By Carol Tannenhauser
A woman who was hit by an SUV at 96th Street and West End Avenue told the Community Board 7 Transportation Committee last week that drivers routinely flout the law at that intersection and the city needs to do more to stop it.
“I came here tonight to share what happened to me in that intersection, and because I am grappling with how to effect change,” said Hilda Chazanovitz, speaking to a crowd of about 30 people at the community board offices on 87th Street last Tuesday. Chazanovitz said she was struck and seriously injured last June by a turning SUV, while she was in the crosswalk with the light.
Earlier this month, Councilmember Helen Rosenthal criticized the mayor and Department of Transportation for inaction even as injuries spike at the intersection. The city has made changes on West End Avenue to try to make it safer, but some locals think the larger problems of backed-up traffic and aggressive driving have gotten worse.
The committee agreed with Chazonovitz, approving a resolution calling for the safety issues of that intersection to be finally and unequivocally addressed, including consideration of a Barnes Dance – a traffic-engineering strategy, in which all vehicles are stopped simultaneously, allowing pedestrians to cross safely in every direction, even diagonally.
“The Department of Transportation (DOT) does a great job, but there’s always room for improvement,” Howard Yaruss, co-chairperson of the committee told WSR following the meeting. “Although our role is advisory, DOT does listen to the Community Board. That’s where they take their primary direction from. It’s slowly changing, but, in my opinion, DOT still has this Robert Moses mentality from the 60s and 70s – make the cars go fast and furious, all the time.”
Also approved by the committee were: a request by the Museum of Natural History to close West 79th Street for the annual Manhattanhenge viewing on May 30th; a petition by Michelle Winfield to co-name a secondary street after her mother Ponsie B. Hillman, a teacher, community advocate, civil rights and labor leader; and a resolution to stop the Department of Consumer Affairs from accepting applications and fees for a newsstand location that has been turned down six times!
The question of food vending on the UWS was more complicated and left, essentially, to be worked out by the full Community Board. Basically, there is proposed City Council legislation, the “Street Vending Modernization Act,” which would double the number of food carts and trucks on NYC streets over the next seven years, while creating new oversight and advisory mechanisms for the industry. The Transportation Committee wants the CB to have jurisdiction over where those additional vendors will be placed on the UWS, which vendor advocate Sean Basinski said is not how the system works; vendors need to be “flexible and mobile.” Some committee members felt strongly that vendors undercut brick-and-mortar merchants, who add stability to the neighborhood and pay exorbitant rents and real estate taxes. Others see vendors as contributing to the “vibrancy” and culinary and cost diversity of dining on the UWS.
Finally, the committee discussed “mixing zones,” which are dangerous sections of the Columbus and Amsterdam Avenue bike lanes affecting left-hand turns, according to Reed Rubey, an Upper West Sider and architect. Rubey took it upon himself to create alternative designs, which the Transportation Committee voted unanimously to present to DOT for study. You can read Rubey’s explanation and see his designs in this document.