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Lower East Side Electeds Come Together for Safer Delancey Street

Extra-wide Delancey Street is one of the most dangerous roads in New York. One pedestrian and one cyclist have already been killed on Delancey this year. Image: Google Street View.

Delancey Street is one of the most dangerous roads in the city. Between 2008 and 2010 alone, 134 pedestrians and cyclists were hit by drivers on Delancey, according to Transportation Alternatives, and two were killed on the street this year.

Last week, Streetsblog reported on a new design for the base of the Williamsburg Bridge which routed cyclists off Delancey and onto calmer side streets. The implication, it seemed, was that the Department of Transportation wasn't planning to make Delancey safer for cyclists and pedestrians, just less trafficked by them.

Elected officials on the Lower East Side, however, aren't standing for the deadly status quo. On Monday, State Senator Daniel Squadron convened the first meeting of a new working group meant to improve safety in the area.

“For too long, Delancey has been the scene of far too many tragedies,” said Squadron in a statement. “Our working group is a much-needed step toward ending the cycle of danger. I'm confident that, together, we can find the short-term and long-term solutions to ensure a safe Delancey Street for all types of users.”

Joining Squadron were City Council Member Margaret Chin and representatives from the offices of Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Borough President Scott Stringer, Community Board 3, the Lower East Side Business Improvement District, and Transportation Alternatives. Staff from the Department of Transportation and the NYPD, which would have to implement any safety plan, were also in attendance.

The group will meet monthly to create a set of short-term and long-term changes to improve safety for all users of Delancey. "All solutions are still on the table," said Squadron spokesperson Amy Spitalnick. In an e-mail, she listed a few possible solutions already being considered: "turning restrictions, stop lines, lengthening medians and crossing times, and a real solution for bikes (understanding that they'll end up on Delancey no matter what)."

We'll be reporting on the working group's recommendations as they develop, but for now, it's encouraging to see this broad and powerful coalition of elected officials and community leaders commit to a safe Delancey Street. Their statements, collected in a press release, are below:

"I am confident that by working together city agencies, concerned elected officials, experts and community members will institute effective and creative ways to increase safety on the Delancey corridor,” said Council member Chin. “The number of fatalities this year alone demand action. It time to make Delancey safe for everyone who uses it."

“By bringing the community together, we can develop solutions that improve traffic, pedestrian and cyclist safety in the Lower East Side," said Congresswoman Velazquez.

“It is essential that we do everything possible to make sure we have the most effective safety measures in place to address the problems we have seen on Delancey Street,” said Speaker Silver. “I am encouraged that we now have key stakeholders at the table and I am hopeful that, with the full participation of the community, we can develop some solutions that will increase protections for pedestrians, cyclists and all other users of this important thoroughfare.”

“Last month’s tragic death of cyclist Jeffrey Axelrod was the latest painful reminder of the dangerous conditions that plague Delancey Street on the Lower East Side,” said Borough President Stringer. “For years I have called on the City to improve safety at this location, and this working group is a much needed a step in the right direction. I am committed to working with the NYC Department of Transportation, my colleagues in government, Community Board 3 and safety advocates to identify mitigations that will make Delancey Street safer for all users: pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.”

“While the last four years have been the safest in City history, we're always working to make our streets even safer,” said NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. "We recently installed countdown signals along Delancey Street to help pedestrians cross and a safety redesign is now under way at the pedestrian and bike entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge. We continue to look for ways to build on the many enhancements we've made throughout the corridor and to working with elected leaders and other stakeholders to cut the number of traffic fatalities citywide in half by 2030.”

“Community Board 3 is very excited about working with the Delancey Street Working Group to make Delancey safer for everyone,” said David Crane, chair of the Community Board 3 Transportation Committee. “The Community Board has been grappling with this issue for years and has included it as a major problem in the current District Needs Statement. Senator Squadron has brought together agencies, advocates, and elected officials who are all very open to collaborating for the best resolution.”

“It’s about time everyone came together to finally put an end to the dangers on Delancey,” said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “Delancey Street is one of the most hazardous streets in the city--this is an important first step in making Delancey safe for foot and bicycle traffic. We understand this is a complex corridor that needs to be carefully studied but there are quick solutions that could be implemented to start saving lives now while a more permanent fix is planned. We're eager to discuss making these solutions a reality in this working group.”

"The LES BID is excited to participate in this important dialogue with our great partners in government regarding the Delancey Street corridor,” said Tim Laughlin, Director of Policy, Planning and Operations for the Lower East Side Business Improvement District. “We look forward to working with our elected officials to implement financially feasible safety improvements that will complement and enhance projects the BID is currently leading the way on, such as our plan to extend the Delancey pedestrian medians at both Essex and Orchard Streets.”

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