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Posts from the "Upper East Side" Category

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How NYPD’s Opaque Crash Investigations Spoil Its Street Safety Message

Last month, the Upper East Side’s 19th Precinct devoted two full pages to traffic safety in its inaugural monthly newsletter. In an echo of Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who claimed at the initial Vision Zero press conference that 73 percent of crashes injuring pedestrians are the victim’s fault, it featured an eyebrow-raising statistic that blames four of the five Upper East Side pedestrian fatalities in 2013 on the dead victims. But that’s a misleading way to characterize the cause of most pedestrian deaths, and given NYPD’s track record of rushing to blame victims in its crash investigations, it may not even be an accurate depiction of these five Upper East Side deaths.

Renee Thompson and Kenneth McMilleon were two of five pedestrians killed on the Upper East Side last year. Neither . Top: Post Bottom: Daily News

Renee Thompson and Kenneth McMilleon were two of five pedestrians killed on the Upper East Side last year. Top: NY Post; Bottom: Daily News

In a section written by Capt. Oliver Pufolkes [PDF], the precinct’s January newsletter (brought to our attention by a commenter, emphasis added) reads:

Using our data-driven performance management system (Traffic Stat) there are lessons we have gleaned from looking at data for the past calendar year (2013). Last year 59% of pedestrians that were involved in traffic collisions were 61 years of age or older, and 59% of the contributing factor was either driver inattention or drivers’ failure to yield right of way to pedestrians — typically during a turn. Pedestrian error accounted for 10% of those collisions. A thorough investigation by our Department’s Highway Collision Scene Unit revealed that 80% of the pedestrian fatalities (4 out of 5) that occurred last year were due to pedestrian error.

The precinct clarified that each statistic the piece references covers only the pedestrian crashes and fatalities in the precinct, which lies east of Central Park between 59th and 96th Streets.

There’s something curious about these statistics: 10 percent of all Upper East Side pedestrian collisions were caused by pedestrian error, but in the five cases where the victim died, “pedestrian error” jumped to 80 percent. While this is a small sample, it seems that Upper East Side pedestrians who did not survive collisions and could not tell their side of the story were far more likely to be blamed for causing the crash than pedestrians who survived.

The precinct’s stats echo a claim Bratton made last month at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero announcement. Speaking about pedestrian crashes citywide, the police commissioner said that “pedestrian error contributed to 73 percent of collisions, and 66 percent are directly related to the actions of pedestrians.” NYPD never offered an explanation for this claim, but the 19th Precinct did cite a source for its numbers: the “Highway Collision Scene Unit.” Presumably this is a reference to the Collision Investigation Squad, the unit within NYPD’s Highway Division responsible for investigations of traffic fatalities and critical injuries.

In most cases, CIS investigations involve victims who don’t live to tell police their account. The motorists who do the killing, however, can tell their story, and CIS crash reports often rely heavily on what drivers and their passengers tell investigators. As Streetsblog’s Brad Aaron explained last month:

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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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Tomorrow: Celebrate a Safer East Side With TA and Melissa Mark-Viverito

First Avenue at 79th Street, with bike and pedestrian improvements. Photo: DOT

Tomorrow, Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito and Transportation Alternatives will take a well-deserved victory lap on the First and Second Avenue protected bike lanes.

Streetsblog readers know how difficult it was to overcome the misinformation campaign waged by a small number of business owners who didn’t want to see street improvements come to East Harlem. But there are a lot more businesses that support safer streets, and they will be joining in tomorrow’s celebration.

From a TA press release:

“This ride is about celebrating the work we did as a community to bring protected bike lanes to El Barrio/East Harlem,” says City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “The local businesses that Transportation Alternatives will be visiting understand that the bike lanes will help, not hinder, their ability to thrive in our community. I thank Transportation Alternatives, El Museo del Barrio and our local businesses for helping to organize this tour.”

“Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito has demonstrated tremendous leadership by uniting community residents and local businesses around the shared goals of safe neighborhood streets and a strong local economy,” says Caroline Samponaro, Senior Director of Campaigns and Organizing for Transportation Alternatives.

DOT completed work on the First Avenue project on October 15, bringing a smoother, safer ride for cyclists and shorter crossing distances for pedestrians from 72nd to 125th Street.

The tour will visit several bike-friendly businesses and murals in Mark-Viverito’s district. Participating businesses include East Harlem Café, El Paso Taqueria, Heavy Metal Bike Shop, Amor Cubano, Camaradas El Barrio, Spaha Soul, Sabor Borinqueno, El Barrio Juice Bar, and Coco Le Vu Candy Shop and Party Room.

Tomorrow’s ride starts at El Museo del Barrio, at Fifth Avenue and E. 105th Street, at 1 p.m.

Also tomorrow, the TA Queens committee will lead a walking rally for traffic calming and pedestrian safety improvements to 21st Street in Astoria. Queens Community Board 1 has shown interest in making improvements to the street, and has indicated the board may request a study from DOT. City Council members and candidates are expected to be on hand for the walk, which starts at 2 p.m. at the entrance to Queensbridge Park, at Vernon Boulevard and 41st Avenue.

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A Look at the Safer, Smoother First Ave in East Harlem and Upper East Side

Photo: Stephen Miller

We mentioned this briefly in a post about the bike access improvements on the Manhattan side of the Queensboro Bridge, but the redesign of First Avenue in East Harlem and the Upper East Side is completed and worth a closer look.

On October 15, DOT announced that work had wrapped up on the First Avenue project, which included the protected bike lane and pedestrian refuges that neighborhood advocates and Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito had worked so hard for. As you can see in these photos, the pedestrian crossings with islands are now a good 25 to 30 percent shorter. That’s going to make a big difference, especially for older people walking across the street.

The project also repaved the rutted, 30-year-old concrete surface of First Avenue from 72nd Street to 125th Street with fresh asphalt. The resurfacing was done using a new technique that didn’t require a costly reconstruction of the entire road, instead “applying a one-inch layer of highly modified asphalt” on top of the concrete, according to DOT. Riding on the old surface was guaranteed to send jolts up your spine. Here’s a look at the before and after:

First Avenue at 79th Street, before. Photo: NYC DOT

First Avenue at 79th Street, today. Photo: NYC DOT

Among other benefits, the completion of this project means there’s now a protected bikeway linking East Harlem to the Willis Avenue Bridge, leading to a striped bike lane on Willis Avenue in Mott Haven. If you haven’t tried out this new connection in the bike network yet, it should be an excellent route for anyone heading to the Tour de Bronx this Sunday from the other boroughs.

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Eyes on the Street: A Better Queensboro Bridge Approach in Manhattan

A new two-way protected bike lane on First Avenue between 60th and 59th Streets. Photo: Jeremy Lenz

Many commuters on the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge this morning noticed new markings going in on First Avenue for a short but critical extension of the protected bike lane between 59th and 61st Streets. The changes, part of a plan supported by Community Boards 6 and 8 last spring, bring safer connections to both First Avenue and 59th Street.

More than 3,400 people crossed the Queensboro Bridge by bike over a 12-hour period during DOT’s August count last year. Now, riders heading south will be able to use First Avenue for a block and turn right on 59th Street, where sharrows and a new contra-flow bike lane link to Second Avenue. Previously, these riders would have had to head north to 61st Street and navigate the often-clogged car and truck entrance to the bridge.

The plan includes a concrete barrier for the new two-way bike lane on First Avenue and a bicycle traffic signal for cyclists turning left from 59th Street to Second Avenue. There will also be new shared lane markings and flexible posts to help cyclists navigate traffic turning from First Avenue to 57th and 59th Streets. Reader Jeremy Lenz sent in some photos of the progress this morning.

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City Council Candidates on the Issues: Ben Kallos, District 5

We continue our series on City Council candidates with a Q&A with government transparency advocate Ben Kallos, who’s running to represent District 5 in Yorkville, Roosevelt Island, and the Upper East Side. Yesterday, we ran a Q&A with Republican candidate David Garland. Streetsblog did not receive questionnaire responses from Democrats Edward Hartzog and Micah Kellner.

City Council District 5 candidate Ben Kallos. Photo: Benjamin Kallos/Flickr

Streetsblog: The East River Greenway could serve as a primary route for walking and bicycling in the district, but it is disconnected and in need of upgrades. Plans to complete the greenway proceed on a project-by-project basis without a comprehensive vision for a continuous path from 125th Street to the Battery. How would you improve the greenway as council member?

Ben Kallos: The Upper East Side has one of the lowest amounts of green space in New York, so we have to not only protect but expand our open green spaces. I will support the proposed East River Blueway plan for a vision of a continuous waterfront greenway from 38th Street to 60th Street. I also support its expansion as a continuous path from 125th Street to the Battery. If feasible, it will improve quality of life on the East Side. An added benefit will be that bikers currently forced to rely on streets to commute will be able to use the Greenway, keeping both bikers and pedestrians safer.

SB: Protected bike lanes have increased bicycling rates on First and Second Avenue. Do you support these changes? Where else would you like to see protected bike lanes on the Upper East Side?

BK: Improving protected bike lanes is vital to creating a safer city for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. Prior to protected bike lanes, we were all crowded into the same streets, creating an unsafe environment for everyone. Instead, bike lanes should be part of complete streets, so everyone has room to safely navigate. I am committed to working with the community to minimize the negative impact of bike lanes on small business and residents as well as increasing enforcement of traffic infractions by cars and bikes to keep both bikers and pedestrians safe.

SB: Select Bus Service upgrades have sped buses and increased ridership on the same avenues. Do you support these changes? Where else would you like to see bus improvements on the Upper East Side? What types of changes, specifically, would you like to see to bus service?

BK: As a city council member, I will continue to champion the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. As chief of staff to Assembly Member Jonathan Bing, I had the privilege of working to pass the bus lane camera legislation into law that made the BRT system possible. In our district, the M15 on First and Second Avenues Select Bus Service (SBS) has been a resounding success. In cities like Chicago, which have citywide BRT lines, traffic has been cut by as much as 80 percent. I have emerged as the “transit” candidate with the endorsement of Transit Workers Union Local 100 and I will fight for the expansion of transit service and Select Bus Service.

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Mini-Bus Driver Critically Injures Woman, 95, Crossing East 86th Street

NYPD investigates a crash at 86th Street and Madison Avenue where a mini-bus driver critically injured a 95-year-old woman crossing the street. Photo: Stephen Miller

Yesterday at approximately 4:15 p.m., the driver of a white Diamond model mini-bus turning right from Madison Avenue onto East 86th Street struck an unidentified 95-year-old woman crossing the street from south to north. The woman was transported to Weill Cornell Medical Center in critical condition. NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad and DOT investigators were on the scene yesterday evening; police say the investigation is currently ongoing.

It appears the woman was struck in the crosswalk — blood and pieces of clothing were visible just outside the marked crossing early yesterday evening — but NYPD would not confirm. Tomasz Cizek, who works at an optician on the corner where the van driver struck the woman, said police reopened the street to traffic after the woman was taken to the hospital before closing it again about an hour later for the investigation.

A call to the number listed on the bus connects to D & J Ambulette Service of the Bronx, which operates ambulette, Access-A-Ride, and other shuttle services. Streetsblog called and e-mailed D & J this morning; our messages have not yet been returned.

The crash occurred in the City Council district represented by Dan Garodnick. In the wake of Tuesday’s crash where a curb-jumping cab driver maimed a Midtown pedestrian, Garodnick said on Twitter that he would explore options for improved pedestrian safety on Fifth and Sixth Avenues.

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City Council Candidates on the Issues: David Garland, District 5

Streetsblog continues our series on City Council candidates with a look at the race for District 5 in Manhattan, covering Yorkville, Roosevelt Island, and the Upper East Side. The seat has been held by Jessica Lappin, who is now running for Manhattan borough president, for two terms.

City Council District 5 candidate David Garland. Photo courtesy the candidate.

There are four candidates vying for the seat. Republican David Garland, a business management consultant, is joined by three Democrats: Community Board 8 member Ed Hartzog, government transparency advocate Ben Kallos, and Assembly Member Micah Kellner.

Streetsblog sent questionnaires to the campaigns to get a better understanding of where the candidates stand on transit, traffic safety, and transportation policy. We begin today in alphabetical order with responses from Garland and will run answers from Kallos in a separate post. Hartzog and Kellner did not respond.

Streetsblog: The East River Greenway could serve as a primary route for walking and bicycling in the district, but it is disconnected and in need of upgrades. Plans to complete the greenway proceed on a project-by-project basis without a comprehensive vision for a continuous path from 125th Street to the Battery. How would you improve the greenway as council member?

David Garland: I have a grand vision for the East River Greenway, as I think it’s some of the most poorly utilized real estate in Manhattan. Not only should bike and walking paths be seamlessly connected, but we should be finding creative ways to lure people to this beautiful area of the city with limited riverside cafes and restaurants. The area needs buttressing against future storms, and a redesign of the corridor should be done simultaneously.

SB: Protected bike lanes have increased bicycling rates on First and Second Avenue. Do you support these changes? Where else would you like to see protected bike lanes on the Upper East Side?

DG: Absolutely. I think anything that increases biking rates and decreases vehicular traffic is good for health and the environment. That said, the safety challenges that pedestrians face with speeding bikers need to be addressed, as well as the challenges bikers face with the bike lanes being used for commercial staging and pedestrian use also need to be addressed.

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Patchwork Upgrades Move Ahead as East Side Waits for Complete Greenway

The East River Greenway, stepchild of Manhattan’s bikeway network, currently consists of segments beneath, beside, and sometimes even above the FDR Drive. A report issued by New Yorkers for Parks yesterday acknowledged that East Siders awaiting a continuous path will have to wait decades before they can walk or bike on a full-length East River Greenway. In the meantime, an uncoordinated series of plans, studies, and development projects attempt to piece together sections of the route.

New Yorkers for Parks found East Siders could benefit from better access to the East River Greenway in four different surveys, but plans for its completion remain scattered. Map: NY4P

For its study, New Yorkers for Parks measured the quality of and access to open space in the council districts represented by Dan Garodnick and Jessica Lappin, who sponsored the survey.

New Yorkers for Parks has now completed four open space audits for neighborhoods from the Lower East Side [PDF] to East Harlem. Eastern parts of these neighborhoods, which are beyond easy walking distance from Central Park, “are situated along the East River Esplanade, which would better serve residents if it were more accessible, continuous, and well-maintained.”

“Anyone who has spent time in Hudson River Park knows that the benefits of a continuous esplanade are quite great,” NY4P Executive Director Holly Leicht told Streetsblog. The Hudson River Greenway is the busiest multi-use path in the nation, and a critical route for bike commuters. “It’s very broken up on the East Side. It’s very piecemeal,” Leicht said.

The East River waterfront has been the subject of numerous studies and plans. The Department of City Planning released its citywide Greenway Plan in 1993, the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway Master Plan in 2004 and a citywide waterfront plan in 2011. There have also been vision plans that look at smaller sections of the riverfront, from the Municipal Art Society, CIVITAS, Hunter College planning students, and 197-a plans from community boards that looked at Stuyvesant Cove [PDF] and the area beneath the Queensboro Bridge [PDF].

In addition, the Blueway Plan lays out a vision from 38th Street to the Brooklyn Bridge, and EDC is leading a planning process that could bring new sections of the greenway online block-by-block between 38th and 60th Streets from 2015 to 2024.

Even when projects make the jump from the pages of a planning document to reality, the result, for the time being, is still a patchwork. But a greenway becomes truly useful only when it is continuous. Will this patchwork coalesce over coming years to create a continuous route?

Read more…

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CB 6 Supports QBB Bike Access Plan, Including Two-Way Protected Lane

After clearing Manhattan Community Board 6′s transportation committee, 13-1, CB 6′s full board voted on Wednesday to support a DOT proposal to improve bicycle safety near the Queensboro Bridge. CB 6, which covers the area south of 59th Street, joins Community Board 8, which voted to support the plan last month. With community board resolutions in hand, DOT could implement the project by the end of the year.

Coming soon to First Avenue beneath the Queensboro Bridge: a two-way protected bike lane. Image: DOT

The plan would extend the First Avenue protected bike lane south from 61st Street to 59th Street, including a two-way section between 59th and 60th Streets, adding pedestrian refuge islands at 60th and 61st Streets. It also adds shared lanes on First Avenue from 56th Street to 59th Street and extends Second Avenue’s shared lanes by a block, from 59th Street to 58th Street. 59th Street between First and Second Avenues will receive shared lanes, as well as a short contra-flow bicycle lane for westbound cyclists.

On First Avenue, dual left-turn lanes at 57th and 59th Streets push the shared lane closer to the middle of the street. DOT had previously said that there was only enough room for a double-white stripe between the turn lanes and the shared lane, but CB 6 asked DOT to install flexible posts to cut down on the number of drivers looking to jump the queue of cars waiting to turn and improve safety for cyclists in the shared lane. As a result of the request, DOT is likely to install flexible posts on sections of the double-white line.

Community board input also resulted in separate signal phases to reduce conflicts between turning drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians at the intersection of 59th Street and First Avenue. CB 6 also asked for a bicycle traffic signal for cyclists turning left from the lane on 59th Street to Second Avenue, another feature that is likely to be included in the project’s implementation.

There was only one vote in opposition to the plan at Wednesday’s CB 6 meeting, although a complete tally is not available. At previous meetings, DOT said it could implement the plan by the end of the year.