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Posts from the West Harlem Category


DOT Weakened Riverside Drive Plan to Appease Manhattan CB 9 [Updated]

A DOT road diet for the Riverside Drive viaduct, where the majority of drivers speed, will keep two lanes for northbound drivers and will have no lanes for cyclists. Image: Google Maps

A DOT road diet for the Riverside Drive viaduct, where most drivers speed, will keep two lanes for northbound drivers and will have no dedicated lanes for cyclists. Image: Google Maps

DOT watered down and delayed an already half-hearted plan to make Riverside Drive safer for walking in deference to opposition from Manhattan Community Board 9.

Riverside is a neighborhood street, lined by apartment buildings and parks. It also ranks in the top third of Manhattan streets in terms of the number of collisions, which is supposed to mean it’s a high priority for DOT to redesign under Vision Zero. From 2009 to 2013, crashes on Riverside resulted in 74 injuries, including 23 severe injuries, according to DOT.

In January, DOT released a road diet plan for Riverside that was weak to begin with. By omitting bike lanes where there is clearly ample room, DOT passed on an opportunity to make the street safer for cyclists and pedestrians. But that wasn’t enough to placate CB 9, which refused to endorse the plan as drivers continued to injure people.

The original DOT plan called for reducing through-lanes on the Riverside Drive viaduct, where DOT says the majority of drivers speed, from two to one in each direction. But under the amended plan endorsed by CB 9 last May, the viaduct will remain two lanes on the northbound side, according to the office of City Council Member Mark Levine.

DOT dropped pedestrian islands planned for W. 120th Street after CB 9 objected to them.

DOT reportedly dropped pedestrian islands planned for W. 120th Street after CB 9 objected to them.

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DOT Is Finally Bringing Riverside Drive in Line With 25 MPH City Speed Limit

When the new citywide 25 miles per hour speed limit took effect a year ago, DOT carved out some exceptions, retaining speed limits of 30 or 35 mph on some surface streets.

A new 25 mph sign on the Riverside Drive 125th Street viaduct. Photo: Delphine S. Taylor

A new 25 mph sign on the Riverside Drive 125th Street viaduct. Photo: Delphine S. Taylor

One of those streets was Riverside Drive, where last November DOT installed 30 mph speed limit signs at locations north of 100th Street. At that time we asked DOT why Riverside, a neighborhood street flanked by apartment buildings and parks, was exempt from the slower, safer speed limit, but did not get a response.

“Some larger streets, such as limited access highways or major arterial streets, have posted speed limits of 30 MPH and above,” read a DOT FAQ sheet issued last fall. “[T]hese will remain in place while DOT evaluates these locations.”

Last December, City Council members Helen Rosenthal and Mark Levine asked Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg to “immediately” reduce the speed limit on Riverside from 103rd Street to 165th Street to 25 mph “for the safety of … residents and … consistency of traffic policy.”

Wrote Rosenthal and Levine:

The street is lined with residential buildings on the east side and playgrounds, tot lots, and parkland on the west side. With its connections to the George Washington Bridge, northern New York roads, and the I-95 into the City, there is a constant stream of car and bike traffic on this stretch of Riverside Drive. Residents must brave this traffic as they cross the street to use the park, often with children in tow.

The speed limit remained 30 mph on Riverside north of 103rd Street for about 11 more months. Sometime in the last few weeks, DOT installed 25 mph signs on Riverside south of 135th Street. DOT said the speed limit will be lowered to 25 mph from 135th Street to 165th Street before the year is out.

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West Harlemites Put Bike Lanes Back in the Picture for Broadway Redesign

West Harlem residents succeeded in getting NYC DOT to consider adding bike lanes to a road diet project for Broadway between W. 153rd and W. 135th. But they had to fight for it during Thursday night’s Community Board 9 transportation committee meeting.

DOT’s proposal for a road diet with no bike infrastructure didn’t cut it at last night’s CB 9 meeting. Click to enlarge. Image: DOT

DOT had shown a design for the street this summer with wider medians and parking lanes, fewer traffic lanes, but no bike lanes. At a town hall hosted by Assembly Member Denny Farrell last week, several residents called on the agency to add bike lanes to the project. Last night, residents and board members were quick to point out that despite updating its plans to reflect feedback since the summer, DOT’s redesign still didn’t include bike lanes.

“This is a unique opportunity to bring Broadway into the 21st century by bringing bike lanes into the mix,” said neighborhood resident Rose Seabrook. “Bike lanes do nothing to hamper traffic but it helps to organize road traffic by creating that structure.”

At first, the DOT officials argued that cyclists would be fine using a 13-foot-wide parking lane. But board members and residents cited the prevalence of double-parked cars and trucks that would get in the way of cyclists.

Responding to pressure from Seabrook and others, a DOT official said, to much applause, that the agency would consider adding bike lanes in the project.

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Momentum Builds For Safety Improvements on Broadway in West Harlem

DOT’s Broadway safety plan calls for a road diet between 135th Street and 153rd Street. Many neighborhood residents want the city to go farther and include bike lanes. Image: NYC DOT

West Harlem residents are rallying support for safety improvements on Broadway between 135th Street and 153rd Street ahead of a vote on a DOT redesign proposal at tonight’s Community Board 9 transportation committee meeting.

The plan, which DOT presented publicly in July, calls for a road diet on Broadway, going from three lanes in each direction to two, with extra-wide parking lanes and more pedestrian space around the medians known as the Broadway Malls.

About 60 West Harlem residents attended a town hall on the project last Tuesday hosted by Assembly Member Denny Farrell, and support for changing Broadway was strong. Farrell had opposed the project at the July meeting, but he seems to be coming around, expressing support for the changes with some reservations.

The town hall last Tuesday could mark a turning point, said Transportation Alternatives Upper Manhattan Organizer David Guerrero. “This town hall was tremendously in support of not only the plan, but of further measures,” such as bike lanes, Guerrero said.

Broadway currently runs three lanes in each direction, and its safety record is abysmal. Between 2009 and 2013, there were 455 injuries on this stretch in Upper Manhattan, mostly to motor vehicle occupants, according to DOT. This portion of Broadway was identified as a priority corridor in the agency’s Vision Zero action plan for Manhattan, particularly because of its high concentration of senior citizens. Of the five pedestrian fatalities on the corridor since 2007, four were seniors.

At last Tuesday’s meeting, TA volunteer Glenford “Gino” Jeffrey of West Harlem presented nearly 300 signatures from residents and 30 coalition letters from businesses who support the DOT proposal and the addition of a bike lane. “Now that we’re doing more outreach to people in those neighborhoods, and telling them what’s going on, they’ve come out to support us,” Jeffrey said.

Rose Seabrook also spoke in favor of the proposal at last week’s meeting, but she says it doesn’t go far enough. “Safety improvement on Broadway is really important,” she told Streetsblog. “However, it will be incomplete without dedicated bike lanes.”

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Construction Begins on New 151st Street Bridge to Hudson River Greenway

The view from what will be the eastern landing of a new bike/ped bridge linking 151st Street to the Hudson River Greenway. Photo: Delphine Taylor

The state broke ground this month on a new pedestrian and bicycle bridge linking West Harlem with the Hudson River Greenway.

For cyclists, the bridge will provide stair-free access between the greenway and the intersection of 151st Street and Riverside Drive, spanning the Henry Hudson Parkway and the Amtrak line that runs along the Hudson. Right now the nearest access points, at 148th and 155th streets, have stairs and no ramps. The nearest crossings with ramps are at 135th Street, south of Riverbank State Park, and 158th Street.

The 158th Street connection received a $2 million staircase and ramp from the state Department of Transportation in 2006. Earlier this summer, NYC DOT installed a two-way bike lane on 158th Street as part of a larger package of bikeway improvements linking the Hudson River Greenway to the High Bridge.

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Eyes on the Street: West 125th Street Gets Its Bus Lanes

It’s showtime for West Harlem bus lanes. Photo: Stephen Miller

It’s finally happening. More than a year after bus lanes were installed on 125th Street east of Lenox Avenue, the first signs have appeared that DOT will soon be painting red bus-only lanes in West Harlem.

The first round of camera-enforced bus lanes, from Lenox to Second Avenue, have helped speed local buses on 125th Street between 7 and 20 percent, according to DOT and MTA. The M60 Select Bus Service, for which riders pay before boarding instead of swiping onboard the bus, is running 32 to 34 percent faster. Meanwhile, buses on sections of 125th Street without the bus lanes have either slowed slightly or not seen any change in speed.

Speedier buses are set to come to West Harlem after the lanes are extended from Lenox Avenue to Morningside Avenue. DOT said in April that the bus lanes would be installed this summer, and the first paint markings are now popping up. DOT says the work will be completed this fall, weather permitting. The bus lanes will eventually be accompanied by transit signal priority, which keeps transit riders from getting stuck at red lights.

It’s been a long road to getting bus lanes on 125th Street. First suggested after advocacy by WE ACT for Environmental Justice over three years ago, DOT and MTA began working with local community members on the plan in late 2012. Facing opposition from community boards and local elected officials, the Select Bus Service proposal was shelved less than a year later before being revived, in abbreviated form covering only central and East Harlem, in late 2013.

Since then, West Harlem elected officials have repeatedly called on DOT to extend the bus lanes to their neighborhood. It looks like West Harlem bus riders are finally getting their wish.


Denny Farrell Says We Got His Street Safety Rant Wrong; Here’s the Audio

Assembly Member Denny Farrell, chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, played a key role in the death of congestion pricing. More recently, he’s been a regular at Upper Manhattan community board meetings, where he inveighs against traffic safety projects. Now, he’s spending his time writing letters to bloggers.

Assembly Member Herman "Denny" Farrell, chair of the Ways and Means Committee. Photo: NY Assembly

Assembly Member Herman “Denny” Farrell, chair of the Ways and Means Committee. Photo: NY Assembly

Last month, Farrell attended a Community Board 9 transportation committee meeting where DOT presented its plan for a road diet on Broadway between 135th and 153rd streets. Most of the audience, including Council Member Mark Levine and Captain Michael Baker, commanding officer of the 30th Precinct, were receptive to the proposal.

Nevertheless, Farrell objected to the plan’s fundamental component, which would reduce the number of car lanes from three to two in each direction. DOT says traffic volumes on Broadway are low enough, even during the busiest hours, to be accommodated in two lanes. The right lane on this section of Broadway is regularly blocked by trucks making deliveries, which would use expanded curbside loading zones under DOT’s plan.

Farrell wrote a letter to Streetsblog objecting to coverage of his remarks at the meeting. He posted the text of the letter to his website, and sent a copy on Assembly letterhead to Streetsblog [PDF]:

Dear Mr. Miller,

I am writing in response to your July 10 article, “Will CB 9 Take Its Cues From a Denny Farrell Rant Against a Safer Broadway?” [link added] about a Community Board 9 meeting held Thursday, July 9.

First, I will concede that I may have been wrong or misspoken about the relative safety of Florida’s roads and highways and their success in reducing pedestrian injuries and fatalities. I will admit that I have never taken the time to study Florida’s safety statistics in any great detail. But I have been there, and seen how Florida traffic is routed to left- and right-turn lanes that allow traffic to flow while, apparently, protecting pedestrians.

However, in reading your article, it seems that you may have misheard my “rant” during the meeting, as I certainly do not recall making several of the statements you attributed to me.

And I must challenge your mocking tone in reporting my statement that bicycles are dangerous. Your article omitted my statements about bicycles being silent, and my complaints that bicycles should continually make a warning noise to alert pedestrians when a bicyclist is approaching.

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Levine and Rodriguez Press DOT to Implement West Harlem Bus Lanes ASAP

Council Member Mark Levine speaks in support of bus lanes on 125th Street in West Harlem. He was joined by Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez and advocates from Riders Alliance, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Transportation Alternatives, and StreetsPAC. Photo: Stephen Miller

Council Member Mark Levine calls for bus lanes on 125th Street in West Harlem. He was joined by Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez and advocates from Riders Alliance, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Transportation Alternatives, and StreetsPAC. Photo: Stephen Miller

Transit advocates and Upper Manhattan elected officials gathered this morning at the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and 125th Street to urge DOT to extend bus lanes on 125th Street to West Harlem as soon as possible.

The city installed bus lanes on 125th east of Lenox Avenue last spring, and DOT says they will be extended west to Morningside Avenue next month. Given the contentious history of the project, however, local electeds who support the bus lanes don’t want to take any chances. Earlier this month, Council Member Mark Levine and State Senator Adriano Espaillat sent a letter to DOT stressing the need to follow through on the project [PDF].

While the vast majority of local residents depend on transit, not private cars, the proposal for West Harlem bus lanes continues to draw fire at community board meetings — particularly CB 10, where the chair has complained about bus lanes slowing down her cab rides and transportation committee meetings are often filibustered by bus lane opponents.

“Look, the politics of this are always complicated. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t be fighting over it,” Levine said this morning. “There’s still a very entrenched car culture in this city, and for years the car has been king. And that’s how we made policy.”

Levine is worried that further delay could push the bus lane project into next year. “We’re going to keep the pressure on every day until the work is completed,” he said. “That’s my commitment.”

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Will CB 9 Take Its Cues From a Denny Farrell Rant Against a Safer Broadway?

Five pedestrians,

Five pedestrians, including four seniors, have been killed on Broadway since 2009. But Denny Farrell thinks stopping for pedestrians is causing traffic and a road diet will lead to massive congestion. Image: DOT [PDF]

Council Member Mark Levine and the local precinct commander spoke in support of a traffic safety plan [PDF] for a deadly stretch of Broadway last night at a Manhattan Community Board 9 transportation committee meeting. Then Denny Farrell, chair of the New York State Assembly’s powerful ways and means committee, let loose with a nonsensical rant against the plan.

The project calls for adding pedestrian space and trimming car lanes from three in each direction to two. Will Community Board 9 vote for safety or go along with Farrell? We should find out this fall, when the board is expected to weigh in on the proposal.

Denny Farrell at a 2008 hearing on congestion pricing. Photo: Aaron Naparstek

After DOT’s presentation last night, Levine spoke up in support. “The status quo is a big problem, and not something we can tolerate,” he said. “Something has to be done, and we have a plan that seems to provide safety for pedestrians.”

The plan also received support from Captain Michael Baker, commanding officer of the 30th Precinct. Baker said he was pleased with changes DOT made to nearby Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, also known as Seventh Avenue, and looked forward to similar changes on Broadway. “What they did with Seventh Avenue made sense. The traffic does flow,” he told CB 9. “There need to be changes to the Broadway corridor. And I think what DOT is looking at will help.”

Most speakers at last night’s meeting were receptive to the plan. A few urged DOT to consider bus lanes or protected bike lanes. DOT project manager Jesse Mintz-Roth said center-running bike lanes like those on Allen Street would be difficult to install because Broadway, unlike Allen, has through streets at nearly every block and DOT isn’t willing to make significant changes to cross traffic along Broadway.

LaQuita Henry, a CB 9 member who also volunteers with the Community Alliance of Sugar Hill and Hamilton Heights, spent the week speaking with business owners on Broadway about the plan. She found that while most preferred three lanes in each direction, their primary concern was securing additional loading zones, which are part of DOT’s plan.

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Tonight: Community Board 9 Weighs Fix for Dangerous Stretch of Broadway

DOT's plan for 18 blocks of Broadway in West Harlem would drop it from three lanes to two lanes each way. Image: DOT [PDF]

DOT’s plan for 18 blocks of Broadway in West Harlem would widen pedestrian medians and narrow motor vehicle lanes. Image: DOT [PDF]

A street safety plan [PDF] for Broadway in West Harlem is going before the Manhattan Community Board 9 transportation committee tonight. The redesign is a road diet similar to other DOT projects that have reduced deaths and injuries, but CB 9 members also have a track record of opposing attempts to improve safety by removing car lanes.

This stretch of Broadway is three lanes in each direction with a center median. Six people have been killed between 135th Street and 153rd Street since 2007, according to DOT, including five pedestrians and one motor vehicle passenger. Four of the five pedestrians were senior citizens.

There were 35 severe injuries and 455 total injuries from 2009 to 2013, mostly among people in cars. Of the 108 pedestrians injured, 53 percent were crossing with the signal, nearly double the percentage crossing against the light. DOT also found that up to 30 percent of drivers were speeding, even before the speed limit was lowered to 25 mph.

To address the dangerous conditions, DOT is proposing a road diet similar to projects already implemented on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in Harlem and Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn. The Broadway redesign calls for going from three lanes in each direction to two, with space reallocated to buffers along the median, larger pedestrian zones at intersections, and wider parking lanes.

Broadway runs parallel to the Henry Hudson Parkway. Even during summer Friday afternoons, when traffic increases on Broadway, DOT says two lanes in each direction is enough. The issues for motor vehicles, DOT says, have to do with left turns and trucks making deliveries.

Today, truck drivers often double park in the right lane, reducing visibility for pedestrians and forcing drivers to weave around them. On the other side of the street, drivers turning left often stack up in the left lane.

New loading zones would be added along Broadway to reduce double parking. In addition, left turns from northbound Broadway at 138th and 145th streets would be banned, and U-turns from southbound Broadway at 152nd Street would also be prohibited.

Like the other road diets on similar streets, however, there is no bike infrastructure in the plan. Instead DOT opted to devote all the repurposed space to enlarge the median and create super-wide parking lanes, which will double as space for illegally double-parked vehicles.

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