Winter 2002, p.17

DOT Pedestrian Projects Group Speaks

T.A. thanks the DOT for providing this article.

DOT Commissioner Weinshall wants more pedestrain improvements like this one in Mulry Square.The New York City Department of Transportation Pedestrian Projects Group (PPG) plans federally funded site-specific improvements to the walking environment. These improvements reflect Commissioner Iris Weinshall's commitment to safety and walking as an important travel mode.

The group's goal is to reallocate public street space to pedestrians that is not absolutely needed for motor vehicles. In order to reallocate space efficiently, PPG thoroughly investigates traffic volumes and patterns using computer simulation. During this planning process, the local community, in the form of a Community Board, offers invaluable ideas and has the final say. Indeed, the all-volunteer community boards serves as the arbiter for neighborhood desires; its Transportation Committee handles most of the negotiations. All community board meetings are open to the public.

In addition to the PPG, many areas of the DOT have their own pedestrian initiatives. The Safety Education group brings pedestrian information to the public, and Capital Planning incorporates pedestrian elements into every street reconstruction. The Signals Unit installs WALK signals and stop controls where warranted. The former Traffic Calming group developed the speed hump program and a break-through Neckdown Policy. Other important DOT pedestrian projects include the School Safety Division's engineering work, the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project and Queens Boulevard Safety Improvements. The PPG depends on these and many other areas of the Agency for expertise and implementation.

Recently Completed Pedestrian Improvements:

  • Herald and Times Squares: Redesigned and widened sidewalks at Herald Square and Times Square with test measures.
  • Grand Concourse, the Bronx: Narrowed the Grand Concourse service roads for .7 miles.
  • Broadway Junction, East New York: Created plaza at the intersection of Broadway, Fulton Street and Jamaica Avenue. The Broadway Junction "plaza," called Jewel Square, was just a parking lot on dirt surrounded by concrete jersey barriers until NYC Transit used their contractors to add walkways according to a DOT plan. The Green Streets program provided the landscaping and a DOT contract added benches.
  • Coenties Slip in Lower Manhattan: Created pedestrian plaza between Water and Pearl Streets. Originally a two-way road, the DCP/DOT Lower Manhattan Pedestrianization Plan identified the street's potential to work one-way with sidewalk extensions. The Alliance for Downtown New York provided artistic street furniture.
  • Madison Square: The Signals Unit recently installed a signal for a new mid-block crosswalk north of E. 23th Street, across Broadway and Fifth Avenue.
    Pedestrian Projects Underway
  • Bay Ridge, Brooklyn: For Fifth Avenue's reconstruction, designed neckdowns (sidewalk extensions at crosswalks), distinctive sidewalk paving and special streetscape elements to be maintained by a local group.
  • Greenpoint, Brooklyn: The Manhattan Avenue road reconstruction will include a waterfront plaza.
  • 161st St., The Bronx: The 161st Street Bridge reconstruction on the Grand Concourse presented an opportunity to redesign this intersection and bring the safety improvements several blocks to the north.
  • Tribeca, Manhattan: At Varick, Canal and Laight Streets, PPG is currently designing sidewalks along the edges of this informal parking lot, due to become a garden.

Future Pedestrian Projects:

  • Madison Square, the intersection of Broadway, Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street: Fordham and Kingsbridge Road in the Bronx.
  • Seventh Avenue: West Village, south of 11th St.
  • Fourth Avenue/Astor Place area
  • New Lower Manhattan pedestrian plazas

DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall envisions making NYC safer and better for pedestrians. The next few years will require belt tightening, but they offer hope as well. With pedestrian deaths at a record low and a Mayor who walks to the subway, NYC may yet fulfill its promise as the walking capitol of the world.

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