City Council Wants DOT to Relieve Crowding on NYC’s Most Congested Sidewalks

The bill sponsored by Ydanis Rodriguez would require the agency to develop strategies for six locations where pedestrian crowding is most intense.

The short-lived 32nd Street sidewalk widening, near Penn Station, in 2015. Photo: Stephen Miller
The short-lived 32nd Street sidewalk widening, near Penn Station, in 2015. Photo: Stephen Miller

The City Council is expected to pass two bills today intended to improve the pedestrian environment.

Intro 1285-A, sponsored by transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez, would require DOT to “identify six locations with significant pedestrian traffic and develop strategies for enhancing safety and traffic flow at such locations.” DOT would report back no later than June 2018.

“It’s a response to what New Yorkers need and want,” Rodriguez told AMNY. “New Yorkers need a wider sidewalk to be able to walk safe and not be pushed to take to the street.”

Areas where pedestrian crowding is especially intense include downtown Flushing and the streets near Penn Station, where people on foot have to walk in motor vehicle lanes and bike lanes to get around.

The city has made some progress around Penn but sidewalks on the avenues and 34th Street aren’t sufficient for all the foot traffic. Some recent improvements haven’t stuck, either. In partnership with Vornado Realty Trust, the city installed a temporary sidewalk expansion on 32nd Street in 2015. While the project relieved crowding, complaints from property owners torpedoed the improvements. (There’s now movement afoot to bring the wider sidewalk back.)

A second bill, Intro 1177-A, would require DOT to explore the feasibility of installing Barnes Dance crossings at intersections where motorists are more likely to strike people walking. The resulting report, to be submitted no later than August, would include an update on the DOT’s 2016 campaign to reduce injuries caused by drivers making left turns. The bill is sponsored by Rodriguez and Upper West Side rep Helen Rosenthal.

The council is scheduled to vote on the bills this afternoon. Both are supported by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Mayor de Blasio, according to a Rodriguez press release.

  • Vooch

    6 “places” to widen sidewalks?

    1) the entire CBD
    2) All of Brooklyn from Prospect Park to East River
    3) Queens all arterials
    4) Bronx all arterials
    5) UES
    6) UWS

    seems like a decent start

  • AnoNYC

    Make Fordham Rd bus only (two lanes) and expand the sidewalks there as much as possilble.

  • Joe R.

    And use the parking lane to expand the sidewalk so motorists won’t bitch about losing travel lanes. If people want to park, let them go to a parking lot or a garage. Curbside parking is a blight on the city.

  • Authorities are widening sidewalks on the west side of Main St x Roosevelt Ave, in downtown Flushing, as I write.

  • Jesse

    You don’t think they’ll bitch about losing parking lanes?

  • Joe R.

    Of course they will. My answer to that would be motorists evidently don’t value curbside parking much given that they’re rarely willing to pay more than $0 for it. Politically, it’s probably easier to get rid of a parking lane than a travel lane. Even if it isn’t, in the end NYC has the right to reconfigure public space as it sees fit. We could remove all curbside parking everywhere tomorrow and drivers won’t have a legal way to stop it.

  • c2check

    Thanks Councilor Rodriguez! An upgrade to sidewalks is desperately needed. Not only is there way too little space in many areas, but it can be pretty unpleasant.

    Ideally they should make sidewalks that are not only wide enough for pedestrian flows, but actually, you know, nice places to walk—with things like trees; places to sit that aren’t fire hydrants or the cement; space for vendors that don’t block half the sidewalk; space so tourists can stop and stare upwards without blocking New Yorkers, space so New Yorkers can occasionally appreciate our surroundings; space so two parents with strollers can pass each other; space so mountains of garbage don’t block half the sidewalk (maybe dumpsters?); space to store shoveled snow; etc.

  • c2check

    It often seems like removing travel lanes are less controversial than removing parking… which as Joe points out is crazy considering that in many places people are willing to pay no more than $0 to use the space.

  • Jesse

    Drivers won’t pay for travel lanes either. Or as they prefer to spin it: they already do pay 100% of the costs of construction and maintenance of those travel lanes through their registration fees and fuel taxes. Exactly $0 accounting for those costs comes from any other source and everyone else who uses that space without paying those fees is a freeloader.

  • walks bikes drives

    But honestly, as much as people gripe about curbside parking, I’m glad it’s there. I feel a lot more protected walking on a sidewalk lined with parked cars from errant drivers than along sidewalks where there are no parked cars.

  • Joe R.

    OK but suppose you had a curbside bike lane protected from motor traffic by a fence or jersey barriers? You’ll still have a buffer from motor traffic without all the issues curbside parking causes.

  • walks bikes drives

    Yeah, I don’t want to live in a city where all sidewalks are protected by jersey barriers. They are unsightly, even if they are protective. The fencing in midtown doesn’t actually protect pedestrians, as cars would go right through it. They just keep people from jaywalking. I like jaywalking.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Bollards are much more pleasant and can achieve the same safety purpose without blocking access, though the ones that seem to be favored in NYC are incredibly chunky and ugly. They don’t need to be that thick, what you’re seeing is a sheath over the thinner solid steel structural bollard inside.

  • Joe R.

    I was about to mention bollards myself. Yes, if the problem is protection once the row of parked vehicles is removed, bollards are the solution. NYC’s bollards may be ugly, but a row of parked cars looks far worse in my opinion. It makes every street look like a used car lot.

  • Joe R.

    I have to ride down one night to take a look. That’s long overdue. Those sidewalks were too small 25 years ago.

  • Vooch

    bollards are also for using ACROSS the roadway 🙂

  • HamTech87
  • walks bikes drives

    But cost is a factor here. Street parking is free to both drivers, but also the city. In fact, the city actually makes money off of it – a lot of money, through parking fines. And we get the safety of the parking protected sidewalks. Win win situation.

  • Bernard Finucane

    You don’t need Jersey barriers. Metal posts are fine.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a9ffa6406f7b558512ddf06536d71a3cad618f65052a93bb9e4c7b48e3f82410.png

    These should probably be on every curb in Manhattan anyway.

  • JamesR

    This is what infrastructure failure looks like. Not as jarring or headline-grabbing as Penn Station pandemonium or mass electrical outages on the subway, but still failure – if you’re on a bike when this happens, you’re either getting off and walking the bike, or swerving around pedestrians like a menace.

  • Geck

    That was the area that first thing that came to mind when I read about the bill.

  • Bernard Finucane

    The city makes money on parking fines for free parking?

  • walks bikes drives

    You’ve heard of those things called parking tickets, right?

  • datbeezy

    These protect peds from vehicles, but they don’t relieve overcrowding on the sidewalk forcing peds to walk in the street.

    Anyone who walked to WTC Path Hub (I’ve moved away since the Oculus or whatever opened, so I don’t know the new pattern) could testify, that’s probably the worst spot in NYC w/r/t to having to walk in the street.

  • Bernard Finucane

    You don’t need free parking to issue parking tickets.

  • walks bikes drives

    But revenue would go way down. But let’s get real. Parking is not going to go away. Cars in the city areal not going away. We can so all we can to lower their need and usage, by making it safer to bike and walk, and making a robust transit and bike network everywhere. But the consistent rant against free property storage, as people say all the time, is just a complete waste of breathe. Pushing for residential permits, though, is another story entirely. But total eradication?

  • Bernard Finucane

    Also every intersection in NYC where there is on-street parking needs bulb outs. That’s maybe 1,000 intersections in Manhattan alone.

  • Andrew

    Street parking is free to both drivers, but also the city.

    Land is not free to the city. Any strip of land occupied by parked cars could instead be used for any number of other purposes – a bus lane, a bike lane, another driving lane, a wider sidewalk, seating, parkland, housing*, etc. I’m not suggesting that all of these would be useful at all locations, but there are certainly many locations where at least one or two of them would serve the city and its taxpayers better than storage space for private vehicles.

    (*Obviously, I’m not suggesting that apartments be built in the parking lane. But if there were no parking lane, the sidewalk and building line could in turn be shifted 10 feet or so out, producing larger building lots.)

    And then there are also the costs of street maintenance and repairs, of police response to break-ins and thefts, etc.

    In fact, the city actually makes money off of it – a lot of money, through parking fines.

    From people who choose to park illegally, sure. But does the city make even enough money to cover the value of the land itself?

  • Vooch

    At least the 2nd ave. project this spring from 59th to 43rd had bulb outs at every intersection

    it’s a start.

    I just wish the standard tool kit JSK developed would be applied as the default whenever a arterial is repaved

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