Eyes on the Street: The New East Houston Street

The new "Green Street" plaza west of Avenue A. Photo: David Meyer
The new pedestrian space west of Avenue A is bigger than the old sidewalk (below), but places a fenced off planted area between pedestrians and ground floor retail like Punjabi Deli. Photo: David Meyer
Before construction, the area was part of 1st Street. Pictured here in July 2012. Photo: Google Maps
Before construction, the area was part of East 1st Street. Pictured here in July 2012. Photo: Google Maps

The long-delayed reconstruction of East Houston Street between the Bowery and the FDR Drive is starting to round into form. Though the Department of Design and Construction won’t wrap up the project until next year at the earliest, new medians and pedestrian areas between Avenue A and Chrystie Street are finally complete, and the transition to the First Avenue bike lane is no longer obstructed by construction.

Planning for the project began all the way back in the early 2000s, and it shows. While the East Houston reconstruction includes bigger pedestrian zones and buffered bike lanes — a net improvement — it also dates to an earlier era of city street design, before protected bike lanes and plazas were common elements in DOT’s toolkit.

When construction began in 2010, it was set to finish by 2013. Six years later, the end is only now in sight.

East of Chrystie Street, wider medians that will be planted with trees have been completed along the corridor. At Avenue A, a wider sidewalk and seating area was also recently finished by Punjabi Deli. For some reason, the city placed a fenced-off planted area between the ground floor stores and the seating area, an awkward barrier.

One block to the west, cyclists can bike from Allen Street directly to the First Avenue bike lane again, without having to mix it up with traffic, now that the bike lane is no longer a construction staging area.

Cyclists entering the First Avenue protected bike lane at East First Street. Photo: David Meyer
Entering the First Avenue protected bike lane from Allen Street. Photo: David Meyer
For years, cyclists crossing East Houston Street between the Allen Street and First Avenue protected lanes were forced into traffic by construction zones. Photo: Google Maps
For years, cyclists crossing East Houston Street from Allen Street had to negotiate these construction zones. Image: Google Maps

On the east side of the Houston/First/Allen intersection, there’s a more generous pedestrian median:

Expanded medians at East Houston Street and First Avenue make for safer crossings for pedestrians. Photo: David Meyer
A new median at East Houston Street and First Avenue makes for safer crossings. Photo: David Meyer
East Houston and First Avenue in June 2011. Photo: Google Maps
The same intersection before construction, in June 2011. Photo: Google Maps

Giant construction zones remain at the Bowery and Chrystie Street/2nd Avenue. DDC has said construction will be completed next year.

Still working at East Houston and Bowery. Photo: David Meyer
Still working at East Houston and Bowery. Photo: David Meyer

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