After a Packed Meeting, CB 7 Punts on Amsterdam Ave Complete Street Study

Few people have ever accused Manhattan Community Board 7 of expiditiously resolving to do something about dangerous streets. After devoting two hours last night to discussing a resolution asking DOT for a complete street study of Amsterdam Avenue (which the board’s transportation committee passed last month), CB 7’s reputation for inaction and delay remained intact: The board voted 28-11 to put off the issue until its next meeting on December 3.

Amsterdam Avenue at 97th Street: Four lanes of dangerous traffic, but CB 7 hasn't decided whether to do anything about it. Photo: ##!data=!1m8!1m3!1d3!2d-73.9693!3d40.795518!2m2!1f28.09!2f78.7!4f75!2m7!1e1!2m2!1sYg0iW1jCT9HTjILo2Myv3Q!2e0!5m2!1sYg0iW1jCT9HTjILo2Myv3Q!2e0&fid=5##Google Maps##

Amsterdam is the only four-lane, one-way avenue in the neighborhood, and has a higher number of traffic injuries and fatalities than other avenues carrying northbound traffic on the Upper West Side, according to Transportation Alternatives. (In the neighborhood, Broadway is divided by pedestrian malls and tracked as separate northbound and southbound streets in official crash statistics.)

Discussion started off with a failed one-two punch from transportation committee member Lillian Moore and committee co-chair Dan Zweig. Moore claimed that board members who both support the resolution and are Transportation Alternatives members have a conflict of interest, while Zweig doubted (yet again) the data showing improvements to traffic flow on Columbus Avenue since its redesign.

“It’s no more relevant whether or not someone is a member of TA as to whether they’re a member of AARP, AAA, or the Sierra Club,” TA’s Tom DeVito said today. Parliamentarian Shelly Fine backed him up last night, saying that board members should disclose affiliations but can vote on resolutions so long as they or family members do not have a financial stake in the outcome.

Resolution co-sponsors quickly dispensed with Zweig’s attack, pointing out that the traffic flow data comes from DOT and is included in presentations Zweig, as committee co-chair, has already received from the agency.

At the start of the meeting, nearly 200 people were in the room. Of the 48 people who spoke last night before public testimony was cut off due to time constraints, exactly three-quarters were in favor of the study. DeVito also gave the board a petition with 1,800 signatures and a letter of support signed by 204 business owners and managers.

Council member and borough president-elect Gale Brewer spoke early in the meeting. While she didn’t explicitly call on the board to pass the Amsterdam Avenue resolution, she said she liked the existing lane on Columbus Avenue. “My district office is right on the Columbus Avenue bike lane,” she said. “I think it’s doing a great job.” Brewer added that she looks forward to Citi Bike expanding to the Upper West Side along the protected bike lanes.

Brewer also stressed the importance of working with business owners to ensure that a street redesign meets their needs, as well. “I thank you for doing that,” she told advocates and community board members. “I know how hard you’re working.”

The speakers who urged CB 7 to support the study included Upper West Side children, parents, seniors, and business owners. After about two hours of discussion, they did not get to see a result last night. Board chair Elizabeth Caputo, helming her first CB 7 meeting, brought the testimony to a close because of time constraints, then suggested a resolution to delay a vote until the next meeting.

TA’s DeVito said today that he was disappointed the board did not vote on the resolution last night, but is hopeful it will pass next month. “Upper West Siders are as eager as ever to see this happen,” he said.

A representative of Borough President Scott Stringer said last night that applications are open to members of the public interested in joining their local community board. While Stringer’s office is launching the application process, the appointments will be made by Brewer for terms starting April 2014. Despite officially serving only advisory roles, community boards often act as gatekeepers for local transportation decisions. Having people who understand city streets and transportation issues on the board can make the difference between maintaining a dysfunctional, dangerous status quo and improving conditions for walking, biking, and transit in your neighborhood.

  • Anonymous

    Please, sensible UWSiders, step up to the plate and run for Community Board. Those of us who ride through your neighborhood need to be safe, and not enough current board members seem to care.

  • Reader

    What a way to build a network. Imagine if the phone lines had to get this kind of approval from technical no-nothings. You’d only be able to make outgoing phone calls on Columbus Avenue. If you lived on Amsterdam you’d still have to use a telegraph. And if you lived on Broadway, West End Avenue, or Riverside Drive you’d have to walk down to the waterfront to find a payphone.

  • Eric McClure

    Thanks for your service, Dan. Here’s your watch. Send us a postcard.

  • guest

    I don’t often bike on UWS, but a problem we have on the east side is A LOT of salmoning in the 1st Ave protected bike lane, because for the most part there is no equivalent on 2nd Ave. Is this a problem on Columbus, in the absence of a lane on Amsterdam?

  • J

    Zweig: “Ignore the deaths and injuries on the street. Ignore the seniors who have trouble simply walking across the street. Ignore the data that shows that proposed improvements working everywhere they’ve be tried. Ignore the lack of accommodation for northbound cyclists. Ignore the crowds showing up to support this. Everything’s fine. Don’t change anything.

    Oh, I forgot; if you want things to change and you join a group of other people who want the same thing, then you don’t get to vote”

  • I’d argue that a person who parks his private vehicle for free on a public street has a “financial stake in the outcome.” That’s the real conflict of interest.

  • Daphna

    Your fake Dan Zweig quote does seem to sum up his thinking. Dan Zweig and Andrew Albert should resign as co-chairs of the Transportation Committee of Manhattan Community Board 7. They have both been harmful to the community for too long already.

    Gail Brewer sat through most of the public testimony on the resolution about asking the DOT to study Amsterdam and present a “plan: (they changed this word to “study”) for a complete street. I hope she sees where public sentiment falls. I hope she is willing to let the appointments of certain obstructionist community board members expire rather than re-appoint them for successive terms. Each term is only two years. These community board appointments do not need to last for decades or lifetimes.

  • Daphna

    Very good point.

  • Daphna

    There is the same problem. There is no safe uptown route so riders do use the Columbus Avenue protected lane as if it is bi-directional. But the delivery trucks and cars that park in the protected lane, and the people that walk into it as if it is a sidewalk extension without first looking for bike traffic, are a far worse problem than the contra flow riders.

  • Joe Enoch

    I sat through four and a half hours of that meeting last night and while Dan Zweig and Andrew Albert are sure-bet curmudgeons, Lillian Moore was downright offensive. She derailed the meeting by creating a outright witchhunt demanding the members of the board who are TA members to out themselves — this after the rules were explained that since there is no financial benefit, there is no conflict of interest, and no rules broken. Still, she persisted and created a fire under all the NIMBYs in attendance.

    Then, as the board members VERY patiently sat through hours of resident testimony, she would visibly show her displeasure with anyone (the vast majority), who voiced support of the study by rolling her eyes and huffing out loud in disgust. She’s a child.

    She even accused her colleagues, who dismissed her preposterous request, of acting like tea-partiers. The irony here of course is that she used her minority opinion last night to prevent a vote!

  • Anonymous

    If 25% of speaker were against doing a study, what did they have to say? Things are fine as they are now?

  • J

    I’m assuming you’re joking, but I’ll respond to your point anyway, since I think this is critical. Since the streets affect all of us, we all have some some of vested interest in the outcome. I think this is perfectly fine and normal. Democracy is not about barring people from participating, it’s about letting the best ideas filter to the top through open and informed debate. Mr. Zweig, by attempting to ban the participation of people he disagrees with and dismissing the data collected by agencies he disagrees with, does not appear to be engaging in this type of democratic informed debate.

  • Yes. I’m kidding. Everyone is entitled to speak, regardless of affiliation or interest.

  • goodbiker

    I rode up Amsterdam recently. I consider myself a skilled rider, but it was the most terrifying experience, especially after lulled with all the protected bike lanes around downtown. It seems to be a straight (and only) shot to points north of Manhattan (since trucks are not allowed to use Henry Hudson), and everyone in a vehicle — car, SUV, truck — looks at it like a superhighway with average speeds of 40mph.

    Might CB 7 be responding to that need for fast access north — for vacation and business travel? Trading a few inconvenienced cyclists and pedestrians for speed.

  • Yes, but it may be somewhat less severe as there is also the southbound alternative of the Central Park Drive, which is only about a block and a half from Columbus, not to mention the Hudson River Greenway.

  • Blake

    The thing I don’t get is why would any local community want to be a high-speed pass through? Who is it benefiting except those who have no interest in it?

  • Joe R.

    The highways Robert Moses built which cut neighborhoods in two didn’t benefit the local communities either but they got built anyway thanks to influence of people with money. I suspect that’s the reason Amsterdam remains a speedway. The 1% wants a quick route to their country homes on weekends, and everyone else be damned.

  • Anonymous

    And why not move trucks and commuter and intercity buses to the Henry Hudson, to get them out of our residential and commercial neighborhood?

    It’s been 75 years or so since the Henry Hudson Parkway opened, and times change. Today we need our park space closer to our doorsteps and the truck and bus traffic farther away.

  • Anonymous

    It looks like salmoning is widely committed by restaurant delivery workers of the English as a second language cohort. Proper education and enforcement could greatly reduce this problem.

    But the Police Dept can’t seem to discern a different between reckless cyclists and all cyclists.

  • stuart

    I commute daily on the UWS. Yes, Amsterdam avenue — by virtue of Broadway being closed to uptown traffic at 72nd street diverting drivers onto Amsterdam, being 4 lanes and having synchronized lights — is a highway, and dangerous to even the most skilled riders (including me). However, because the traffic on Amsterdam is so heavy, I find riding northbound on broadway to be a treat. In the evenings and at night is is almost empty, and it is safe during the day. It is wide and visible, and you rarely encounter salmoning. For that reason I don’t find a bike lane on Amsterdam Ave to be necessary. for me. Of course, I am a very confident rider and I know most find riding on Broadway somewhat intimidating.


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