November/December 1995, p.8-9

Reclaiming the Streets

Communities Call For Traffic Calming: Neighborhood Streets Network Gains Members--Quieter, Safer, Friendlier Streets Gain Momentum

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Manhattan Community Boards 10 (Harlem) and 2 (Greenwich Village) have asked the city to create 15 mph streets in their communities. The requests bolster the Neighborhood Streets Network's call for 15 mph side streets and traffic calming citywide. The need for slower speeds is clear. When the Austrian city of Graz reduced its speed limit from 31 mph to 19 mph, pedestrian injuries dropped by 30 percent. Meanwhile, 12,730 New York City pedestrians were hurt in 1994.

The Network is spearheading action to protect communities from heavy traffic and speeding cars. A recent Queens Newsday story explained the Network's efforts to protect neighborhoods from traffic and featured Robert Holden, President of the 1,500 family Juniper Park Association. The Network also teamed with another member group, Brooklyn Heights Association, to set up a forum with DOT Commissioner Sander.

TA's long push to get the DOT to value more than just moving cars is starting to pay off. Get your block association to join the NSN!

Borough Chiefs Hitting Their Stride

After a year of growing pains, the Department of Transportation's new Borough Commissioners are moving ahead with projects that help cyclists and pedestrians. Manhattan Borough Commissioner Ruben Ramirez successfully pushed for community board approval of the Northern Manhattan Bike Lane and is working with Harlem's Board 10 to create a network of traffic calmed, 15 mph streets. Bronx Commissioner Leon Hayward helped refurbish the Pelham Greenway and has been responsive to T.A's Bronx Committee.

On Staten Island, the energetic Jack Larson pushed DOT engineers to develop an innovative solution to Midland Avenue residents' complaints about speeding. Initially, engineers considered installing a traffic circle but realized the intersection was too small. Larson pressed on, and the engineers created the "Staten Island Teardrop," an elongated traffic island. The teardrop has reduced speeds as much as 12 mph.
Contact your Borough Commissioner! It's his or her lob to make your neighborhood streets friendlier by reducing speeding and heavy traffic. Call, write, or fax and let them know what you need.

  • Ruben Ramirez, Manhattan: 40 Worth Street #1105, 10013 Ph. 212-442-7340 Fx. 7338
  • Leon Heyward, Bronx 1400 Williamsbridge Road, 104161 Ph.718-931-5400 Fx. 718-597-8594
  • Jack Larson, Staten Island: 10 Richmond Terr. #G19, 10301 Ph.718-816-2373 Fx. 2368
  • Joanne Foulke, Brooklyn: 44 Court Street #1108, 11201 Ph. 718-643-3093 Fx. 7451
  • Anthony Fasulo, Queens: 28-11 Queens Plaza N, 11101 Ph.718-830-7603 Fx. 718-361-9230

Sidewalk Extensions

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Sometimes referred to as neckdowns or bulbouts, sidewalk extensions are just that, an extension of the sidewalk into the parking lane at the corner. Sidewalk extensions are in use here in New York City on Manhattan's Restaurant Row (47th St.), and in Sunnyside (46th St.) and Jackson Heights (82nd St.) in Queens. Extension can be landscaped with plants and trees or used as bus stops on busier streets. Although sidewalk extensions are usually installed when a street is reconstructed, Los Angeles and other cities use temporary sidewalk extensions that can be installed as soon as a community requests them.

Here's bow sidewalk extensions work:

  • They reduce the distance pedestrians must cross by 18 to 20 feet. A few extra feet of safety can make all the difference for the elderly, children, parents with carriages, and others who may cross slowly.
  • They slow down traffic. If a street appears narrower because the sidewalk protrudes at the corner, drivers will reduce their speed.
  • They force drivers to take corners slowly. New Yorkers are twice as likely to get hit crossing with the "WALK" signal in a crosswalk than when jaywalking, as drivers often make fast, reckless turns. At intersections with sidewalk extensions, drivers are more likely to spot pedestrians and yield to them.

New Greenmarket to Replace Cars?

TA. Member and Trees Not Trucks founder Carl Rosenstein is organizing support for a new Soho car-free space and Greenmarket on Lafayette Street between Spring and Kenmare. CB 2's transportation committee has asked DOT to study turning over the lightly trafficked block to farmers, and the Greenmarket folks are interested. Call Carl Rosenstein at Trees Not Trucks: 212-431-4319.

Calming the Lower East Side

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After enduring speeding cars for years, Lower East Side residents got a forward-thinking answer from DOT Commissioner Elliot Sander. Residents, the Community Board, and even State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had asked for a traffic light at the corner of Cherry and Montgomery Streets. Instead, Sander proposed the kind of traffic calming solution T.A. has been pushing DOT to use.
Montgomery Street was too wide, which encouraged speeding. DOT responded by painting the street to channel the cars, thereby slowing them down and providing a refuge for pedestrians. DOT's Pedestrian Projects Group is now looking into narrowing the street by installing a big median, complete with landscaping.

Kudos to Commissioner Sander and DOT for a progressive solution.