Revisiting Houston Street, One Month Later

politics_Hoylman_lg.jpgDerek Lake died on June 26 when his bike tripped over a steel plate and fell beneath the wheels of a moving truck in the midst of Houston Street’s reconstruction mess. Brad Hoylman, a Village resident, chairs the Traffic and Transportation Committee of Community Board 2. Hoylman talks to Streetsblog about the  Community Board’s reaction to Lake’s death and its plans to try to prevent similar horrors. And he reminds us that, despite a $30 million reconstruction project that includes no new bicycle amenities, Houston Street is supposed to be a part of New York City’s Bicycle Master Plan

What are the committee and board demanding in the wake of Derek Lake’s death?
The Board is going to be requesting, for starters, a full contingent of Traffic Enforcement Agents during construction on Houston. According to the contract it is six agents, I think near and about the area of construction. And those six agents have been placed there for the first time as of July 5. It is an interagency issue between NYPD and the Department of Design and Construction. We’re going to urge that NYPD help monitor the safety of the project whenever possible. Obviously the police force is stretched pretty thin. This is something Councilmember Gerson has been advocating from the inception of the project.

Was it an emotional meeting?
It’s interesting. There’s a sense among people who live around Houston Street that DDC has been doing a relatively good job — granted, they’re not responsible for the design — but community outreach has been pretty consistent. They publish a newsletter, for God’s sake. We think the safety lapse was extremely unfortunate, but we have reason to be positive.

Did Lake die because of a misplaced metal plate?
There’s an investigation going on. The community relations rep, Sybil Dobson, said that if members of the community see imminent danger, such as a metal plate having been moved to expose a hole, they should call 911.

How do you move forward and deal with the design?
We’re interested to know how many summons have been issued in connection with the project and we’re going to work with Councilmember Gerson’s office on that. On the final design, it’s for many of us an old issue. It’s ironic that Houston Street is in the City’s Bicycle Masterplan and we hope to convene a meeting with DOT and some of our elected officials to see if a bike lane can get into the plan.

To what degree is DDC absorbing body blows for DOT?
They implement the design, so in any on-the-job issues, they are the responsible agency. We’re in a Catch-22 position because the community weighed in negatively on the reconstruction plan. DOT views that as a closed issue, but that doesn’t mean that the community can’t seek improvements to the final design and we think the top priority should be a bicycle plan.

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