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34th Precinct Promises Action on Broadway and Dongan

12:50 PM EDT on September 27, 2007

This spiffy new illuminated bus stop shelter replaces another destroyed by a  motorist at Broadway and Dongan Place, near the border of Inwood and Washington Heights.

The 34th Precinct says it will enact new enforcement measures to cut down on reckless driving along a crash-prone stretch of Broadway in Northern Manhattan.

As promised, residents of Inwood came out to last night's precinct community council meeting, held at Three-Four headquarters in Washington Heights, to implore the PD to take action at the intersection of Broadway and Dongan Place, the site of 14 "official" crashes this year, one of which resulted in the death of an off-duty NYPD officer. Dongan dead-ends into Broadway as it curves to the east, leading inattentive, speeding and/or intoxicated drivers to cross the center line and collide with other motorists, or lose control and crash into parked cars (or, in one instance, a city bus shelter).

Head traffic officer Steve McManus said the precinct wants DOT to make three infrastructure-related changes: lower speed limits from 30 to 25 miles-per-hour; reposition flashing lights to better alert drivers to the curve, and install a centerline Jersey barrier. At a September 10 meeting of the Community Board 12 Traffic and Transportation Committee, DOT Deputy Borough Commissioner Maurice Bruet told Inwoodites his agency's options were limited, but pledged to explore the matter further.

The precinct was invited to the CB 12 committee meeting, but didn't show. Likewise, no one from DOT attended last night's event, though officers said an invitation was extended.

To combat red-light running at Broadway and Dongan -- which all agreed is rampant, even by police officers -- McManus said the precinct would ask for a traffic camera. Given the number of families with children in the area, and the fact that the intersection is near the entrance to Fort Tryon Park, McManus said a pedestrian timer would also be requested.

In the interim, McManus said the precinct would step up spot patrols as resources permit. According to McManus and Commanding Officer Deputy Inspector Andrew Capul, the number of officers on the rolls at the Three-Four is markedly below normal, due to a general recruitment shortage.

Even with increased speed enforcement, McManus isn't sure safety at the intersection would dramatically improve. Speed was not a factor in most of the 14 reported crashes, according to McManus, who said he has personally observed many drivers crossing the center line at speeds as low as 25 miles-per-hour.

In other business, Inwood residents complained of relentless late-night noise from car stereos on Dyckman Street, often until early morning. The problem is bad enough during warm weather that some want parts of neighboring Inwood Hill Park closed on weekend nights. Capul said that would not be feasible, and ensured the crowd that the precinct would continue to "hit as many spots as we can." When dealing with crime, Capul said, quality of life issues sometimes have to take a back seat.

Photo: Brad Aaron

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