The streets around Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem are wide and fast, creating barriers between people who live in the neighborhood and important public amenities, including the park itself. Local residents have been working with DOT to calm traffic, coming up with a proposal that extends sidewalk space, shortens crossing distances for pedestrians, and squares off street corners that drivers currently careen around at high speeds.
The area in and around Marcus Garvey Park is home to P.S. 79, a new location of the Harlem Village Academy charter school, a library, a senior center, a public pool, and a recreation center. But walking to all these destinations can be treacherous, especially for children and seniors. Many crosswalks are unmarked and span very wide streets with speeding traffic.
Community members have clamored for fixes for decades, said Syderia Chresfield, president of the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association. “In the past three years we’ve really been pushing it forward, and that’s because we’ve had so many accidents,” she said.
The most dangerous spot is Mount Morris Park West at 120th Street, where drivers turn left around the park, often at high speeds. A few months ago, Chresfield said, DOT reduced the number of lanes at the turn from two to one and installed a flexible post barrier, but it hasn’t been sufficient to tame traffic.
“We’ve actually had one accident since then,” she noted.
Under the full DOT plan [PDF], one motor vehicle lane will be converted to pedestrian space on Mount Morris Park West, painted sidewalk extensions will be added to several intersections around the park, and new crosswalks will be striped on 124th Street. Double turning lanes, which put pedestrians at heightened risk of being struck by turning drivers, will be converted to single turning lanes at three locations.
DOT presented the changes to the transportation committees of Community Board 10 and Community Board 11 last week. So far, only CB 11’s committee has signaled support for the plan, in a unanimous vote last Tuesday night. CB 10’s transportation committee did not take a vote after seeing DOT’s presentation but is expected to do so at its next meeting on February 13.
Chresfield said she and others are aiming for this project to eventually become a permanent reconstruction including concrete curbs, but that funds are not yet available. Some Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association members were also hoping for a traffic signal at 124th Street and Mount Morris Park West, but DOT rejected the idea. (In many cases, signalizing an intersection can end up making it more dangerous.)
DOT will be presenting the plan to Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association members on Tuesday, Chresfield said, and could implement the changes as soon as July, although DOT would not confirm a timeline with Streetsblog.
This post has been corrected to accurately characterize the effort to find funds for a permanent street reconstruction.