CB 6 Supports Murray Hill Bikeway If DOT Will Move It to Other Side of Street

A proposed two-way bike path on 37th Street would be safer on the north side of the street, but CB 6 asked DOT to move it to the south side after opposition from condo owners. Image: DOT

Last night, Manhattan Community Board 6 threatened to stall bikeway improvements connecting the East River Greenway with Murray Hill, because a group of condo owners opposed one piece of it. But a last-minute compromise seems to have cleared the way for the project.

The plan [PDF] would improve the surface of the East River Greenway near Glick Park, add shared lane markings to crosstown streets, and convert a block of the First Avenue bike lane to a two-way path. It would also add a two-way bike lane on one block of 37th Street to connect First Avenue with the East River Greenway.

At last night’s meeting, residents of The Horizon condominium tower testified against the 37th Street path because it would remove a loading zone on the north side of the street, immediately outside their building. Supporters of the plan were outnumbered. Intimidated by the opposition, a CB 6 member offered a resolution to send the issue back to committee, where it would have to wait until the community board resumed meetings in September.

Things looked bleak until the end of the meeting, when board members began to discuss a compromise: moving the path to the south side of the street.

During committee meetings, DOT said it could implement a two-way bike lane on either the north or south sides, but that it would much rather install a north side path. By putting the path on the north side, cyclists heading southbound on the new two-way block between 37th and 38th Streets would only have to cross one leg of the intersection of First Avenue and 37th Street in order to continue on the greenway. This would mean fewer conflicts with drivers.

“They encouraged us to do the north side,” said transportation committee chair Molly Hollister.

But opposition from condo owners made the board hesitant to endorse that solution, and a south-side path with a more complicated crossing for greenway-bound cyclists won out. The board took a voice vote on the resolution, with only one member in opposition.

A DOT spokesperson said, “We are still reviewing the feedback we received from the Board and look forward to working with them further on this project.”

  • It was noted prominently at the meeting that, of all the concerns that the Horizon owners had about a bikeway disrupting their curb access, the exact same concerns have been expressed regarding every curbside bikelane installed in the last 5 years in New York City and nothing has ever manifested of it.

    Still, the DOT needs to be making that point early and convincingly to stakeholders on projects, to address REASONABLE fears; their absence from last night’s vote was noted.

    In the end, the Horizon owners were generally supportive of a plan that moved the lane across the street on that one block, and that plan earned the board’s endorsement, so now the lane will be those other buildings/garages’ non-problem. And everyone in an area very poorly covered by parks now has a 2-minute access solution for a greenway park section that could use some more visitors. Win-win.

    For this area, more traffic calming is next. DOT seems to be hesitant to touch traffic throughput in the area, except 1) the space provided is justifying the usage, not the other way around, and 2) nothing is expressed in numbers here at all – historic measurements, current data, max capacity, goals, etc. There’s a fear of having fewer cars, simply put. But there’s too much going on here for the DOT to be imprecise about being unable to make things safer and easier for the other street users.

  • Emmily_Litella

    Since when do apartment buildings get loading zones? I think every 10th space should be a loading zone in high density areas. But most cab drivers just stop out in traffic lanes for their own convenience. In London I hailed cab and he overshot slightly so he could then back up to me along the curb, out of other vehicles path.

  • Sean Kelliher

    I walk down this block on my way home from work so I know it well. One aspect I’d like to point out is that the vehicles parked on the street are frequently placarded vehicles – a lot of “police surgeons” if I remember correctly.

    With this in mind, unless the lane is well protected by a barrier or the police begin enforcing parking rules on placard holders, it may not matter much if the lane is on the north or south side of the street since it will be filled with parked vehicles and of limited use.

    Also, as Brian pointed out, the Horizon’s argument that it needs a loading zone so its residents can pull up to the front door could be made by any other building in the city. I’m surprised it was so persuasive.

  • It wasn’t persuasive, really. It wasn’t the real holdup at least.

    The transpo committee deliberated a very long time over the options in this plan because of the complexity, and the full board sent the (original) plan back to committee because they had the same concerns that were reviewed earlier by the committee, and they weren’t going to fall into the same trap of endless deliberations. But when the non-controversial plan was introduced as new business later, it passed almost unanimously.

    I have a feeling the full board would have went for the north-side plan had all of the concerns (worked out in the committee meetings) been explained more convincingly to them. The Transpo committee had the benefit of slides, maps. The full board got none of that; DOT simply wasn’t there with any materials. I hope it’s a lesson learned: DOT now will have to build a design they consider a lesser option because of politics.

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