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After Quick Work by CB 7 and DOT, Safety Fixes Debut at 96th and Broadway

5:22 PM EDT on May 13, 2014

Press gathers this morning on an expanded pedestrian island at 96th Street and Broadway that, until recently, had been a left turn lane. Photo: Stephen Miller
Press gathers this morning at a sidewalk extension at 96th Street and Broadway that, until recently, had been a left turn lane. Photo: Stephen Miller

After the deaths of Cooper StockAlexander Shear, and Samantha Lee at or near the intersection of 96th Street and Broadway shook Upper West Siders in January, DOT promised fixes to an intersection that locals complained had become even more dangerous to cross after a reconstruction project just a few years before. This morning, the city debuted those changes, including an expanded pedestrian island and new crosswalk.

"By restricting that left turn onto 96th Street, this island is twice as big as it used to be," DOT Assistant Commissioner Ryan Russo told the assembled press on the brick-pattern sidewalk. "You're standing in former road space."

While northbound drivers can still turn left from Broadway to westbound 96th Street, drivers heading downtown on Broadway must either continue straight or make a right onto the cross street, resulting in less complex signal timing. Drivers are also now prohibited from turning left from westbound 96th Street to southbound Broadway. The design features a new crosswalk in the Broadway median leading across 96th Street to the subway entrance, as well as curb extensions on Broadway at six intersections between 93rd and 100th Streets.

Borough President Gale Brewer said the city was able to act quickly after the fatalities because Community Board 7 had already worked with consultants on a plan to improve pedestrian safety in the area. "We had a head start," she said, adding that her office has worked with all 12 Manhattan community boards to compile a list of dangerous streets and intersections [PDF]. "DOT really is investigating each and every hot spot and will work on a plan for each and every one," Brewer said.

CB 7's speed on this particular project contrasts with nearby CB 10, which has stalled on the Morningside Avenue road diet plan for nine months. I asked if inaction by community boards means some neighborhoods will go without street safety fixes. "In some places, community boards will be faster than others," Trottenberg told Streetsblog. "But our goal is to target every hot spot in the city and get to it as quickly as we can."

"As fast as the commissioner is moving, at the council we are also moving fast on passing legislation," City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez said.

Council Member Helen Rosenthal, who represents the Upper West Side, has authored a bill that would revoke the licenses of taxi and livery drivers who kill or seriously injure a pedestrian or cyclist while failing to yield. (Cooper Stock, age 9, was killed by a taxi driver in a crosswalk at 97th Street and West End Avenue in January.)

Despite a unanimous vote supporting the bill from the CB 7 transportation committee, the full board voted against a resolution endorsing the legislation earlier this month, after a board member connected to the taxi industry objected to cab operators facing stricter penalties than other drivers. "I wish I had been there to explain," Rosenthal said of CB 7's vote. "They were just not informed."

After a hearing earlier this month, Rodriguez said that only some of the bills in the committee's package of Vision Zero legislation would move forward. Today, he added a few more specifics. "In June, we will be reporting five or six new bills connected to Vision Zero," he said.

"I think mine is in there," Rosenthal told Streetsblog.

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