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Posts from the Eyes on the Street Category

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Eyes on the Street: A Smorgasburg of Traffic in Prospect Park [Updated]

Gridlock at Ocean Avenue and Lincoln Road as Smorgasburg drivers snake through Prospect Park. Photo: Stanley Greenberg

Smorgasburg traffic snaked out from the interior of the park across the loop road yesterday. Photo copyright Stanley Greenberg

Yesterday, popular food market Smorgasburg launched its first outpost in Prospect Park — and brought a traffic mess into what’s ostensibly a car-free park.

The food market, which features 100 vendors at Breeze Hill, used the park entrance at Lincoln Road for vehicle access. Event staff were on hand to direct motorists but were quickly overmatched, says reader Stanley Greenberg, who said there was actually a traffic jam in the park as the event wound down at around 6 p.m. yesterday.

A van driver attempts to turn around, using a Prospect Park sidewalk. Photo: Stanley Greenberg

A van driver attempts to turn around, using a Prospect Park sidewalk. Photo copyright Stanley Greenberg

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Eyes on the Street: Clinton Street’s New Bikeway

The bikeway isn't complete yet, but it's already getting used. Photo: Stephen Miller

The bikeway isn’t complete yet, but it’s already getting used. Photo: Stephen Miller

A new two-way bikeway is under construction to provide a connection between the Williamsburg Bridge and the East River Greenway.

The route along Clinton Street extends the existing two-way protected bike lane between Delancey and Grand an additional five blocks to South Street, where it connects to the waterfront bike path beneath the FDR Drive.

The waterfront greenway, which runs along South Street, will also be getting an upgrade: concrete barriers to protect greenway users from cars and trucks. DOT says the installation schedule for this component of the project is still being determined.

Cinton Street is getting a two-way bikeway and painted curb extensions. Image: DOT [PDF]

Clinton Street is getting a two-way bikeway and painted curb extensions. Image: DOT [PDF]

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Eyes on the Street: Williamsburg’s “Lively,” “Beautiful” New Garage Wall

Photo: Stephen Miller

Such a lively streetscape on Hewes Street. Photo: Stephen Miller

An apartment building in Williamsburg perfectly illustrates how parking minimums in New York’s zoning code make the city’s streets and sidewalks worse.

Last year, a joint venture of Alex. Brown Realty and Largo Investments finished construction on a 33-unit rental project at 281 Union Avenue in Williamsburg. The seven-story building, roughly the same size as its neighbors, has something those older buildings don’t: 17 parking spaces. While we don’t know for certain whether parking minimums were the deciding factor behind that number, the amount of parking is just enough to meet the zoning code’s requirements.

From an urban design perspective, city buildings don’t get much worse. The lot, shaped like a triangle with one corner lopped off, is bounded on all sides by public streets. In other words, there’s nowhere to hide the parking.

So the developers turned the entire first floor into a caged-in parking garage, with the curb cut on Union Avenue instead of either of the side streets. While there are some plantings along Union Avenue to try and spruce things up, the result is a bleak streetscape. Instead of walking by an apartment building, people walk past grating that masks a parking garage.

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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.

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Eyes on the Street: Seventh Avenue Gets a Bit More Pedestrian Space

Pedestrians have a bit more breathing room, and a head start on turning drivers, at Seventh Avenue South and W. 4th Street.

Pedestrians have a bit more breathing room, and a head start on turning drivers — but not a full plaza as initially proposed — at Seventh Avenue South and W. 4th Street. Photo: Stephen Miller

Pedestrians have a little more room to navigate the complex intersection of Seventh Avenue South and W. 4th Street in the West Village.

The intersection now has a dedicated left turn lane for drivers going from Seventh Avenue South to W. 4th Street. The traffic signal gives pedestrians a head start and holds turning traffic before giving drivers a flashing yellow arrow indicating that they can proceed after yielding to people in the crosswalk [PDF].

The plan adds pedestrian space, but less than an earlier version that would have created a plaza on one block of W. 4th Street. Image: DOT [PDF]

The plan adds pedestrian space, but less than an earlier version that featured a plaza on a block of W. 4th Street. Image: DOT [PDF]

Curb extensions are also being painted at six corners near the intersection, shortening crossing distances for pedestrians. The largest is on Seventh Avenue South between Christopher and Grove streets, providing more space for pedestrians at the entrance to the Christopher Street subway station.

The Seventh Avenue South Alliance has signed on as a maintenance partner for the space, DOT said. Completion is set for late fall.

DOT had initially proposed creating a full-size plaza on W. 4th Street between Christopher and Grove streets, but CB 2 members objected over fears it would inhibit truck deliveries and increase traffic on other side streets. The department then proposed the turn lane option instead.

The intersection is just north of where Seventh Avenue South crosses Bleecker Street. DOT added a similar treatment there in 2012, including a dedicated turn lane and leading pedestrian interval followed by a flashing yellow arrow for turning drivers [PDF].

Last year, CB 2 asked DOT to study a complete streets treatment for the length of Seventh Avenue South, including a protected bike lane. DOT has yet to propose a protected bike lane for Seventh Avenue South.

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Street Seats and Bike Lanes Come to Brownsville and East New York

The Street Seat on Pitkin Avenue isn't even complete yet, but residents are already using it. Photo: Stephen Miller

The Street Seat on Pitkin Avenue isn’t complete yet, but residents are already using it. Photo: Stephen Miller

Livable streets improvements are rolling out for residents of Brownsville and East New York. Two new Street Seats have popped up just blocks from each other on Pitkin Avenue and Mother Gaston Boulevard. Meanwhile, DOT is installing the neighborhood’s latest round of bike lanes.

After a community-based planning process that began in 2011, the first phase of bike lanes in Brownsville and East New York was installed in 2013, followed by a second batch last year. The latest round focuses on east-west routes [PDF]: Pitkin Avenue should be finished soon, DOT said, and striping on Blake and Dumont avenues should begin in the next few weeks.

The neighborhood also got its first Street Seats, installations that convert a curbside parking space into seating and greenery maintained by a local organization or business. On Mother Gaston Boulevard near Belmont Avenue, the Brownsville Partnership is sponsoring a Street Seat in front of the MGB POPS local pop-up market.

Crews stripe crosswalks on Pitkin Avenue. The bike lane is up next. Photo: Stephen Miller

Crews stripe crosswalks on Pitkin Avenue. The bike lane is up next. Photo: Stephen Miller

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Eyes on the Street: 33rd Street Plaza Comes to Life

The view at Penn Plaza. Photo: Stephen Miller

The view at Penn Plaza. Photo: Stephen Miller

There is now a plaza at Penn Plaza.

The finishing touches were added to a temporary pedestrian space occupying the full breadth of 33rd Street just west of Seventh Avenue earlier this week. The plaza stretches a little less than halfway to Eighth Avenue, replacing what used to be westbound traffic lanes with planters, sculptures, a terraced seating area, and a painted surface to grab the attention of passing commuters.

The plaza was funded by Vornado Realty Trust, which owns a number of large properties nearby, including Penn Plaza, the Hotel Pennsylvania, and the Manhattan Mall. Vornado received the backing of DOT and Community Board 5 for its plan earlier this year,

The space was busy during yesterday’s evening rush hour. “I’m a New Yorker. I like to have a place to sit,” said Eva, who commutes by Long Island Rail Road from Flushing Estates and refused to give her last time. “In this area here, you don’t have a park, you don’t have a place to come sit down at lunchtime,” she said. “It’s nice.”

Rush hour outside Penn Station. Photo: Stephen Miller

Rush hour outside Penn Station. Photo: Stephen Miller

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Eyes on the Street: New Bus Lanes Arrive on Woodhaven Blvd

Photo: Toby Sheppard Bloch

Bus lanes being installed on Woodhaven Boulevard near Fleet Court. Photo: Toby Sheppard Bloch

It’s not quite Select Bus Service, but it’s a step in the right direction: A pair of long-awaited bus lanes are rolling out on Woodhaven Boulevard.

Offset bus lanes, installed to the left of curbside parking, are being added to both sides of Woodhaven between Dry Harbor Road and Metropolitan Avenue, covering about 1.3 miles [PDF]. Streetsblog reader and Queens Community Board 5 member Toby Sheppard Bloch sent in a photo of the progress. Short sections of curbside bus lanes are also being added to Woodhaven in both directions as it approaches Rockaway Boulevard.

The bus lanes, which will not affect parking regulations along Woodhaven, will be in effect Monday through Friday from 7 to 10 a.m. and from 4 to 7 p.m. Due to restrictions imposed by Albany, the bus lanes will not be camera-enforced. A bill awaiting Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature would allow the city to install bus lane cameras on Woodhaven and other routes.

While these bus lanes overlap with the route of Select Bus Service planned for Woodhaven Boulevard and Cross Bay Boulevard, they’re really a separate project that arose from DOT’s 2008 “Congested Corridors” study. They were originally scheduled to be installed last fall; DOT blamed poor weather and a lack of available resources for the delay. Work began in mid-July, and the agency expects to wrap the project by installing overhead bus lane signage in the next couple weeks.

The full redesign of Woodhaven Boulevard for Select Bus Service will come later. That project will add pedestrian safety improvements, limited-stop service, off-board fare collection and more substantial bus lanes. DOT selected a design for that project in March, saying that construction would wrap in 2018.

While Select Bus Service continues to face opposition from some civic associations in the area, transit advocates, led by the Riders Alliance and Transportation Alternatives, have been building support for SBS with their #FixWoodhaven social media campaign.

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Eyes on the Street: Queens Boulevard Gets Its Bike Lane

Behold the Queens Boulevard bike lane. Photo: Stephen Miller

Behold the Queens Boulevard bike lane (flexible bollards coming soon). Photo: Stephen Miller

It’s happening: DOT crews are putting down green paint and thermoplastic stripes along 1.3 miles of Queens Boulevard between Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street. The redesign is the de Blasio administration’s most significant bike project to date and includes several pedestrian safety improvements as well. It was prompted by a long advocacy campaign for safer biking on the boulevard, which intensified after a driver struck and killed cyclist Asif Rahman in 2008.

Crews are working from west to east, adding a green bike lane, widening pedestrian medians, and installing crosswalks and signals for people walking between median islands. DOT has also closed off some of the high-speed “slip lanes” between the main roadway and the service streets. The remaining slip lanes will be redesigned to slow drivers exiting the boulevard’s main lanes and crossing the bike lane.

Slip lanes are being closed or redesigned to reduce speeding. Photo: Stephen Miller

Slip lanes are being closed or redesigned to reduce speeding. Photo: Stephen Miller

The Queens Boulevard redesign is an example of how DOT can use low-cost materials to act quickly, when decision makers treat a project as a high priority. Workshops were held in January. The design was revealed in March. The community board signed off in June. The mayor held a celebratory press conference in July. Now, in August, the first changes are on the ground.

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Eyes on the Street: The Case of the Missing Bike Lanes, Part II

Turns out many of the city’s marquee Vision Zero projects aren’t the only streets missing bike lanes.

DOT has also allowed its existing bike lanes to fade away. When it does repave streets, the agency often takes months to add back lane striping. Even when it puts paint back on the ground, DOT doesn’t finish the job in some cases, seemingly leaving the bike lane lost to history.

Last month, we showed you two examples where DOT didn’t refresh the bike lane after repaving and putting back all the other street markings. But the problem is much bigger than just those two streets. Earlier this week, we asked for your photos with the #MissingBikeNYC hashtag. The results are depressing. Read more…