By Meredith Kurz
Community Board 7’s transportation committee ended up deadlocked Tuesday night over a city proposal to transform Amsterdam Avenue by adding bike lanes, turn lanes and designated loading areas, and cutting one lane of traffic and about 25% of the parking spots. The committee’s 4-4 vote means the proposal was rejected, but it is expected to go up for a vote at next month’s full board meeting and could face a different outcome there.
Amsterdam would morph from four driving lanes to three. A protected bike lane, which would divide bicyclists from car traffic, would run northbound from W. 72nd to W. 110th St. The section below 72nd is trickier and hasn’t been designed. The DOT’s main presentation o the changes is at the bottom of this post.
About 260 people showed up to the meeting, held at Fordham’s campus on West 60th street.
The DOT says its modifications would cause vehicles to slow down, clarify the traffic lines, provide more safety to pedestrians crossing the street with safe islands, and reduce congestion. The DOT modified its plans for changes to parking rules since it first presented the plan in November; it initially said it wanted to make the East side of Amsterdam into a commercial parking zone, but now expects to create commercial parking zones at staggered intervals on either side of Amsterdam depending on business needs.
Of the 27 speakers, all from the Upper West Side, 21 were for the proposal, 4 were against, and 2 were essentially neutral. Proponents submitted a petition with 3,600 signatures, including 206 from businesses and cultural institutions. Many of the speakers at the meeting were cyclists.
One of the speakers in favor of the proposal said, it will make Amsterdam “more neighborhoody.”
Others, including a trauma center nurse, talked about the benefits to safety. “We are constantly treating victims hit by cars or cyclists being hit or hitting other pedestrians. We deal with the mothers and fathers and children and we see them suffer. I am for this proposal.” When asked to clarify the relative danger of Amsterdam Avenue, the DOT explained that Amsterdam’s accident rates are high, but not the highest, and not within Vision Zero range.
But opponents also spoke out. “The idea of reducing merged lanes from Broadway and 10th Avenue from four to three lanes, between 72nd Street to 110th Street, defies common sense. The resulting traffic congestion will result in air and noise pollution, to businesses and residents alike.” said Joseph Bolanos, president of the West 76th Street Block Association.
Others expressed concerns about the complicated logistics of the commercial loading spaces on the West side of the street, the cyclists who don’t obey the current laws, the loss of parking spaces, the lack of other alternatives for the bike lane locations such as Central Park West, and the vagueness of the traffic study and project approval interviews that were done by the DOT.
Despite the generally positive tenor at the meeting, the community board committee ended deadlocked. Board members who were against the resolution proposed alternatives to an Amsterdam bike lane, such as adding an additional northbound bike lane to Columbus, or adding the northbound bike lane to Central Park West, which could potentially connect to the 8th Avenue bike lane (among the opponents were board chairmen Andrew Albert and Dan Zweig). Another proposal that was floated was to have the DOT keep all or the proposal, but remove the bike lane.
The city had initially said they’d like to start work on the lane this spring if it’s approved. but on Tuesday, the DOT mentioned summer as a more likely start date.
Rosenthal still sounds optimistic:
— Helen Rosenthal (@HelenRosenthal) January 13, 2016
Correction: We initially gave the wrong number of signatures for the petition supporting the redesign.
Photo by Meredith Kurz.