CB 2 Committee OKs Varick Street Traffic Calming, Punts on Bike Corrals

With two unanimous 9-0 votes, Manhattan Community Board 2’s transportation committee took one step forward and one step back for livable streets last night, voting for safety fixes at a problematic intersection while punting on a proposal for bike corrals after local NIMBY extraordinaire Sean Sweeney showed up to squash it.

Just another day at the intersection of Carmine Street, Clarkson Street, Varick Street and Seventh Avenue South. Photo: Doug Gordon

A request for traffic calming and pedestrian safety fixes at the intersection of Clarkson Street, Carmine Street, Varick Street and Seventh Avenue South moved ahead after the committee agreed to drop further consideration of converting one block of Carmine Street to one-way operation. The intersection, which floods with traffic bound for the Holland Tunnel, would receive curb extensions on the northeast and northwest corners to reduce the crossing distance and daylighting treatments on the southwest corner through removal of on-street parking. The proposal was put forth by Brooklyn Spoke blogger Doug Gordon, who works nearby, and will move to the full board on January 24 before advancing to DOT and NYPD for agency consideration.

In a surprise move, the committee sent plans for three on-street bike corrals back to DOT for further study. Bike corrals were presented for three locations, each to be maintained by an adjacent business that had requested the bike parking: Spring Street Natural on the southwest corner of Spring and Lafayette Streets, Little Cupcake Bakeshop on the southeast corner of Prince and Mott Streets, and Organic Avenue at the corner of Sullivan and Houston Streets.

Sean Sweeney, winner of Streetsblog’s 2008 NIMBY of the Year award, pounced on these bike corral installations. “Why is SoHo DOT’s petri dish?” he asked. “Experiment somewhere else!”

Although DOT’s Inbar Kishoni pointed out that corrals are being installed in several other neighborhoods, and that the committee had already voted in support of a bike corral at Cafe Habana at Prince and Elizabeth Streets, Sweeney’s opposition scared away enough members from supporting the corrals. In the end, Committee Chair Shirley Secunda put forward a resolution asking DOT for more planning, education, and outreach before installing bike corrals.

So, thanks to Sweeney, instead of safer sightlines at intersections and on-street bike parking that would help relieve the spatial crunch on crowded sidewalks, SoHo and these local businesses will be getting nothing, at least for the time being. Chalk up another win for Sweeney’s SoHo Alliance.

Also at last night’s meeting, DOT’s Colleen Chattergoon said that the agency has held a community walk-through of Houston Street and Sixth Avenue and is working on a safety plan for the intersection that it will present to the committee in the future. Jessica Dworkin was killed at the intersection by a turning truck driver in August 2012.

A third item on last night’s agenda, to discuss sidewalk extensions and other safety improvements at the intersection of Bleecker Street and Sixth Avenue, was postponed until the committee’s next meeting.

  • Eric McClure

    Maybe it’s time to upgrade Sean Sweeney to a Lifetime NIMBY Achievement award.

  • Danny G

    When does Sean Sweeney’s term in office expire?

  • SoHo’er

    Sean Sweeney is completely at odds with the people who live and work in the neighborhood, who, it must be noted, REQUESTED these bike corrals for their customers and neighboring businesses.  Bike corrals would be maintained by civic-minded volunteers from these businesses at no cost to the city – this is exactly the kind of community involvement one would want from local businesses! 

    You have to wonder what Sweeney has against his community.

  • Collector6415

    SoHo’er: you don’t live in SoHo, so why do you try to give the impression that you do?  When will you get a sliver of decency???None of the people from SoHo/Little Italy supported this, except three restaurateurs whose bottom line would benefit by having a parking spot for their delivery bikes right in front of their stores to commandeer – just like what happens at the existing bike corral in front of Cafe Habana on Thompson Street.??Let’s review:
    The Mott Street location was decried by a member of the transportation committee who actually lives on that street and who asserted that it would hinder Sanitation operations.  His fellow committee-members apparently agreed with him and denied that site.??The Sullivan Street location was withdrawn due to inadequate and sloppy preparation by DOT.??The W. 9th Street location was unilaterally dropped by the DOT without advising the community board or any elected official, resulting in several citizens wasting their evening due to this DOT botch-up.??The Spring Street location was rejected due to the committee’s recognition of the intense congestion on that corner.?  ?In fact, the real SoHo residents who were present at the meeting requested DOT last month to prohibit ALL vehicular parking along that block of Lafayette Street.?Instead, DOT has not responded to that request, still permits car parking, and now wants additional bike parking to add to the congestion.

    So, if you want to lash out at someone, don’t lash out at Sweeney.
    Lash out at DOT for listening to the ninny who proposed these sites.

     

  • Eric McClure

    And one more thing. Further study of bike corrals?  DOT should’ve said ok, left the room, and come back in five minutes later.  More “education” regarding bike corrals?  That’s going to be a very short class.

  • Guest

    How do bike corrals hinder sanitation? That has not been the case anywhere else. The businesses are responsible for cleaning the area around the corrals that sanitation sweepers can not reach. If there are recycling bins or garbage cans, they can be moved five or ten feet. More NIMBY speculation that has no basis in reality.

    Ninny is how you refer to people who operate businesses, pay taxes, and employ people in “your” neighborhood? Get a sliver of decency.

  • lives here

    The southwest corner of Spring and Lafayette is too congested and too dangerous to add anything to it. Community who opposed this particular corral are motivated predominantly by a concern for public safety. Bike-friendly residents watch apprehensively every day as big fire trucks from Ladder 20 turn against traffic (south) onto Lafayette until they get to Spring Street, then continue down Lafayette, or continue down Lafayette until they turn left (east) onto Kenmare Street; the fire trucks have no choice if they are to respond quickly. This is not an ideological, but rather a practical and human, issue. Public safety, including the ability of our first responders to quickly and safely reach a crisis, needs to be our highest priority.

  • Anonymous

    @ce3ed4e48999f2eb32ec340114be088d:disqus I assume there are no cars parked at those locations now, right? The bike corrals would be totally new things that would take up space no one is using, right? And it’s definitely better to preserve the dangerous status quo of encouraging people to use the most dangerous transportation method possible–the motor vehicle–in order to preserve public safety, right? And the fact that calmer streets don’t hinder emergency vehicles is also unimportant, right:
    http://www.streetsblog.org/2013/01/03/myth-busted-safer-streets-are-not-slowing-emergency-responders/
    The status quo: killing tens of thousands but definitely better than change.

  • lives here

    dporpentine, hyperbole (“killing tens of thousands”) does not advance your argument; in fact, it makes you look hysterical. Please read Collector6415’s informed commentary: this community has been working very hard for over a year with CB2 and our elected representatives to implement measures that would alleviate the traffic crisis in this area; it is DOT that has been unresponsive, rebuffing our every suggestion, ignoring every CB2 resolution, barely deigning to respond to our elected representatives. Consider directing your considerable rage elsewhere than at the community who lives here and tries to respond thoughtfully and in an educated manner to issues of public concern like this one.

  • Guest

    If the ability of our first responders to quickly and safely reach a crisis needs to be our highest priority, then we need to eliminate all on-street parking and ban the use of private vehicles in New York City.  

  • Frumcheryl

    Dear Stephen Miller,

    This article is extremely biased.  Shame on you.
    I and others from the community also attended this meeting and spoke against installing any additional bike corrals in our neighborhood (Little Italy/Soho).  Why would Sean Sweeney be signaled out as the only individual to do so?  

    Maybe it is because the writer of this article purposefully wanted to ignore the presentation of others from the community.  I for one presented the Committee with photographs of the already installed bike corral on Elizabeth Street — in front of Cafe Habana — where a very unsightly and rarely used bike corral was just installed.  Interestingly, the DOT representatives didn’t present photographs of the corral at this location.  Maybe it is because they knew how incompetently it was designed.  

    I presented photographs for the CB 2 Committee, documenting the fact that the corrals are mainly used for the private use of Cafe Habana — and are rarely used by other bicyclists (photographs taken the very night of the meeting  show three bicycles parked there — all delivery bicycles).  In addition, I presented the DOT Committee with measurements of the installation, indicating that the corral, from curb to the pole outside of the unsightly planters went 7-1/2 feet into the very narrow street.  It is difficult to see how it would not be difficult for emergency vehicles to pass by during those times when parking is permitted on both sides of the street.  Why didn’t you include this part of the discussion in your blog?

    In the narrow streets of Little Italy and Soho, where there are numerous street closures and film permits, bike corrals are not only a safety hazard — the most important point —  but are a highly unfair nuisance for those residents who must park their cars on the street in a neighborhood with extremely limited alternate-side parking.  For example, the proposed location of a corral on Mott Street would take up parking spaces on the one and only block in the entire neighborhood designated for T/F alternate-side parking.  Why should a private business be allowed to take up public street space, when tax-paying residents, some of whom struggle mightily to find very limited parking spaces for their vehicles, also have a right to the space?

    Do you know first hand of the vehicular and pedestrian congestion at the corner of Lafayette and Spring?  Have you even bothered to investigate how difficult it would be for emergency vehicles to pass by during rush hour — should this road impediment be installed?  

    Do your work.  Tired of the biased BS knee jerk response by this and so many other blogs.  And with your manipulative attempt to mislead the public by signaling out the supposedly one and only “Nimby.”  

    Marna Lawrence
    Little Italy Resident

  • Guest

    Marna, parked cars jut 7 – 8 feet out into the “very narrow street.”  It is difficult to see how it would not be very difficult for emergency vehicles to pass by during those times when parking is permitted on both sides of the street.

    In the narrow streets of Little Italy and Soho, car parking are a highly unfair nuisance for the majority of people who do not own cars.  

    You’d be surprised how many private businesses take up on-streek parking with their delivery vans, owners’ cars, and other work-related vehicles.  Why should a private business be allowed to take up public street space, when tax-paying residents with or without cars, also have a right to the space?

  • What is the claim about fire trucks exactly — that a bike corral on Lafayette would prevent them from driving the wrong way and that this is a net loss for public safety?

  • Anonymous

    And of course, delivery bikes are not “real bikes” and hence they don’t need to be parked.
    You should be thankful that businesses use delivery bikes and not cars or vans which would take ten times more space.

  • lives here

    Nathan, yes, not only would a bike corral impede fire trucks from Ladder 20, which unfortunately have no choice but to drive against traffic for half a block to the southwest corner of Spring and Lafayette in order to get quickly to their southerly or southeasterly destination, but our fear is that a bike corral at this location would cause an accident, possibly involving a fire truck. Those you and others on this blog are arguing against are as committed as you are to easing traffic congestion in the area. But while you claim that a bike corral at the southwest corner of Spring and Lafayette would ease traffic congestion by converting vehicles to bicycles, those of us who live here and who see the traffic conditions daily are convinced that a bike corral at this location would in itself create danger.

  • Also lives here

    I don’t understand the crashing concern. If drivers can manage to not crash into parked cars all over the city, why would try suddenly start crashing into bike corrals?

  • lives here

    Bike corrals are wider than parked cars, and they cannot be restricted during the most congested times, as parking on Lafayette Street south of Spring is Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

  • Guest

    That’s not correct. Bike corrals are no wider than the existing parking lane.

  • SoHo Lofter

    Dear “lives here” and “frumcheryl”:  Don’t waste your time responding to “Guest”.

    “Guest”, like the other pseudonyms he uses here, namely, “Also lives here”  and “SoHo’er”, does NOT live in SoHo/Liitle Italy,  Never has.

    It’s symptomatic of his twisted, emasculated character and personality for him to try to fool us otherwise, as he tries to salvage yet one more of his many defeats.

    Such is the level of honesty and integrity we are faced with, when dealing with this  weasel – a frequent poster on this blog, whose feet never seem to touch the ground, even when he is not polluting our atmosphere with his jet fuel.

    Don’t feed the troll.

  • Anonymous

    @ce3ed4e48999f2eb32ec340114be088d:disqus What is hyperbolic about my point about motor vehicles killing tens of thousands of people a year? The statistics:
    http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811701.pdf
    End of story.

  • Anonymous

    @ce3ed4e48999f2eb32ec340114be088d:disqus What is hyperbolic about my point about motor vehicles killing tens of thousands of people a year? The statistics:
    http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811701.pdf
    End of story.

  • “Nathan, yes, not only would a bike corral impede fire trucks from Ladder 20, which unfortunately have no choice but to drive against traffic for half a block to the southwest corner of Spring and Lafayette in order to get quickly to their southerly or southeasterly destination, but our fear is that a bike corral at this location would cause an accident, possibly involving a fire truck.”

    1. Firetrucks must drive the wrong way on this street frequently, there is no alternative
    2. On-street bicycle racks will impede wrong way firetrucks with unique severity

    I don’t agree with 1 or 2. It seems like there must be a better way do things than to have fire trucks barreling down the streets in directions they aren’t signaled for. In any case it’s up to the fire department to make this objection.

    “Those you and others on this blog are arguing against are as committed as you are to easing traffic congestion in the area.”

    I was asking a question. Why are you generalizing?

    “But while you claim that a bike corral at the southwest corner of Spring and Lafayette would ease traffic congestion by converting vehicles to bicycles,”

    Seriously what are you talking about? I didn’t make any claim, at all.

    “those of us who live here and who see the traffic conditions daily are convinced that a bike corral at this location would in itself create danger.”

    I also see the traffic conditions daily, but yes I get that I am not in your tribe and that this is very important to you.

  • jrab

    Once the fire truck crosses Spring headed downtown on Lafayette, it’s going in the law-abiding direction. What’s the big deal about having a bike corral there on the SW corner, then?

    Oh, and liveshere, please tell me also what are the clues in the hustle and bustle of today’s congestion at that corner which makes you and your neighbors certain that a bike corral would “in itself” create danger? Perhaps you are arguing that the high level of congestion and traffic there makes change OF ANY SORT a change for the worse. If this is so, then how is it in a democratic society that we have reached a point where (at least at this corner) we are irrevocably committed to misery for everyone using the intersection without a two-ton metal exoskeleton?  Is there no way to improve the situation? What are some of your ideas?

  • SoHo resident

    Both Streetsblog and the community board advertised this meeting well in advance last week, advising people interested in these bike corrals to attend the meeting.

    Those SoHo/Little Italy residents who attended, every single one, INCLUDING all the traffic committee members, UNANIMOUSLY agreed that DOT chose the wrong locations. 

    Now, all the commenters here  – none of whom apparently live anywhere near SoHo (despite the deceptive User Names)  – who are complaining about the decision are, literally, Monday morning quarterbacks, second guessing the learned opinions of those who heard DOT’s ridiculous presentation.

    Perhaps if they spent less time on their butts in front of computer screens all day and got out and partook in the process, they would understand why these proposed locations are foolish and a no-go from the start.

    But don’t hold your breath.  It is much easier to bitch on a Monday morning than go to a meeting on a Wednesday evening. 
    That is why we SoHo neighborhood activists are successful and the whiners are, well, just whiners.

  • Guest

    I was at the meeting. The other SoHo residents were uniformly rude and dismissive.  And the language they are using here — “ninny,” “whiners,” “on their butts,” — is indicative of the tone and language they used last week.

    We should be able to have this debate while staying in the realm of facts, not insults.

  • Guest

    I was at the meeting. The other SoHo residents were uniformly rude and dismissive.  And the language they are using here — “ninny,” “whiners,” “on their butts,” — is indicative of the tone and language they used last week.

    We should be able to have this debate while staying in the realm of facts, not insults.

  • SoHo resident

    “The other SoHo residents”? 
    “other”??

    “Staying in the realm of facts”? 
    “facts”??

    Guest: yes, you were at the meeting.  That is the only fact you have generated.

    However, you are not a SoHo resident. You never were. 
    Isn’t that a fact?

    Every ACTUAL SoHo resident present at the meeting spoke against the proposal – every single one. 
    Every single traffic-committee member also voted against the proposal, making the vote unanimous against the silly DOT proposal. 
    Isn’t that a fact?

    Tell the Streetsblog readers where you actually live, which outer borough, if you so value “the realm of facts.”

  • Guest

    My point is made.

  • SoHo resident

    One cannot declare one’s point “made”. A referee or arbitrator does that.

    However, the deafening silence on your refusal to address the simple facts outlined below help make my point.

    Thank you.

  • Morris Zapp

    Travel to meeting from outside SoHo, disagree with Sean Sweeney: You don’t live “here.” Your opinion is irrelevant.

    Don’t travel to meeting from outside SoHo, disagree with Sean Sweeney: You don’t live “here.” Your opinion is irrelevant.

    Own a business in SoHo, disagree with Sean Sweeney: You don’t live “here.” Your opinion is irrelevant.

    Live in SoHo, disagree with Sean Sweeney: You don’t live “here.” Your opinion is irrelevant.

  • Anonymous

    @f8875ac21afb33d7a9d5d96857316c9b:disqus I don’t live there. I am, however, a resident of this thing called a city. And as I travel around the city in which I reside, my life is often threatened by nonsensical NIMBYs who prefer dangerous conveniences for themselves over safety for others.

  • Clarke

    One solution to the issue of firetrucks be impeded would be to ban private automobile traffic in SoHo. It would make it much easier for emergency crews to get to their destinations quickly and safely.

  • Andrew

    You raise an important safety concern. It’s great that DOT has provided the opportunity for community input with regard to safety issues before establishing new bicycle parking spaces.

    However, it has recently come to my attention that DOT neglected to provide similar opportunities prior to the establishment of all of the presently existing automobile parking spaces. (Can you believe it?) As such, I would recommend that all parking in the area be immediately suspended (it’s a safety issue, after all – better safe than sorry). DOT should then meet with the community to discuss the safety impacts of each proposed parking space, whether for automobiles or for bicycles.

    Does that make sense?

  • SoHo resident

    Andrew: ” I would recommend that all parking in the area be immediately suspended’

    Oh, Andrew, didn’t you read Collector6415’s comment before you posted?

    The fact is that last month we SoHo/Little Italy neighbors did request DOT to ban ALL vehicular parking on Lafayette between Spring and Broome – this very spot – based on safety and congestion issues.

    True to its bureaucratic habit, DOT ignored this simple request by the community and the Community Board, and pushed ahead with this silly proposal, ignoring alternate locations for bike corrals suggested by the residents who know the neighborhood better than anyone.

    However,  criticizing DOT for their screw-up apparently is beyond the ability of the commenters here, wouldn’t you agree?

  • SoHo resident

    Andrew: ” I would recommend that all parking in the area be immediately suspended’

    Oh, Andrew, didn’t you read Collector6415’s comment before you posted?

    The fact is that last month we SoHo/Little Italy neighbors did request DOT to ban ALL vehicular parking on Lafayette between Spring and Broome – this very spot – based on safety and congestion issues.

    True to its bureaucratic habit, DOT ignored this simple request by the community and the Community Board, and pushed ahead with this silly proposal, ignoring alternate locations for bike corrals suggested by the residents who know the neighborhood better than anyone.

    However,  criticizing DOT for their screw-up apparently is beyond the ability of the commenters here, wouldn’t you agree?

  • Andrew

    Perhaps my sarcasm was too thick, but you are actually making my point exactly. If bicycle parking is only established after a discussion of supposed safety considerations, then where is the discussion of safety considerations for each and every one of the thousands and thousands of automobile parking spaces across the city?

  • Andrew

    One cannot declare one’s point “made”. A referee or arbitrator does that.

    However, the deafening silence on your refusal to address the simple facts outlined below help make my point.

    Thank you.

    As if you addressed his points?

    Any discourse incorporating the terms “ninny” or “whiners” or “on their butts” is not intelligent discourse. I’m frankly more interested in what he has to say than in where he lives. It is truly astonishing how much SoHo residents seem to worry about whether others are or are not truly SoHo residents. Makes me glad that I live elsewhere.

  • Guest

    Sean, you’re being selectively dishonest. Marna, in her comment below, said that the bike parking on Elizabeth Street by Cafe Habana would impede emergency access.  If there’s a legitimate concern with any form of parking on Lafayette St, then I think that’s fine and do agree that you and the committee are right to oppose this location.  But many of your supporters seemed opposed to any and all locations and used the issue of emergency access to support their claims.  It’s fair then for people to wonder why all parking, car or bicycle or skateboard, isn’t subject to the same review.

    “..the corral, from curb to the pole outside of the unsightly planters went 7-1/2 feet into the very narrow street.  It is difficult to see how it would not be difficult for emergency vehicles to pass by during those times when parking is permitted on both sides of the street.”

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