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Posts from the "Upper West Side" Category

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CB 7 Committee Asks DOT, 7-0, for Amsterdam Avenue Complete Street Study


After a three-and-a-half-hour meeting that itself followed a nearly three-hour deliberation last month, the Manhattan Community Board 7 transportation committee voted 7-0, with three abstentions, for a resolution asking DOT to study safety improvements for Amsterdam Avenue. The resolution asks DOT to consider a protected bike lane, pedestrian islands, removing one of the avenue’s four car lanes, and retiming signals. It now moves to the full board for a vote on November 6.

There are many more injuries and fatalities on Amsterdam Avenue than on other northbound avenues on the Upper West Side, according to CrashStat.org. Last December, Transportation Alternatives clocked 81 percent of Amsterdam Avenue drivers exceeding the 30 mph speed limit, with one in five drivers on a weekday afternoon traveling 40 mph or faster.

“I’ve got a major concern about speeding,” said Peter Arndtsen, district manager of the Columbus Amsterdam Business Improvement District. “Something has to be done.” Arndtsen said that while the BID does not oppose or support a bike lane on Amsterdam, it would like a bus lane considered. During public testimony last night, TA showed a video of business owners on both avenues who support the protected bike lanes. Over 200 area businesses and community groups have signed on to TA’s campaign. The Columbus Avenue BID also urged the board to support a protected bike lane on Amsterdam.

This is the latest chapter in a long campaign for protected bike lanes on the Upper West Side. Community Board 7 has hosted many hours-long meetings on the issue over the years — first for Columbus Avenue, which was considered as two separate phases, and now for Amsterdam.

Last night’s three abstentions came from committee member Lillian Moore and longtime co-chairs Dan Zweig and Andrew Albert, who all spoke against a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue before the vote. All three insisted they don’t oppose bike lanes, they would just prefer studies for bike lanes on other avenues.

During committee discussion of the resolution, Zweig said he didn’t trust the data showing the reduction in traffic injuries following the installation of protected bike lanes. “We had statistics from DOT that had a great deal of problems,” he said, referring to his insistence earlier this year that DOT eliminate one year of data because it showed there were a high number of crashes on Columbus Avenue before the bike lane was installed. DOT refused to cherrypick the data according to Zweig’s wishes.

Zweig then began ranting about personal experiences with cyclists riding on the sidewalk, the wrong way, and against red lights. He also said the City Council needs to pass a law requiring cyclists to use protected bike lanes where they have been installed. “Let’s get the enforcement,” Zweig said. “Let’s pass that and get that moving before we even think of asking DOT to study anything else.”

“I acquired the reputation of being anti-bike lane. You may have seen it in all the bike lobby press,” said Zweig, who opposed lanes on both Amsterdam and Columbus. He then repeated his statement from last month that protected bike lanes are “the only ones worth doing.” Just not on streets where community members are asking for them, apparently.

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Manhattan CB 7 Committee Keeps Dithering on Amsterdam Avenue Safety

Despite starting off with a somber reminder of the damage created by dangerous driving, Manhattan Community Board 7′s transportation committee ended its meeting last night gridlocked over whether to support meaningful street safety improvements.

CB 7 committee members seem to agree that Amsterdam Avenue, shown at 97th Street, is too dangerous, but can't make up their minds about a proposal to calm traffic. Image: Google Maps

One of the committee’s first actions was to ask DOT to add an honorary street sign at the corner of 97th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in memory of Ariel Russo, age 4, who was killed by an unlicensed teen driver fleeing police in June. But when it came time to discuss fixing one of the most dangerous streets in the neighborhood, Amsterdam Avenue, the leaders of the committee didn’t show much urgency.

Amsterdam is the only four-lane one-way avenue in the neighborhood, and has a higher number of crashes than other northbound avenues on the Upper West Side, according to crash statistics compiled by Transportation Alternatives. Nearly 200 local businesses and community groups have signed on to TA’s campaign for a protected bike lane and pedestrian refuges on the street.

Last night, more than 20 members of the public spoke before the committee, with a majority in favor of a protected bike lane. The committee then began its own discussion, with members digressing into topics ranging from bicycle registration to street trees. The tenor of discussion, which TA’s Tom DeVito characterized as more positive than a previous committee meeting in the spring, was reminiscent of the board’s multi-year deliberation on a similar proposal for Columbus Avenue.

In what may be a sign of progress, committee co-chair Dan Zweig said protected bike lanes “are really the only ones worth doing,” but he suggested one for Central Park West, not Amsterdam. Later in the meeting, CB 7 chair Mark Diller also said his “first preference” for a protected bike lane was CPW.

For years, the Community Board 7 transportation committee has been run by Zweig and Andrew Albert, who have developed a reputation for stalling street redesigns. That much seemingly hasn’t changed.

As the meeting came to a close after three hours, Albert sought to sidestep the question of physical traffic-calming improvements entirely. “If you really want to make Amsterdam Avenue safer,” he said, “All you have to do is change the timing of the lights.”

Democratic City Council nominee Helen Rosenthal and Manhattan Borough President-elect Gale Brewer, who currently represents the district in the City Council, were both in attendance last night. As the presumptive council member and borough president starting next year, they would be responsible for most of the appointments to CB 7, with Brewer having the ability to dismiss current members. The committee is scheduled to meet again on October 8.

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Eyes on the Street: Pedestrian Island Construction on Columbus Avenue

Columbus Avenue at 75th Street. Photos: Doug Gordon

DOT continues to make progress with the extension of the Columbus Avenue protected bike lane. Doug Gordon sent us these shots, taken this morning, of pedestrian island construction at 75th and 73rd Streets.

After gaining the support of Community Board 7, the lane is being extended north to 110th Street and south to 70th Street, where it will become a shared lane to 59th Street before linking up with the Ninth Avenue protected lane.

The first phase of the Columbus Avenue lane, from 96th Street to 77th Street, brought a 41 percent drop in injuries to pedestrians. Transportation Alternatives has mounted a campaign to improve bike and pedestrian safety on Amsterdam Avenue with a corresponding northbound protected route.

Columbus at 73rd.

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Eyes on the Street: A Complete Street on Columbus Avenue, Completed

DOT crews install a pedestrian island at Columbus Avenue and 109th Street this afternoon. Photo: Stephen Miller

Foot-dragging from Community Board 7 meant it was split into two phases, but a protected bike lane, with pedestrian islands, is close to the finish line for Columbus Avenue between 110th and 70th Streets. The initial paint went down a couple weeks ago. This afternoon, DOT crews were installing the pedestrian islands and striping the bike lane with green paint.

The protected bike lane, which ends at 70th Street to become a shared lane before resuming as the Ninth Avenue protected bike lane at 59th Street, does not have a northbound pair, meaning that Upper West Siders looking to go uptown by bike have more limited options. A campaign led by Transportation Alternatives aims to build support among residents, community board members, and elected officials to bring a northbound complete street to Amsterdam Avenue, as well.

DOT workers spray green paint in the protected bike lane on Columbus Avenue at 104th Street. Photo: Stephen Miller

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Eyes on the Street: The Columbus Avenue Bike Lane, Part Two

Columbus Avenue looking south from 76th Street. Photo: Mark Gorton

The Columbus Avenue protected bike lane won’t be a disconnected stub much longer. DOT is striping extensions of the bike lane south from 77th Street and north from 96th Street this summer, following a supportive vote from Manhattan Community Board 7 in February. Streetsblog publisher Mark Gorton sent in this shot looking south from 76th Street this morning.

This project will basically link the Columbus Avenue bike lane with the Ninth Avenue bike lane, though the plan calls for sharrows instead of a protected bike lane between 69th Street and Broadway. More than 20 blocks of Columbus are in line for the substantial pedestrian safety benefits seen along the existing Columbus Avenue segment — a 41 percent drop in injuries, according to DOT.

Neighborhood advocates fought long and hard to win this street safety improvement, repeatedly encountering resistance from the co-chairs of CB 7′s transportation committee. Next on the agenda for Upper West Side street safety: the transportation committee is meeting this Wednesday to discuss the future of other major avenues in the neighborhood.

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West Harlem Council Candidates Want Bike-Share, Complete 125th Street SBS

District 7 City Council candidates Brodie Enoch, Christina Gonzalez, David Sasscer-Bergos, Joyce Johnson, Mark Levine, Mark Otto, Zead Ramadan, and Ruben Dario Vargas at last night's sustainability forum, hosted by the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund and WE ACT for Environmental Justice at Convent Avenue Baptist Church. Photo: Stephen Miller

Candidates for a City Council seat on the west side of Upper Manhattan expressed support for bike-share expansion and complete Select Bus Service on 125th Street at a campaign forum last night. Some candidates urged the city to restore the original SBS plan and extend the bus lane west, after DOT curtailed its proposal to the delight of State Senator Bill Perkins.

Candidates Brodie Enoch, Christina Gonzalez, Joyce Johnson, Mark Levine, Mark Otto, Zead Ramadan, David Sasscer-Burgos, and Ruben Dario Vargas attended last night’s sustainability forum, sponsored by the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund and WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

Enoch, who serves on Community Board 11′s transportation committee and is a former Transportation Alternatives staffer, told Streetsblog after the forum that he is afraid riders on the western end of 125th Street are never going to get a bus lane. “[The city and MTA] are going to other corridors where there’s less resistance,” he said.

Levine called the diminished plan “crazy” because it no longer features bus lanes from Lenox to Morningside Avenues. “Our community will not have, under the current plan, a bus-only lane. That deprives us of the main benefit of Select Bus Service,” he said.

Johnson said that paying her fare before boarding SBS routes confused her at first, but she quickly understood how it helped speed up and improve bus service. ”It is much quicker across town on these major thoroughfares,” she said. Otto joined her in expressing general support for SBS on 125th Street.

Ramadan joined Levine and Enoch in calling for the full bus lane proposal to be restored. One of his other ideas for bus service didn’t make as much sense: To reduce bus idling in the district, he suggested that Bronx buses should terminate on the Bronx side of the Harlem River, and that riders transfer to Manhattan via a shuttle bus every 15 minutes.

Neither Sasser-Bergos nor Gonzalez discussed SBS in response to a question about the program.

When asked to identify the greatest environmental challenge facing the district, Enoch and Levine both singled out traffic and livable streets. “To be a greener city and a safer city, we have to entirely re-vision how we use streets,” Levine told Streetsblog after the forum. He added that he supports on-street parking removal for bike lanes and loading zones, off-street parking maximums in the zoning code, and market prices for on-street parking. Levine and Ramadan both told Streetsblog after the forum that they support a car-free Central Park.

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Eyes on the Street: SUV Driver Crashes Into Ambulance at 71st and Broadway

Photo: Liz Patek

Reader Liz Patek sends in these photos of a crash at 71st and Broadway last night. According to witnesses she spoke to, the driver of the car with the smashed-up front T-boned the ambulance. It seems that, miraculously, no one was seriously hurt. NYPD’s public information office had no information on the crash, but it appears as though the ambulance driver was traveling northbound on Broadway or Amsterdam and struck by the SUV driver heading westbound on 71st.

This intersection received a slate of pedestrian safety improvements two years ago. Clearly, crashes still happen here, but in the event of a collision it helps to have a narrower roadway and big, chunky, heavy things between the cars and the pedestrian space.

Photo: Liz Patek

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City Council Candidates on the Issues: Mel Wymore, District 6

We continue our series on City Council candidates with a Q&A with former Community Board 7 chair Mel Wymore, who’s running to represent District 6 on the Upper West Side. Earlier this week, we ran responses from real estate executive Ken Biberaj, Democratic Party District Leader Marc Landis, former Community Board 7 chair Helen Rosenthal, and Green Party candidate Tom Siracuse. Streetsblog did not receive questionnaire responses from Democratic State Committeewoman Debra Cooper and education activist Noah Gotbaum.

City Council District 6 candidate Mel Wymore. Photo: Mel Wymore/Facebook

Streetsblog: The effort to bring protected bike lanes to the Upper West Side continues to face hurdles from some community board members. Do you think the lanes are a benefit for the neighborhood? Do you want to see them expanded and, if so, where?

Mel Wymore: The protected bike lane along 20 blocks of Columbus Avenue, which I brought from committee to the full board as chair of Community Board 7, was a big win for the Upper West Side. In its first year of use, cycling on the avenue increased while sidewalk biking virtually disappeared, and pedestrian injuries dropped 41 percent. The bike lane brought with it benefits like pedestrian refuge islands, dedicated loading zones and left-turn lanes that make the street safer for all users and calm traffic while improving traffic flow. When some merchants on the avenue raised concerns about delivery access to their stores, I formed a task force that worked with DOT to address the problems. I look forward to the expansion of the Columbus redesign this summer, and believe the next candidate for such treatment should be Amsterdam Avenue, which is one of the five most dangerous streets in Manhattan.

SB: Outgoing Council Member Gale Brewer has been a strong supporter of closing the Central Park drives to automobile traffic. Do you also support a car-free Central Park? If so, how would you like to see a car-free Central Park implemented?

MW: In spring 2011 I initiated and championed a borough-wide resolution calling for an extended trial closing of Central Park’s loop road to traffic. Every community board surrounding the park approved the resolution, which was then passed unanimously by the Manhattan Borough Board. Central Park was created as a refuge from the surrounding city, and from the beginning the park’s bucolic loop road has been an integral part of that design. The loop is now the most-used recreational space in the park, and perhaps in the city. Moreover, allowing car traffic on this road only serves as an enticement to drive to Midtown, adding to congestion. Returning Central Park to the city dwellers for whom it was intended is simple: close it to motor vehicles now and forever. Within a week or two, overall traffic will shrink and I am confident that New Yorkers will never look back.

SB: Citi Bike was launched last month. Plans call for the program to be expanded to the Upper West Side in the future. Do you support the siting of bike-share stations in the neighborhood?

MW: I participated in workshops led by the DOT to propose bike-share station locations here on the Upper West Side. I was disappointed to learn that the initial build-out would not reach most of our district, and I eagerly await the planned expansion to 79th Street and hopefully beyond. Bike-share gives our city an exciting new “fill-in-the-gaps” public transportation option, and the siting of stations is a good use of scarce public street space. Implementation of the bike-share program will also expand day-to-day cycling culture and prompt ongoing improvements to our cycling infrastructure.

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City Council Candidates on the Issues: Tom Siracuse, District 6

We continue our series on City Council candidates with a Q&A with Green Party candidate Tom Siracuse, who’s running to represent District 6 on the Upper West Side. Earlier this week, we ran responses from real estate executive Ken Biberaj, Democratic Party District Leader Marc Landis, and former Community Board 7 chair Helen Rosenthal. We will continue later this week with former Community Board 7 chair Mel Wymore. Streetsblog did not receive questionnaire responses from Democratic State Committeewoman Debra Cooper and education activist Noah Gotbaum.

City Council District 6 candidate Tom Siracuse. Photo: Elect Siracuse/Facebook

Streetsblog: The effort to bring protected bike lanes to the Upper West Side continues to face hurdles from some community board members. Do you think the lanes are a benefit for the neighborhood? Do you want to see them expanded and, if so, where?

Tom Siracuse: I am in favor of bringing protected bike lanes to the Upper West Side. The more people using bikes, the less air pollution. A study would have to made so that bike lanes will not cause undue traffic congestion such as on Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues.

SB: Outgoing Council Member Gale Brewer has been a strong supporter of closing the Central Park drives to automobile traffic. Do you also support a car-free Central Park? If so, how would you like to see a car-free Central Park implemented?

TS: I favor a car-free Central Park all year. The only roadways open to traffic should be the crosstown transverses that do not affect the interior roadways.

SB: Citi Bike was launched last month. Plans call for the program to be expanded to the Upper West Side in the future. Do you support the siting of bike-share stations in the neighborhood?

TS: Yes.

SB: On the East Side, Select Bus Service on First and Second Avenues has led to faster bus speeds. Do you want dedicated bus lanes and other service improvements for bus riders on the Upper West Side, and if so, where?

TS: We already have an express bus on the 5 bus that goes on Riverside Drive and then to Broadway. Express buses can alternate with regular buses on the 104, 7, 10 and and 11 lines.  My experience with installing machines to buy bus passes before entering the bus is not good. People approaching the bus stop often do not have enough time to buy the pass at the machine before a bus takes off, delaying their travel time. Seniors and the disabled can get stressed out with this extra step.

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City Council Candidates on the Issues: Helen Rosenthal, District 6

We continue our series on City Council candidates with a Q&A with former Community Board 7 chair Helen Rosenthal, who’s running to represent District 6 on the Upper West Side. Earlier this week, we ran responses from real estate executive Ken Biberaj and Democratic Party District Leader Marc Landis. We will continue later this week with Green Party candidate Tom Siracuse and former Community Board 7 chair Mel Wymore. Streetsblog did not receive questionnaire responses from Democratic State Committeewoman Debra Cooper and education activist Noah Gotbaum.

City Council District 6 candidate Helen Rosenthal. Photo: Helen Rosenthal for City Council/Facebook

Streetsblog: The effort to bring protected bike lanes to the Upper West Side continues to face hurdles from some community board members. Do you think the lanes are a benefit for the neighborhood? Do you want to see them expanded and, if so, where?

Helen Rosenthal: The bike lanes are a benefit to our community because they slow traffic, provide a safe lane for bikers, and provide a resting place (the refuge) for seniors or others who can’t get across the street in one light cycle. As chair of Community Board 7 in 2008 and 2009, I shepherded the resolution for the Columbus Avenue bike lane through the transportation committee and full board when the board members were totally resistant to even contemplating a DOT study for a bike lane. We need to make sure the Columbus Avenue bike lane extends below 77th Street to connect with 9th Avenue. We must extend the bike lanes to Amsterdam Avenue! I’m excited to have the opportunity to serve in the Council to continue advocating for bike lanes throughout the city (we urgently need to extend the west side greenway to circle around to the east side of Manhattan).

SB: Outgoing Council Member Gale Brewer has been a strong supporter of closing the Central Park drives to automobile traffic. Do you also support a car-free Central Park? If so, how would you like to see a car-free Central Park implemented?

HR: I too am a strong supporter of closing the Central Park drives to automobile traffic. I ride my bike in Central Park on a regular basis and know that a car-free Central Park would be safer for all those who are enjoying the open space that Central Park provides. As the future city councilwoman whose district will include Central Park, I will work with all the stakeholders to bring about a successful car-free Central Park — much in the same way I worked with residents and landlords to protect affordable housing for Trinity House and the Stern residents (a situation that also seemed intractable).

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