By Molly Sugarman
In 2018, after researching the issue, the full Community Board 7 passed a resolution calling for the Department of Transportation to do a study about installing loading zones on Central Park West due to the safety hazards of double-parked trucks.
At the April 12, 2022, CB7 Transportation Committee meeting, Co-Chair Howard Yaruss again brought up the need for loading zones on CPW — as he had also in March — saying that moving vans and delivery trucks double park, blocking traffic and pedestrian sight lines when crossing the street. He included photographs of the congestion and demanded to know from the DOT representative at the meeting, why no loading zones were being considered. “After 39 months, you should get an answer,” he insisted.
After his repeated questions, the DOT representative, Colleen Chattergoon, left the meeting not to return.
Update: Chattergoon left the meeting in obvious distress. “I actually feel like I was beaten up,” she said, before disappearing. “She was beaten up,” one member said. “You always beat her up,” said another, to Yaruss. “This is her job,” a third protested. “It is not her job to be verbally abused,” a member snapped back. For his part, Yaruss claimed it was “just frustration.”
That was only the beginning. Community Board 7 Chair Steven Brown subsequently sent a letter to the Transportation Committee members, saying he was “… dismayed and disappointed to hear how the issue was framed and the line of questioning from one of the Co-Chairs regarding the ‘status’ of the resolution.”
After reading the comments on the WSR article about the April 12 meeting, Brown said he felt compelled to clarify the relationship between CB7 and DOT.
Brown noted that he and Yaruss had met with both Chattergoon and Manhattan Borough DOT Commissioner Ed Pincar on January 7. At that meeting, the DOT representatives explained that DOT disagreed with the need for CPW loading zones and will not be adding them. Their reasons, Brown said, were:
● The CPW streetscape has changed dramatically since the 2018 loading zone resolution: the major change is the installation of a protected bike lane, which removed all the parking on the east side of CPW. DOT has yet to determine the long-term impact of this change. They noted that there are loading zones on several cross streets off Central Park West, which the resolution did not acknowledge.
● The implementation of congestion pricing and its impact on CB7 may lead to a broader comprehensive strategy for our district.
● DOT does not agree with the suggestion that CPW is not “safe” without loading zones and disagreed with the narrow framing of the lack of loading zones as only a “safety” issue.
Yaruss acknowledges that he attended the January meeting. “My response is simply that if the DOT’s top priority is in fact safety (as the DOT representative at our meeting claimed), they would not let these objective unsafe conditions persist,” he said. “The fact that they keep citing parking loss as a concern with regard to implementing loading zones shows that they have concerns other than safety. As for their claim that double and triple parked cars, obstructed sight lines, and hazardous traffic conditions are perfectly safe, I respectfully choose to believe my own eyes.”
As to the loading zones on cross streets, Yaruss said that he knows of none. “Tell us where they are,” he requested. He also claimed not to understand why a resolution that the Community Board overwhelmingly called for due to safety considerations was put aside while a bike lane went in.
What he says he sought at the now-controversial meeting was a clearer explanation of why CB7’s resolution has not been implemented, with a fuller discussion of safety and the reality of people using loading zones on cross streets. “It is a legitimate question,” he said, “and I still have it.”
He has the same question about seven other projects the full board has approved since 2018 and that “DOT has either ignored or not offered a substantive explanation of why they are not following through on them.”
Brown counters that Yaruss is free to disagree with DOT’s decision and its reasoning about the loading zones, but not to misrepresent its cooperation and responsiveness. “The facts are black and white,” Brown said. “We both saw the same meeting. At no point [on April 12] did Howard say we met on January 7.”
Yaruss said he updated the committee members about the January meeting with the DOT and its response regarding loading zones on CPW. The update was done, he thinks, at the January committee meeting.
Brown disagreed with that assertion as well. “To the best of my knowledge, there was never an update [for Transportation Committee members] of that meeting, based on my conversations with other committee members,” Brown said.
Correction: The 2018 CB7 Resolution called for a study of loading zones on CPW, not loading zones themselves, as we first reported.