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Posts from the "Upper West Side" Category

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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.

Read more…

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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.

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After Quick Work by CB 7 and DOT, Safety Fixes Debut at 96th and Broadway

Press gathers this morning on an expanded pedestrian island at 96th Street and Broadway that, until recently, had been a left turn lane. Photo: Stephen Miller

Press gathers this morning at a sidewalk extension at 96th Street and Broadway that, until recently, had been a left turn lane. Photo: Stephen Miller

After the deaths of Cooper StockAlexander Shear, and Samantha Lee at or near the intersection of 96th Street and Broadway shook Upper West Siders in January, DOT promised fixes to an intersection that locals complained had become even more dangerous to cross after a reconstruction project just a few years before. This morning, the city debuted those changes, including an expanded pedestrian island and new crosswalk.

“By restricting that left turn onto 96th Street, this island is twice as big as it used to be,” DOT Assistant Commissioner Ryan Russo told the assembled press on the brick-pattern sidewalk. ”You’re standing in former road space.”

While northbound drivers can still turn left from Broadway to westbound 96th Street, drivers heading downtown on Broadway must either continue straight or make a right onto the cross street, resulting in less complex signal timing. Drivers are also now prohibited from turning left from westbound 96th Street to southbound Broadway. The design features a new crosswalk in the Broadway median leading across 96th Street to the subway entrance, as well as curb extensions on Broadway at six intersections between 93rd and 100th Streets.

Borough President Gale Brewer said the city was able to act quickly after the fatalities because Community Board 7 had already worked with consultants on a plan to improve pedestrian safety in the area. ”We had a head start,” she said, adding that her office has worked with all 12 Manhattan community boards to compile a list of dangerous streets and intersections [PDF]. ”DOT really is investigating each and every hot spot and will work on a plan for each and every one,” Brewer said.

Read more…

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With Key Positions Unchanged, CB 7 Still Puts Parking Above All [Updated]

To Manhattan CB 7, these free parking spots make all the difference. Image: Google Maps

To Manhattan CB 7, these free parking spots make all the difference. Image: Google Maps

New term, same old Manhattan Community Board 7.

On Tuesday, the Upper West Side board voted against a proposal to remove a handful of parking spaces on Central Park West at W. 106th Street, where cars sit in front of the park’s Strangers Gate entrance.

A source tells Streetsblog that the resolution, which was more than a year in the making, would have “afford[ed] an unobstructed view of the entrance, as is already the case with all the park’s other entrances.”

“Several board members expressed considerable concern over the loss of free parking and co-chair Dan Zweig spoke twice against the proposal,” the source said.

Also on Tuesday, the board recommended against a City Council bill that would suspend or revoke TLC licenses of cab drivers who are summonsed or convicted, respectively, of traffic violations following crashes that result in critical injury or death. The bill was proposed after 9-year-old Cooper Stock was killed by a cab driver in an Upper West Side crosswalk. DNAinfo reports:

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DOT Plans Changes for UWS Intersections After Pedestrian Deaths [Updated]

Video: Barron Lerner, uncle of Cooper Stock, speaks at last night’s CB 7 forum.

Update: DOT’s presentation on the intersection of Broadway and W. 96th Street is here.

DOT last night presented proposals to improve conditions for pedestrians in an area of the Upper West Side where three people were killed by motorists in January.

The Community Board 7 forum was packed with residents and electeds, who are looking to the city to take action in the wake of the deaths of Cooper Stock, Alexander Shear, and Samantha Lee.

At 96th and Broadway, where Shear was struck by the driver of a tour bus, the biggest change would be a ban on left turns from Broadway by southbound drivers, and the addition of a crosswalk linking Broadway’s center medians north and south of 96th, according to CB 7 member Ken Coughlin.

There is a subway entrance in the middle of Broadway on the south side of the intersection, a project that precipitated the removal of a significant amount of sidewalk space. Coughlin told Streetsblog pedestrians at the northwest corner of the intersection can be forced to wait almost two minutes to reach the subway entrance, since they have to cross both 96th Street and Broadway.

In addition to reducing conflicts between pedestrians and turning drivers, Coughlin says “The new plan gives pedestrians a second option, to cross in the middle, and cuts the wait way down.” Left turns from northbound Broadway onto 96th would still be allowed, Coughlin says.

“These [southbound] turns are currently very dangerous for pedestrians because the turn phase starts before those crossing 96th on the east side of Broadway get their walk signal,” says Coughlin. “Seeing traffic on 96th stopped for a red, many pedestrians start walking, unaware that turning traffic is coming toward them to their left.”

At W. 97th Street and West End Avenue, Gothamist reports that DOT has increased the leading pedestrian interval from six to 12 seconds, will be adding “yield to pedestrians” signage, and will consider adjusting signal times on 97th from Amsterdam Avenue to Riverside Drive. Most important, DOT will daylight the intersection by removing three parking spots, according to Gothamist.

Read more…

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Next Week: DOT to Preview Ped Safety Improvements for 96th and Broadway


The public will hear from DOT next week at a Community Board 7 meeting on proposed improvements at Broadway and 96th Street, after three pedestrians were fatally struck by drivers at or near the intersection this month.

“Safety is our top priority and we are actively identifying and evaluating a range of options for the area,” said DOT spokesperson Scott Gastel in an email. ”As we mentioned last week, we are developing a proposal with pedestrian safety enhancements for the intersection of West 96th Street and Broadway, and will present it to Community Board 7 as soon as possible.”

The last major change to this stretch of Broadway came when DOT hacked away nine feet of sidewalk as part of a project that added a new subway entrance in the middle of the street. Clarence Eckerson and Streetsblog Publisher Mark Gorton interviewed pedestrians about crowded conditions on Broadway for Streetfilms when that plan was revealed in 2006, when Iris Weinshall was DOT commissioner.

There were 73 pedestrian and cyclist injuries at Broadway and 96th between 1995 and 2009, according to Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat. NYPD data mapped by NYC Crashmapper showed 72 crashes there from August of 2011 through October 2013, an average of 2.67 crashes per month. Eight pedestrians and four vehicle occupants were injured at the intersection during that period.

The area got the attention of Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton when a spate of crashes resulted in the deaths of pedestrians Alexander Shear, Samantha Lee, and Cooper Stock. Shear was struck by an MTA bus driver at Broadway and 96th; Lee was hit by an ambulance driver on 96th between Broadway and West End Avenue; and 9-year-old Stock and his father were run over by a cab driver at West End Avenue and 97th Street.

Residents and electeds last week demanded safer streets at a vigil for Stock and Shear. Unfortunately, the city’s response to this point has been to focus on the behavior of those who are being injured and killed. At a CompStat meeting this morning, Bratton again praised the 24th precinct for “taking action” and doing an “excellent job” by ticketing pedestrians at Broadway and 96th. De Blasio made similar comments after the precinct summonsed 18 pedestrians and five motorists last weekend, when a senior ended up bloodied and criminally charged after he was stopped by police for crossing against the signal.

“It will take time to fix that very dangerous intersection,” Bratton said, according to the NYPD Twitter feed.

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At Upper West Side Vigil, Families Mourn 9-Year-Old Lost to Traffic Violence

Hours after Mayor de Blasio unveiled his administration’s approach to sharply reducing traffic deaths yesterday, hundreds of New Yorkers gathered at an Upper West Side intersection to mourn 9-year-old Cooper Stock, who was killed last Friday by a turning taxi driver while crossing West End Avenue with his father.

Koffi Komlani, the driver who killed Stock, has received only a summons for failure to yield to a pedestrian, and has not faced criminal charges or disciplinary action from TLC. The case remains under investigation by NYPD and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

“The fact that people can drive into people and kill them and get away with a traffic violation, which I understand is commonplace, is utterly appalling,” said Barron Lerner, Stock’s uncle, who was joined by the victim’s mother, Dana Lerner, at the vigil. ”I can’t imagine to live in a society that would tolerate that,” he said.

Julie Dermer, who lives in the same building as the Stock family and whose son was friends with Cooper, reminded the crowd that Upper West Siders have been advocating for safer streets for years, including a 2008 report with recommendations for 97th Street, where Cooper was killed. “The response has been, ‘We’ll study it,’” she said. “I’m not an urban planner, but this doesn’t seem like rocket science.”

Last year, Community Board 7 requested an honorary street renaming to memorialize 4-year-old Ariel Russo, who was killed by an unlicensed teen driver, but the same community board has dragged its feet for months and even years on safety fixes for major streets like Amsterdam Avenue. ”This community does not need more streets named after children who were killed by cars,” said Julie Kowitz Margolies, who also lives in the same building as the Stock family. ”What we need is safer streets that will keep our children safe and alive.”

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Assembly Member Dan O’Donnell Intros Bill to Set NYC Speed Limit at 20 MPH

Assembly Member Dan O’Donnell has introduced a bill to lower the speed limit in New York City to 20 miles per hour.

O’Donnell represents the Upper West Side, where two pedestrians have been killed by motorists in 2014. He attended the vigil held last night for Cooper Stock and Alexander Shear.

O’Donnell’s office released a statement this afternoon:

Last week, two tragedies in my district emphasized for me the overwhelming need to change traffic laws and prevent traffic fatalities in New York City. Already this year, in just over two weeks, there have been seven pedestrian deaths due to traffic accidents, including the death of a child. That horrific fact is why today I introduced A8478, which changes the New York City administrative code to set the city’s official speed limit at 20 miles per hour except where the City Council determines a different speed limit is appropriate. Studies have shown that pedestrians hit at speeds of 20 and lower have a dramatically higher chance of surviving an accident than those hit at speeds of 30 and above. I hope my bill will change the devastating rate of traffic deaths in the city, and contribute to Mayor de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” plan to prevent unsafe driving and end traffic fatalities.

As of now the bill doesn’t have cosponsors or a companion bill in the Senate, according to the Assembly web site.

O’Donnell’s bill is currently stronger than the similar bills introduced in the City Council last year, and as state legislation it would supersede equivalent city legislation. We’ll have more on the speed limit bill in future posts.

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9-Year-Old Boy, Mother, and Senior Killed in Weekend of Motorist Violence

Three pedestrians were fatally struck by motorists over the weekend, bringing to seven the number of people killed while walking in New York City in the first two weeks of 2014.

Twenty pedestrians were killed by city motorists in January 2013, according to NYPD data, and 12 pedestrians and one cyclist died in January 2012.

Cooper Stock. Photo via DNAinfo

Cooper Stock. Photo via DNAinfo

Nine-year-old Cooper Stock was in a crosswalk with his father at West End Avenue and 97th Street  at around 9 p.m. Friday when both were hit by cab driver Koffi Komlani, according to reports. A motorist in a car behind Komlani spoke with the Daily News:

“He had to be distracted because there’s no way he could not see them, if I did,” [Ramon] Gonzalez, 46, said of the 53-year-old cabbie.

“The father grabbed his son. They were both on the hood of the car for a second. The father fell off the passenger side. The son went underneath the driver’s-side tire, first the front one, then the rear.”

Komlani, of West Harriman, didn’t brake until after he’d run over the boy with both wheels, according to Gonzalez, the assistant director of an educational nonprofit who lives in Chelsea.

Richard Stock suffered a leg injury. Cooper died at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital.

Cooper Stock was at least the twelfth child age 14 and under killed by a New York City motorist in the last 12 months, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. Year after year, traffic crashes remain the leading cause of injury-related death for children in NYC.

From DNAinfo:

The family released a statement about Cooper late Saturday, saying he loved the Yankees, rock and roll, and the Knicks. “Cooper was the life of the party even when there wasn’t a party,” the statement said. “He was light, he was reflective, he was beauty in motion, he was charismatic. He has been described as an old soul, and wise beyond his years.”

Komlani was ticketed for failure to yield on Friday. ”As of now, there are no disciplinary actions available to the TLC,” said Allan Fromberg, spokesperson for the Taxi and Limousine Commission, in an email. ”We’re awaiting the outcome of the NYPD investigation to make a determination of what options are available.”

Read more…

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Post Unwittingly Makes Case for Northbound Protected Bike Lane on UWS

Today, New Yorkers got a blast from the past in the pages of the New York Post. Less than a week ago, Community Board 7 voted unanimously to ask DOT to study complete streets measures including a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue. For today’s paper, the Post sent two reporters to the Columbus Avenue protected bike lane to get some quotes from die-hard bike lane opponents and catch wrong-way cyclists on camera.

To get anti-bike quotes, the Post goes back to the well. Ian Alterman, the president of the 20th precinct community council who has opposed not only bike lanes but also business requests for bike racks, and the Zingone Brothers grocery store, which has previously had its grievances aired on WCBSWNYC – and (surprise!) the Post — both make appearances. Can you smell the controversy?

The NY Post's street safety coverage priorities. Photo: NY Post

If there was a protected northbound bike route on the Upper West Side, the Columbus Avenue bike lane wouldn’t draw so much wrong-way riding. Photo: NY Post

The Post conveniently ignored all the benefits the Columbus Avenue redesign has brought to the Upper West Side: Shorter crossing distances for pedestrians, new concrete islands that get drivers to take turns carefully, safer biking conditions, tweaks to improve loading zones for businesses, narrower lanes and less speeding, and — most important — a 41 percent reduction in pedestrian injuries.

The paper tried to link the bike lane — which creates a safe place to ride in the street — to sidewalk riding and wrong-way cycling. Never mind that sidewalk riding is down: Only 2.3 percent of riders on Columbus currently use the sidewalk, a drop from before the lane was installed, according to DOT.

There’s no evidence that wrong-way riding is any more or less frequent than it used to be either, but if northbound cycling is prevalent on the southbound Columbus Avenue bike lane, there’s a good reason: There is no northbound protected bike lane on the Upper West Side. The Post actually makes a good case for a companion protected lane on Amsterdam, which would give cyclists a safer route heading uptown and draw wrong-way bike traffic off Columbus.