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Posts from the Washington Heights Category

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Plaza de Las Americas Reclaims Space for People in Washington Heights

The plaza will add pedestrian space and create a permanent home for vendors and a farmers market. Image: DOT/DDC

The plaza will add pedestrian space and create a permanent home for vendors and a farmers market. Image: DOT/DDC

The city broke ground this morning on a new plaza in Washington Heights set to open early next year. The project will transform an extra-wide asphalt block into a permanent public space hosting vendors and a farmers market.

Officials break ground on a new pedestrian plaza on 175th Street in Washington Heights this morning. Photo: DOT/Flickr

Officials break ground on a new plaza on 175th Street in Washington Heights this morning. Photo: DOT/Flickr

Plaza de Las Americas is located on 175th Street between Broadway and Wadsworth Avenue. The project, which was selected in the first round of the plaza program in 2008, is sponsored by the Washington Heights and Inwood Development Corporation. Construction is funded by $5 million from the city’s budget.

The 14,000 square foot space, between a supermarket and a historic theater, has been used by a farmers market since 1980 and a vendors market since 1994. The new plaza will give vendors access to electricity and water for the first time. The plaza will also feature trees, lighting, benches, tables, chairs, and a fountain by artist Ester Partegás, according to a DOT press release. The paving materials and patterns aim to evoke the plazas of Latin America and the Caribbean.

The project will also likely have traffic safety benefits: Since 2009, four motor vehicle occupants, five pedestrians, and one cyclist have been injured at Broadway and 175th, according to DOT data. The city has identified Broadway as a Vision Zero priority corridor.

“La Plaza de Las Americas will not only give our street vendors a beautiful, tree-lined venue to sell,” Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez said in the release, “but also our neighborhood a new focal point.”

Today, 175th Street is an extra-wide asphalt expanse. Photo: Google Maps

Today, 175th Street is an extra-wide asphalt crossing. Photo: Google Maps

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Will Rodriguez and Brewer Reappoint CB 12 Crank Jim “Honey Child” Berlin?

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer can advance the goals of Vision Zero by retiring Jim Berlin from his CB 12 post.

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer can advance the goals of Vision Zero in Upper Manhattan by retiring Jim Berlin from his CB 12 post.

City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer can remove a barrier to safer streets in Upper Manhattan by relieving Jim Berlin of his spot on Community Board 12, which covers Washington Heights and Inwood.

As Stephen Miller reported Thursday, Berlin and fellow CB 12 member Anita Barberis voted against a DOT plan for protected bike lanes in Washington Heights that would connect the Hudson River Greenway and High Bridge Park. The DOT proposal comes ahead of the highly anticipated re-opening of the High Bridge, a car-free Harlem River span linking Manhattan and the Bronx that has been closed to the public for decades.

Washington Heights and Inwood have precious little bike infrastructure, and at present just one protected bike lane in the pipeline. Berlin can surely claim some credit for that. For years he has used his community board position to waylay projects, from bike and pedestrian infrastructure to a Greenmarket, that would improve safety and give locals the opportunity to see their streets used for something other than free vehicle storage.

Community board votes are supposed to be advisory, but DOT rarely implements a street safety project over a board’s objection. On Monday Berlin succeeded in goading the CB 12 transportation committee to pass a resolution calling for DOT to shorten the proposed protected bikeway on Edgecombe Avenue for the sake of a few free curbside parking spots.

“This is a working-class area,” Berlin said, according to DNAinfo. “People don’t have the luxury of riding their bike in the morning and leaving their Beamer at home.”

It’s possible Berlin is so out of touch that he doesn’t know 75 percent of households in the district don’t own a car, and that working-class households are even more likely to be car-free. But judging by his public antics, it’s more likely he doesn’t care. The majority of residents who attended Monday’s meeting came to show support for the DOT plan, and Berlin dismissed them — even addressing one plan proponent, a staffer for Council Member Mark Levine, as “honey child,” according to multiple sources.

Berlin was last appointed by Rodriguez, and his term expires next month. According to a press release from Brewer, the number of new applicants for Community Board 12 and neighboring Community Board 11 “more than doubled” compared to last year. For the sake of public safety and quality of life in Washington Heights and Inwood, Rodriguez and Brewer should make room for a fresh face by thanking Berlin for his service and sending him on his way.

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CB 12 Committee Puts Parking Over Safety in Vote on Uptown Bike Lanes

DOT is proposing significant bicycle and pedestrian upgrades in Washington Heights, but the Manhattan Community Board 12 transportation committee wants to nibble away at a protected bike lane in the plan. The committee voted to support the DOT plan but with modifications that would shrink a proposed protected bike lane on Edgecombe Avenue to preserve parking.

The plan offers protected bikeways on 170th Street, 158th Street, and Edgecombe Avenue. Map: DOT

The plan offers protected bikeways on 170th Street, 158th Street, and Edgecombe Avenue. Map: DOT

The plan [PDF] would provide river-to-river links between the Hudson River Greenway and High Bridge Park, where cyclists and pedestrians would be able to connect to the Bronx. The proposal comes after the approval of bicycle and pedestrian upgrades for the Bronx side of High Bridge Park [PDF].

The plan would result in a net loss of approximately 20 parking spaces. Most of the change is concentrated on Edgecombe north of 165th Street, where parking would be removed for the bikeway on sections of Edgecombe with two-way car traffic.

At its meeting Monday evening, the CB 12 transportation committee deadlocked, 2-2, on a vote to support the plan after members Jim Berlin and Anita Barberis protested the loss of parking. Berlin has a long history of prioritizing parking over street safety at CB 12, which covers a neighborhood where about three-quarters of households are car-free.

“This is a working-class area,” Berlin said, according to DNAinfo. “People don’t have the luxury of riding their bike in the morning and leaving their Beamer at home.”

“I’ve lived here my whole life, and the working-class people I know have MetroCards,” Maria Lopez replied to Berlin, reported DNAinfo. “I drive, but I support this plan.” Lopez is also a staffer for Council Member Mark Levine. After her reply, according to multiple meeting attendees, Berlin began a condescending response by calling her “honey child.”

“The entire room gasped,” said one person at the meeting. “It was racist, misogynistic and ageist all at once, and it was stunning…I just don’t think he realized how inappropriate that was.”

Eventually, the committee agreed on a compromise resolution, with a 4-0 vote, that supported the plan but asked DOT to shorten the protected bikeway on Edgecombe in order to preserve parking.

“It was somewhat disappointing, because one particular person, their opinion can really influence what happens in an entire community. And it was clear that the people from the community that came out really supported it,” said Ana Reyes, a Washington Heights resident and executive director of I Challenge Myself. The group offers bicycle education courses to high school students, including at the George Washington Educational Campus on Audubon Avenue.

“A lot of people don’t like to ride in traffic,” Reyes said. “The benefits outweigh the loss of parking spaces in terms of the amount of  kids, particularly, that would be able to access this park.”

The plan includes a lot of big improvements for safe walking and biking in the neighborhood.

Read more…

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155th Street Ped Safety Fixes Clear Three Uptown Community Board Votes

The Manhattan side of the 155th Street Bridge is a complex intersection where pedestrians are too often forgotten within a swirl of turning vehicles and impatient drivers. The intersection is also on the border of three community boards, adding extra layers of review for DOT efforts to improve safety. As of last night, transportation committees at all three boards have voted in support of the proposal, which will add pedestrian islands and turn restrictions while shortening crossing distances and calming traffic [PDF]. After it clears the full boards, the safety fixes are scheduled to be installed next year.

The plan will add four curb extensions and one pedestrian island to the Manhattan side of the 155th Street Bridge. Image: DOT [PDF[

The plan has three turn bans, four curb extensions and one pedestrian island for the Manhattan side of the 155th Street Bridge. Image: DOT [PDF]

The location is more dangerous than 99 percent of Manhattan’s intersections. From 2008 to 2012, there were 72 traffic injuries, eight of them severe, at this single location, and nearly two of every five pedestrian crashes happen while the victim is walking with the signal, according to DOT. More than a quarter of crashes involve left-turning drivers, far higher than the numbers at other Manhattan intersections.

A plan for the intersection has been in the works for nearly two years. DOT’s proposal includes three new turn bans, four new concrete curb extensions, and one new pedestrian refuge island at the intersection of West 155th Street, Edgecombe Avenue, St. Nicholas Place, and Harlem River Driveway. On St. Nicholas Place, the agency is proposing new crosswalks at 152nd Street and three pedestrian islands, one each at 151st, 152nd, and 153rd Streets.

CB 12’s transportation committee voted unanimously to support the plan earlier this month. Last night, committees at community boards 9 and 10 followed suit. The vote at CB 10 was 6-0, with one abstention, according to committee chair Maria Garcia. At CB 9, the committee voted 7-0 to support the plan.

The Assembly member representing the area — Herman “Denny” Farrell, chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee — has been a regular presence at public meetings for the project. He attended both committee meetings last night to speak about the plan. “I’m 90 percent in favor of it,” he told CB 10. “I’m 10 percent in opposition to elimination of the left turn onto St. Nicholas Place.”

Farrell was referring to a proposal to prohibit westbound drivers on 155th Street from turning onto southbound St. Nicholas Place. The turn ban would create space for a pedestrian island on St. Nicholas Place and direct drivers to instead turn left at the next intersection, at St. Nicholas Avenue. Farrell was concerned that the additional left turns at that location would pose a safety hazard. The plan converts one of the lanes on 155th Street at St. Nicholas Avenue to a dedicated turn lane. According to DOT, 110 drivers make the left turn onto St. Nicholas Place during rush hour. The agency said at previous meetings that the intersection should be able to handle the additional traffic.

While committee members shared Farrell’s concern, none of the committees are asking DOT to take out the turn restriction. A draft of CB 9’s resolution asks DOT to provide follow-up data from the St. Nicholas Avenue intersection on the impact of the turn ban.

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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.”

Read more…

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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.

Read more…

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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.