Friday, January 23, 2009

A traffic plan presented by the Borough President

1/23/2009 - Borough President Scott Stringer Demands New Pedestrian Safety Plan For Chinatown

In the wake of yesterday’s tragic traffic fatalities in Chinatown, State Senator Daniel Squadron, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer outlined an nine-point Chinatown pedestrian safety plan, and demanded that the City act immediately and decisively to protect pedestrians from dangerous traffic conditions that have plagued Chinatown for far too long.

The plan calls for “zero tolerance” traffic enforcement; the banning of trucks and buses from traversing local streets; more pedestrians safety measures such as bollards and speed bumps; and a comprehensive traffic management plan to serve residents, businesses and vehicles passing through the neighborhood.

“Chinatown is a bustling 21st century neighborhood, but as one of the oldest parts of the City, it is saddled with an 18th century pedestrian infrastructure,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. “Chinatown residents and businesses have suffered from dangerous traffic conditions for too long. We must reclaim our streets and sidewalks now, before another life is needlessly lost.”

State Senator Daniel Squadron said, “While no one could ever have predicted the precise circumstances of yesterday’s tragedy, anyone who has spent time in Chinatown knows that the streets and sidewalks are overcrowded and overburdened. It is high time to bring modern transportation’s three ‘E’s’ – education, engineering, and enforcement – to creating safer streets for Chinatown.”

“My Chinatown community relies upon the high volume of pedestrian traffic created by local residents, students traveling to and from school, workers and tourists who frequent the many small businesses and restaurants in the area,” said New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “Yesterday’s tragic accident, which took the lives of two young children, is further proof that real action must be taken to properly manage local truck and bus traffic in order to protect the thousands of pedestrians that travel on our streets. I call on the city to implement the nine-step plan that we have outlined as quickly as possible. While we can never undo the acts of the past, we can and must work to ensure that such horrific tragedies never happen again.”

Chinatown’s greatest assets – its unparalleled street-level activity and its regional commercial draw – create unique traffic conditions that demand creative solutions. Chinatown’s zip code had 25 fatalities and 1,149 injuries from 1995 to 2005, more fatalities than any other Manhattan zip code, and the area has been targeted in DOT’s Senior Pedestrian Safety Program. While the City has taken important recent steps to calm traffic conditions in Chinatown, far more must be done.

“Chinatown streets aren't up to the basic job of keeping pedestrians safe,” says Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “We need immediate action to end the mix of reckless driving, oppressive traffic and outdated street design that continues to take so many lives.”

Justin Yu, President of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, said, “Improvement of traffic safety in the Chinatown area requires full scale planning. CCBA will continue monitoring the enforcement of related government agencies, and the development of improved traffic planning. We will continue working together with appropriate government agencies and elected officials, to improve traffic safety in Chinatown. We hope the tragedy of January 22nd will never occur again in Chinatown.”

Squadron and Stringer outlined a nine-point Chinatown pedestrian safety plan and called on City officials to work immediately with community leaders to implement it:

Better coordination with community-based planning efforts and priorities. The City must do a better job of working with Community Boards and other community organizations, drawing on the invaluable input that only neighborhood residents and businesses can provide. The City must respect and acknowledge community priorities such as the re-opening of Park Row, and work with local stakeholders, in order to build consensus behind comprehensive traffic management plans. The City should provide planning and community organizing resources to organizations such as the Chinatown Working Group, which has brought together many of Chinatown’s diverse stakeholders, in order to allow them to undertake a community-based process for meeting Chinatown’s traffic concerns and related planning issues, with cultural and linguistic sensitivity to the area’s unique character.

A comprehensive study of neighborhood traffic and pedestrian patterns that “connects the dots” between local accident “hot spots” and traffic flow at major arteries such as East Broadway, the Bowery, Canal and Allen Streets. The study must draw heavily on community input, document the traffic patterns of greatest public safety concern, and use detailed modeling to demonstrate the impacts of potential traffic engineering solutions.

Reconfigured sidewalk space that privileges and protects Chinatown’s residents, workers, shoppers, and bicyclists, and is sensitive to the unique character of Chinatown’s sidewalks. Chinatown is a “street-level” neighborhood that depends on the liveliness of its sidewalks. The City must work to expand sidewalks to increase pedestrian space, make the area more hospitable to pedestrians and bicyclists, and keep the sidewalks clear of street furniture, garbage, and other obstacles that infringe on public safety.

Comprehensive coordination of trucks, buses and other high-intensity vehicular uses. Chinatown’s cultural prominence, and its location between the East River Bridges and the Holland Tunnel, has made it a center of commercial traffic and regional travel. The City must respond to these conditions by enforcing truck route zones and effectively managing bus layovers, as Manhattan Community Board 3 has consistently recommended. Commercial trucks must not be allowed to traverse local streets that were not built to withstand their impact, and buses must not be allowed to create unsafe traffic conditions. The City should also explore strategic management of commercial deliveries, in order to allow small businesses to thrive without causing dangerous conditions for pedestrians.

Increased traffic calming measures, such as curb extensions, speed tables and leading pedestrian intervals. While the City has implemented some traffic calming efforts on Chinatown's main roadways, traffic calming measures need to be instituted more quickly and more extensively, with specific attention to areas near schools and senior centers.

Comprehensive parking strategies that create the necessary space for businesses to receive deliveries without requiring double-parking or inviting vehicles to park on the sidewalk.

Coordination of major City-initiated projects, such as the upcoming Brooklyn Bridge renovation, which will have significant traffic impacts on this neighborhood.

Modern, flexible traffic reduction techniques like congestion pricing and variable market-rate street parking that will encourage public transit use and keep traffic flowing calmly and safely through Chinatown.

Effective and sensible enforcement of traffic laws. Illegal and dangerous driving should not be tolerated in any neighborhood, but the need for enforcement in Chinatown is particularly acute because of its narrow streets, heavy commercial activity, and immediate proximity to major bridges, highways and thoroughfares. While the City must respect and meet business’ need to receive deliveries, NYPD and DOT should collaborate on an enforcement strategy that creates an atmosphere of “zero tolerance” for dangerous driving patterns that have become commonplace throughout Chinatown. Local elected officials must also commit to providing NYPD and DOT with sufficient resources to address the situation with the number of officers and staff that the community deserves.

Julie Menin, Chair of Manhattan Community Board 1, said, “I am deeply saddened by the terrible tragedy that occurred. Pedestrian safety in Chinatown has been an ongoing problem for the downtown community as traffic literally chokes and clogs our streets. I commend Senator Squadron and Borough President for these proactive safety measures to address this troubling problem in our community.”

Brad Hoylman, Chair of Manhattan Community Board 2, said, “Community Board 2 has long recognized pedestrian safety issues in the Chinatown neighborhood. We commend Borough President Stringer and State Senator Squadron for proposing proactive steps to address this serious problem and look forward to helping build community support to implement them.”

Dominic Pisciotta, Chair of Manhattan Community Board 3, said, “Community Board 3 extends its deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those who have been affected by yesterday's tragic accident. We hope the families find tremendous strength and community support as they grieve their loss. Community Board 3 will continue to work with our local officials and the City of New York to ensure that the highest standards of pedestrian safety measures are analyzed and implemented in this heavily trafficked corridor as well as the areas surrounding it.”

Jan Lee from the Civic Center Residents Coalition said, “The lack of cooperation between the city and Chinatown has been a real frustration.”

Jeanie Chin from the CCRC, added, “This community has been a dumping ground for traffic. The Brooklyn Bridge reconfiguration is going to bring thousands of vehicles needlessly through Chinatown. The city and DOT have been studying Chinatown traffic for years, with little result. We need stronger measures.”

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