Greenway project near Waterside postponed to 2019

 

The bike lane outside of Waterside Plaza (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

After announcing in September that work would begin this fall on improvements to the Greenway on the East Side between Waterside Plaza and the East 34th Street Heliport, the Department of Transportation confirmed this week that it has been put on hold until next year.

A spokesperson for the DOT did not have specific details on when next year the work would begin but said that the agency expects to start work when the weather gets warmer and to complete the project by next summer.

DOT originally presented the project to Community Board 6 two years ago in November 2016 with plans for the bike lanes north of Stuyvesant Cove Park leading up to Waterside Plaza, past the United Nations International School and the Water Club, up to the heliport at East 34th Street, reconfiguring the lanes to make them more visible and separate cyclists from vehicle traffic.

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E. 20th St. already looks different due to new bike lanes, bus islands

The construction east of First Avenue is part of the traffic safety enhancement plan. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Sabina Mollot

This week, numerous readers reached out to Town & Village, asking about all the work currently going on at East 20th Street, east of First Avenue.

As we reported last month, the Department of Transportation was in the early stages of a traffic safety enhancement project on East 20th Street along the route to the ferry. The project also unfortunately included the removal of 12 parking spots.

Work, however, began in earnest last weekend, with bike lanes being built on the north side of the street adjacent to bus boarding islands.

Council Member Keith Powers said his office has also received many calls, including some complaints, from residents, mainly over the loss of parking at a time when East 14th Street has also lost dozens of spaces due to the L train related construction work. In response, Powers said he’s asked DOT officials to walk along the street with him.

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Safety enhancements coming to East 20th Street, but parking spots have been removed

Oct4 20th Street work

Markings made east of First Avenue and 20th Street (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Friday morning, residents of East 20th Street noticed some work being done on the street between Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village on the north side of the street, specifically painting the bike lanes black and adding a double line to the middle of the street. Not to mention, a dozen parking spots were removed.

Asked about this, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation confirmed the DOT was behind the project, which involves installing protected bike lanes and enhancing safety along the route to the ferry.

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Officials say traffic enforcement and bus volume should make L train shutdown less hellish

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and NYC Transit President Andy Byford with Manhattan and Brooklyn elected officials (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Monday morning, transit officials and local elected officials told reporters they don’t expect the dreaded L train shutdown will be the L-pocalypse of doom everyone else is pretty sure it will be for the 15 months it will take to do repairs.

Reasons for this declaration include plans to run 80 shuttle buses an hour over the Williamsburg Bridge during peak times and “aggressive” enforcement to make sure private vehicles don’t jam traffic along high occupancy vehicle lanes. The soon-to-launch Lower East Side ferry schedule will also be timed to coordinate with bus arrivals.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and NYC Transit President Andy Byford, along with the politicians, had hopped out of a shiny, new electric bus — one of 25 that will be implemented during the L shutdown – on 14th Street and Union Square, before announcing a few updates to the mitigation plans.

One is that the NYPD is working on a plan for enforcement of traffic in HOV lanes so they don’t get crowded with private vehicles, including mini-bus services that have popped up.

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DOT says 14th St. ‘busway’ will operate 17 hours a day

L train plan

MTA graphic depicting proposed mitigation plans during the L train shutdown

By Sabina Mollot

In response to community concerns about the planned “busway” to be in effect on 14th Street for the duration of the L train shutdown, the Department of Transportation has committed to making the road off limits to private vehicles for 17 hours a day, not full time. The busway will be bus-only from 5 a.m.-10 p.m., seven days a week, the DOT has proposed.

In addition, a spokesperson for the agency said the modified busway plan will “allow for pick-ups and drop-offs of local residents and visitors on 14th Street while discouraging through traffic.”

The hours proposed for the busway were based on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s service targets and estimated traffic volumes. Proposed HOV hours on the Williamsburg Bridge will also be 5 a.m.-10 p.m.

The Daily News reported on the plan first on Monday, as well as the fact that the agency has scrapped a plan for a two-way bike on 13th Street, which neighbors were staunchly opposed to.

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Cyclists, ‘busway’ concern L train neighbors

Commissioner of Transportation Polly Trottenberg (center) (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

L train riders at a recent town hall on the upcoming shutdown are saying they’re concerned about an increase in bike traffic as a result of the mitigation and the plan to make 14th Street primarily a thoroughfare for buses, as well as accessibility for seniors and disabled residents. The meeting’s venue, The New School’s West 12th Street auditorium, was packed with more than a hundred community residents with concerns about the plans on Wednesday, May 9.

The first question came from an attendee who didn’t mince words.

“How are you going to train cyclists so they don’t kill us?” asked David Hertzberg, a West 16th Street resident. Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg admitted that the increase in cyclists would be a difficult responsibility.

“Cycling will be a hot topic,” she said. “We’ll be working with the NYPD on enforcement and we know we’re going to have a big safety challenge.”

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Experts say no easy fix for transit woes

State Senator Brad Hoylman (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger attempted to tackle the city’s current transportation crisis with a panel of experts at CUNY’s Graduate Center last Thursday, discussing the need for improvements to bus service in the city, proposals for congestion pricing and holding the MTA accountable.

Nick Sifuentes, executive director for Tri-State Transportation Campaign and a member of the Bus Turnaround Coalition, advocated for improvements to bus service as a means of improving transit in the city.

“Bus improvements are faster and cheaper to implement than subway improvements,” he said, pointing to a plan known as Transit Signal Priority, which would signal traffic lights to stay green longer so buses can get through intersections and speed up their routes.

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Kips Bay will get protected bike lanes by end of 2018

A protected bike lane (or bike lane with a physical barrier like parked cars) in Flatiron (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Department of Transportation announced in January that two pairs of crosstown protected bike lanes will be added to Midtown neighborhoods, including through Kips Bay on 26th and 29th Streets.

The two pairs of protected bike lanes will run on each proposed street in opposite directions to complement each other, with the 26th Street lane heading eastbound and the 29th Street lane going west. The second pair of protected lanes will be directly south of Central Park on two streets in the 50s but the exact locations have not yet been determined. The DOT anticipates that the budget will be less than $500,000 for each new lane. The agency expects to complete implementation of all the crosstown routes between spring and fall in 2019.

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Stuy Town bus terminal proposed for L shutdown

MTA graphic depicting proposed mitigation plans during the L train shutdown

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A new temporary bus terminal may be headed for under the FDR Drive across from Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, the MTA and the city have announced. The terminal will act as a transfer point for ferry riders during the 15-month L train shutdown, with more than 60 buses per hour going through the space under the FDR.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Department of Transportation both discussed the plan while testifying at a City Council Transportation Committee hearing last Thursday. During the hearing, they provided information on the proposed terminal and other mitigation plans for the shutdown, including a new, also-temporary ferry route that will end at the planned Stuyvesant Cove ferry stop at East 20th Street and connect with the M14 Select Bus Service (SBS), which is expected to launch in time for the shutdown.

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Street in Flatiron redesigned for safety

The newly-paved Broadway looking north (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A block on Broadway between West 24th and 25th Streets adjacent to Madison Square Park has been redesigned, with the aim of making the area safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

The Department of Transportation piloted a similar “Shared Streets” model in Lower Manhattan for a single Saturday last August and decided to implement the model in the Flatiron District permanently. The city made this one permanent because pedestrians outnumber vehicles on this particular block of Broadway by an 18:1 margin during peak evening hours.

The DOT has been working with the Flatiron BID and the Madison Square Park Conservancy on clarifying the often-chaotic intersection of Broadway and Fifth Avenue and made the adjustments by instituting a new five-mile-per-hour speed limit, changing the color of the asphalt and adding crosswalks and protected bike lanes.

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Sinkhole on E. 23rd turns into gurgling tub

July27 Sinkhole July25

Men work at the sinkhole on the bike lane at 23rd Street and the East River on Tuesday. (Photo by Janet Handal)

By Sabina Mollot

A sinkhole that’s been on the bike lane at 23rd Street along the East River for weeks now has grown from being a few feet across to a ten-foot-wide gurgling geyser. It has also been an active worksite manned by a plumbing crew from the Economic Development Corporation, which manages the nearby city-owned Skyport garage. It’s a broken, leaking pipe underneath the garage that has been blamed for the problem.

Town & Village first reported on the sinkhole last week, when a then two-week-old 311 complaint had yet to spur any action from the city. The relevant city agencies finally arrived at the scene last Wednesday evening (following T&V’s press time) to barricade off the area. Additionally, at that time, a spokesperson for the DEP told us the Skyport garage had been ordered to fix the pipe as well as well as the sinkhole.

But by Tuesday evening of this week, a spokesperson for the EDC, Shavone Williams, still couldn’t say exactly when the damaged water line would be fixed, although the expectation was sometime this week. Williams added that the EDC was planning with the Department of Environmental Preservation to shut down a main on Wednesday morning so contractors could repair the line and repave the surface later in the week. Until it’s repaired, Williams said, the crew would remain onsite and keep the area surrounding the water hole secured with cones and tape.

Meanwhile, water service was completely shut off at Waterside Plaza on Wednesday by 8:30 a.m., according to the management office. General Manager Peter Davis said he didn’t know if it was related to the sinkhole, since the property hadn’t gotten a notice from any agency. UPDATE at 10:54 a.m. Water service has been restored to Waterside, and a DEP representative said the agency was looking into why it happened and why residents were not notified.

Janet Handal, president of the Waterside Tenants Association, first reported the sinkhole to the city on July 5, fearing it would become a deathtrap for cyclists and the usual crowds of people headed to the party boats at the marina next to the garage.

However, there was no visible response from the city on the growing hole until Handal reached out to a number of city agencies and elected officials as well as Town & Village. Only then did teams from the DEP and the Department of Transportation arrive to completely barricade off the sinkhole, which had been only partially surrounded by tape.

As of this Tuesday, Handal said it didn’t appear the workers knew yet where the water main actually was. After stopping by the site, Handal said she was shocked by the force and sound of the gushing water in the hole, as thick cords from six water pumps snaked their way inside. The width of the hole, which had originally just been in the bike lane, had stretched across two traffic lanes by then. This may have been done intentionally to allow the workers access, however.

Based on her observations, though, the water pumps didn’t appear to be doing much. She said she was told by a worker that the EDC was waiting for the DEP to turn off the water and that the collapsed pipe was believed to be about 80 years old.

Sinkhole growing on bike lane at E. 23rd St.

Cyclists have been stopping short in front of this sinkhole, which was first reported to the city by Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal over two weeks ago. (Photos by Janet Handal)

By Sabina Mollot

Cyclists, beware.

A sinkhole that appeared earlier in the month has grown even larger as the ground continues to ripple on the bike lane at East 23rd Street and the FDR Drive.

The sinkhole was reported to 311 on July 5 by Janet Handal, president of the Waterside Tenants Association, when she spotted it. But as of Wednesday, July 19 in the morning, it was still there, and, from what she’s observed, stretched into a yawning concrete chasm.

“A rapidly progressing collapse of the pedestrian-bike path in front of the 23rd Street Marina is happening and urgently needs to be attended to,” Handal said in an email.

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Countdown clocks coming to East Side bus stops

Council Member Dan Garodnick (right) stands by a new countdown clock at a bus stop for the M66. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

In an effort to help straphangers get a more reliable idea of when their next bus is coming, the city is installing 48 new countdown clocks at bus stops around Council District 4. The project is being funded with nearly $1 million allocated by Council Member Dan Garodnick, who admitted that there’s still plenty of work to be done in making buses more reliable.

Similar countdown displays are already in place in local routes where Select Bus Service is offered, like the M23, although other SBS routes, including the M15, will be getting new countdown clocks in stops that don’t have them already.

The announcement was made last Tuesday at a bus stop at 68th Street and Lexington, which is one of four where a new countdown clock has already been installed. The other three are in midtown and the other 44 will be installed by the end of the year.

Garodnick, who was joined by Manhattan Borough Department of Transportation Commissioner Luis Sanchez and John Raskin of the Riders Alliance, discussed how unlike other methods of mass transit, bus usage is actually on the decline.

While noting that it’s sometimes the only option for the mobility impaired or New Yorkers who don’t live close to a subway, the speed or rather lack of it at which buses travel, has made above ground mass transit too slow and unreliable for a growing number of people.

“Bus service has declined by 16 percent in the last decade,” said Raskin. “People are voting with their MetroCards. People are starting to abandon the bus.”

Garodnick gave the bus stopping on that block, the M66, as an example of why.

“It’s the 17th busiest out of 40 routes, but it moves at 4.1 miles per hour,” he said. “I can jog backwards carrying my six-year-old son faster than the M66 goes to the West Side.”

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Hoylman wants audit of MTA over ‘dismal’ bus service in district

State Senator Brad Hoylman (Photo courtesy of Brad Hoylman)

By Sabina Mollot

Following a report that showed the buses in his district were the slowest in the city, State Senator Brad Hoylman has called for an audit into the MTA’s bus service and wait times.

Hoylman made the request via a letter to State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli on Monday, calling the local bus service “dismal.” His district, the 27th, includes Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, Chelsea, Greenwich Village, the East Village, midtown, East Midtown, Hell’s Kitchen, Times Square, Columbus Circle and the Upper West Side.

“Here in my own district, we’ve nicknamed some of the buses across town: The Turtle, The Sloth and The Slug,” said Hoylman, of the M42, the M50 and the M23, respectively.

One of those buses, the M23, is a two-time recipient of the Straphangers Campaign’s infamous Pokey award, which is given to the slowest route in the city.

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14th St. SBS route planned ahead of L shutdown

The MTA and the city are working on plans to enhance bus and ferry service, including Select Bus Service for 14th Street. Meanwhile, work will soon begin on the Avenue A entrance of the First Avenue subway station just west of Avenue A. (Corner pictured here opposite Stuyvesant Town) (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The MTA has announced that preliminary street work on the new entrance for the L train at Avenue A and East 14th Street will begin this month. The new entrance is planned for the north and south sides of East 14th Street, just west of Avenue A.

Additionally, the MTA recently discussed plans for a new Select Bus Service (SBS) route along 14th Street to help make the looming L train shutdown less of a nightmare.

The plans for mitigation were discussed at the last Community Board 6 Transportation Committee meeting.

The shutdown, which is expected to begin in April 2019, will affect about 225,000 riders and cuts off train service between Brooklyn and Manhattan so the MTA can make repairs to the Canarsie Tunnel, which was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

The MTA is working on plans with the Department of Transportation for a series of buses, road improvements and ferries.

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