Hilda Chazanovitz.

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.

NEWS | 16 comments | permalink
    1. Effy says:

      These food carts make NYC look and smell like a third world pit – I know having spent part of my childhood in one (before any one starts to feel themselves getting all teary eyed over this possible insult to third world pits). Grease spots all over the ground and less walking space for pedestrians. Nasty.

    2. Effy says:

      Reed Rubey’s plan is genius and Hilda Chazanovitz is a hero for speaking out to protect others after her injuries. Thank you, West Side Rag, for this information.

      • AMH says:

        Absolutely agree, I’ve been wishing for something like his design for years.

      • josh says:

        The key to any type of a traffic separation plan is the installation of the bollards. They have this in certain areas around the city (intersection of Columbus and 65th comes to mind). Otherwise the left-turn issue will not be alleviated. Cars need a literal boundary to avid cyclists — not some amorphous painted line.
        Until that happens, I ALWAYS play defense and slow down and/or stop if I see a car approaching a mixing zone.

      • Chris says:

        I also like Reed Rubey’s plan. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

      • Odette says:

        Yes Hilda is a hero. We need to pay attention to our pedestrians and safety of our streets.

    3. Svet says:

      Food carts will only make the existing rat problem worse – no need for that type of “Street Modernization”. There are enough delis, coffee shops and bakeries even if some of them require that the hungry walk a block or two to be able to buy food.

    4. Svet says:

      It would also help if bikers didn’t feel like they always have the right of way and actually stopped sometimes and looked around. This applies especially to delivery people but also to people who decide that the red light doesn’t apply to them because they are not in a motor vehicle (we have all seen them).

      • Woody says:

        It would also help if pedestrians didn’t feel like they always have the right of way and actually stopped sometimes and looked around. This applies to people who decide that the red light doesn’t apply to them because they are not in a motor vehicle (we have all seen them).

        • Oswrrw says:

          As a respectful biker, there are many more issues with pedestrians not adhering to common traffic laws. They walk in bike lanes or onto the street without looking where they are going or looking at their devices and nothing else. It endangers them and others and they don’t take responsibility for their own actions. They are going to get hurt and who is to blame. Pedestrians do not always have the right of way.

    5. Vanya K says:

      Reopen the entrance to the highway @ Riverside + 95. Since it was closed the traffic on WEA has increased.

    6. Catsmeow says:

      All for ideas that make streets safer but until traffic rules enforced for bikers and cars, pedestrians still at MAJOR risk along these corridors. Yesterday a biker chose to ride in sidewalk Zebra crossing west to east @79&Amsterdam on north side. This stuff happening all the time and walking a major safety issue that NYPD, DOT, CB 7 and Helen Rosenthal continue to ignore.

    7. Diana Bloom says:

      So sorry to learn about Hilda, a lovely woman who was in a Gotham writing class with me some time ago. Hope she is well.

    8. BLR says:

      Simple, elegant and inexpensive solution to the mixing zone issue by Reed Rubey! As a bicyclist, pedestrian and occasional auto driver I hope the design is accepted and implemented city wide!

    9. Larry says:

      It would also help if pedestrians walk on the sidewalk and not on the bike lane.

    10. madeline gleich says:

      I’ve lived near the 97th St, WEA crossing for many years. I never crossed WEA from the south side of 97th and brought my child up to avoid this crossing as well. It has been dangerous for a long long time. As frustration and aggressive driving have grown, so has the danger and painful destruction of human life.

      The banking of the intersection (in all directions) encourages speeding up unless the driver actively uses the brake. Taking your foot off the gas will not stop the “ride” from the top of the hill on WEA 99th down to WEA 96th,. Nor will it stop the “ride” from Amsterdam 97th all the way to RSD or through the left hand turn at 97th onto WEA.

      The present attempt at a “solution” is not successful enough. People are still getting hit by cars. Traffic and pollution on WEA is a nightmare during rush hours. I fear greater aggression is being evoked rather than the intended goal of slowing the cars down.

      DRIVERS RESPOND TO SPEED BUMPS IN THEIR PATH. From what I’ve witnessed and personally experienced as a driver of many years, everyone slows down for a large speed bump. The driver does not want to damage his/her vehicle and doesn’t want to lose control of the car…speed bump means slow down!

      Speed bumps are relatively inexpensive to install and should be painted with an iridescent white paint. I’m envisioning:
      Speed Bump halfway down 97th between Bway and WEA and
      Speed Bump at the eastern edge of 97 and WEA.
      Speed Bump on WEA between 97 and 96 but nearer to 97.
      Also perhaps—
      Speed Bump on WEA somewhere between 99th and 97th.
      One more on 97th Street between WEA and RSD.

      I’m not a traffic engineer and the placement feasibility would have to be determined by those with much more knowledge of road design. But these cross-sections have to be re-configured taking into account continued accidents, driver frustration/aggression, road banking and the greatly increased traffic congestion and pollution caused by the present situation.