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Posts from the "Upper West Side" Category

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Eyes on the Street: Why Pedestrian Islands Belong at More NYC Intersections

Photo: Julie Margolies via West Side Rag

Last night, a driver hit a newly-installed pedestrian island at the same crossing where Cooper Stock was killed earlier this year. The driver told police she didn’t see it. Photo: Julie Margolies via West Side Rag

Here’s a reminder of why the city can’t roll out street design changes fast enough. Last night, a driver turning left through the crosswalk from West 97th Street to West End Avenue struck a bollard on a pedestrian island that had been installed just days before. According to West Side Rag, the woman told police that she did not see the bollard before driving into it.

Last night’s crash occurred at the same crossing where 9-year-old Cooper Stock was struck and killed in January, also by a driver making a left turn through the crosswalk.

The pedestrian island was installed this month as part of a road diet DOT proposed in the wake of Cooper’s death and a nearly-identical crash in which a turning driver killed Jean Chambers in the crosswalk at 95th Street this July. The city carved out space for the pedestrian refuge by reducing the number of car lanes on the street.

The concrete island is actually the exception, not the rule, along the revamped West End Avenue. The road diet consists mostly of paint, which channels but does not restrict drivers’ movement. The plan was initially criticized for including pedestrian islands at only 95th and 97th Streets, where fatalities had occurred. DOT later modified the plan and increased that number to four intersections along the 35-block avenue.

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Maximum Penalty for Cab Driver Who Killed Cooper Stock: 15 Days and $750

The cab driver who killed 9-year-old Cooper Stock last January was charged this month with failure to exercise due care, a traffic infraction that carries a maximum 15-day jail sentence and a small fine.

Cooper Stock. Photo: Barron Lerner via ##http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/24/treat-reckless-driving-like-drunk-driving/##New York Times##

Cooper Stock. Photo: Barron Lerner via New York Times

According to court records and the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, an arrest warrant was issued for Koffi Komlani on October 1. He was arraigned in criminal court on October 7, pled not guilty, and was released on his own recognizance.

Here’s how the Daily News described the latest developments in the case, in a story that ran today:

The cabbie who hit and killed 9-year-old Cooper Stock, as the child crossed the street with his father, has been charged in the boy’s death, the Daily News has learned.

Driver Koffi Komlani was arrested Oct. 8 and charged with failure to exercise due care by the Manhattan district attorney, sources said Thursday.

It’s common for the tabloids to make it seem as if law enforcers are seeing justice done for victims of traffic violence when, in actuality, the motorist in question faces relatively mild consequences. The Daily News story looks like another example.

Failure to exercise due care is a violation of VTL 1146 — Hayley and Diego’s Law. Though Komlani was arraigned in criminal court, this is a traffic violation, not a criminal offense. Drivers summonsed for careless driving are subject to jail time of up to 15 days, fines of up to $750, a license suspension of up to six months, and a mandatory drivers’ ed course. These are maximum penalties. The minimum is no penalty at all.

Prosecutors with Vance’s office told Cooper’s family last spring that they would not be filing criminal charges against Komlani.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission opted not to renew Komlani’s probationary hack license when it expired in July. Vance’s office said the judge suspended his drivers license pending the outcome of the case. Komlani’s next court appearance is scheduled for December.

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Eyes on the Street: West End Avenue Gets Its Road Diet

West End Avenue at 85th Street. Photo: John Simpson

West End Avenue at 85th Street. Photo: John Simpson

After Cooper Stock and Jean Chambers were killed in West End Avenue crosswalks by turning drivers earlier this year, DOT unveiled a 35-block road diet for the dangerous Upper West Side street. Now, the plan is on the ground, and pedestrian islands are set to be installed within a month.

The redesign is a standard four- to three-lane road diet, slimming from two lanes in each direction to one lane per direction with center turn lanes. Bike lanes not included.

Streetsblog reader John Simpson sent in photos of the new street design on the ground between 85th and 86th Streets. The repaving and striping appears to be mostly complete.

Concrete pedestrian refuge islands are planned for 72nd, 79th, 95th, and 97th Streets. On Tuesday, DOT staff told the Manhattan Community Board 7 transportation committee that islands will be installed at 95th and 97th Streets “within the month,” reports Emily Frost at DNAinfo. Islands at 72nd and 79th were added to the plan after complaints that the project didn’t include enough of them. Update: DOT says a pedestrian island at 72nd Street will be installed next year, while neckdowns will be built at 79th Street in the coming months as part of a Safe Routes to School program.

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Tonight: Important Complete Streets Meetings in Manhattan and Queens

Tonight’s a big night for livable streets events, with community board meetings on proposals for Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side, and Long Island City. Plus, join Streetsblog at ARTCRANK if you’re looking for some fun.

Key community board meetings tonight are:

  • Manhattan Community Board 2′s transportation committee will consider a resolution requesting that DOT study complete street treatments for Seventh Avenue South, including protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands. The board has already requested similar changes to Fifth and Sixth Avenues. The effort for Seventh Avenue South grew out of a failed attempt to extend the West Village Slow Zone. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.
  • On the East Side, Manhattan Community Board 3′s transportation committee will hear presentations on the Move NY fair tolling plan and a proposal from DOT to tweak the Clinton Street approach to the Williamsburg Bridge, which is used heavily by bicyclists coming to and from Grand Street. The Lower East Side Business Improvement District will also be presenting its proposals for streetscape improvements on Orchard Street. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.
  • The general meeting of Queens Community Board 2 will hear a presentation from DOT on planned pedestrian safety improvements in Long Island City, covering the Hunter/Crescent Area Triangle. The plan for this area, between Queens Plaza South and 44th Drive, would convert some streets to two-way travel, enlarge pedestrian islands, and add painted curb extensions. DOT already presented an earlier version of the plan to CB 2′s transportation committee in March [PDF]. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.

Not in the mood for a community board meeting? Join Streetsblog at Brooklyn Brewery tonight for ARTCRANK, a celebration of bike culture featuring hand-made, bike-inspired posters created by New York area artists. Plus, there will be food and drink. Limited edition, signed copied of all posters will be available for sale. Admission is free and Streetsblog will be raffling off accessories from Timbuk2 and Shinola, so come show your support.

In other community board news: On Tuesday evening, Manhattan Community Board 7 voted overwhelmingly in support of the West End Avenue road diet. The plan now includes pedestrian islands at 72nd and 79th Streets, in addition to those already planned at 95th and 97th Streets, according to West Side Rag. Milling and paving on West End Avenue has already begun, and Council Member Helen Rosenthal says the new striping will be complete by the end of October.

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CB 7 Committee Unanimously Endorses Road Diet for West End Avenue

The Community Board 7 transportation committee last night unanimously endorsed the DOT proposal to improve pedestrian safety on West End Avenue, where drivers have killed two pedestrians this year.

The plan endorsed last night includes more pedestrian islands than a prior version but no bike lanes. Image: NYC DOT

The plan would convert the street from four through lanes to two, with a flush center median, left turn bays, and pedestrian islands at the intersections where Jean Chambers and Cooper Stock were struck.

The plan presented last night was expanded, according to TA’s Tom DeVito, with pedestrian islands at more intersections. We’ll have specifics in a future post.

No bike lanes are included in the proposal, leaving a lot of street design experts scratching their heads, wondering what happened to the bike-friendly NYC DOT. Cyclists would be left to jockey among moving and double-parked vehicles in a 13-foot lane designated for parking and loading. With bike-share set for a possible expansion uptown, former DOT policy director Jon Orcutt tweeted yesterday that the lack of bike lanes could be a “missed opportunity.”

State Senator Adriano Espaillat and former City Council Member Robert Jackson attended to voice support for the plan. (Jackson is currently challenging Espaillat for his senate seat.) Espaillat said he would like DOT to implement safety measures on Amsterdam Avenue as well. Last December CB 7 asked DOT to study a protected bike lane on Amsterdam. DOT recently said the agency would present its findings soon.

The next CB 7 full board meeting is set for September 2.

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Tonight: Speak Up for Pedestrian Safety on Deadly West End Avenue

Image: NYC DOT

Image: NYC DOT

Tonight, the transportation committee of Manhattan Community Board 7 will vote on a DOT proposal to improve safety on West End Avenue, where drivers have killed two pedestrians in 2014. If you live, work, or play on the Upper West Side, your voice could put this proposal over the top.

West End Avenue serves as a thoroughfare for drivers entering and exiting the Henry Hudson Parkway. It is lined with schools and, as home to a high population of seniors, is within a DOT Safe Streets for Seniors focus area. From 2008 to 2012, 148 pedestrians and cyclists were injured in traffic crashes on West End Avenue from W. 75th Street to W. 106th Street, with 11 severe injuries, according to DOT. During that time, 168 motor vehicle occupants were injured, eight severely, which gives some indication of how fast motorists drive on the street.

DOT proposes to give West End Avenue a road diet, converting it from four through lanes to two from W. 72nd Street to W. 106th Street, and adding a flush center median with left turn lanes, with 13-foot parking lanes on both sides [PDF].

DOT would prohibit northbound left turns at W. 97th Street and southbound lefts at W. 95th Street — intersections where drivers killed Cooper Stock and Jean Chambers, respectively. Pedestrian islands would be installed in the north and south crosswalks at W. 95th and W. 97th Streets.

A southbound right turn lane would be added curbside at W. 96th Street. Parking would be removed from the west side of West End Avenue between 97th and 96th, which would improve pedestrian visibility. A current parking restriction on the south side of W. 95th Street from Riverside Drive to West End Avenue would be lifted.

No bike lanes are included in the DOT proposal.

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DOT Proposes Road Diet But Only 4 Ped Islands for 35 Blocks of West End Ave

After two people were killed by motorists along one stretch of West End Avenue this year, DOT promised to calm traffic on this dangerous Upper West Side street. Before a packed house of about 200 residents last night, the agency said changes will be made in two phases, finishing by next spring. The plan: A standard road diet, taking the avenue from two lanes in each direction to one, while adding a center turn lane and widening parking lanes [PDF]. The project is an improvement over the status quo, but many residents last night wanted more.

35 blocks of West End Avenue are slated for a road diet. Intersections that had pedestrian fatalities this year, like 95th Street, will receive refuge islands and turn bans. Other intersections will not. Image: DOT

DOT will install a road diet on 35 blocks of West End Avenue. Intersections where pedestrians were killed this year, like 95th Street, will get pedestrian islands and turn bans. Others will not. Image: DOT

The plan covers the 35 blocks between 72nd and 107th Streets. West End Avenue is scheduled for repaving in two phases after utility work wraps up, and the road diet will be implemented then, said DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione. The segment north of 86th Street is expected to be complete by the end of this year; south of 86th will be done next spring.

Only two intersections will get pedestrian islands along these 35 blocks. There will be two islands each at the two intersections where people lost their lives this year: West 95th Street, where Jean Chambers was killed July 10, and West 97th Street, where Cooper Stock was killed six months earlier.

Left turns from West End Avenue will be banned at those two intersections, and drivers turning left from the side streets will have to navigate around the islands, slowing their turns. Both Chambers and Stock were killed by drivers making left turns from side streets.

“This portion of West End Avenue is really handling a portion of regional trips of people going to and from the Henry Hudson Parkway,” said DOT Director of Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs Josh Benson. “We really think it’s going to influence the way people make those heavy left turns.”

Last night, residents were generally supportive of the proposals while asking the city to go further. While a few people opposed pedestrian-friendly parts of the plan, citing car congestion, they were outnumbered by residents who want more to be done. “Something needs to be at the centerline of every intersection, because if not, we’re going to have a death at 99th and a death at 100th,” said 99th Street resident Chris Henry.

“The proposal looks good, but could we have these islands at 72nd?” asked Candace Burnett, who lives near 72nd and Riverside Drive. Both 72nd and 79th Streets, like the area around 96th Street, mix pedestrians with heavy car traffic going to and from the Henry Hudson Parkway.

DOT senior project manager Jesse Mintz-Roth said the agency doesn’t currently have the resources for this project to study or include more pedestrian islands, though they could be added to the plan as it gets closer to implementation.

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At Jean Chambers Vigil, Urgent Pleas for Action Before Another Life Is Lost

John Chambers addresses last light's vigil for his wife Jean, killed last week by a turning driver at West End Avenue and 95th Street. Photo: Stephen Miller

John Chambers speaks at the vigil for his wife Jean, who was killed last week by a turning driver at West End Avenue and 95th Street. Photo: Stephen Miller

Yesterday evening, more than 100 people gathered on the corner of 95th Street and West End Avenue to remember 61-year-old Jean Chambers, killed last week by a turning driver while she had the “walk” signal. Jean’s husband and other traffic violence victims spoke at the vigil, and Council Member Helen Rosenthal announced that in the wake of this latest death, DOT will soon redesign at least 10 blocks of West End Avenue.

Jean Chambers is the fourth person killed in traffic within a two-block radius on the Upper West Side since January. After two nearby deaths at 96th Street and Broadway, DOT quickly implemented recommendations that had been developed last year. But it took yet another death to bring more street safety changes to the neighborhood.

“Jean came to 95th Street expressly to avoid 96th Street, because 96th Street and West End is especially treacherous,” said John Chambers, Jean’s husband. “There’s an irony there. She was very conscientious.”

Last night, Rosenthal said DOT has committed to a redesign of West End Avenue, a wide street with ill-defined lanes that handles lots of car traffic going to and from the West Side Highway. ”It will be at least ten blocks, and I think it’s going to be longer,” she said, adding that DOT will be making big changes soon. ”It’s going to be faster than you’ve ever seen,” she said. DOT said it hopes to work with Rosenthal and Community Board 7 to develop the project in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, there are a number of smaller changes DOT is making. Another speed hump on 95th Street between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive is planned, and a leading pedestrian interval at 95th Street and West End Avenue will be installed next week, DOT says. A ban on left turns from 95th to West End, the maneuver made by the driver who killed Chambers, was approved just days before Chambers’s death and implemented very recently [PDF]. The ban is only in effect from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on weekdays, however. Rosenthal hopes DOT will make it around-the-clock and install signs reminding drivers coming off the West Side Highway at 95th Street to drive carefully.

Many of these changes have been requested for years by parents at PS 75, where Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his Vision Zero action agenda in February. John Decatur is a father of three and has two children at PS 75, where he serves as co-president of the PTA. “Many parents have told me about nearly getting hit by cars. At the crosswalk where Jean was killed, I had my kids in the crosswalk. A driver leaned out and said, ‘Get your fucking kids out of the crosswalk,” he said. “I had the light.”

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Another UWS Pedestrian Killed as Safety Recommendations Sit on the Shelf

Existing conditions at W. 95th Street and West End Avenue, where a driver fatally struck Jean Chambers Thursday. Chamber was hit in the north crosswalk as the driver turned left from W. 95th onto northbound West End Ave. Image: Nelson\Nygaard

Existing conditions at W. 95th Street and West End Avenue, where a driver fatally struck Jean Chambers Thursday. Chambers was hit in the north crosswalk as the driver turned left from W. 95th onto northbound West End Ave. Image: Nelson\Nygaard

A proposal for safety improvements on the Upper West Side might have prevented the crash that killed a pedestrian Thursday, but the plan was not acted upon by Community Board 7 or DOT.

At approximately 11 a.m. yesterday a 50-year-old motorist turning left from W. 95th Street onto West End Avenue struck Jean Chambers in the crosswalk, knocking her underneath the Ford SUV he was driving, according to reports.

Jean Chambers. Photo via DNAinfo

Jean Chambers. Photo via DNAinfo

From DNAinfo:

“She had the walk sign and the light was green for the car too,” said doorman Bilbil Loka, 32, who witnessed the accident from his post at 710 West End Ave. “But the driver made a very short left turn, going uptown.”

“He dragged her for almost 30 feet, everybody heard her scream.”

Chambers, an artist who lived nearby, was pronounced dead at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital. She was 61.

The intersection where Chambers was killed was one of a number of Upper West Side crossings included in a 2013 pedestrian safety study by consulting firm Nelson\Nygaard [PDF]. The study was commissioned by local City Council members, but Community Board 7 sat on the report’s recommendations until a series of pedestrian deaths this year spurred residents to demand action from the city.

Following the deaths of  Cooper StockAlexander Shear, and Samantha Lee — all killed by drivers within the study area last January — DOT added pedestrian space and turn restrictions at Broadway and W. 96th Street, where Lee was struck.

Plans for other intersections remain on the shelf, despite known hazards to pedestrians. The study, for example, describes conditions that led to the crash that killed Jean Chambers: “vehicles turn left northbound from W 95 St onto West End Ave at wide angles and high speeds, creating pedestrian conflicts.”

In the wake of the fourth pedestrian fatality in the same immediate area this year, DOT says it may give pedestrians more crossing time at the intersection where yesterday’s crash occurred, will institute a left turn ban there for 10 hours a week, and is considering a new speed bump.

To slow drivers down, Nelson\Nygaard recommends more substantial changes, including curb extensions, pedestrian islands, and banning left turns.

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Manhattan DA Cy Vance Won’t Prosecute Cab Driver Who Killed 9-Year-Old

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance will file no criminal charges against the cab driver who killed 9-year-old Cooper Stock and injured his father in an Upper West Side crosswalk in January.

Cooper Stock. Photo: Barron Lerner via ##http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/24/treat-reckless-driving-like-drunk-driving/##New York Times##

Cooper Stock. Photo: Barron Lerner via New York Times

Lisa Belkin of Yahoo News reports that prosecutors met Wednesday with Cooper’s parents, Richard Stock and Dana Lerner.

“They told me there is nothing in the law right now that specifies that he can be charged with any crime,” Lerner said, describing the meeting. Under New York law, criminal charges can only be brought if a driver who injures or kills a pedestrian commits two misdemeanors at a time. Because the driver, Koffi Komlani, was charged with “failure to yield” but nothing else, he will face a penalty of up to $300 and three points on his license.

First, the “rule of two” is an arbitrary standard that holds that a New York State motorist who is breaking at least two traffic laws at the time of a crash may be charged with criminal negligence. It has no statutory basis, and as a candidate for DA in 2009, Vance pledged to challenge the precedent in court.

Here is a passage that used to appear on a now-defunct page on Vance’s campaign web site:

There is no reason why two traffic violations are necessary in order to support a conviction of criminally negligent homicide. I view the “Rule of Two” as the result of case law which should be modified to reflect the reality that one vehicular crime is fully capable of killing. Although in recent years this notion has been applied by the courts in a less strict manner — it is indisputable that it does not take two violations to kill someone. Many violations — speeding, running a red light, or failing to stop at a stop sign are more than dangerous enough to take a life.

So why did Vance decline to pursue charges for this vehicular killing? As was the case when Vance failed to prosecute the cab driver who severed the leg of a Midtown tourist, the public is left to guess. “A spokesman for the DA’s office said that the agency does not comment on investigations or charges that are not brought,” Belkin reports.

Instead, Vance’s office referred to testimony it provided to the City Council in February: “It can be difficult for people to understand why a crash that seriously injures or kills someone is not always a crime. The reality is that often these cases do not meet the complicated legal requirements for criminal charges.”

It is difficult to understand why Vance is not prosecuting sober reckless drivers who injure, maim, and kill, especially since he refuses to say.