Eyes on the Street: Adam Clayton Powell Now Safer, With or Without CB 10

DOT has painted wider pedestrian medians on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in Harlem, including this one at 120th Street. Photo: Stephen Miller

Harlem’s Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, connecting Macombs Dam Bridge to Central Park, has long been a dangerous speedway. DOT clocked drivers traveling as fast as 52 mph on the six-lane divided road, with up to two-thirds of evening drivers going above the 30 mph speed limit. Between 2006 and 2012, twelve pedestrians were killed on the boulevard, which sees more serious injuries and fatalities than 88 percent of Manhattan streets.

In 2009, DOT proposed buffered bike lanes, which were supported by Community Board 10’s transportation committee but opposed by its full board. Last year, DOT came back with a new proposal to add pedestrian space and turning lanes by eliminating one through lane in each direction. In response to community board feedback, DOT tweaked signal timing and parking rules, but CB 10’s foot-dragging (the board never passed a resolution supporting the proposal) led the department to only install 19 blocks of the redesign last year, from 134th to 153rd Streets, leaving out 15 blocks north of 119th Street.

Preparations are underway at Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and St. Nicholas Avenue for concrete curb extensions. Photo: Stephen Miller

This year, DOT not only completed the originally proposed safety improvements but also extended the road diet to the end of Adam Clayton Powell at 110th Street. The complete plan [PDF], which was presented to CB 10’s transportation committee in February and began implementation in May, covers 43 blocks. The existing bike lane between 110th and 118th Streets was preserved; north of there, a 13-foot extra-wide parking lane is fair game for both cyclists and double-parked drivers. Like last year, the community board and its transportation committee did not pass a resolution on the proposal, but were notified of the change by DOT, as required by Local Law 90.

On two blocks of St. Nicholas Avenue that cut diagonally across Adam Clayton Powell and 116th Street, the project significantly expands pedestrian space and shortens crossing distances. Along with a painted median extension on Adam Clayton Powell, a painted curb extension on the northwest corner of the intersection reduces the crossing distance from 150 feet to 92 feet.

Between 115th and 116th, pedestrians had to cross 115 feet of asphalt where northbound drivers on St. Nicholas merged with Adam Clayton Powell. DOT’s plan from February reduces that distance to 40 feet with a painted curb extension on the intersection’s south side, but the agency is instead building concrete curb extensions on both the north and south corners. DOT says that, as with many projects, the painted curb extensions on Adam Clayton Powell are slated to be built with concrete as funding becomes available. “In this case, funding became available sooner than expected,” spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera said in an e-mail. “We notified the Community Board in May that work would be done in concrete.”

From 110th Street to 118th Street, DOT retained the existing bike lane, but installed extra-wide parking lanes elsewhere on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard. Photos: Stephen Miller
  • J

    It’s truly depressing how little Harlem’s leaders care about the safety and mobility of the residents of Harlem.

    That said, this is a good project, and it’s heartening to see it finally be implemented in full. At some point, though, we’ll actually need to make Harlem bike-friendly. It has a lot of potential: the terrain is flat and there is plenty of space for high-quality bike infrastructure, but the present facilities are meager and function fairly poorly.

  • Mark Walker

    This picture from the Museum of the City of New York shows ACP circa 1893 looking north from 125th — before it was tyrannized by cars. Imagine what it would be like to have the street, as shown here, literally at your feet. What would that do for your mood, for your quality of life? Maybe someday, in the distant future, ACP might become Harlem’s first car-free boulevard.

  • Mark Walker

    This picture from the Museum of the City of New York shows ACP circa 1893 looking north from 125th — before it was tyrannized by cars. Imagine what it would be like to have the street, as shown here, literally at your feet. What would that do for your mood, for your quality of life? Maybe someday, in the distant future, ACP might become Harlem’s first car-free boulevard.

  • Anonymous

    My only complaint about the treatment of the intersection with 116th St/St. Nicholas Ave is that they painted a couple new parking spots that “nightlight” the view between the bike lane and the cars coming North from St. Nicholas. Here’s the current view. Now imagine a couple more cars parked in front of the car on the right hand side, next to the bike lane. http://goo.gl/0l9rx

  • Joe R.

    It would be much nicer for cyclists as well than the present iteration of ACP.

  • callmeL

    This is a vast improvement because cars and cabs speed down these wide streets very, very fast and there is a lot of foot traffic.

  • We not have a bike lane in the middle, where that extra wide median is?

  • Daphna

    You are right. With some political courage, this re-design could have been even better. This plan has a 13′ wide parking lane, two 11′ wide travel lanes, and a 10′ wide median that alternates with being a left turn bay. If those two travel lanes were 10′ (the standard on many avenues) instead of 11′ and the curbside lane were 9′ instead of 13′, that would have been 6′ extra that could have been a bike lane along the median. Such a bike lane would have had a 10′ buffer or a 10′ left turn bay next to it depending on the block.

    But this kind of truly fantastic street space allocation would not make it convenient to illegally double park and right now unfortunately, continuing to facilitate illegal double parking is still part of the mindset.

  • Daphna

    They are still doing that area. You might be happy with the finished product. The triangle (A. Philip Randolph Square) between St. Nicholas and ACP between 116th and 117th was done in paint when the rest of the street was striped in March/April. That triangle park has added pedestrian space around it. The other triangle (Sam Marx Triangle) between St. Nicholas and ACP between 116th and 115th is being done now in concrete. Whatever parking had been painted there was just temporary.

    Harlem Green X:change had proposed even better measures but they did not get implemented. A. Philip Randolph Square could have been expanded from 3,200 square feet to 19,000 square feet if St. Nicholas has been pedestrianized from 116th to 117th Street. Sam Marx Triangle could have been expanded from 1,600 square feet to 8,000 square feet by pedestrianizing St. Nicholas from 115th to 116th St.

    No one can drive through anyway because St. Nicholas is northbound only for the block south of 116th Street and is southbound only for the block north of 116th Street. It would have made sense to re-purpose that street space further since St. Nicholas is no longer a two-way street for those two blocks.

  • Daphna

    They are still doing that area. You might be happy with the finished product. The triangle (A. Philip Randolph Square) between St. Nicholas and ACP between 116th and 117th was done in paint when the rest of the street was striped in March/April. That triangle park has added pedestrian space around it. The other triangle (Sam Marx Triangle) between St. Nicholas and ACP between 116th and 115th is being done now in concrete. Whatever parking had been painted there was just temporary.

    Harlem Green X:change had proposed even better measures but they did not get implemented. A. Philip Randolph Square could have been expanded from 3,200 square feet to 19,000 square feet if St. Nicholas has been pedestrianized from 116th to 117th Street. Sam Marx Triangle could have been expanded from 1,600 square feet to 8,000 square feet by pedestrianizing St. Nicholas from 115th to 116th St.

    No one can drive through anyway because St. Nicholas is northbound only for the block south of 116th Street and is southbound only for the block north of 116th Street. It would have made sense to re-purpose that street space further since St. Nicholas is no longer a two-way street for those two blocks.

  • S

    Pol’s dont care until the people who “Pay” them care

  • I live right near here and walk by that expanded median on ACP Blvd regularly. That turn was a death trap and that median has been a huge help in moderating left turning cars that creep out and gun through. I’ve been almost hit countless times. I used to wait until I *didn’t* have a walk signal (ie, green lights North/South) because it was (and still is) safer to cross – Central park had no cars coming out, so you’re good on the East side of the median. Then you can just wait for cars coming Southbound on ACP and safely go across. I really hate these huge intersections and think they should be replaced with Stop signs, traffic cams, a new city regulation that requires drivers come to a full stop before making a right or left turn (which would probably save a lot of lives), or do what Mexico does and put 12 inch maritime ropes down at crosswalks so cars have to slow down to go over them. Streets should be designed to be pedestrian and cyclist friendly first… this is a step in the right direction.

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