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.

Continue reading


Kips Bay will get protected bike lanes sometime in 2019

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Maloney hopes Fearless Girl will save women’s rights in Washington

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is hoping that the momentum surrounding the Fearless Girl statue will encourage members of Congress to pass legislation beneficial to women. The Congresswoman shared the wish at City Hall this past Monday after announcing that the artwork will stay in its place in front of Wall Street’s Charging Bull until 2018.

“It empowers women in so many fields and now with all the energy around the Fearless Girl, hopefully we can pass my legislation,” she said. “I’m hoping this will spark a movement in Congress to pass legislation I support that focuses on women, like the National Women’s Museum and the Equal Rights Amendment. It inspires us to get out and get things done.”

Maloney said that the statue’s extension was thanks to the mayor and commissioner of the Department of Transportation because the piece was officially accepted into the DOT’s art program.

Continue reading

Bus lane violations will now be issued along M23 SBS route

 (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The violations are an attempt to speed up service along the route. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Monday, the city began issuing violations to keep the bus lane clear along the M23 Select Bus Service route on 23d Street.

Doing so, the Department of Transportation said in a press release, is aimed at making the famously pokey route less so.

Each corridor has signage indicating the hours that the bus lanes are operable, and that the lanes are camera enforced. DOT will be letting drivers off with a warning for the first 60 days the cameras are first operated. After that, however, the penalty for driving in a camera-enforced bus lane will be $115. Additionally, since violations are issued against the vehicle, not the driver, points are not deducted from motorists’ licenses.

According to a spokesperson for the department, cameras, bus lanes and other SBS elements, like pre-paid boarding, have already improved bus speeds by up to 30 percent while also increasing ridership and even customer satisfaction.

So far, according to DOT data, 667,859 bus lane cameras violations have been issued and there are nine camera-enforced SBS routes.

Local ones are the M15, along First Avenue and Second Avenue and the M34 along 34th Street. Others in the city are M60, Bx12, Bx41, B44, B46, S79 and Q44.

MTA will conduct study on a traffic-free 14th Street during L train shutdown


State Senator Brad Hoylman (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The MTA will be conducting a study on a plan to close 14th Street to traffic for the duration of the planned 18-month L train shutdown.

The feasibility study was announced by State Senator Brad Hoylman on Wednesday, who, along with quite a few other elected officials, had requested the study.

“More than 50,000 people cross Manhattan daily on the L train below 14th Street,” Hoylman said. “It’s crucial that we have a plan in place to accommodate these riders given the L train will be closed for 18 months starting in January, 2019.”

He added that the study includes a proposal for a dedicated bus lane and expanded cyclist and pedestrian access.

Continue reading

ST service roads getting repaved

Sept1 Service road crosswalk edit

The service road along East 14th Street (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

As Town & Village reported last month, the service roads around Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village will be getting repaved as will any curb cuts in need of smoothing out.

That project, a result of ongoing complaints from residents to Council Member Dan Garodnick’s office, is set to begin this Friday with milling. The actual paving will be done from September 12-16.

The repaving is being funded by the Department of Transportation separately from related work being done this summer to make the islands around the complex more user-friendly to the disabled by widening the walkways. That project had a price tag of $200 thousand, which was allocated by the City Council.

Both projects have come after years of wear and tear.

“For too long, the city has neglected these crucial arteries serving the residents of ST/PCV,” Garodnick said, “and residents constantly navigate the bumps, pools of still water and general unevenness of these streets.”

He added, “I am very pleased that these upgrades are finally moving forward.”

The work will be done on the Avenue C, First Avenue, 14th Street, 20th Street and 23rd Street service roads.

Continue reading

Stuy Town gets city’s first solar-powered bus shelter

Mar24 Solar powered bus shelter

Solar-powered bus shelter at Avenue C and 16th Street (Photo courtesy of DOT)

By Sabina Mollot

The city has installed its first solar-powered bus shelter, with a location outside Stuyvesant Town picked as the place for a pilot program.

According to a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation, the project was being funded not by the city but a Paris-based company that runs outdoor advertising campaigns called JCDecaux. If the lighting works out well, the company will also pay for other transitions to solar panel-powered lighting at non-powered shelters throughout the city as part of a franchise agreement.

Currently, JCDecaux is responsible for 3,000 bus shelters throughout the five boroughs as well as 300 newsstands. The company is now in its 10th year of partnership with the city and handles installation and maintenance of street furniture.

Meanwhile, the new lighting outside Stuyvesant Town at the shelter on Avenue C and 16th Street comes two and a half years after an elderly woman was fatally struck nearby by a Con Ed truck. The woman, 88-year-old Stuyvesant Town resident Stella Huang, had attempted to cross the street in the dark.

Continue reading

Flatiron residents want neighborhood history recognized in plaza redesign

Flatiron residents and business owners at the plaza planning workshop (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Flatiron residents and business owners at the plaza planning workshop (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community residents and business owners in the Flatiron District are hoping to highlight the history of the neighborhood and provide more space for public activities at the neighborhood’s pedestrian plazas.

They got to share their suggestions at a recent community workshop hosted by the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District on the future of the plazas, which stretch from 23rd to 25th Streets along Fifth Avenue and Broadway.

The workshop was held last month at the Porcelanosa building on 25th Street.

One attendee was neighborhood resident Jeanne Braun, who said the history of the area should be emphasized.

“It should be made to look like a historic district,” she said.

Continue reading

New lighting planned for Kips Bay around homeless shelter

Council Members Dan Garodnick and Rosie Mendez outside the 30th Street men’s shelter Photo by David Kimball-Stanley)

Council Members Dan Garodnick and Rosie Mendez outside the 30th Street men’s shelter (Photo by David Kimball-Stanley)

By Sabina Mollot

City Council Members and Dan Garodnick and Rosie Mendez are hoping to shed a little light on the subject of resident safety in Kips Bay.

The plan is to have new lighting installed on the streets around the Bellevue shelter on East 30th Street and First Avenue. Additional lighting is also planned for a nearby playground, Bellevue South and possibly other playgrounds.

The project is in response to concerns by neighbors of the shelter, who, as Town & Village reported last week, feel that the city-run facility’s 850 residents have gotten out of control with aggressive panhandling, loitering, fighting, public urination and sometimes worse.

On a recent evening Garodnick and Mendez took a stroll through the neighborhood along with employees of the Department of Transportation’s lighting division to see which streets could use more visibility.

Though Garodnick said all the exact locations have not yet been determined, the block of the shelter, from 29th to 30th Streets along First Avenue, will be included as will 30th Street between First and Second Avenues. The manager of the residential building located there has said men have used that block as a toilet and the ledge of the adjoining garage wall as a bed.

“We are exploring funding those initiatives as soon as this month in the city budget which we are about to pass,” said Garodnick.

He added that he doesn’t know yet what the project will cost since it hasn’t yet been determined if the lighting will be standard DOT issue or a “less ordinary solution.”

Another safety improvement planned is to cut back any overgrown trees along 30th Street between First and Second Avenues which have been impeding light.