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Posts from the "Washington Heights" Category

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CBs Eye Safety Tweaks on 155th Street Through Denny Farrell’s Windshield

Today, a confusing flow of turning drivers puts pedestrians at risk at the intersection of 155th Street, St. Nicholas Place, and Edgecombe Avenue. Image: DOT

Today, a confusing flow of turning drivers puts pedestrians at risk at the intersection of 155th Street, St. Nicholas Place, and Edgecombe Avenue. Image: DOT

A dangerous Upper Manhattan intersection could get pedestrian safety upgrades [PDF], if three community boards can agree on a plan. Wednesday evening, DOT invited neighborhood residents and members of Community Boards 9, 10, and 12 to a meeting that resulted in some consensus, though implementation remains about a year away. As at last year’s meeting, however, the show was stolen by local Assembly Member Herman “Denny” Farrell, the powerful chair of the Ways and Means Committee, who critiqued the project from a windshield perspective.

The junction of 155th Street, Edgecombe Avenue, St. Nicholas Place, and Harlem River Driveway is a six-legged intersection with crosswalks that stretch up to 95 feet. With drivers coming from what can often feel like all directions, crossing the street is a challenge. From 2008 to 2012, there were 72 injuries at the intersection, including eight severe injuries. Three of the severe injuries were pedestrians; the remainder were motor vehicle occupants, according to DOT. In 38 percent of pedestrian crashes, the pedestrian was crossing with the signal.

Both former Council Member Robert Jackson and the 30th Precinct requested safety improvements, and DOT held site walk-throughs and meetings with the public in 2012 and 2013. DOT’s plan would add curb extensions at all six corners of the intersection and a concrete pedestrian island on the southern side of the intersection on St. Nicholas Place. It would also add up to four turn bans to reduce conflicts between pedestrians and turning drivers.

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Parks Department Repairs Hudson River Greenway Sinkhole

Happy Bike to Work Day: The Parks Department has repaired the Hudson River Greenway sinkhole.

Streetsblog first reported on the sinkhole, located just north of 181st Street in Washington Heights, almost a year ago. Temporary fixes didn’t keep it from widening. As the problem got worse, the Parks Department said the agency was trying to ascertain what caused the sinkhole, and who was responsible for repairing it. By early May it had swallowed most of the path.

Sometime between Wednesday evening and early Thursday morning, workers filled the hole with what looked like a mixture of sand, dirt, and asphalt, and placed a metal plate over part of it. This opened up more room for users to pass, but the rain made the plate slippery, and the area was in general a muddy mess. More important, as it turned out: Construction barrels were placed around the hole and lined the greenway for 20 to 30 yards in both directions.

Parks told us last week that the agency had hired a contractor, who was obtaining permits to close lanes on the Henry Hudson Parkway. We asked Parks spokesperson Phil Abramson by email yesterday if repair work was imminent. ”Yes,” Abramson replied, “work is getting underway to make the repairs.”

@AndrewOnBike posted the above pic on his Twitter feed today.

The Hudson River Greenway is the trunk line for bike commuters who travel between Manhattan’s Central Business District, Upper Manhattan, and points beyond. The Parks Department often closes segments of the greenway, without notice and for extended periods of time, which interrupts commutes and can force cyclists and other users onto hazardous streets.

“This isn’t the only problematic section of the greenway, but it is the worst,” Kimberly Kinchen, Inwood resident and member of Bike Upper Manhattan, told Streetsblog. “I’m glad to see that Parks finally took action.”

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Parks Dept. Promises Fix After Year-Old Sinkhole Finally Swallows Greenway

Hudson River Greenway users north of 181st Street can get by on the grass shoulder, but the sinkhole is expanding.

Hudson River Greenway users north of 181st Street can get by on the grass shoulder, but the sinkhole is expanding.

It’s been almost a year since we first reported on a sinkhole eating away at the Hudson River Greenway just north of 181st Street. The Parks Department added barricades, an old board, and finally filled it with gravel last month while it figured out “a long-term solution.”

The clock is ticking: In the past couple weeks, the hole has grown and now swallows the entire paved path, forcing greenway users onto a narrow grass shoulder.

Parks Department spokesperson Phil Abramson said that the hole is the result to a broken water line and will require lane closures on the Henry Hudson Parkway to fix:

Parks has secured a contractor to execute repairs to the broken water line and the section of greenway path that is being compromised as a result of it. The contractor is in the process of securing roadway construction/lane closure permits [so] that the section of highway barrier can be removed and heavy machinery mobilized to make the needed repairs.

Streetsblog asked if there’s a timeline for the repairs, but didn’t receive a reply. We’ll let you know if we hear anything back.

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Broadway Speed Limit to Drop to 25 MPH From Columbus Circle to Inwood

adsf Photo: Brad Aaron

NYPD transportation chief Thomas Chan, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Aaron Charlop-Powers and Audrey Anderson of Families for Safe Streets, and City Council Transporation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez Photo: Brad Aaron

The speed limit will be lowered to 25 miles per hour on eight miles of upper Broadway this summer, DOT announced today.

Motorists have killed 22 pedestrians on Broadway from Columbus Circle to W. 220 Street in Inwood since 2008, according to Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, who was flanked by NYPD officials, city and state electeds, traffic violence victims, and street safety advocates in Inwood this morning. Two vehicle occupants also died in crashes on Broadway during that period.

Arterials account for 15 percent of roadways in NYC but 60 percent of pedestrian deaths. The Broadway announcement is the fourth DOT arterial slow zone reveal, after McGuinness Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn and the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. “The number one thing I hear from New Yorkers is that they want us to do something about these arterial streets,” Trottenberg said.

The press conference was held at the intersection of Broadway, Dyckman Street, and Riverside Drive, where DOT is expected to get started this month on a project that will make it safer for pedestrians to cross there. The Broadway slow zone is scheduled to take effect in July.

Trottenberg was joined by Upper Manhattan City Council members Ydanis Rodriguez and Mark Levine, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, new 34th Precinct CO Deputy Inspector Chris Morello, and NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan.

“Our officers will be out there doing additional enforcement, to make sure that [drivers] are not disobeying our signal lights, our speeds, and that they are yielding to pedestrians who are in marked crosswalks,” Chan said.

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Upper Manhattan Poised to Get Its First Protected Bike Lane

Image: NYC DOT

Image: NYC DOT

DOT will install Upper Manhattan’s first protected bike lane this summer, pending an endorsement from Community Board 12.

The parking-protected lane would run north-south on Fort George Hill, which is one-way southbound for drivers, between Fairview Avenue and Dyckman Street/Nagle Avenue. Its installation would be part of a slate of new bike facilities and refurbishments planned for Washington Heights and Inwood [PDF], which DOT initially revealed last spring. DNAinfo reports that DOT brought the plans back before the CB 12 transportation committee on Monday.

In addition, DOT would add crosstown bike lanes to W. 177th Street between Haven Avenue and Amsterdam Avenue, and W. 180th Street between Cabrini Boulevard and Amsterdam.

On Amsterdam, DOT plans to implement a four-to-three-lane road diet and add painted bike lanes from W. 162nd Street to W. 173rd Street and W. 186th Street to W. 190th Street.

Last year, DOT said the Amsterdam bike lanes may be interrupted where there are “prohibitively high traffic volumes.” The updated plan proposes sharrows on Amsterdam between W. 173rd Street and W. 186th Street — past the George Washington Bridge — and north of W. 190th Street until Amsterdam becomes Fort George Avenue. Lanes would pick up on Fort George Avenue as it curves south, ending at W. 193rd Street. (DNAinfo has mapped the proposed changes.)

“Officials said the presentation Monday represents just the first phase of implementation, with plans for more lanes to be revealed in the fall,” DNAinfo reports.

“We got a half-mile of protected lanes. It’s a start.” said Brad Conover of Bike Upper Manhattan. “We’re happy.”

“These are substantial transitional improvements,” added Kimberly Kinchen, who runs the NYC Bike Train, a social bike communing organization. “These are a step in the right direction, but I do hope we can see more protected lanes uptown.”

Work could be completed in or around July if CB 12 gives the okay.

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Ten Months Later, Parks Department Fills in Hudson River Greenway Hole

Greenway users need this like a hole in the head. Will the Parks Department fix it? Photo: BornAgainBikist/Twitter

Greenway users need this like a hole in the head. The Parks Department says it filled the cave-in today. Photo: BornAgainBikist/Twitter

Last June, we reported on a sinkhole in the Hudson River Greenway just north of 181st Street in Washington Heights. The Parks Department, which manages the path, said it had cordoned off the hole and was assessing the situation. As of yesterday, nothing much had changed in ten months — except the hole has filled with leaves and grown slightly larger, swallowing more of the greenway path along with it. Now, the Parks Department says it has filled in the hole as a temporary measure.

With the weather warming up, more and more people are using the greenway, which is a vital connection for bike commuters in Upper Manhattan. Streetsblog readers have contacted us to express their concern and frustration. “It’s so large at this point that you have to either dismount and walk through or ride through very carefully to avoid falling in,” wrote reader James Rather. “It’s a huge hazard.”

Streetsblog asked the Parks Department today if it has done anything to fix the hole since it first surfaced, or if it has plans for repair. This afternoon the agency said the hole is being filled in as a temporary fix:

While a long-term solution for this situation is being determined, on Monday we filled in the holes with gravel and dirt to allow users of the greenway to pass safely. Cyclists will have to dismount for a few yards. This work should be complete by Monday evening.

We’ve asked the Parks Department whether the dismount zone is just for today or will be in place indefinitely until a permanent fix is installed. Update: Parks says cyclists will “likely” have to continue to dismount after the hole is filled in.

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Parks Department: City Hopes to Complete High Bridge Rehab This Year

Last year Mayor Bloomberg announced that the long-awaited restoration of the car-free High Bridge would be completed “by 2014.” Work began soon after, and the Parks Department tells Streetsblog the rehab is slated to wrap before the year is over.

“While we estimate that the construction will be completed in December of this year, we are exploring every opportunity to expedite the project,” Parks spokesperson Phil Abramson said via email. “DDC and Parks are working closely with the contractor to finish the project as quickly as possible and we look forward to the day that New Yorkers will once again walk and bicycle over our City’s oldest bridge.”

The High Bridge connects the Highbridge neighborhood in the Bronx with Washington Heights. Built as part of the Croton Aqueduct in 1848, it stopped carrying water in 1958, and was closed to the public in 1970. The city secured funding for its restoration seven years ago, and in 2010 awarded a design contract. Bloomberg joined Upper Manhattan electeds for a groundbreaking ceremony in January 2013.

The restored bridge will have new ADA-compliant access ramps. While bike riding will be permitted on the bridge itself, the ramps are considered too narrow for shared use, and cyclists will be directed to take stairs at each end. An eight-foot safety fence will be installed atop the bridge, which Parks says will be designed to minimize disruption of views.

Still at issue is how many hours per week the bridge will be open to commuters and other users. As of 2013, Parks said it will likely be closed at night, when the parks at each end are closed. Highbridge Park in the Bronx is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and park hours on the Manhattan side are a bit longer.

Project coordinator Ellen Macnow told Streetsblog last year that use of the bridge “will be closely monitored and hours will be adjusted if needed.” Other bikeways run by the Parks Department have had problems with limited or inconvenient access.

Operating hours for the High Bridge “have not yet been determined,” said Abramson.

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CB 12 Committee Endorses Ped Improvements at Chaotic Inwood Intersection

Left turn bans and added pedestrian space proposed for Broadway, Dyckman Street and Riverside Drive. Image: DOT. Click to enlarge

Long-awaited improvements to a hazardous Broadway crossing in Inwood could be implemented next year, if Community Board 12 passes a resolution that cleared the board’s transportation committee this week.

The committee and around 50 residents gathered Monday night to hear DOT’s proposals for the intersection of Broadway, Dyckman/200th Street and Riverside Drive [PDF], where pedestrians must negotiate long crosswalks and signals that force them to look out for drivers coming from different directions simultaneously. In addition to local traffic, the intersection is consistently clogged by motorists headed to and from the West Side Highway and those who drive through Inwood to avoid tolls on the Henry Hudson Bridge.

There were 128 crashes at the intersection from 2010 to 2012, DOT said, resulting in injuries to three cyclists, five pedestrians, and 10 vehicle occupants. Thirty-five pedestrians and cyclists were injured there between 1996 and 2009, according to Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat.

DOT’s suggested remedy is a relatively simple mix of turn bans, signalization tweaks, new signage, and enhancements to pedestrian space. DOT would prohibit left turns from northbound Broadway onto Dyckman and Riverside, left turns from Dyckman to southbound Broadway, left turns from southbound Broadway to Dyckman, and U-turns from Riverside to Dyckman. DOT proposes to add paint or concrete to two pedestrian islands on the west side of the intersection, and to extend the curb on the southeast corner. These alterations would shorten crossing distances and eliminate conflicts between pedestrians and turning drivers at the west and south crosswalks.

Currently pedestrians must look out for motorists approaching from different directions simultaneously. Photo: DOT

Alternate routes for motorists would be marked with new signage. DOT staff said peak hour counts showed that the impact on residential streets, where auto traffic would be directed, would be minimal. Still, objections to the plan centered mostly on diverting traffic to narrower streets that are lined with apartment buildings.

Several locals said the plan should take into account the overwhelming number of drivers who are drawn to the area by La Marina, a restaurant and nightclub at the west end of Dyckman Street that offers valet parking. Maria Luna, former CB 12 chair and current board member, and resident Bryan Davis yelled for a while about how the turn bans would make it more difficult to drive in the neighborhood, especially since Broadway is usually lined with double-parked vehicles.

DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione said longer green signals for Broadway and Riverside traffic would mean less congestion on Broadway. DOT staff and committee member Elizabeth Lorris-Ritter also noted that the plan is intended to address pedestrian safety at the intersection, and won’t solve all of the area’s traffic problems.

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Three New Yorkers, Including Two Seniors, Killed by Drivers in the Past Week

Three people were killed by motorists in NYC since last Friday, including two hit-and-run victims. Two of the victims were also senior citizens.

Antonio Ramirez was struck by a hit-and-run driver in Washington Heights. The killer is still at large.

At around 4:40 a.m. Friday, a motorist in a dark-colored car fatally struck Antonio Ramirez, 40, at Audubon Avenue and 176th Street in Washington Heights, then fled the scene, according to reports. Along with neighborhood advocates, City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, and Assembly Member Gabriela Rosa blasted DOT after the crash for rejecting a Slow Zone for the area.

From the Post:

Friday’s fatality created a haunting scene for several schools near the crash, including Kipp Star Elementary on 177th Street.

Many young children and parents at the school had to walk past Ramirez’s body, which was wrapped in a white sheet. Some teachers left the building and tried to distract the students so they wouldn’t see it.

Frustrated mom Ayiesha Washington, 27, who has a son in kindergarten, said, “I’ve lived in this neighborhood for three years, and this is the millionth accident.”

Rodriguez and Espaillat, who rarely make an issue of street safety, said this section of Washington Heights is plagued by speeding drivers coming off the George Washington Bridge and the Cross Bronx Expressway.

“This tragic hit-and-run, less than a block from a school building, truly hits home for the people of Washington Heights, particularly when so many have raised the issue of high speeds in the area to the Department of Transportation,” said Rodriguez, in a press release. “It is so easy for deaths such as these to be avoided.”

Since the program began in 2011, DOT routinely gets many more Slow Zone applications annually than it approves. The press release from Upper Manhattan electeds incorrectly claims DOT rejected 15 of 70 applications this year, when the agency actually approved 15 of 74 applications.

Rodriguez, Espaillat, and Rosa made only a passing reference to the lack of traffic law enforcement in Washington Heights in their press release, and did not mention NYPD directly. The 33rd Precinct, where the crash occurred, had issued 273 speeding tickets this year as of August, and cited 154 drivers for speeding in all of 2012.

Ramirez worked at a restaurant and was a former building super. He was married with two kids, a 14-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son.

“This biggest part of it is the dance you have with your dad,” Leslie Ramirez told WNBC. “And that man took that dance away from me. He took away that one special person I had in my life.”

The Daily News reported that, according to police, the killer was driving an Infiniti, and Ramirez was “walking against the light.” As of earlier this week, at least one outlet was reporting the driver ran a red light, but that version of the story is no longer online. An NYPD spokesperson said today that the public information office did not have details on how the crash occurred. The motorist who killed Antonio Ramirez remains at large.

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Denny Farrell at Uptown Ped Safety Meeting: “I Drive Everywhere”

A DOT plan for a complex intersection on 155th Street includes three major components: 1) closing a "slip lane," 2) new pedestrian islands and curb extensions, and 3) "squaring off" crosswalks. Original image: Bing Maps

The intersection of 155th Street, Edgecombe Avenue, St. Nicholas Place, and Harlem River Driveway is a busy, complex web where pedestrians jockey with turning drivers to cross wide expanses of asphalt. DOT began studying the location after a request from Council Member Robert Jackson. A final design and community board review is months away, but at a meeting two weeks ago, DOT outlined some suggested fixes. Another notable development at the meeting: The Assembly member representing the area — Herman “Denny” Farrell, the powerful chair of the Ways and Means Committee — declared that he drives everywhere in his transit-dependent district.

Crash statistics for the intersection are relatively good, compared to other major intersections in the area. “Surprisingly, for the craziness of this intersection, these numbers are pretty low,” said DOT’s Kelly Yemen. However, 26 percent of crashes involve left-turning drivers, far higher than the Manhattan average of 10 percent. “It’s just a very wide-open intersection,” she told the audience of about 20 people.

Denny Farrell in his days on the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission. He was one of two commission members to vote against congestion pricing. Photo: Aaron Naparstek

“Not surprisingly, it’s failing. We can make it fail a little bit less,” said Sean Quinn of DOT’s pedestrian projects group.

DOT has not released a copy of the presentation at that meeting or its current proposal for the intersection, despite multiple requests from Streetsblog. As explained at the meeting, the plan includes three major changes to the intersection’s layout:

  1. Closing the Edgecombe Avenue slip lane: Currently, westbound drivers on 155th Street turning south on Edgecombe Avenue use a “slip lane,” making a left turn before the intersection and cutting across a triangle-shaped sidewalk on a short, one-lane roadway next to a heavily-used bus stop. DOT would close the slip lane and eliminate this turn, cutting down on conflicts between drivers and pedestrians. The left turn from westbound 155th Street to southbound St. Nicholas Place would also be eliminated.
  2. Adding pedestrian islands and curb extensions: In addition to the new pedestrian space created by the closure of the slip lane, the southern side of the intersection would also receive a curb extension on the triangle-shaped sidewalk between Edgecombe and 155th, as well as two pedestrian islands. One pedestrian island would be located between northbound and southbound traffic on St. Nicholas Place. The second would be carved out of what is currently open asphalt, forming the edge of a new right-turn and slip lane for drivers turning from eastbound 155th to southbound St. Nicholas Place. Other corners of the intersection, including the northeast corner, would receive smaller curb extensions.
  3. “Squaring off” the intersection’s crosswalks: Some of the intersection’s crosswalks are angled, lengthening crossing distances — currently 95 feet on the intersection’s southern side — and positioning pedestrians at locations where drivers are already beginning to speed up as they come out of a turn. This adds risk for pedestrians, especially on the intersection’s west side, crossing 155th Street, and on its southern side, crossing St. Nicholas Place. Both of these crosswalks will be “squared off” so they meet the intersection’s corners at 90-degree angles.

The proposal received a generally positive reaction from the audience, with Bernadette McNear, president of the Rangel Houses Resident Association, and Barbara Williams, president of the Polo Grounds Towers Resident Association, telling DOT that many of the proposals would make it safer for people going to and from the bus stops on 155th Street.

Most of the meeting’s question and answer session was dominated by Farrell, who represents a district where, according to 2009 Census data, 74 percent of households do not own a car. Farrell began with a simple statement about how he gets around the neighborhood. “I drive everywhere,” he said.

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