CB12 Committee Hot for Parking, Cautious on Livable Streets

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To increase the number of spots, angled parking may be coming to both sides of Dyckman Street.

The Traffic and Transportation Committee of Community Board 12 last night welcomed new bike racks in Upper Manhattan, but took a pass on endorsing other livable streets initiatives, including a separated bike path on Dyckman/200th Street that would link the east- and west-side greenways. The committee also passed a resolution calling for more parking on Dyckman and, citing concerns over loss of parking, declined to vote on a proposal for a new Greenmarket in Washington Heights.

The meeting marked the second time the "Dyckman Greenway Connector" proposal has come before the CB12 Transportation Committee, but several members were appointed after the first presentation earlier this year and were unfamiliar with it. Spearheaded by the Inwood and Washington Heights Livable Streets group, the plan calls for a separated bike path along Dyckman, in Inwood, linking the Hudson River
and Harlem River Greenways. One of the proposal architects, Maggie Clarke, told the committee that Dyckman — which lies in close proximity to several parks and boating facilities — could become a hub for outdoor activity seekers, noting that the East Coast Greenway route runs through Inwood as well.

Though some members seemed taken aback by the scope of the proposal, they encouraged Clarke and fellow LS group member Daniel O’Neil to drum up support from Dyckman businesses (the group has already composed an informational brochure and is working on a bilingual pro-connector petition). It was also pointed out (full disclosure: by yours truly) that DOT normally takes the lead in such projects, and that the proposal may benefit from agency assistance. Committee Chair Mark Levine asked Josh Orzeck, representing DOT at the meeting, if the city might host a design charette. Orzeck said he is not familiar with the intricacies of separated bike paths, but that he would see what resources were available.

The following recommendations were also issued by Inwood and Washington Heights Livable Streets:

  • improved traffic enforcement on Dyckman Street;
  • a new crosswalk at the 190th Street subway station on Bennett Avenue;
  • a Greenstreets triangle at Isham and 211th Streets; and
  • an Environmental Impact Statement for proposed new restaurants at the Dyckman Marina.

At a public hearing earlier yesterday, it was revealed that new development plans for the now-shuttered Dyckman Marina, on the Hudson at the street’s west end, could bring seating for 300 diners. But there has been no study on the resulting traffic impact on Dyckman or to Inwood in general. Still, the committee approved a resolution calling for new angled parking to relieve expected "parking pressure" near the marina. The original reso included a request that DOT remove existing bike lanes and tear up Dyckman’s wide sidewalks to make room for parking, but that language was removed.

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If Dyckman’s sidewalks were narrowed, where would the auto shops store customer cars?

The committee decided not to vote on a resolution supporting a new Greenmarket on W. 185th Street in Washington Heights. Nearly 1,000 neighborhood residents signed a petition favoring the market, and the block’s only tenant, a synagogue, has issued its blessing. But some on the committee said that the petition was circulated when the market was intended to operate from Bennett Park, which is adjacent to 185th, rather than the street itself, and that residents should have been fully informed regarding the loss of parking on market days.

Said committee member Jim Berlin: "There are thousands of people in the area who own cars, any of whom might park there at some point. We want to hear from the community and whether they want to give up their parking."

There are roughly 19 parking spots on the block in question.

In other business, the committee asked that Inwood and Washington Heights Livable Streets submit a list of requested bike rack locations to be forwarded to DOT (Levine said last night marked the first time the need for bike racks had been brought before the committee), and Orzeck announced that Inwood would be getting its first sheltered rack, to be installed on Dyckman Street near Broadway.

Photos: Brad Aaron

  • Brad, thanks for your very thorough coverage. I’ve been sitting around today feeling depressed about the meeting. The committee chair was encouraging of our efforts, but it was definitely a disappointment to see how much red tape we’re facing. I was very surprised that the DOT representative, under this supposedly bicycle-friendly regime, seemed to show little interest in championing the bike lane proposal, despite the fact that NYC DOT has pledged to build 15 miles of protected bike lanes by 2010 and the bike lane request was–extraordinarily–coming from a community-based organization. Of our remaining requests, we were told to take the Greenstreets triangle and EIS up with the Parks committee, and to take up traffic enforcement on Dyckman with the Public Safety committee.

    The conversation about the Greenmarket was particularly depressing, as it did not seem the committee would recognize that a Greenmarket located by a subway stop and operating on a Sunday would be a great benefit to the community that would far outweigh the small number of individuals inconvenienced by a temporary loss of parking (as, anyway, car owners are a minority in Washington Heights). One member voiced concern that an additional market may oversaturate a small area, but anyone who relies on a greenmarket for healthful, delicious, sustainably grown fruits and vegetables is well aware that a Saturday morning and a weekday afternoon (when many of us are working downtown) are very small shopping windows.

    I admit I voted as a public attendee for the additional parking at the marina based on our group’s calculus that this parking would compensate for the spaces removed by the Dyckman bike lane. Having seen how the meeting went, I regret my decision.

  • (Trying to comfort myself that at least we may succeed in getting bike racks and the proposal for the Dyckman bike path was not completely scotched.)

  • Great work guys. Nobody said this kind of thing would be fun or easy. I think maybe most of the people on the community board drive and they have perhaps forgotten that most residents in the area don’t.

    “a Greenstreets triangle at Isham and 211th Streets”

    Have you guys looked in to the NYC plaza program? That could be another way to do this. Are you a 501c3?

    http://www.livablestreets.com/projects/bx/blog/2008/08/07/nyc-plaza-program-information-session-for-the-south-bronx/

  • JK

    There will never be enough free parking on Dyckman. Instead of angle parking, DOT needs to meter existing parking, and set rates so that there are always some spots available. This is scarce public space and free parking is about the least useful way to use it. And, why do you need the CB for bike racks?

  • JK, we don’t need the CB for bike racks, but their endorsement may help move our request through the system faster. I commented at the meeting that the new spaces should be metered, but, as I said, I regret I even supported new parking at all. It was not a compromise that got us anywhere.

  • Hi Susan, thanks for your encouragement!

    I have looked into the plaza program, but sadly we are not a 501c3, merely a scrappy group of Streetsblog readers that has been in existence for less than 3 months.

  • You could go through that synagogue If they are in to such things…

  • I’m not that surprised…despite access to the 1 train, the A train, buses, and the east & west bike paths, it’s car city up in Northern Manhattan.

    As the connection between the East & West side greenways, the Dyckman street bike lane really should be a no-brainer–though if they ever did stripe it, it would simply become a free lane for double parkers, which is already out of control. It’s pretty hazardous riding on Dyckman under current conditions.

  • Hi Michael, Inwood & Washington Heights Livable Streets is arguing for a protected bike lane (along with pedestrian enhancements) on Dyckman Street, not a simple paint treatment. We’ve been explicit about this point all along with the CB, which is why they’re asking us for street design schematics and a petition signed by Dyckman business owners and residents.

  • Chris

    Car owners are a minority in Washington Heights? It seems to me more people have cars because it is not easy finding a parking spot, especially on Sunday nights.

  • Car owners are a minority in Washington Heights?

    Yes. Most people in this community take the train.

  • Capitalist

    “Car owners are a minority in Washington Heights?

    Yes. Most people in this community take the train.”

    How are those two mutually exclusive? I live in Washington Heights, and if car owners are not in the majority, I’d say they’re close. Certainly there are higher rates of car ownership there than in most other parts of Manhattan. There is also a significant amount or resentment of cyclists in the nabe. Before every CB meeting, Mayor’s Town Hall, or other politician-attended event, posters go up everywhere with proposed agendas, which always include items about curbing cyclists. Add to that the fact that Dyckman street is mostly quite narrow, ridiculously congested, and is a highway entrance/exit at both ends, and it’s hardly a surprise that a proposal to take space away from cars was rejected. As much as I like the idea of a real bike lane, it’s obviously a non-starter.

  • “Capitalist,” we are arguing about a fact. I used to live up there, so I know a bit about this area.

    First of all most NYC residents don’t own cars.

    People who own cars:
    The Bronx: 40%
    Manhattan: 22%

    Now Washington Heights is in Manhattan, but it’s a little more like the Bronx than the rest of Manhattan. So, I expect it’s higher that 22%, but lower than 40%. In any case there is no way it’s over 50%

    Now you do see a lot of cars in the area– but keep in mind cars take up a lot of space. Washington Heights has big buildings with many stories and lots of people. Most of them have no cars. Only the wealthy people can afford a car–

  • Capitalist

    Susan,

    We’re arguing facts? You’re asserting your limited observations to be broadly true, and drawing conclusions from irrelevant facts, and I’m questioning that. For instance, you wrote “Yes. Most people in this community take the train” in response to someone else questioning your prior assertion that most people in the neighborhood don’t drive. I don’t regard the former as evidence of the latter. Lots of people own cars, yet also use the train for much of their travel.

    I don’t know the data about car ownership in Washington Heights vs. other neighborhoods (neither, apparently, do you), but my (perhaps limited) personal observations (as someone who still lives there), is that the level of ownership is quite high. Most of my neighbors have cars, for example (which has not been the case in other neighborhoods where I’ve lived). I’m not saying this is a “fact” applicable to the whole nabe, but I would be surprised if objective data contradicted this impression.

    Washington Heights has smaller buildings and is less dense than most of the rest of Manhattan (e.g., it has relatively few buildings over 8 stories tall). That’s one of its biggest attractions. Given this, I think that the “facts” that there are so many cars on the street and that it is so difficult to park are strong indicators of relatively high car ownership, rather than of how much space cars take up.

    Finally, you may be right that only the wealthy can actually _afford_ cars, but that doesn’t seem to stop very large numbers of the non-wealthy from buying them. W/H is absolutely clogged with cars. Especially the poorer parts of the area (e.g., East of Broadway). Go take a walk on any side street between St. Nicholas and Amsterdam and tell me again that only the rich drive.

    My only point in all of this is that W/H has relatively high rates of car ownership, and as a result am not surprised at the opposition to the bike lane proposal. Sheesh.

  • Capitalist, the CB 12 committee did not *oppose* or *reject* a protected lane on Dyckman Street. In fact, they were cautiously supportive. They asked us to come back with an actual design to look at and a petition signed by some business owners on Dyckman Street. So the proposal is far from being dead in the water.

  • According to census data for the two Assembly districts in Upper Manhattan — Districts 71 and 72 — 77.9 percent of households and 80 percent of households, respectively, do not own cars.

    In District 71, households with a vehicle earn an average annual income of $61,063, while households without a car earn $34,219 per year. In District 72, it’s $48,746 per year with a car and $32,323 without.

    As a point of clarification, Dyckman Street is in Inwood. The “narrow” part of the street accommodates four lanes of car traffic plus parallel parking on both sides. The east end of Dyckman, from Nagle Ave to Harlem River Drive, is much wider and already has bike lanes.

  • Wow, Brad. It’s even lower than I thought! Cars take up so much space it just seems like everyone must have one.

    Can you help me find similar stats for Community Boards 1-6 in the Bronx? (I don’t know the districts off hand, I’m talking about the South Bronx.) I bet there are fewer car owners down here than up north. It’d be nice to have these when we talk to our community boards and politicians.

  • Capitalist

    Brad,

    I’m aware that Dyckman is considered to be in Inwood. This is the exchange that triggered my comment:

    “Car owners are a minority in Washington Heights?

    Yes. Most people in this community take the train.”

    As to Dyckman’s narrowness/width, most of its length is in the narrow part East of Broadway. This is indeed striped for two lanes in both directions, but it’s a stretch to say that it “accomodates” the volume of cars that are there, especially given the level of double parking and standing that go on there. Again, I’m not saying I think a separated bike lane (what was proposed, not a striped one) is a bad idea, only that I’m not surprised at there being opposition, given how car-centric that street (and much of the surrounding neighborhood) is. As far as the bike lanes on the west of Broadway are concerned, good luck trying to use them.

    As to the assertion that only the rich drive, I would say that your income statistics confirm my position, unless you think that a population with an average income of $61k or $48k is rich.

  • Agreed. Upper Manhattan, like most of the city, is very auto-centric — which, I think, is the point of proposals such as this one. And as I wrote, and Urbanis reiterated, there was no opposition at this meeting, only a request for more info and a show of support from businesses. Whether CB 12 will ultimately endorse the idea is another matter, but it was not rejected.

    As for the income data, I was simply presenting the numbers.

    Susan, census data sheets are here, broken down by state and local districts:
    http://www.tstc.org/CP_factsheets.html

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