Manhattan CB 6 Backs East River Greenway Connector on 37th Street

Compromise: Image: DOT
The East River Greenway, on the other side of FDR Drive to the right, will have a safer connection to the First and Second Avenue bike lanes after DOT moved parking zones closer to a condominium tower. Image: DOT [PDF]
It’s going to become safer and easier to access the East River Greenway, thanks to a vote last night by Manhattan Community Board 6. In a surprisingly drama-free meeting, the board backed the recommendation of DOT and its own transportation committee for a two-way bike path on a single block of 37th Street, connecting the greenway to First Avenue.

The plan had been modified slightly to accommodate the concerns of residents in the Horizon condominium tower, many of whom stormed CB meetings in June over concerns that the bike lane would block curbside car access to their building. Responding to their opposition, the board requested at its June meeting that DOT relocate the path to the south side of the street.

After that meeting, Council Member Dan Garodnick hosted a tour of the site. According to board members, DOT said a southerly alignment would force cyclists to cross two legs of intersections at the FDR Drive service road and First Avenue and put cyclists in the path of turning drivers, posing an unnecessary traffic safety risk. Despite this, many Horizon residents stood firm in their opposition to the plan.

The current legal route to the greenway puts cyclists on a dangerous section of the FDR Drive service road. “There is no good way to get into Glick Park,” said greenway advocate Scott Baker. “The legal way is actually the most dangerous way.” Last night, Transportation Alternatives volunteer Albert Ahronheim presented a petition signed by 353 people in support of a northern alignment for the bikeway. The signatures were gathered over two recent weekends from people en route to and from Glick Park and the greenway at 37th Street.

DOT came back to the CB 6 transportation committee on Monday with a modified version of its original plan [PDF]. Now, parking and loading zones will be located on the north side of the street, next to the protected bike lane and closer to the condo entrance. The previous plan had parking only on the south side of the street. Flexible bollards will keep drivers from making wide turns across the bikeway at the FDR Drive service road.

The plan will also convert one block of the First Avenue bike lane, from 37th to 38th Streets, to two-way operation and add shared lane markings to 38th Street. These changes will guide greenway-bound cyclists from Second Avenue before they reach the busy Queens Midtown Tunnel entrance.

Despite outcry from a handful of condo residents unsatisfied with the compromise, on Monday the committee voted 7-4 to support the revised plan.

Anticipated opposition at last night’s general board meeting failed to materialize. During the public comment session, five people spoke in favor of the plan and no one spoke against it. The board passed a resolution on voice vote, with only a couple nay votes and one abstention [PDF].

“It seems that people were generally pleased with all the work that went into it,” said CB 6 district manager Dan Miner. “It was not a heavily disputed matter.”

This piece has been updated to include more detail on concerns about a southerly alignment.

  • J

    Glad to see DOT continuing to think through connections between facilities! This is good stuff.

    Can DOT please please do this on 1st Ave between 2nd St and Houston? This would create a much much better connection between the 2nd Ave Protected lane and the Allen St protected lane. Using Christie street to get to the Manhattan Bridge is a disaster. Allen Street provides a nice alternative, but it’s currently quite hard to access from 2nd Ave. If people going south on 2nd Ave could turn left (east) on 2nd St and right (south) on 1st Ave going contraflow for 2 blocks, they could get to Allen in a rather low-stress manner. It would cost next to nothing and create an important link in the network.

  • Clarke

    Does the eastern HALF of this “connector” not look especially susceptible to double-parking?

  • BBnet3000

    This is a really good idea.

    The width is even there to not have to narrow it like the 37th-38th section, because 1st Ave has all these extra lanes compared to Allen St northbound and the left side of 1st Ave is barely used by cars on the lowest blocks unless they want to make a left.

  • Jonathan R

    Interesting idea. I have thought of a two-way cycle path on 1st St between 2d Ave & 1st Ave, but maybe this is better.

    The question is however, is it safer to cross Houston St at 2d Ave/Chrystie St with traffic, or at 1st Ave/Allen St against traffic? From Chrystie and Stanton it is easy to get to Allen St; I think there are even sharrows, and since Stanton doesn’t go through Allen, traffic is limited.

  • It would be cool to see this happen. I wonder if Chrystie Street can also be salvaged though, with a two-way protected bike lane on the east side of the street. The intersection of Chrystie/2nd Ave/Houston would have to be retooled, probably with dedicated bike signal time, and you’d want to give northbound cyclists on Chrystie a better transition than the current bike lane dead-end. But something’s gotta change.

  • Seth Rosenblum

    Both of these things sound great. I don’t think you’d have to do much for NB cyclists on Chrystie, since they can easily (and safely) cut over on Stanton. I believe Houston will have bike lanes when the construction is finished though.

  • Daphna

    That eastern half is in front of the DEP building. No one dares to illegally park curbside in front of the DEP building. However, that DEP building comes with a different problem: sidewalk parking by employees. The DEP employees drive to work and move official DEP vehicles onto the sidewalk so that they can fit their personal cars in the DEP garage during the day. CB6 would like to address this, but did not want to complicate the Greenway connector resolution by including it.

  • J

    I really like your idea for a 2-way bike path on the east side of Christie, but in addition to retooling the intersection at Houston, it would require ripping up and rebuilding some pedestrian islands, so I think it might be a few years away. Ideally, we do both, since it’s such a high-traffic bike area.

  • jennesy

    This is great. An even better (IMO) reconfiguration would be safe access to Midtown East going south from the Queensboro Bridge! Traffic on 1st and 2nd Aves is horrendous and the space for bikes is nonexistent.

  • Daphna

    Second Avenue needs a bike lane to connect 34th Street where the lane stops up to 104th Street where the lane starts again. Going downtown is really a dilemma on the east side because Fifth Avenue, Park Avenue, Lexington and Second Avenue are all difficult, slow, stressful and dangerous to navigate as a cyclist.
    First Avenue needs a bike path from 49th to 59th Street where the “enhanced shared lane” is virtually impassable for bicyclists during all daytime hours and the two congested left turn lanes especially conflict with cyclists’ ability to proceed.

  • jennesy

    Yes, yes yes! I biked south off of the QB bridge on a SUNDAY and was terrified. I can imagine how crazy this would be on a weekday morning! I can’t bike to my Midtown East office because of this – hope they address this issue soon.

  • These were good and productive meetings, albeit a bit heated at Monday’s subcommittee meeting. Keep in mind this is a D.O.T. “package deal” that gives us a southbound bike path on First Avenue too, from 38th to 37th streets, and a couple of bike lanes from First to Second Avenue as well…or, nothing, if it is not approved.
    Great thanks to all the members of Transportation Alternatives who came out to speak for the plan! Our support was critical and decisive.
    Of course, this does not address the larger problem of the 1-mile unfinished gap from 38th (soon to be 41rst) to 61st (at some point, 59th), past the United Nations. See ~400 signature petition here: http://www.change.org/p/close-the-gap-2

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