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Posts from the "Community Board Reform" Category

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Morningside Road Diet Supporters Try to Find Common Ground With CB 10

Wednesday night, Harlem road diet supporters and opponents met in an attempt to find common ground on what can be done to improve safety on Morningside Avenue. The move comes in advance of DOT releasing a second plan for the street, after its first design encountered opposition from Community Board 10.

CB 10's chair is worried that adding pedestrian islands to Morningside Avenue will cause problems for double-parkers. Photo: DOT

CB 10′s chair is worried that reducing car lanes to add pedestrian islands to Morningside Avenue will create problems with double-parked drivers. Photo: DOT

The plan to calm traffic on Morningside Avenue [PDF], requested by North Star Neighborhood Association and supported by CB 9, has been waiting for action from neighboring CB 10 since it was released last September. But key CB 10 members object to its central component — a reduction in the number of car lanes to create space for a painted median and pedestrian refuge islands — and the board has refused to take action on the plan. In response, DOT went back to the drawing board and is creating a second plan to be presented in the coming weeks.

About 25 people attended the Wednesday meeting, which was hosted by North Star and included presentations from CB 10 chair Henrietta Lyle and Transportation Alternatives Manhattan organizer Tom DeVito, who talked about how the plan fits into Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero program.

The event featured plenty of crosstalk and heated exchanges, but there was also discussion of the need for a plan that everyone in the room could support. While the meeting ended on a positive note, the path to agreement remains murky: Lyle and many CB 10 members remain opposed to reducing the number of car lanes, and DOT has not yet released its alternative plan.

“I just don’t think it’s a good community position for us to be battling when safety is the number one thing,” said Aissatou Bey-Grecia, a founding member of North Star. The group focused on Morningside Avenue after an unsuccessful bid for a 20 mph Slow Zone in the neighborhood yielded discussions with DOT about the street. “Any change would be a good change, as far as I’m concerned, on Morningside Avenue. But what happens should come out of the collective voice.”

For her part, Lyle alternated between support of unspecified traffic safety improvements and telling the group that there was no pressing reason to implement a road diet on Morningside. Lyle held up a printed Google Map of traffic speeds to show that because Morningside Avenue was not colored in red, yellow or green, it did not require any changes. ”They had nothing on Morningside Avenue, meaning it is okay,” she said.

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Bed Stuy CB Chair: Street Safety “Not an Issue in Our Community”

Earlier this month, Brooklyn Community Board 3 voted against a 20 mph Slow Zone in Clinton Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant. In a recent interview, CB 3 Chair Tremaine Wright told Streetsblog that the board voted against it in part because dangerous driving is not an issue in the neighborhood, and Slow Zone supporters did not demonstrate that the plan would address a real problem.

Brooklyn CB 3 Chair Tremaine Wright. Photo: Amsterdam News

Brooklyn CB 3 Chair Tremaine Wright. Photo: Amsterdam News

The 0.2-square mile area proposed for a Slow Zone averages 62.4 traffic injuries annually, according to DOT, with six severe injuries or fatalities per road mile [PDF]. A quick look at NYC Crashmapper shows dozens of pedestrians and cyclists injured in the area over the past couple of years.

I asked Wright if reckless driving is a problem in the neighborhood. “Not on the blocks in this proposed area,” she said. “And that’s why it’s key that they must be able to articulate the rationale for doing it.”

I followed up with a question about other parts of the neighborhood, including Atlantic Avenue, which runs along the southern border of the CB 3 district. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign ranks Atlantic as the third most-dangerous road in Brooklyn for pedestrians, and Brooklyn voters polled by Transportation Alternatives overwhelmingly identified it as the worst street for pedestrians in the borough. In 2012, at least two pedestrians were killed on Atlantic Avenue in Bed Stuy, including Maria Tripp, who was run over while crossing at Ralph Avenue, and William Boney, 49, struck while crossing at Troy Avenue.

“I don’t think we’ve had a lot of accidents along Atlantic,” Wright said. “There’s a place for pedestrians to stop and pause midway. We don’t get a lot of reports of dangerous activity there.”

“If we’re having fatalities related to traffic incidents, that would be reported to us by our police department, probably. We’re not getting a lot of that,” Wright said. (Last year, the 79th and 81st precincts, which cover the same area as CB 3, issued only 36 and 40 citations, respectively, for failure to yield to pedestrians.)

Wright said many streets in Bed Stuy have already received speed humps or other traffic calming measures, which she claimed diminishes the case for the Slow Zone. “Why is this the area that needs traffic calming, considering all of the traffic calming that has already occurred?” Wright asked. “It sounds like it’s just being dropped in.”

Wright’s comments came after she participated in a panel last Friday on the role community boards play in city planning. During the forum, Wright said that bike lanes, road diets, and plazas “are happening to us” and that community boards need a bigger role in the planning process.

Some community boards have actively worked with city agencies to develop blueprints for bike lanes and pedestrian upgrades. I asked Wright if CB 3 is looking to plan in advance for these types of traffic safety improvements. “We could do proactive stuff, but community boards are volunteer. We’re not going to be able to come up with a plan for everything. We pick and choose,” she said, adding that CB 3 members and meeting attendees are most interested in land use and zoning, not street safety. ”That is not an issue in our community, by and large,” Wright said.

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Brewer Asks Community Boards to Identify Dangerous Places for Walking

When it comes to street safety improvements, New York’s community boards are usually in a position where they react to proposals from NYC DOT. Now, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer could turn that dynamic on its head: She’s asked each board’s district manager to identify three traffic safety hotspots, saying that she’ll work with city agencies to make sure they’re addressed.

Photo: Camila Schaulsohn/AIA-NY

Photo: Camila Schaulsohn/AIA-NY

The issue tops the agenda at the monthly meeting Brewer will hold with community board district managers tomorrow evening.

“Citywide proposals such as lowering the speed limit will help, but a plan that will work has to be detailed and comprehensive. That means working with Community Boards and the Department of Transportation, as well as NYPD,” Brewer said in a press release. “I support Mayor de Blasio’s ‘Vision Zero’ plan and look forward to submitting a master list of these hotspots to his traffic task force.”

De Blasio has directed his Vision Zero task force to come up with a plan by February 15 outlining how to eliminate traffic fatalities within a decade.

Streetsblog has asked all 12 Manhattan district managers about locations they’ve identified for traffic safety improvements.

CB 11 manager George Sarkissian is hoping DOT will make improvements along the Park Avenue Metro-North viaduct, which has poor visibility for drivers and pedestrians, resulting in a history of deadly crashes. DOT has installed curb extensions at a few locations; Sarkissian said he hopes they can be added along the entire stretch of Park Avenue between 102nd and 111th Streets. Also of concern: Heavy car traffic accessing the 96th Street Transverse across Central Park and along Pleasant Avenue from 114th to 120th Streets heading to and from the big-box stores at East River Plaza.

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Video: Drivers Endanger Lives on Morningside Avenue as CB 10 Dithers

While Manhattan Community Board 10 fails to take action, proposed measures to make Morningside Avenue safer for pedestrians continue to languish.

Among other changes, DOT has proposed restriping Morningside between 116th Street and 126th Street from two lanes in each direction to one lane in each direction with a center striped median, concrete pedestrian islands and left turn lanes [PDF]. Community Board 9 voted in favor of the road diet last November, but the plan is stuck in the CB 10 transportation committee, which has held numerous meetings on the project without taking a vote.

At their latest meeting, held earlier this month, people who attended told Streetsblog that CB 10 members passed a resolution calling for more information from DOT, which they said is necessary before deciding whether to endorse traffic-calming on Morningside.

For this video, Harlem resident Maurice Sessoms interviewed people about conditions on the wide avenue, where he clocked motorists traveling as fast as 47 miles per hour. As indicated in the video, a pedestrian struck by a vehicle moving at 40 mph has only a 15 percent chance of surviving.

“I don’t think that it’s safe at all,” said a crossing guard. “I’ve been working on this corner for three years now. The cars speed, they go across the crosswalk. They don’t slow down when it’s raining, when it’s snowing. In bad weather they’re speeding.”

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Harlem’s CB 10 Continues Assault on Safer Streets and Better Buses

This modest change to Morningside Avenue is too radical for Community Board 10. Will it be too radical for Bill de Blasio’s DOT? Image: NYC DOT

According to Harlem’s Community Board 10, there is apparently no such thing as a street redesign worth pursuing. Over the course of two-and-a-half hours Tuesday night, members of the board’s transportation committee declined to support a road diet for Morningside Avenue, attacked a community-based street safety plan installed on Mount Morris Park West, and asked DOT to reconsider Select Bus Service on 125th Street again – this time on the pretense that it would harm the elderly and disabled.

The ongoing dysfunction at CB 10 should be a wake-up call to Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who has promised at least 20 Bus Rapid Transit routes and set a goal of eliminating traffic fatalities in 10 years. As it currently stands, New York’s community board process is incompatible with those goals, since in effect it enables a small group of people to veto changes to the street, sometimes without any meaningful community involvement. Community boards can be venues for constructive feedback and criticism, but too often they are simply forums to say “no” to change.

Each community board is supposed to represent the interests of people who live in the district — upwards of 100,000 people per board. In the CB 10 district, the vast majority of those people don’t own cars and rely on walking and transit. On Tuesday, there were just four committee members in the room, most of them threatening the cancellation of safety improvements proposed for Morningside Avenue, criticizing other traffic calming projects, and complaining about bus enhancements on 125th Street.

The Morningside Avenue redesign, requested by the North Star Neighborhood Association, has already been vetted at a public forum jointly hosted by Community Boards 9 and 10, which both cover the project area. CB 9 has already passed a resolution in support of the plan. Tuesday night, Karen Horry, acting chair of the CB 10 transportation committee, said she was surprised that CB 9′s resolution [PDF] did not ask DOT to reconsider the road diet, which is the centerpiece of the plan. ”The community has a great deal of concern about the lane reductions, so we were hoping you could address alternatives,” she said to Josh Orzeck, representing DOT’s Manhattan borough commissioner’s office at the meeting.

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Starting Tonight, Learn How You Can Join Your Local Community Board

Tuesday’s vote at Manhattan Community Board 7 is a reminder that the road to livable streets progress often goes through the local community board. With that in mind, Transportation Alternatives is kicking off a series of community board join-up meetings this week, where you can apply to serve on your local board.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio addresses Brooklyn Community Board 1 in 2011. Photo: Bill de Blasio

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio addresses Brooklyn Community Board 1 in 2011. Photo: Bill de Blasio

Community boards, while technically advisory in nature, often decide the fate of projects to make streets safer and more livable. “While they are only officially advisory, they do have tremendous impact on what policies end up being pursued,” TA organizer Tom DeVito said. This year’s round of join-up meetings, with one in each borough over the next few weeks, are a continuation of events TA has hosted annually since 2008. ”It started because of the importance that community boards have in the process of determining how our streets look,” DeVito said.

DOT has long presented plans for major street redesigns to community boards, a practice that was codified into law in 2010. Community boards sometimes act to block or slow down livable streets projects. They can also be the venue — as in Brownsville, Staten Island, and western Queens – where communities develop their own plans and ask the city for improvements. The addition of one or two new faces can spell the difference between a community board that says “no” to change, and one that says “yes.”

The first join-up meeting is happening in Manhattan this evening, and an event in Brooklyn is also scheduled for tonight. Borough president-elect Gale Brewer is scheduled to attend the Manhattan session, and TA is awaiting final confirmation from several Manhattan council members. A panel of current community board members will talk about their experience, and a notary will be on hand so attendees can submit their community board applications on the spot.

Community board members are appointed by borough presidents, and many are nominated for consideration by council members. In Manhattan, the community board application review process has already been launched by Borough President Scott Stringer and will be completed by Brewer, with terms beginning in April 2014.

TA says it’s reached out to current and elected borough presidents in all five boroughs, inviting them to the local join-ups. Next week, TA is hosting a meet-up in Queens on Tuesday and the Bronx on Wednesday. A Staten Island event is planned for December 19.

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On Fourth Avenue, Brooklyn CB 6 Prioritizes Left Turns Over People’s Lives

Community Board 6 rejected a plan for wider pedestrian medians on one of Brooklyn's most dangerous streets because the design calls for restricting left turns.

Brooklyn Community Board 6 tossed aside years of community activism and months of public meetings about safety improvements on Fourth Avenue Wednesday night, voting against a DOT proposal to calm traffic and expand pedestrian space on one of the borough’s deadliest streets. The board not only rejected a resolution in support of the plan but also passed a resolution expressing its disapproval.

Between 2007 and 2011, 52 people were severely injured on the 1.4 mile stretch of Fourth Avenue in Park Slope, and a senior citizen was killed in 2008, according to DOT. In addition to all the foot traffic generated by the subway lines that run beneath the street, the wave of residential development following a 2003 rezoning means more people than ever are walking on Fourth Avenue. There are seven schools along this stretch, including one, PS 118, set to open this year on Fourth Avenue at 8th Street. The safety improvements that CB 6 rejected would have narrowed traffic lanes and expanded pedestrian space, similar to improvements implemented on 50 blocks of Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park last year.

Community Board 6 chair Daniel Kummer. Photo: Park Slope Patch

In introducing the proposal to the full board, transportation committee chair Tom Miskel spoke against the safety plan, before the board, chaired by Daniel Kummer, failed to pass a resolution supporting the proposal, 10-18 with four abstentions. After that vote, James Bernard, appointed to CB 6 by Council Member Stephen Levin, decided to go one step further and put forward another resolution expressing the board’s rejection of the safety plan. His resolution passed 18-9, with five abstentions.

CB 6′s full board is an outlier along Fourth Avenue. CB 2, which includes a few of Fourth Avenue’s northernmost blocks, unanimously voted, 27-0, to support the plan on Wednesday. CB 7 approved the Sunset Park section last year in a 31-2 vote. In Bay Ridge, CB 10′s transportation committee voted on Monday to support Fourth Avenue traffic calming; the plan goes before CB 10′s full board on Monday.

In a letter to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan [PDF], Kummer acknowledged the extensive planning process, culminating in a plan that received the support of his board’s transportation committee last month in a 14-1 vote, but said the board voted against the proposal after some residents and board members objected to key components of the safety plan. Those components include the wider pedestrian medians, which would reclaim street space for walking by implementing left turn restrictions and reducing travel lanes from three to two in each direction.

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Teresa Toro is Back in the Saddle at Community Board 1

Here’s some good news: The Brooklyn Paper reports that livable streets advocate Teresa Toro has been reinstated as chair of the transportation committee at Brooklyn Community Board 1. 

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Want a Seat on Your Community Board? There’s Still Time.

If you want to join a Manhattan community board and haven't yet filed an application, you have until tomorrow. Manhattan has the earliest (and by far the most well-publicized) deadline of the five boroughs, so no need to panic if you intend to apply elsewhere.

As regular readers know, community boards often represent the front lines in the battle for livable streets, and our neighborhoods desperately need more progressive voices at the board level -- ideally, enough of them so that something like this doesn't happen again.

Follow the jump for more dates and application links. Best of luck. 

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We Are the Community Board Cranks We’ve Been Waiting For

If you want to see more of this, and less of this, at the community board level, Transportation Alternatives is making it easier to apply for a spot on your own neighborhood CB.

Next Monday, November 24, TA will host the "Community Board Join-Up Jammy-Jam" at the offices of The Open Planning Project. There will be snacks, drinks, and short presentations on community board membership (and "why it rocks"). TA staffers will be on hand to field questions, along with a notary to make your app official.

RSVP (through Monday) to Elena at volunteer[at]transalt[dot]org or 646-873-6036.

WHAT: Community Board Join-Up Jammy-Jam

WHERE: The Open Planning Project, 349 W 12th St, #3 (1st Floor), Manhattan

WHEN: Monday, November 24, 6:00-9:00 p.m.

If you can't make the party, or want to get a head start, application info for all boroughs is after the jump.

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