking,” Cayame said, “It was awful.”

Another witness said he had just come out of a nearby drugstore and heard the awful sound of the woman being crushed.

“I heard the noise. I heard her get hit — boom,” said Rudy Dearaujo, 42. “I saw the police coming from the park and everybody standing here by her body. They were checking her pulse.”

The crash occurred at around 1:30 a.m. The victim, whose name has not been released, died at Beth Israel Hospital.

The News posted a photo of a truck with its coverage, though it’s unclear how the picture relates to the story.


One Year Later, Businesses and Residents Back Safer Union Square

The Union Square Partnership interviewed local business people to see what they thought of the redesign of traffic patterns around the square. Each green dot represents a business that liked the changes, each blue dot signifies no opinion, and the three red dots represent businesses opposed.

It’s been a year since DOT made more room for pedestrians and cyclists around Union Square, and a recent survey shows a neighborhood happy with its new public spaces.

Feedback from businesses and residents led DOT to back away from its original proposal to, among other things, close two blocks of Union Square West to drivers during part of each day. Recognizing that remaining opponents were hopelessly intransigent, the local community board ultimately approved the plan by a vote of 24-1. By last September the changes were in place. In addition to installing roomy new public plazas, the city extended the protected bike lane on Broadway through 17th Street and around Union Square.

In August the Union Square Partnership collected surveys from 60 area businesses asking what they thought of the redesign. Thirty-six said it was a “good thing,” 21 had no opinion and three thought it was a “bad thing” [PDF]. Even the three who disapprove admitted that it hadn’t hurt their business. According to the New York Times, no businesses or store managers complained to elected officials, either.

“The vast majority of visitors in the district arrive on foot and public transportation, therefore the enhanced pedestrian environment has made the area more attractive to shoppers and diners,” explained Jennifer Falk, the executive director of the Union Square Partnership.

Most important, the streets are safer. On Broadway north of the square, for example, DOT reports the share of vehicles speeding dropped from 28 percent to 12 percent after the redesign [PDF]. Pedestrians crossing 17th Street at Broadway were given more than twice as much time to cross a street that is almost half as wide as before.

At the same time, motor vehicle speeds were not negatively affected by the changes. Taxi speeds fell by four percent on Fifth Avenue but rose by 14 percent on 18th Street, where the worst congestion was predicted by project opponents. On Park Avenue, speeds rose by marginal amounts.

Business people who were previously opposed came around to the plan, said Falk. “Their major concerns — increased traffic congestion, difficulty finding parking, delivery problems — never came to fruition,” she said. “Vehicles adapted to the new traffic patterns without disrupting normal flows.”

A broader Partnership survey, which included area residents, employees and visitors, found that 74 percent liked the new traffic pattern, with only 16 percent opposed.

DOT made some alterations after installation and plans to make more adjustments. Already, a few signals have been re-timed. A traffic calming neckdown was removed at 17th and Park while another was shaved down to make for easier vehicular turns at Broadway and 22nd. To alleviate crosstown traffic congestion, DOT is considering installing additional turn lanes at certain locations.


It’s Opening Day for the Newest Stretch of Broadway’s Green Ribbon

Officials from NYU, Community Board 5, the Union Square Partnership and the Flatiron __ Join DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan to cut the ribbon on Union Square improvements.

Officials from NYU, Community Board 5, the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership, the Union Square Partnership and the Greenmarket joined DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan to cut the ribbon on Union Square improvements. Photo: Noah Kazis

One of Manhattan’s premier public spaces is now safer, roomier, and livelier. DOT officially opened its improvements to the Union Square area today, including new pedestrian plazas and a continuation of the Broadway bike lane into a contraflow lane on the north side of the square.

Several pieces of the re-design were already in heavy use today. Greenmarket trucks were in an orderly new alignment, opening up more sidewalk space for crowds of shoppers. Cyclists were riding safely down Broadway and turning left onto 17th Street into a spacious, protected lane. And scores of New Yorkers sat, ate, read, and chatted at the tables and chairs — increasingly-iconic markers of the city’s public space improvements — installed at the northwest corner of Union Square.

The new treatment should help make the area far safer for the more than 200,000 pedestrians who visit Union Square on peak days. Between 2004 and 2008, 95 pedestrians were struck by drivers on the stretch of Broadway below 23rd that was redesigned. The traffic-calmed street should be far safer. “We don’t think that New Yorkers should have to second guess their safety when they cross the street,” said DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

Also praising the new public space were Vikki Barbero, the chair of Community Board 5, Jennifer Falk, the executive director of the Union Square Partnership, Marcel Van Ooyen, who runs the greenmarket, Lynne Brown, a senior vice president at NYU, and Jennifer Brown, the executive director of the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership.

Brown noted the “thriving new businesses opening adjacent to the plazas” that opened two years ago near Madison Square, and Van Ooyen made a surprise pledge to supply plants to decorate the new plazas. Sadik-Khan noted that in the week since 17th Street has been converted from two-way to one-way traffic flow, the department hasn’t heard a single complaint.

DOT made the case for this re-design in part by noting that previous traffic calming efforts further north on Broadway had reduced congestion and left excess capacity on the road, leading to dangerous speeding. Interestingly, Sadik-Khan said she didn’t expect this to be true of Broadway below 14th Street.

More pictures of the new space after the jump:

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Eyes on the Street: Union Square’s Public Space Makeover Underway


Reader Holly Hudson sends this picture of the north side of Union Square earlier today. Orange construction barrels are lined up here and around the corner on Broadway, as crews get ready to add new pedestrian spaces and extend Broadway’s protected bike lane, which will run against the flow of traffic on this particular block.

These public space improvements and safety upgrades received a 24-1-1 community board vote in favor from Manhattan Community Board 5 in July. Union Square is the fourth major public space along the Broadway diagonal — along with Madison Square, Times Square, and Herald Square — where NYCDOT has reclaimed space from traffic and devoted it to pedestrians and cyclists.

What Union Square North will look like when this project is complete. Rendering: NYCDOT

What Union Square North will look like, looking east, when this project is complete. Rendering: NYCDOT