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Posts from the "Upper East Side" Category

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Will NYPD Apply New Vision Zero Law to Cabbie Who Killed Woman on UES?

NYPD has not filed charges against a cab driver who killed a pedestrian on the Upper East Side last week, despite indications that the crash may warrant a misdemeanor charge under a new city law.

The cab driver who killed a woman on the Upper East Side last week may or may not lose his hack license under Cooper's Law. Image: WCBS

The cab driver who killed a woman on the Upper East Side last week may or may not be charged under a new law that makes it a misdemeanor to strike pedestrians and cyclists who have the right of way. Image: WCBS

Available information suggests the cab driver failed to yield to a pedestrian with the right of way. According to press accounts, the 58-year-old victim was in a crosswalk at around 2 p.m. last Friday when the cab driver, who was northbound on Madison, hit her while turning left onto E. 79th Street. The victim was dragged before the driver came to a stop, leaving her pinned beneath the Nissan NV200 cab until witnesses overturned the vehicle, which was still running, to free her.

The woman was declared dead at Lenox Hill Hospital. As of Thursday morning her identity was still being withheld pending family notification, according to NYPD.

The 30-year-old cab driver was not injured, reports said, and his passenger was treated for a head injury at the scene.

“Preliminarily, both of them had the right of way,” an NYPD spokesperson said. This is not possible, but it is a strong indication that the victim was crossing with the walk signal. Since the motorist would have been required by law to yield in this situation, only the victim would have had the right of way.

A new city law makes it a misdemeanor for drivers to strike pedestrians or cyclists who have the right of way. Intro 238, now known as Section 19-190, took effect last month, but at that time a spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio said NYPD wasn’t yet ready to enforce it.

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Eyes on the Street: More Pedestrian Space at Deadly UES Intersection

The crowded intersection of 60th Street and Third Avenue now has a bit more space for pedestrians. Photo: Stephen Miller

The intersection of 60th Street and Third Avenue now has a bit more space for pedestrians. Photo: Stephen Miller

Last September, 16-year-old Renee Thompson was struck and killed by a turning truck driver at the intersection of Third Avenue and 60th Street. Now, the crowded intersection has painted curb extensions on two of the intersection’s four corners that shorten crossing distances and tighten turns.

A DOT proposal in January to Community Board 8 had them on the west side of the intersection, but the curb extensions were striped on the northwest and southeast corners of the intersection last week. Pedestrians could use the extra space: Sidewalks in the area are narrowed by subway entrances, tree pits, and enclosed sidewalk cafes.

Two blocks to the east, the neighborhood received another improvement with the final touches on the two-way bike path on First Avenue beneath the Queensboro Bridge. The concrete barrier separating cyclists from pedestrians was painted last month in a pattern mirroring the tiling on the bridge’s archways above.

The two-way bike path on FIrst Avenue between 59th and 60th Streets now has a concrete barrier to match its tiled ceiling. Photo: Stephen Miller

The two-way bike path on FIrst Avenue between 59th and 60th Streets now has a concrete barrier to match its tiled, arched ceiling. Photo: Stephen Miller

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Two Pedestrians Killed in a Month in Same Upper East Side Precinct

Motorists have killed two pedestrians in the 19th Precinct, on the Upper East Side, in the last month. The second victim was a woman hit by a school bus driver yesterday.

Photo: Neetzan Zimmerman / ##https://twitter.com/neetzan/status/464490348698693633/photo/1##@neetzan##

Photo: Neetzan Zimmerman / @neetzan

The victim was crossing E. 93rd Street at Second Avenue south to north at around 3:30 p.m. when she was run over by the bus driver, who was traveling west on 93rd, according to reports. She died at the scene.

NYPD had not released the victim’s identity as of this afternoon. Reports said she appeared to be in her 40s.

From the Daily News:

“The bus was traveling westbound and trying to get through a yellow light before it turned red. The bus driver didn’t see the pedestrian. He was looking straight ahead trying to make the light,” the witness said.

He said the [Second Avenue subway] construction barriers were likely a factor.

“It really does obfuscate the view,” he said.

Multiple media reports speculated that the victim may have been crossing against the light, though one man told DNAinfo that drivers often run reds at the intersection.

Freddy Alvarez, the resident manager at the nearby Waterford Condominiums, did not witness the accident but saw the gruesome aftermath and groceries scattered in the roadway.

He said that traffic barriers and equipment from construction on the Second Avenue subway line create a hazard for pedestrians and a distraction for drivers.

It is “very dangerous. They don’t stop,” he said. “The fence blocks the [traffic] light.”

A temporary light was placed at the intersection when a stop sign failed to properly regulate traffic, Alvarez said.

“Even with light,” he added, “people don’t stop.”

No summonses were issued to the driver, an NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog, and the investigation is ongoing.

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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.