Spring 2002, p.10

Upper West Siders Win Round for Safer Sidewalks

A pedestrian forced onto the street by a car exiting a parking lot via a curb cut. Seem familiar? Read the latest news on this issue.

With help from Transportation Alternatives, an Upper West Side community Group, Landmark West, stopped another garage driveway from cutting across the sidewalk on busy 64th Street. The groups persuaded Manhattan's Community Board 7 to vote down a request for a special permit to build a public parking garage on West 64th and Broadway. The garage would send cars driving across a busy sidewalk that carries an average of 1,000 pedestrians during peak hours. T.A., community members and local officials all testified that the development firm's feasibility study did not take into account the impact the garage would have on pedestrians.

But the battle against "creeping clusters of curb cuts" has only just begun. Now Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields must make her recommendation to approve or deny the request before it heads to the City Planning Commission for a final decision. Even if the Borough President stands up to the real estate interests, other sidewalks will fall under the knife soon enough. Unfortunately, the City Planning Commission routinely grants zoning waivers for garages, parking lots and drive through windows, which allow vehicles to cross sidewalks. The Commission must start to consider the danger these curb cuts pose to pedestrians.

Protect Sidewalks Citywide

The destruction of the pedestrian environment and public safety disaster in the making must stop. The City needs new regulations to prohibit developers from building curb cut entrances across sidewalks with a pedestrian volume of 250 or more per hour for any four hours or 500 or more during any one hour. The new regulation should also prohibit curb cuts from being placed within 40 yards of each other. The City must stop compromising the safety and mobility of pedestrians on the sidewalk with dangerous curb cuts.