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Posts from the "Washington Heights" Category

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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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Jhonn Carlos Fernandez, 35, Killed by Motorcyclist in Washington Heights

For the second time in less than a week, a motorcyclist has struck and killed a NYC pedestrian.

Reports said Jhonn Carlos Fernandez was crossing mid-block when he was fatally struck by a motorcyclist, but did not mention driver speed. Photo: Daily News

The latest crash happened at around 4:20 Saturday morning, in Washington Heights. Jhonn Carlos Fernandez, 35, was walking with friends when he was struck on Amsterdam Avenue near 167th Street, according to reports. Accounts vary, but DNAinfo and the Daily News say Fernandez was crossing mid-block. He died at the scene. From the Post:

His grieving dad, Robinson, said, “He was a hard-working man who was never late for work.

“He was a good son. He was always happy. He loved to dance. He loved salsa and machata.”

Alejandro Cabrerra, 43, a pal of the victim, said, “I’m going to miss his friendship. If he were your friend he would give you his all.”

Fernandez’s brother, Martin Fernandez, 43, said, “A part of me is gone,” as he burst into tears.

Reports said the motorcyclist, an unidentified man, was one of a group of three riding north on Amsterdam Avenue. He was ejected from the motorcycle and was hospitalized in critical condition. No reports that we’ve seen made mention of how fast the motorcyclist was traveling when he hit Fernandez. No charges were filed, according to the Daily News.

On August 11, an unidentified male pedestrian was killed by a motorcyclist at Queens Boulevard and 44th Street. Police told the Daily News that the motorcyclist, who was critically injured, was “not considered at fault.” Four motorcyclists have been killed in traffic crashes since last Wednesday, according to DNAinfo.

Jhonn Carlos Fernandez was killed in the 33rd Precinct, in the council district represented by Ydanis Rodriguez.

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City Lays an Old Board Over Upper Manhattan Greenway Pit

The Parks Department doesn’t know when a hole that opened up two months ago on the Hudson River Greenway will be repaired.

A tipster sent us photos of the pit, located just north of 181st Street in Washington Heights, in June. These pictures were taken by the same reader about a week and a half ago, on July 26. Compared to the June pics, it looks like part of the hole has been filled with dirt, and some of it covered with a wooden board. The metal barriers have been shifted, so there’s more room for people to pass. Other than some yellow tape, there is no warning signage. You can also see a crack forming around the existing hole, stretching almost the width of the greenway.

In June, a Parks spokesperson said the department was “assessing the damage.” Parks told us Tuesday that the Department of Environmental Protection inspected the hole, and “found a broken pipe in the roadway drainage system.”

“State DOT is reviewing the findings to determine the next steps,” a Parks spokesperson said, in an email. We’ve asked New York State DOT when the hole will be repaired, and whether the work might entail a detour for greenway users. We’ll update here.

In the meantime, one of the most heavily trafficked bike and pedestrian paths in New York City is patched with an old board.

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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: Hole in the Hudson River Greenway in Washington Heights

A tipster sent us photos of what looks like a sinkhole in the Hudson River Greenway just north of 181st Street, in Washington Heights. These shots were taken Sunday morning.

We asked the Parks Department when the hole might be repaired, and whether repair work would necessitate a detour. “We are aware of the situation and we have the area cordoned off for public safety while we assess the damage,” said a spokesperson, via email.

Greenway users, let us know what you’re seeing in the area of 181st Street.

Though it’s prime cycling weather, Parks has closed another uptown stretch of the greenway — from 133rd Street to 135th Street — until December, directing users to detour onto 12th Avenue. Parks told Streetsblog in May that the Harlem greenway segment was blocked so that a utility company could stage construction equipment.

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At Long Last, DOT Proposes Bike Lanes for Upper Manhattan

DOT recommends “future study” for bike infrastructure on upper Broadway and the Broadway Bridge, background left.

Responding to years of citizen advocacy and a resolution from Manhattan Community Board 12, DOT has proposed bike lanes for a number of streets in Upper Manhattan.

Most of the lanes, concentrated in Washington Heights [PDF], would be installed next year, after a consultation with CB 12 this fall. One would be protected by parked cars.

The plan also acknowledges but does not set a timetable for the highest priority of local livable streets advocates: a bike route on Dyckman Street to connect the Hudson and Harlem River Greenways, first proposed by Inwood residents in 2008.

Among the proposed bike routes are:

  • W. 177th Street between Broadway and Cabrini Boulevard (2013 installation)
  • Cabrini Boulevard between W. 177th Street and W. 178th Street to the George Washington Bridge (2013 installation)
  • W. 179th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Cabrini Boulevard (179th serves as a motorist access point to the GWB)
  • W. 180th Street between Cabrini Boulevard and Amsterdam Avenue
  • Ft. George Hill between Fairview Avenue and Dyckman Street (parking protected)

The proposal, presented to the CB 12 transportation committee in May, includes two to four miles of lanes on Amsterdam Avenue, possibly interrupted at intersections with “prohibitively high traffic volumes,” and on St. Nicholas Avenue between Fairview Avenue and Broadway.

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Daily News Tries Race-Baiting to Gin Up Controversy Over Safer Streets

Is either of these Inwood cyclists invincible in traffic? Ask the Daily News. Photo: Brad Aaron

It’s truly amazing how much work the tabloids put into opposing measures that save lives. Take today’s Daily News, which resorted to race-baiting to gin up controversy over hard-won bike lanes in Upper Manhattan.

Residents of Inwood and Washington Heights have been working for safer neighborhood streets for a long while. My first story on such an effort was published on Streetsblog back in September 2007. A few months later the folks who would eventually form the area’s first known livable streets group proposed separated bike lanes for Dyckman Street.

So for at least six years, my neighbors have waited for Community Board 12 and DOT to come up with a plan for new bike infrastructure, even as DOT whittled away what little exists. Last week, DNAinfo reported that a handful of new bike lanes could finally be coming to Washington Heights (and Fort George — an area south of Dyckman/200th Street which, depending on whom you ask, is part of Inwood).

On cue, the Daily News sent three reporters to get quotes from two people with negative reactions, which the paper presents as evidence that locals are divided. Here’s what reporters Michael Feeney, Stephanie Lacy, and Amber Goodfellow came up with.

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NYPD Rarely Enforces Speed Limit on Deadly Broadway in Upper Manhattan

Twelve pedestrians were killed by motorists in the 33rd and 34th Precincts from 2009 through 2011. Police in those precincts issued a total of 125 speeding summonses in 2011. Image: TSTC

In our Tuesday post on the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s latest “Most Dangerous Roads for Walking” report, we noted the concentration of pedestrian deaths on Broadway in Washington Heights, where pedestrian islands, protected bike lanes and other safety features are not present above 168th Street.

In addition to engineering, another factor in pedestrian fatalities and injuries is, of course, traffic law enforcement. In the 33rd and 34th Precincts, which cover Washington Heights and Inwood, very few motorists are penalized for reckless driving — even those who cause grievous injury.

Washington Heights is an entrance and exit point for the George Washington Bridge. And with two toll-free bridges connecting Manhattan to the Bronx, and, ergo, Westchester County, Inwood is plagued by cut-through traffic (a problem that could be exacerbated by toll hikes on the Henry Hudson Bridge). We wrote that speed enforcement in the 34th Precinct effectively stopped after the installation of Manhattan’s first “Slow Zone” last October, but there wasn’t much enforcement to speak of before then either.

In 2011, the most recent year covered by the Tri-State report, and the first year in which NYPD made traffic summons and crash data available to the public, the 34th Precinct issued just 17 speeding summonses, and 152 summonses for failure to yield to a pedestrian. To the south, the 33rd Precinct issued 108 summonses for speeding, and 80 summonses for failure to yield, for the entire year.

Four pedestrians were killed by motorists in the 33rd Precinct between 2009 and 2011, according to Tri-State. In the 34th Precinct, eight pedestrians died in traffic during that period. Injury numbers by precinct are not known, since NYPD did not begin releasing that data until the middle of 2011.

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Ray Kelly’s NYC: No Charges for Driver Who Dragged Woman Under Cab

Emergency responders work to free Amy Fass from beneath a cab, after she was struck at W. 181st Street and Haven Avenue. The driver was not charged. Photo: Andrew Adams

A reader has identified the woman wounded by a cab driver in Upper Manhattan Sunday evening as Amy Fass of Washington Heights. The crash occurred in the 34th Precinct, where officers issued two speeding tickets in the last three months of 2012.

Fass was crossing 181st at Haven Avenue, near her home, at approximately 6:45 p.m. when she was struck as the cab driver appeared to be en route to the West Side Highway. Andrew Adams writes:

Amy, in her late 50s, was in the crosswalk when a driver of a SUV taxi struck her and drug her approximately 40 feet before he stopped when pedestrians screamed at him to do so. She was pinned underneath the taxi until emergency services responded to rescue her.

Another witness posted this account on a neighborhood parent list:

I saw when she was trapped under the taxi on Haven Ave. where it leads to the West Side Highway. The cab must have been speeding downhill on 181st. She lives on Haven in the building next to the highway entrance. My impression was that she was very badly hurt.

A third witness, James Ribas, told the Post: ”I saw a cabby going real fast. He didn’t know he hit her.”

Fass was conscious at the scene, but at some point went into cardiac and respiratory arrest, according to an FDNY spokesperson. She was considered “not likely” to die when transported to Lincoln Hospital.

Adams heard from a family member today that Fass remains hospitalized. Her release date is uncertain, but she will require physical rehabilitation, the family member said.

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Gas Station Gridlock Snares Buses, NYPD Resources in Washington Heights

A line for gas occupied one lane of Broadway for blocks, and created gridlock on several more. Photos: Brad Aaron

If yellow cabs and livery cabs can’t get gas, that’s a problem, especially when train service is limited and buses are packed. But many of the cars in this line, which clogged one lane of Broadway from 168th to 174th Street in Washington Heights this afternoon, were private vehicles.

An M3 tries to merge onto Broadway north of 168th Street.

I counted 11 NYPD personnel, including auxiliary officers and TEAs, assigned to this mess. In addition to occupying a traffic lane — most drivers were parked, engines off — the line kept buses from moving and forced passengers to wade into the street to board.

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