Citi Bike to expand before L shutdown

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Citi Bike will be increasing the number of bikes and docking points, as well as the number of valet stations, around transit points near 14th Street starting next spring to help mitigate the L train shutdown.

The plan, announced by the mayor’s office last Thursday, will add 1,250 bikes and 2,500 new docking points to the network to increase coverage in some of the city’s busiest neighborhoods for the bikeshare and added valet stations will increase service during peak hours. The process of offering denser coverage, known as “infill,” will involve enlarging current Citi Bike stations as well as the addition of new docking stations.

The 10 percent expansion of service will begin in Manhattan for the first stage of its plan, focusing on the neighborhoods from Canal to 59th Streets, a DOT spokesperson told Town & Village. Specific locations for the new docks have not yet been announced.

Valet stations are docking points near transit hubs in Midtown and Lower Manhattan that are staffed by Citi Bike employees who can corral extra bikes during peak hours when docks fill up and empty quickly and the bikeshare is planning to add up to 10 new valet stations in preparation for the shutdown.

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L train lawsuit partially settled

Apr5 14th St coalition Schwartz Prentiss

Arthur Z. Schwartz discusses the litigation at an April press conference. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

In April, Arthur Z. Schwartz, an attorney for Advocates for Justice, filed a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the L train shutdown planned for 2019. The litigation, filed on behalf of a coalition of West Side residents living on or near 14th Street and disability advocacy groups, was over the lack of access for disabled passengers in the plan to upgrade various stations along the L train route.

The lawsuit is also over area residents’ concerns about traffic congestion, due to a planned “busway” on 14th Street and expanded sidewalks causing traffic to be congested on surrounding streets. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Department of Transportation and the Federal Transportation Authority were named as defendants.

However, Schwartz, who’s also a Greenwich Village Democratic district leader, announced late last month that the suit was partially settled with the MTA proposing to make the Sixth Avenue station accessible to the disabled. Previously only two stations included in the renovation plan (Bedford Avenue and First Avenue) were slated to become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In exchange, the part of the lawsuit alleging disregard for disabled New Yorkers has been dropped. This was first reported by The Villager.

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Idea floated for buses on barges during L shutdown

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said she feels the alternatives presented by the MTA and DOT are not sufficient. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Just call it another L-ternative.

The operator for NYC Ferry has a mitigation plan for the L train shutdown: buses on boats. Hornblower, the company that runs the ferry service that will soon include a route stopping at Stuyvesant Cove Park, presented the preliminary plan to Community Board 6’s transportation committee, whose members were hesitantly supportive of the idea.

Skye Ostreicher, a representative for Hornblower, said at the meeting that the plan, known as “B-link,” could mitigate up to 50 percent of the ridership needing alternatives in the absence of the L train. The plan would allow riders to get on a bus near the Lorimer Street L station and stay on until different stops in Manhattan, primarily on the usual route of the L train. The buses would be loaded onto barges that Ostreicher said would take the three-minute trip across the river before letting commuters off in Manhattan.

The presentation showed the buses arriving in Manhattan at East 20th Street and Avenue C before heading down Avenue C, west on East 14th Street and turning at Union Square East to do a loop back to the docking point at East 20th Street. The route would operate as a closed loop, backtracking in the opposite direction for service to Brooklyn.

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Lawsuit aims to stop L-pocalypse

Apr5 14th St coalition Schwartz Prentiss

Attorney Arthur Schwartz (pictured with Edith Prentiss, a disabled rights activist) says disabled commuters aren’t being considered, nor are the neighborhoods that will be dealing with chaotic traffic. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Tuesday morning, a coalition of neighborhood groups sued in a Manhattan Federal Court in an attempt to stop the planned L train shutdown starting a year from now. The suit accuses the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the city Department of Transportation and the Federal Transportation Administration of ignoring the needs of disabled riders along the L line, and disregarding the communities who’ll be dealing with constant congestion from diesel-spewing buses.

According to the attorney representing the groups, dubbed “the 14th Street Coalition,” Arthur Schwartz, the FTA “has failed to enforce compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) even though the nearly $1 billion project is being federally funded.” The MTA and DOT meanwhile, he said have failed to prepare a required Environmental Impact Statement, which he said would have compelled the agencies to be more responsive to community input.

The suit aims to halt the work as well as its federal funding until the plans do something about the lack of elevators in each L station and about the expected environmental impacts from substituting the L train with significantly expanded above ground mass transit.

The plan calls for creating a 14th Street “busway” between Third and Eighth Avenues going west and from Ninth to Third Avenues going east. Car traffic will not be able to cross anywhere along the busway. Access-A-Ride will be included along with emergency vehicles. The plan is to enforce these rules during “peak” hours. A constant fleet of shuttle buses will be traveling from Brooklyn to Manhattan over the Williamsburg Bridge and there will also be a protected bike lane on East 13th Street.

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USP wants to modernize Union Sq. station

The Union Square Partnership proposed a few technological enhacements for the subway station at a Community Board 5 meeting. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The neighborhood BID for Union Square wants to help make the chaotic station more navigable for commuters and tourists alike and this week offered some suggestions to Community Board 5. Union Square Partnership director of economic development Monica Munn said that the impetus for the plan is partially due to the changes the neighborhood will be undergoing with the upcoming L train shutdown but also is a push to generally modernize the station.

“(The L train shutdown) is not just about changes happening above ground,” she said, referring to the planning related to bus and street improvements to mitigate the 15 months without the L train. “We’re thinking about what needs to be done to mitigate that as much as possible but we also want to think about modernizing as much as possible.”

Representatives from the Partnership presented the suggestions to members of Community Board 5’s transportation and environment committee this past Monday.

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Neighbors clash on planned Kips Bay bike lane

A man who came to a recent Community Board 6 meeting on the proposed protected bike lane for Kips Bay was one of numerous meeting attendees who said it was sorely needed. Others expressed concern about the loss of parking. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community Board 6’s transportation committee this Monday voted in favor of a resolution supporting the Department of Transportation’s proposal to install bike lanes on 26th and 29th Streets.

Community Board 5, which covers the western portion of the streets, had a much more contentious meeting last week on the proposal in which a vote was delayed because of disagreements about the removal of parking spaces.

While Community Board 6 members were not enthusiastic about the loss of parking either, the members ultimately voted to support the plan in a 9 to 2 vote.

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More details (and concerns) on 14th St. ‘Busway’

Stuyvesant Town resident AJ Miller expresses her concerns to transit officials at an open house at the 14th Street Y. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The MTA and DOT released details on the “Busway” coming to 14th Street during the expected L train shutdown at Community Board 6’s transportation committee meeting on Monday. The agencies also gathered feedback on the plans during an open house at the 14th Street Y last Wednesday.

The new Busway will be on 14th from Third to Eighth Avenues going westbound and from Ninth to Third Avenues going east.

In both directions between Third and First Avenues, there will be a painted bus lane on the street but traffic will not be restricted and cars will be able to head across 14th Street, whereas traffic will not be allowed to cross anywhere along the Busway.

Meeting attendees asked DOT representatives why the Busway was not extended all the way to First Avenue or Avenue C and DOT representative Aaron Sugiura explained that it wasn’t ideal, but that the negatives outweighed the positives.

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East River sinkhole repaired

 

Repaved sink hole (Photo courtesy of Economic Development Corporation)

By Sabina Mollot

The East River bike lane sinkhole has finally been repaired.

According to Shavone Williams, a spokesperson for the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), the faulty valve causing the problem was located on Friday, and fixed, with the road repaved by midday. Workers at the scene had been looking for the damaged water line that belonged to the nearby Skyport garage since a water main shutdown on Wednesday morning, Williams admitted.  The EDC manages the Skyport, which is owned by the city.

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Flatiron plazas to be redeveloped

The city is seeking community input on the redesign at an upcoming workshop. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

The city is seeking community input on the redesign at an upcoming workshop. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Flatiron pedestrian plazas and Worth Square (just north of the plazas) will be redeveloped, The Flatiron Partnership and New York City Department of Transportation have announced, and the city will be seeking input from the community at a public workshop on November 10.

Flatiron Partnership Executive Director Jennifer Brown said that development of the plazas has been theoretical for a while, but earlier this year there was enough funding through the city to officially start the design process and consider options for more permanent fixtures for the spaces.

Brown said that the plazas, which stretch along Broadway from East 21st to 23rd Street and north of 23rd Street between Broadway and Fifth Avenue adjacent to Madison Square Park, have been the way they are since 2008 using temporary materials like the epoxy gravel surface that is starting to wear out and the temporary granite blocks that protect the spaces from street traffic. The workshop, which will be held in the Porcelanosa building at 202 Fifth Avenue from 6 to 8:30 p.m., is geared towards getting input from the public about different design elements.

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Letters to the Editor, Oct. 22

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Sick of Ave. C looking like Swiss cheese

A reader sent this letter to Town & Village last Tuesday about traffic problems during ongoing work along Avenue C. A response from the DOT and Con Ed follows.

Avenue C has been torn up for over three weeks, between at least 20th Street and 14th Street. I assume this is done by the DOT but I’m not certain of it.

In any case how can any responsible agency be permitted to tear up a major access road (this stretch serves as both means of entry and exit for the East River Drive) and leave it in the condition of a veritable mine field? It’s beyond reason. Traffic is slowed to a crawl and vehicles are swerving left and right to avoid major pot holes, exposed sewer covers and gas vents. (On what had been a level street to begin with, I traverse the area daily and there were no issues with this street.) Vehicle and pedestrian safety are severely compromised.

One evening last week, Con Edison employed the use of traffic cones and security guards on both 16th and 14th Streets to secure parking for their employees on the Stuyvesant Town perimeter. I believe this was done due to the congestion caused by no parking on Avenue C. Is this legal? And to top it off, that same night DOT (?) was tearing up the intersection at 14th Street and First Avenue.

What’s going on here? Why is our neighborhood being taxed so severely by poorly coordinated city services and an out of control power company? If street work is necessary, fine. Tear it up as needed but don’t leave it in this condition for weeks (months?) at a time.

Demolition/tear-up should not be permitted unless the repairs are to be made immediately. Is this so contractors can start as many jobs as possible and then get back to them when they see fit? Who is responsible for this? The public is not being well served.

Name withheld, ST

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Letters to the Editor, June 6

No closet door left unopened

My apartment was recently inspected by CompassRock.  Their notification letter was commanding but having no option and nothing to hide anyway, I waited for the day to arrive.

The inspector entered politely, accompanied by a security guard, and immediately informed me that he would also be “looking at” the closets.

Taken aback yet somehow not surprised in this environment of mistrust, I followed him from room to room and he opened the doors himself.  The security guard remained inside the front door.

The inspection lasted just a few minutes but, sadly, the negative effects on me have lingered. I approached the inspection in good faith, under the impression they were looking for illegal subdivision of rooms or major structural problems or similar. I consider it a violation of privacy and an insult to my integrity for a total stranger to inspect closets which, as well as utilitarian items, hold personal items.
The community newsletter, which arrived after the inspection, writes of ensuring apartments are in compliance with applicable laws, lease terms and community rules, looking for unsafe conditions, unregistered dogs and compliance with the 80 percent carpet rule. It had never occurred to me that closets fell into this category.

With nearly 25 years of tenancy, I have come to love where I live. For the most part, I welcome the physical and demographic changes, which have taken place.  Sadly, my experience with the inspection has left me feeling like some kind of criminal, and has further fostered the culture of unease that successive managements seem to enjoy encouraging. Indeed, a neighbor whose apartment was inspected in their absence with their agreement (but who did not share my feelings), advised me against speaking out for fear of reprisal.

Furthermore, I have now discovered that not all apartment inspections included closets – and not all were conducted by more than one representative.

Eileen Aarons, ST

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