Morningside Road Diet Supporters Try to Find Common Ground With CB 10

Wednesday night, Harlem road diet supporters and opponents met in an attempt to find common ground on what can be done to improve safety on Morningside Avenue. The move comes in advance of DOT releasing a second plan for the street, after its first design encountered opposition from Community Board 10.

CB 10's chair is worried that adding pedestrian islands to Morningside Avenue will cause problems for double-parkers. Photo: DOT
CB 10’s chair is worried that reducing car lanes to add pedestrian islands to Morningside Avenue will create problems with double-parked drivers. Photo: DOT

The plan to calm traffic on Morningside Avenue [PDF], requested by North Star Neighborhood Association and supported by CB 9, has been waiting for action from neighboring CB 10 since it was released last September. But key CB 10 members object to its central component — a reduction in the number of car lanes to create space for a painted median and pedestrian refuge islands — and the board has refused to take action on the plan. In response, DOT went back to the drawing board and is creating a second plan to be presented in the coming weeks.

About 25 people attended the Wednesday meeting, which was hosted by North Star and included presentations from CB 10 chair Henrietta Lyle and Transportation Alternatives Manhattan organizer Tom DeVito, who talked about how the plan fits into Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero program.

The event featured plenty of crosstalk and heated exchanges, but there was also discussion of the need for a plan that everyone in the room could support. While the meeting ended on a positive note, the path to agreement remains murky: Lyle and many CB 10 members remain opposed to reducing the number of car lanes, and DOT has not yet released its alternative plan.

“I just don’t think it’s a good community position for us to be battling when safety is the number one thing,” said Aissatou Bey-Grecia, a founding member of North Star. The group focused on Morningside Avenue after an unsuccessful bid for a 20 mph Slow Zone in the neighborhood yielded discussions with DOT about the street. “Any change would be a good change, as far as I’m concerned, on Morningside Avenue. But what happens should come out of the collective voice.”

For her part, Lyle alternated between support of unspecified traffic safety improvements and telling the group that there was no pressing reason to implement a road diet on Morningside. Lyle held up a printed Google Map of traffic speeds to show that because Morningside Avenue was not colored in red, yellow or green, it did not require any changes. “They had nothing on Morningside Avenue, meaning it is okay,” she said.

Lyle also said that the board supports traffic calming, but has problems with the central components of those plans. “Community Board 10 supports all the safety improvements that have happened in our community,” she said. But road diets have created problems, primarily with navigating around double-parked drivers, she claimed: “On Adam Clayton Powell and Mount Morris Park West, when they reduced lanes, other problems were created.”

Lyle said that she wanted to make sure CB 10 was doing its due diligence, to make sure that a lane reduction on Morningside Avenue wouldn’t result in similar problems. “We do support all of the changes, with the exception of reducing the lanes,” she said. “We felt it didn’t work in two other places, so we were concerned that it wouldn’t work there.”

North Star Neighborhood Association meets with CB 10 chair Henrietta Lyle. Photo: Stephen Miller
North Star Neighborhood Association meets with CB 10 chair Henrietta Lyle. Photo: Stephen Miller

“I don’t want people to think Community Board 10 is holding this up,” Lyle said, adding that it was DOT, not CB 10, that was slowing up the process. “They’re not looking at this as a big problem with safety, I want you to know that.”

“My conversations with DOT sound like they’re very different than your conversations,” said Jonathon Kahn, a North Star steering committee member. There were 102 injuries on Morningside from 2007 to 2011, including four serious pedestrian injuries and one serious cyclist injury, according to DOT.

Lyle told Streetsblog after the meeting that she expects DOT will come back to present an alternative plan at next month’s transportation committee meeting, scheduled for April 10. (New board members begin their terms on April 1.) Lyle added that if DOT sees a problem with street safety, it should move ahead, even without the community board. “If DOT or anyone sees a need to do something, do it. We are just basically advisory,” she said. “If they see the need — that people are getting hit, do it. Just do it.”

Despite her exhortation, DOT is unlikely to proceed on Morningside Avenue without a seal of approval from Lyle’s CB 10, which remains opposed to road diets. “Consensus is a tricky thing,” Kahn said. “It’s going to mean compromise.”

  • S

    “But road diets have created problems, primarily with navigating around double-parked drivers, she claimed.”

    So install more loading zones. The answer is pretty simple, but my hunch is that since this will require losing long-term parking spaces the board just won’t go for it.

    It’s infuriating to see how many of New York’s street safety debates boil down to parking, especially in neighborhoods where the majority of residents don’t own cars.

  • Eric McClure

    This:

    It’s infuriating to see how many of New York’s street safety debates boil down to parking, especially in neighborhoods where the majority of residents don’t own cars.

  • StepUpAndSaySomething

    But the old, rich people (relative) do own cars and they are the ones on these CBs. We need CB term limits and a better system for selection, like having 1/3rd elected by the public, not appointed. We need more young purple in the CBs, and more people who live in that area (not just business owners and liquor license lawyers, who are just in it for more money).

    If you raised the parking cost to market rate, you wouldn’t have double parking. Or if you had an NYPD that wasn’t afraid of ticketing double parked drivers (instead of the poor people in subways or jaywalkers) illegal double parking would be a thing of the past.

  • Flakker

    I’m generally anti-motorist in New York, but I am sympathetic to the double parking issue, at least in terms of overall transportation impact. There needs to be an all-out war on double-parkers (and worse, idlers in the street) on arterial streets throughout the city. That alone will probably get some cars off the road permanently.

  • S

    But until you install loading zones or charge for parking you can’t win the war. All you can do is wage occasional ticketing battles with no long-term effect on the root of the problem.

  • G

    Double parking is and will be a problem regardless of street configuration. Reducing lane number and width serves to reduce speeds and thus pedestrian fatalities and injuries. The solution for double parking is to charge market prices for automobile curbside parking and road use.

  • qrt145

    The notion that it’s hard to navigate around double-parked drivers is total BS. The design has a central turning lane which also works for passing double-parked drivers. Of course, it would be better if we actually fixed the parking problem, but in the meantime turning lanes work pretty well. I see this on St Nicholas Ave. all the time, where basically the same idea was implemented and I haven’t seen any problems or heard any complaints.

  • Ian Turner

    Cut to one lane and convert curbside parking to loading zones. Problem solved.

  • Albert

    To the extent that double-parking is made up of economy-contributing commercial vehicles that need to park short-term in order to get the city’s business done, double parking is the symptom not the cause.

    It shouldn’t be “cracked down on” until the root cause (free or nearly-free long-term storage of personal vehicles on most of the curbside real estate) is removed.

  • Neighbor

    CB10 has been a disaster for ages and Ms. Lyle is an obstructionist with no backbone and her time has come, she should resign.I think the main issue is safety for the seniors at Lasalle trying to go to the Best Yet market.

    What’s up with all this double parking, especially at the churches? Did g-d allow this at all the churches?

  • ohhleary

    Lyle held up a printed Google Map of traffic speeds to show that because
    Morningside Avenue was not colored in red, yellow or green, it did not
    require any changes. ”They had nothing on Morningside Avenue, meaning it
    is okay,” she said.

    This is so incredibly dumb that I’ve lost all hope that the people appointed to run our city’s Community Boards are competent enough to grasp even the basic concepts of Vision Zero in the first place.

  • J

    I’m actually glad the CB is bringing attention to this issue, even though I disagree strongly with their motives. For too long DOT has ignored this issue, even when it causes significant problems for projects, particularly bus and bike lanes. DOT simply must address double parking alongside its projects, and in general across the city.

  • J

    Yeah, somehow no data from a source wildly inappropriate for safety analysis = everything is fine.

  • Flakker

    I didn’t really mean commercial vehicles, but I include them in cases where there is space aside the curb but they choose not to use it. Obviously this isn’t always the case, but it’s something I’ve noticed many times because, again, there is zero enforcement regardless.

    And tickets will remove marginal drivers’ cars from the city. It’s a regressive taxation of sorts, but it’s achievable with no further legislation.

    And I mostly meant the outer boroughs, not Manhattan. In the outer boroughs, removing free parking would be a more radical change, and would have less effect on traffic because there is not nearly as much of a “circling for parking” effect as there is in Manhattan. And also, parking laws are enforced vigorously in much of Manhattan, whereas people double-park with impunity in the outer-boroughs, flagrantly obstructing buses and commercial vehicles.

  • Matthias

    It’s a shame that double-parking drivers, who create so many dangerous situations, are defended instead of being fined.

  • Martin Wallace

    I’d like to see the city take out parking for private vehicles on every block and dedicate it to 24 hour loading and unloading. This would help UPS, USPS, Fresh Direct etc. We are a city that relies on deliveries by truck and we owe it to the people who provide us with that service to give them a safe place to park and then do their work. We DON”T, however, owe it to owners of cars to give them free space to park. If that were the case, then I’d demand free space for a locker on the street where I could store all my stuff.

  • Kevin Love

    Fined? That’s just a cost of doing business. How about having the car or truck towed away.

    For example, I predict that double parking of courier trucks and vans will come to an immediate end when courier companies have to tell their customers things like: “Your urgent delivery is delayed because our law-breaking driver got his truck towed away. As soon as the truck is released we will make your delivery.”

  • Kevin Love

    Yes, one of the things that really annoys me is religious hypocrites. Jesus was also displeased by religious hypocrites.

    Or perhaps these religious hypocrites ripped out of their New Testaments the part where Paul writes that submission to the government is not just a matter of fear of punishment but is a religious duty of conscience.

    I’m not seeing much wiggle room for double parking in these words:

    “…rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”

    Romans 13:3-5

    NIV translation from:

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+13&version=NIV

  • Driver
  • Kevin Love

    I love it! The only problem is that the truck was released within two hours.

    Two hours! What else does City bureaucracy do in two hours!

    This bureaucracy is obviously overstaffed if they can give that kind of service. This is a case where we really need a cost-cutting measure to cut this staff down and put the normal level of City bureaucratic service in place.

    With the normal level of City bureaucratic service that everyone else receives, UPS will get its truck back eventually. And if it is towed on Friday evening, the clock on “eventually” starts on Monday morning.

    A two-hour impoundment is no deterrent to courier companies double-parking. Which is something that I see all the time.

  • WoodyinNYC

    Have you seen the double parking? If all the Fedex and Brown trucks disappeared instantly, double parking would look about the same.

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