Monday: Support Safer Chinatown Streets

chatham_square_crash_stat.jpgSince 1997, three pedestrians have been killed and dozens injured in collisions near Chatham Square, according to CrashStat.

In November 2006, Manhattan Community Board 3 voiced support for "a comprehensive, community-inclusive initiative to study, identify and build consensus around strategies to improve the safety and connectivity of walking, bicycling and public transportation."

Now there’s a plan on the table that would put safety strategies into practice at Chatham Square, where the convergence of several streets forces pedestrians to contend with dangerous and chaotic traffic patterns. The re-design would double the amount of pedestrian space and significantly reduce crossing distances, exactly the type of project that Chinatown’s hazardous streets are begging for. Despite these safety benefits, consensus has been hard to come by.

Monday night, CB3’s Chatham Square Task Force will hold its final
meeting to present comments to DOT about the proposal, and opposition is expected to be intense. (If you can’t make the meeting — 6:30 p.m. at PS
124, 40 Division Street —
Transportation Alternatives has an e-petition to show your support.)

Since the last major public meeting about the project, City Council members Alan Gerson and John Liu have condemned the re-design and accused DOT of pushing a plan that does not enjoy public support. Because the Chatham Square project is closely associated with the closing of Park Row
to private cars — a policy adopted by NYPD post-9/11 — businesses convinced that their livelihood depends on auto traffic are up in arms about the proposal.

The loud opposition may be drowning out other voices, but the need for safer streets hasn’t diminished. "The paramount importance is making it safe for people to walk, especially for the kids who are walking from schools and libraries," said Jane Ryan Beck, a long-time Chinatown resident who takes her four-year-old son through Chatham Square on the way to school. "I think the plan goes a long way toward addressing those issues."

After her son witnessed the horrific collision on East Broadway that claimed the lives of two classmates, Beck and her husband started a website,, to raise awareness about child pedestrian safety in Lower Manhattan. "We’re hoping to give a voice to a whole group of people who are shocked and
horrified, but not taking any action, because they don’t even know
these projects are on the board," she said, noting that it can be tough for parents to participate in public workshops. "There are lots of obstacles to even just getting there, like getting
someone to watch your kid while you go to a Community Board meeting."

Check after the jump for plans depicting the Chatham Square proposal and the current condition.



  • Marty Barfowitz

    God, this intersection is a hell hole of a public space as currently configured. This plan look like a really nice reclamation of asphalt and a tremendous improvement.

    Livable Streets advocates had better show up to voice their support at this meeting because, unfortunately, Chinatown and SoHo are cursed with some of the most troglodyte community activists around. They were nowhere to be found when pre-schoolers were being slaughtered on their neighborhood street last month but they will be out in force to oppose this plan, you can be sure.

    Cue the maniacal Lower Manhattan commenters….

  • While the new design appears to be an improvement over the current situation, I can’t help but think it’s still an ugly mess. What’s wrong with a traditional square?

  • Mike

    What is a “traditional square”?

  • Jeffrey Hymen

    A parallelogram with four equal sides and four 90-degree angles. Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

  • Chinatown Resident

    Yr barking up the wrong tree. Imposing this $50-million, 4-5 year, plan on Chinatown’s Chatham Square is a waste of taxpayer money during this recession.

    Two points need to be brought out here:

    1. Chatham Square was reconfigured in 1999 – is that why this 1997 date was chosen, because there were actual deaths pre-1999 Chatham Square reconfiguration? Accident frequency at Chatham Square has actually diminished since 1999. I’ve heard Transportation Alternatives has given Crashstat figures going back even further, to 1995 – Why not pick more relevant data AFTER the 1999 Chatham Square configuration?

    In terms of safety, there are better ways to spend $50-million dollars during this recession at Chatham Square.
    To the D.O.T. – Don’t spend $50-million if it ain’t broke! The recent Trans Alt pedestrian safety report on Chinatown does NOT cite Chatham Square as the worst area for accident frequency in Chinatown – that would be Canal/Bowery, and that is where attention toward safety would be most efficacious.
    [“Since 1997, three pedestrians have been killed and dozens injured in collisions near Chatham Square, according to CrashStat.”]

    The Lower Manhattan Development Corp is using an Environmental Impact Study for Chatham Square that was actually used for the NYPD Security Plan/Park Row – in other words, it cannot and should not be applied for Chatham Square (link There is no acutal Pedestrian/Vehicular safety study in this Environmental Impact Study.

    2. In terms of pedestrian safety at East Broadway, the reality is that I see approximately a dozen government sector placarded cars in those Truck Loading Zones on East Broadway every working day. The van driver who left his van had DOUBLE-PARKED his van just before the terrible accident occured – Why did he double-park? You know where I’m going with this, don’t you? Placard abuse may be implicated here, and this, amongst other serious issues, is a serious safety problem that the D.O.T./NYPD/Mayor’s office needs to clean up first.

  • A traditional square is a pedestrian-oriented space, rather than a blank canvas used to speed cars through as fast as possible. Manhattan has several of them: Union Square and Madison Square, for example. Imagine if Broadway simply cut a straight line across Union Square instead of going around it. That is the current situation with Chatham Square, and the proposal shown above is barely any improvement. The obvious intent is to speed the traffic through it (only with a different traffic pattern than the current design), with some scraps of public space haphazardly assembled out of the remains.

  • Das Yunker

    1. Is there any mention in the plan of integration with the Chatham Square SAS station? Yes, it’s a long ways off, but if there’s a way to save money and headaches by combining construction, then I’m for it. Note that the redesign straightens out the alignment from the Bowery to St. James Pl.

    2. Have any of the Chinatown Bus compnies weighed in? I’m sure they love the proposed alignment of Worth St. and E. Broadway, and their support could be useful for swaying the community.

  • I didn’t interpret the proposed design as a blank canvas to speed cars through the space. I think the primary thing is that it takes an intersection where many streets converge and tries to turn it into a 4-way intersection to make traffic more predictable. It doesn’t go all the way with that, but it’s an attempt.

    Sure, more could be done to prioritize pedestrians. If you feel that the DOT proposed design doesn’t go far enough in giving pedestrians space, please attend the hearing on Monday. The most vocal opponents to the proposal would like to give more space to cars, and so far, very few people are speaking up for pedestrians.

    As for SAS – yes, there will be a stop at Chatham Square, scheduled for Phase 4 construction (2017-2020); Phase 4 currently has no funding committed.

  • Though I like this redesign, I have to admit that those are fair points that Chinatown Resident made above.

  • Ctown resident

    I was at yesterday’s transportation task force meeting to hear more about the DOT’s plan to redesign Chatham Square. I was expecting to hear from Mrs. Jane Ryan Beck or at least a representative from however she wasn’t in the audience nor did she submit a statement to be read.

    On the other hand the auditorium was filled with many CONCERNED chinatown residents (many i’m sure found babysitters so they could attend) This was an opportunity for residents to understand how this plan affects businesses in the area, STREET SAFETY, as well as, viable alternatives to the proposed DOT plan.

    Mrs. Beck, if you feel strongly about supporting the DOT plan you owe it to your community to be present and accountable for your opinions. I also feel you should hear what DOT & your fellow residents have to say about this massive and expensive reconstruction.

    I hope to see you at the next meeting.


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