Safer Streets Under Fire at Gerson “Town Hall”

grand_street_median.jpgIt’s safer to cross Grand Street. The arrogance!

Lower Manhattan City Council rep Alan Gerson held a "transportation town hall" Monday night, following up on his pledge last year to closely monitor creeping safety enhancements to New York streets. Fellow City Council member John Liu, a candidate for comptroller, also made an appearance at the forum.

Based on a report in the Lo-Down, a new blog covering the Lower East Side, the session successfully gathered up ideas from ill-informed cranks:

The Grand Street bike lanes and center islands installed last year were
ridiculed by several residents of Co-op Village. Harold Jacob accused
DOT Commissioner Margaret Forgione of lying when she told him the
center median was installed because pedestrians had been killed by cars
on Grand Street. Jacob said he believed the changes had, in fact, made
the street more dangerous. Because there is less room to maneuver,
Jacob claimed fire trucks and ambulances can’t safely pass through.
"You’ve actually put lives in danger," he told DOT officials.

Another resident contended the islands, opposed by Community Board 3, 
were "arrogantly conceived and arrogantly carried out." More than one
speaker blamed Mayor Bloomberg, accusing him of "destroying Grand
Street." Some people demanded that the medians be removed — others
wanted the bike lanes eliminated.

A quick CrashStat check reveals that, contrary to Mr. Jacob’s gut assertion, several people have been killed by autos while walking on Grand Street in recent years. Co-op Village, like many other housing developments in the area, is home to a big senior population. Those pedestrian refuges make Grand Street safer to cross and less intimidating to older New Yorkers. Rolling back critical safety improvements that improve seniors’ quality of life — is that really the kind of "community input" that Gerson wants to align himself with?

  • i used to live in coop village…and don’t miss it
    their attitude doesn’t surprise me one bit

  • Rolling back critical safety improvements that improve seniors’ quality of life — is that really the kind of “community input” that Gerson wants to align himself with?


  • Michael1

    This is so stupid! Those people are so arrogant and thick-headed, they won’t even give this a chance. Change Grand Street back, and when a ped gets killed, don’t cry to the DOT.

  • da

    “Room to maneuver” = the elusive dream of all motorists.

  • Stephen Collier

    Meanwhile — I just got a ticket riding my bike for taking a right turn on a red from Rivington to Bowrey. So Councilman Gerson is overseeing a substantially antagonistic attitude toward biking in my district.

  • Don Meade

    Eliminating a whole lane of traffic, which is what putting those islands and bike lanes did, has put Grand Street into gridlock much of the time. The line of cars attempting to exit the FDR Drive onto Grand is often backed up so far that it blocks traffic on the drive. The gridlock extends onto cross streets, particularly Essex.

    This situation could have been foreseen. In fact, I think it was foreseen – Bloomberg and the social engineers at DOT actually intended to make it difficult to drive on Grand Street because they want to discourage all driving in the city. Well it’s not working. They’ve just created traffic chaos.

  • Sadly, both of Gerson’s opponents in the Democratic primary, Margaret Chin and Pete Gleason, have made it clear that they value free-flowing car traffic and veto power for the “community” (i.e. self-selected leaders like them) over safety and clean air. Gleason does oppose the West Street tunnel proposal, which I had thought was dead anyway.

  • Barnard


    I agree with your conspiracy theory and am glad City Hall is on the war path to discourage driving.

    I’m sending a thank you note to Mayor Mike right now.


  • Don, traffic management is always social engineering, whether it favors exclusively cars or multi-modal transportation.

  • Don Meade

    Very funny Barnard, but the gridlock on Grand doesn’t only inconvenience those who could and should choose not to drive in the city. It also delays buses, ambulances, firetrucks, Access-a-Ride vans, street-sweepers and delivery trucks. Not everyone and everything that needs to be conveyed into or around Manhattan streets can use a bicycle.

  • Otis

    I attended a Boro Bd meeting this past year and one of the CB members was pontificating on how the Grand Street bike path put lives in danger because fire trucks could not get through such a narrow street. He then claimed a fire truck was actually blocked from getting through to a call – after a few more minutes of ranting he casually mentioned that the truck could not get around a DOUBLE PARKED VEHICLE. If this did actually happen, it had nothing to do with the bike lane.

  • Shemp

    That’s total bullshit Don. I cross Grand Street at Clinton at 8:30 every morning and things are fine. Absolutely free-flowing? No. Working? Yes. It’s Manhattan after all.

  • Moser

    When Jello Biafra ran for mayor of San Francisco one of his main planks was that everyone in the City Council would have to wear clown suits to be allowed to enter City Hall. That’s a plan that is well suited to the likes of Gerson and Liu.

  • I don’t know where this discussion went off the rails. But I think a clue lies in the way the community actually has been led to beleive that more traffic, moving at higher rates of speed is better than slower traffic and fewer vehicles on the street.

    The idea that emergency vehicles benefit from more road space is ludcirous, not only will more space for cars NOT produce faster speeds, over time more drivers cause more traffic, not less. If the goal is to allow emergency vehicles to operate safely in NYC then the best thing to do in remove OTHER cars from the road, not allow a greater volume of traffic.

    Lives are at risk here, and it’s not because people are dying in the back of ambulances so I can ride my bike, it’s because cars moving quickly on city streets kill hundreds of people. If you want to make your neighborhood’s streets better and safer you need to start advocating for fewer cars. There’s just no way to make the city work with ever increasing volumes of traffic that wants to use the streets, regardless of their configuration.

  • Otis, you put your finger on the issue at the heart of the Grand Street craziness. The problem could easily be solved by allocating a few more dedicated loading spaces, but the self-appointed “community activists” are outraged that they weren’t consulted and hell-bent on taking it out on the cyclists.

  • I wrote more about loading zones on Grand Street here.

  • janCCRC

    No one , not one of you guys on this thread came to speak. Sad.
    Lots of comments on this thread by people who did not attend the event, though.
    Some cyclists were there, but they left half way through the event. It would have been good of them to stay, a lot of good came of this event.
    Kudos to the Villager for this article.
    Cars parked on the sidewalks around Columbus Park and Sara Roosevelt Park and Washington D.C.’s zip-car technology applied to government fleet vehicles were also topics that evening, both of which could have used more support from safe street advocates of all creeds, sadly no one from this thread was there to support either.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Click through to this story if you want to learn more about the street environment that Gerson and people like Don, above, want to return to…

    Con Ed worker struck and killed

    MANHATTAN (WABC) — A Con Ed worker was struck and killed while getting into his vehicle.

    The accident happened at Hester and Grand Streets in Manhattan around 1:40 Friday afternoon.

    Police said the 60-year-old worker was struck by a truck that kept going. The worker suffered head trauma and died at the scene.

    Police stopped the truck on Grand Street near the BQE. It appears the driver did not know he had hit someone, investigators said.

  • SUV 718

    Why would they come when they can pompously sit on their behinds in front of a computer screen and childishly pontificate while attacking those who care and work for the community they were born in?

    Bitterness and arrogance is an easier product than hard work.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Perhaps the lack of attendance was reflective of the fact that Gerson’s Town Hall meetings don’t mean all that much and aren’t going to result in any tangible changes.

    Many of the regular commenters here at Streetsblog attend Community Board meetings, speak out in public forums and do political organizing and action. Many of the changes that are now underway in New York City — Summer Streets, Car-Free Broadway, the new Petrosino Square and the protected bike path on Grand Street to name a few examples — are the result of the work and activism of people you’ll find commenting here on Streetsblog.

    Click the “Community” tab above and you’ll see some of this activism for yourself.

  • Boris

    “The legislation, which was re-introduced earlier this month in the Senate and Assembly by Sen. Savino and Assemblyman Cusick, would strengthen the state’s penal code and vehicle and traffic laws to create the crimes of vehicular assault and vehicular manslaughter in the first and second degrees in active work zones throughout the state.” (press release).

    Any chance this could be extended to all active roads and sidewalks?

  • janCCRC

    “Perhaps the lack of attendance was reflective of the fact that Gerson’s Town Hall meetings don’t mean all that much and aren’t going to result in any tangible changes.”

    In actuality a result that Town Hall was that no longer are Parks Dept. vehicles parking on the sidewalks at Columbus Park.
    So you are not accurate when you say there are no “tangible changes”.

    In addition as a result of that evening a major NYC paper is doing a story on Washington D.C.’s 21st century approach to reigning in government car usage with Zip-car fast-fleet technology and WHY NYC is not on board.
    Posters here should be 100% on board with an initiative that calls for full transparency of government used cars and a reduction of the city’s own fleet by hundreds of cars.

    Still, the people commenting HERE on THIS thread were not there.
    What you’re speaking about in your post is very selective support of a narrow range of issues, of equal importance is the credence given to community members who are NOT as your posters have portrayed them to be. Unless you ARE an ambulance driver you have to respect that person’s OWN eye witness account from behind the wheel. Or was everyone there that evening lying in their testimony?
    BUT I guess its MUCH easier to dismiss these events when they provide eyewitness accounts contrary to your D.O.T. rhetoric.
    By all means , continue to avoid these meetings.

  • “Unless you ARE an ambulance driver you have to respect that person’s OWN eye witness account from behind the wheel.”

    Not exactly. This isn’t a unique circumstance; drivers of emergency vehicles can be relied upon to oppose all traffic calming measures; from their perspective ‘behind the wheel’ it’s just question of how many seconds more it takes them to get where there going. As a community, we must take into account the larger picture: can the traffic calming save more lives with safer streets than it may cost in a longer ambulance trip? It isn’t really an ambulance driver’s job to think about that side of the question. And if having predictable transport times of emergency vehicles is an important issue for people, their main concern should be the currently unregulated chaos of our surface streets: it is imperative that we implement tolls, congestion pricing, fair-parking prices, and other mechanisms to prevent this free-for-all and normalize the speed of traffic. And until then, anyone that seriously espouses the ’emergency vehicle’ position had better not be driving at any peak traffic time: your street-clogging could be killing an ambulance passenger.

    And by the way, you guys may as well get used to these things being reasoned out on the internet the same as they have been in in-person meetings. Everyone having this discussion lives here, or we wouldn’t be putting time into it. At all levels of society (business, government, personal), ideas are being exchanged more online; older generations may opt out of this exchange (or opt-in only to rail dismissively against it) but they can’t stop it from happening and they can’t stop it from being the dominant information medium of the future, after they’re gone and we’re gone.

    Now, if I could just figure out how to pompously sit down at a computer. I shall try throwing my head back, looking around the room, and seating myself very slowly. Perhaps the public will take notice.

  • Downtown Express’ coverage of the meeting:

    Clearly, everyone on the Lower East Side owns a car. Only Jan Lee complained about negative effects of parking – and then, it wasn’t about cars, only city-agency parking.

    But Jan is right – if no one here stands up and says “what about the other 80%,” then the 20% that are trying to defend their entitlement to lower everyone else’s quality of life will prevail. Sadly, I’ll miss the scheduled 5/19 meeting at St. Patrick’s as I’ll be away… someone volunteer to go for me?

  • Sean Sweeney

    #16 brings to mind the old adage: Success has a thousand mothers.

    The notion that streetsblog commenters had anything to do with the improvements currently going on in Petrosino Square in SoHo is spurious .

    The credit for that goes unabashedly to one women with vision and determination, Georgette Fleischer, founder of Friends of Petrosino Square and very active member of the Steering Committee of the SoHo Alliance.

    She started her efforts ten years ago cleaning the derelict park, then organized annual bulb plantings. She ratcheted her efforts after SoHo Alliance members were involved in installing two Farmers’ Markets at Petrosino.

    Incessantly lobbying the Parks Dept, CB2 and elected officials Ms. Fleischer succeeded in securing the $1 million funding for the current renovation.

    Praise also goes to the Parks Committee chair of CB2 and the various Parks Department officials who supported this project. Thanks guys.

    So, to say that the anonymous typists on streetsblog had any effect in this project makes one also question the accuracy of their other claims of successful activism. Perhaps if they had the courage to identify themselves, as Jan and Ian above have, they would gain more credence.

  • Regardless of the sniping back and forth, I would like to thank Jan for raising the issue of the Parks Department parking their vehicles wherever they please. There’s been some movement on it in Central Park, but they continue to abuse their position in smaller parks. I hope whoever eventually replaces Benepe will be much more progressive on that issue.

  • Marty Barfowitz


    What’s amusing about you is that you have no idea about what made the Petrosino Square project actually happen.

    Change is happening at at Petrosino because of the change that has happened at the New York City DOT (the agency that, I believe, you refer to as the Dept. of Tyranny). Change happened at DOT because of the New York City Streets Renaissance Campaign which, very specifically, targetted Petrosino Square as a public space in need of renovation. NYCSR and Project for Public Spaces very consciously and aggressively ensured that the Petrosino project would be prioritized with the new management at DOT. You know nothing about this because you simply were not involved.

    If DOT were run as you seem to want it to be run — as an agency that prioritizes the needs of automobiles over people — then Georgette and CB2 would still be doing their “incessant lobbying” and Petrosino Square would still be a pathetic, useless public space that it was FOR DECADES before the livable streets movement took root in NYC.

    I’m curious: Will you be driving to the Petrosino Square ribbon cutting ceremony when it comes time for the SoHo Alliance to take credit for the improvements there? Or have the evil folks at DOT made parking so difficult in the neighborhood that you will be forced to walk the five blocks?

  • Soho Hater

    Mr. Sweeney,

    If you want to paint my fellow noble blog commenters with such a broad brush you should be prepared to defend your SoHo comrades. After all you SoHo old timers manged to become fabulously wealthy by accidentally acquiring property at the right time and successfully getting various laws passed which allowed for a huge run-up in land values. Bravo! Give yourselves a hand. I know it’s tough to see the neighborhood change. But Let me assure you that the progressive forces on this blog, whose efforts have helped bring truly great changes to the streets of this city, will continue to win out. There will be more and better bike lanes, more and better public squares and less and less room for you and your car. You can be helpful or you can stand in the way. It’s up to you.

  • #27 – You are really funny. I did not know anyone could be so funny. Full of fabulous jokes. You make me laugh with your surreal sense of humor, so removed from reality.

    #28 – You aptly named yourself: a hater. More appropriate would be: bitter hater; or perhaps: bitter jealous hater. Don’t worry. I’ll say a little prayer for your tortured and jealous soul.


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