Big Changes Proposed for West 103rd Street

A dance class on 103rd Street. Photograph by Rachel Falk.

By Molly Sugarman

The city’s Department of Transportation used an Earth Day celebration last Sunday to seek public input on a proposal that would permanently slow down traffic on West 103rd Street and make the street more inviting to pedestrians and cyclists. The changes will affect 103rd Street from Amsterdam Avenue to Riverside Drive.

The plans for the change were on display at the StreetArts Earth Day event on Sunday. The event was sponsored by Park to Park 103, a nonprofit whose goal is to make the entire Upper West Side stretch of 103rd Street – from Central Park to Riverside Park – open for pedestrians and bicycles, with sharply limited vehicle use, as well as benches and parklets to encourage interactions among residents, and walking tours to showcase the history of the area.

At the event, people could look at and comment on the drawings as well as take away a postcard with a link to a three-question DOT survey. Here are the plans:

To give people the space needed to socially distance during the pandemic, New York City created the Open Streets program. Some Open Streets were blocked off completely on weekends for open-air dining and strolling. On others, traffic was curtailed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. No through traffic was allowed, except those dropping off people or packages. West 103rd is in the latter category.

Signs and metal barriers have indicated that the street is not open to through traffic and that, for those who do pass the barriers, the speed limit is 5 mph.

The proposed changes would make those restrictions permanent, by modifying the sidewalks. The proposal would also involve loss of parking spaces on 103rd and on the cross streets. The number of spaces lost is “in flux,” according to Rachel Albetski, from StreetPlans, an urban planning organization working with DOT. Albetski was on hand Sunday to explain the plans to people and answer questions.

The changes proposed—but not yet finalized—will be presented to Community Board 7 at a future meeting, the date of which is not yet known. DOT has not released its schedule yet, Albetski said.

Redesign elements proposed by DOT for 103rd Street include:

Shared Street from Amsterdam to Broadway
The most significant changes are proposed for the block of 103rd Street between Broadway and Amsterdam, which would become a Shared Street. Also known as a “pedestrian-priority” street, a shared street is designed for slow travel speeds where pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists all share the right of way, according to the DOT Street Design Manual.

“Street users generally negotiate the right-of-way cooperatively rather than relying on traffic controls, allowing the entire street to effectively function as a public space,” according to the DOT manual.

Broadway, near Madison Square Park, is a shared street.

Curb Extensions from Broadway to Riverside Drive
The proposed redesign includes curb extensions on every corner of West 103rd in the designated area. These extensions would curve around onto the cross streets – Amsterdam, Broadway, West End Avenue, and the Riverside Drive access road.

Curb extensions are an “expansion of curb line into the lane of the roadway adjacent to the curb (typically a parking lane) for a portion of a block,” according to the DOT Street Design Manual.

According to DOT, such extensions improve pedestrian safety by reducing crossing distances and giving pedestrians better sightlines to see oncoming traffic. The extensions also discourage truck turns, force vehicles that do turn to slow down, and slow down traffic by narrowing the roadway.

The downsides, according to DOT, include possible impact on underground utilities, complications for deliveries and garbage removal, possible impact on snowplows and street sweepers, and loss of parking on both sides of both streets at the intersection.

Mid-block Narrowing from Broadway to Riverside Drive
To further slow traffic, mid-block “pinch points” will physically narrow the street. Such narrowing is proposed mid-block between Broadway and West End Avenue, and between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive. Pinch points are sidewalk extensions that go into the parking lanes on both sides of the street. Pedestrians can see oncoming better and the street is narrowed.

Slowing mid-block traffic is the main benefit of these outcroppings. The downside is the loss of parking on both sides of the street.

The plans can change as DOT and StreetPlans get more input from the public, both online and at events such as Sunday’s.

Examples of all these measures can be found in the DOT Street Design Manual.

    1. MadnessontheUWS says:

      103rd street between Broadway and West End is garbage and rat infested. The sidewalk on the north side of the street in front of NYCHA housing has fallen in about 8 inches and is an incredible hazard and has been this way for years. Years. This idea is nothing more than lipstick on a pig and an incredible waste of money. How’s about the city increases the amount of trash cans and picks up the garbage more often. That would be a huge improvement.

    2. Will says:

      How about just plant more trees, repave the street and sidewalks, put in new curbs, and clean up all the trash and scaffolding. That would be more than enough.

    3. Kevin says:

      Most cities don’t permit parking within 25 feet of intersections. Why that isn’t the case everywhere in NY is beyond me.

      We already have brick curb extensions at 94th and Columbus, so anyone saying this is new are not being truthful. The only question in my mind is if the DOT can give these blocks brick instead of paint which just become placard parking.

    4. Marilyn says:

      If cyclists are allowed it will be VERY DANGEROUS FOR PEDESTRIANS, as the cyclists in the park, on the sidewalks and running red lights both in and out of bike lanes prove to me every day several times a day. It is an outrage to allow cyclists.

      I do not own a car but the loss of parking does seem unfair. I walk my dog by 103 every day – the street is closed off and I literally have NEVER seen it being used as an opens street. Why not take care of the sink holes in Riverside Park & 103rd instead?

      • Kirk says:

        You do know that the reason why people on bikes are often forced onto the sidewalk is because the street is unsafe, right? If you add bike infrastructure, then there’s no reason for them to be on the sidewalk.

        • Paul says:

          Almost every one way cross street on the UWS are perfectly safe for bike riding, which is why I can continue to ride in the neighborhood, carefully but with confidence.
          Bike lanes on avenues are necessary, but on the cross streets they’re superfluous.

          By the way, I rode up Amsterdam at 2:00 PM today (Sunday), by far the nicest day of the year to date. At 103, looking up from Amsterdam to West End, a totally unobstructed view, absolutely no pedestrians or bike riders on the “open street.”

    5. Bloomingdaler says:

      THIS is what I’m paying tax dollars for???

      Agree with MadnessontheUWS – – sidewalks are collapsing, streets are filthy, there are standing pools of water at the crosswalks, vacant storefronts for DECADES, and threatening behavior from clearly unstable, troubled people. And parks are everywhere and very inviting.

      They could pave 103rd St in gold and I still wouldn’t want my kids playing on it.
      MADNESS – fix the REAL problems!!!!

    6. Paul says:

      103rd between Broadway and Riverside is now an open street and I’ve been by and on it several times. I have never seen it used by pedestrians.

      And because the street is on a hill, ball play by children is unsafe. Balls will inevitably roll onto Broadway or Riverside, which is dangerous.

      BTW, the photo of Broadway at Madison Park? That’s not Broadway.

    7. Lynn says:

      The street should still be open to handicapped and disabled residents who need to get to doctors appointments, etc. When Bank Street closed 112th street between riverside and Broadway, they forced handicapped residents to walk or wheel to one of the avenues in terrible weather and without any flexibility about the “rules” they were flouting. The residents fought them and won.

      • Josh says:

        If you pay attention to the plan, it is still open as you desire. Just have a 5mph speed limit instead of 25mph speed limit.

        • TryingMyBest says:

          On paper maybe. But my small side street was also closed with drop offs and pick ups technically allowed. However the barriers (multiple) were locked together from curb to curb and no cab or car service could pass. As a result I was unable to get to my chemotherapy appointments. These closures are just not a good idea.

    8. The coming of neo-feudalism says:

      Enough with the removal of parking. It’s urbanists like these that are alienating me from the Democratic party. The end game with these urbanists is neo-feudalism. More people should read Joel Kotkin’s book the coming of neo-feudalism as that is the ultimate agenda.

    9. Vincent McGowan says:

      Need to accommodate personal vehicles

    10. Bill says:

      Most of the storefronts in the area are vacant or closed now, so no reason to walk there. There are no businesses.

    11. Chris C. says:

      Anything to get the cyclists and motorcyclists off the sidewalks.

    12. Stan Monk says:

      Bad idea. Why do they want to make traffic and car use even more difficult than it is now? This damages businesses and contributes to the increasing unlivability of the city.

    13. Upper west side resident says:

      What a horrible idea. Anti-car activists are trying to destroy the city and make life miserable for those who rely on cars. It will cause more pollution from hours circling blocks looking for parking. Nobody will even use this open space except maybe a few hours on the weekend. Meanwhile residents NEED and rely on that parking. People need to stand up and fight back against these types of plans. It is ruining the city

    14. Lily M. Hoffman says:

      Ive been a resident of 103 rd St (between West End & Riverside) since 1969; I am 80 years old, and vote strongly AGAINST closing the street off and limiting traffic in any way. It restricts the vehicle movement I count on to be fully mobile. Also no one has EVER played on this street or walked on it.

      • Thea Callender says:

        I live on 102 St and use Access A Ride. They will not turn onto this street if they have to move a barricade. It is also incredibly hard to park as it is. I have to park blocks away and Uber to 102 St. There are no children playing on this street. Bikes would make it confusing for cyclists and pedestrians. The park is a block away! BAD IDEA!

    15. Bob says:

      This street has never been used as an “open street” since this program began. It’s on a hill, it’s full of potholes and there is a world class park literally at the end of the block. Why is this being considered? It also very much affects 104 th and both 101 and 102 streets which all now have increased traffic because of the spillover effect that this idiotic program has introduced. This program, it seems to me, is some sort of punitive policy meant to further the city’s ultimate goal of eliminating all cars out of the borough. It really has nothing to do with pedestrians walking in the middle of the street on 103rd but rather some activist faction at the DOT that wants to change New Yorkers behavior and this is where it begins. Don’t be fooled by the packaging.

    16. Lily Hoffman says:

      I’ve lived on 103 between Riverside and West End since 1969; I
      m 80 and count on vehicular traffic access to keep me fully mobile. Thus I find the current open street limiting –taxis often don’t want to use it, and thought of further limitations frightening. Furthermore, NO-ONE ever walks or plays on this street between Broadway and Riverside. The whole idea is nonsense!

    17. yrag says:

      open streets aren’t the problem. as usual it is the people who cause the problems. teach people how to be caring and responsible citizens of a common community. and while you are at it, why not penalize users of pedal bikes, motorized bikes, push scooters, electric scooters, push skateboards, motorized skateboards, unicycles, etc.

    18. Bob says:

      This block is literally adjacent to a world class park – this is not needed. This is a solution to a non-existent problem. Please stop with this nonsense.

    19. Sharon says:

      Nobody in the neighborhood wants this. Fix the street, pick up the garbage, and we will use the lovely Riverside Park.

      How will north-south traffic (including buses) navigate this if the entirety of 103rd is blocked? What a nightmare. Is it to help cyclists?

    20. BarbaraB says:

      I could not have said it better than Madness. west 103rd is a disgrace. The building on the northwest corner of Broadway and 103 has a caving sidewalk and rats everywhere. One night while walking home I almost stepped on one. This is a waste of tax payer money. Fix the sidewalks, plant some trees, fix the cracked street. YES! More trash cans. Speed bumps on the access road of Riverside between 97th and 104th would be a welcome addition. Motorists fly up that stretch and blow through stop signs. I could go on with how to spend $$ better. This is a really bad concept.

    21. Marc skopov says:

      This is a pure waste of $ there is no congestion
      Or crowding on 103 st the money could be used to help all the homeless and taking away more parking spots penalizes car owners to the tune of$600+ a month
      That is a lot of punishment
      Poll all the residents on the corridor we live here
      The planners dont . with the very high costs of living on the upper west side and ragging inflation the benefits of the
      Cute. esthetics don’t outweigh the stress and harm to many of us living here

    22. Jen says:

      Who on earth might think that this idea is good for community? Talking about out of touch and eager to check a mark on “I have done something for the city”

    23. MKL says:

      I fiercely oppose these changes and was surprised and gratified that virtually every commenter does as well. I have nothing more to add except fixing that hole on the north side of the block between Broadway and West End needs to happen ASAP.

    24. Stanley says:

      Motor vehicles are the lifeblood of New York City. People who want to be surrounded by total greenery should move out to Wisconsin. 220,000+ businesses rely on daily deliveries via internal combustion engine powered trucks and cars. The more roadway taken away, the more congested, frenetic and dangerous the streets become. Unless the goal is to shut businesses down 100%? This is the reality we live in. Everyone striving to turn New York City into a land of trees and smiling faces are delusional at best. People needing emergency medical attention deserve a fast ambulance. Not a medic on 10 speed bicycle. The war on motor vehicles in New York City is stupidity at its best and is a major contributing factor to the downfall of this once great city.

    25. Elysa says:

      I can see both sides, but honestly I think it’s going to end badly.

      Bikes will use 103rd street to jump quickly into Riverside.

      It creates more garbage when we’re just 1 block from an existing park or three blocks from the other Park. Makes no sense to me?

      I don’t think we need 103 to be a walkway. I think the restaurants support it because there hoping for more business walking. However, as a resident where the noise from night parties already happening as people exist the Park. I see no benefit.

      It will create a lot of noise for the residents who work remotely in their homes.

      I oppose this idea. I agree spend the money where it’s needed more.

      What a waste.

    26. Chuck d says:

      No. You’ll cause chaos on the surrounding streets. There’s no reason to do this other than a neighborhood block association has a lawyer.

    27. Crawdad says:

      These comments are mostly insane. This is Manhattan. We need to do everything possible to make driving as difficult as possible. Manhattan is for pedestrians, not cars. The remaining 99.9% of the U.S. is cartopia, not Manhattan. Fewer cars mean cleaner air, fewer dead pedestrians and a safer environment for all. If you want to drive everywhere, this is the wrong place.

      • li says:

        Hi Crawdad,
        Non-driver here.
        Actually most vehicles are commercial including ecommerce,construction, Uber etc.
        Why not reduce ecommerce, development?

        Also it should also be noted that some area workers (building staff, security guards, etc) live far away and drive in.

        IMO the focus should be on bus and subway mass transit – not bikes. 103 should not be closed.

        • Boris says:

          Building staff and security guards should not be a protected class with special benefits. Everyone has a good reason for doing what they do.

    28. Nancy says:

      The biggest traffic problem on the UWS is the congestion on 96th and 97th streets heading to the Westside highway. Buses and emergency vehicles cannot get through and every rush hour there is grid lock. If any traffic flow has to change it must happen there. The proposed plan for 103rd St will only worsen the crosstown traffic heading west. We need a bus/emergency lane – not another bike lane! The ongoing construction on 96th st will be ongoing for years.

      • Josh says:

        You do realize that this plan is actually just continuing the current status quo as it has been for the past 2 years, right?

    29. li says:

      Just read WSR article about need for accessible afterschool programming for underserved West Side teenagers.
      Completely agree with that.

      That is where City funds should go – not a closure/redesign of 103rd Street

    30. Je says:

      Currently Amsterdam starting at 106 is closed for “Open Restaurants “.
      This has problem impact for ambulances to Mt. Sinai/St. Luke’s, other emergency vehicles and for M11 bus riders.

      If 103 closed too, more problems for ambulance and bus …

    31. Joey says:

      Question is: Will this increase or decrease the shootings?

    32. Jason says:

      Blame all of this nonsense on transportation alternatives and the democratic socialists. They want to end your right to own a car. They are a powerful lobbying group funded by uber and lyft and want to change the way we do things here to line their own pockets. Vote them all out.

      • li says:

        TA is a lobbying group for bicyclists – very powerful and well-funded.

        Also quite a few DOT staff have TA affiliations.

      • li says:

        BTW saw this recent comment on WSR

        “The Transportation Committee of CB7 has a large number of Transportation Alternative members including the Chair, Yaruss, who is also on the board of this anti car organization. As a result, several anticar pro bicycle arguments have arisen with the Transportation Alternatives crowd following their partisan agenda rather than listening to the actual residents of their district. I write as a past CB7 vice chair and transportation member who has watched in dismay as this committee devolved into a contentious mess. This helps no one and interjects a hostility that is counterproductive”

    33. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a nice park-let at the corner by The Marseilles, where seniors and those in wheelchairs could have a nice, safe place to enjoy the outdoors and interact with the wonderful children at Purple Circle Early Childhood Education Center there? Wouldn’t it be great if the neglected Amsterdam block because a beautiful 21st Century street primarily for walkers, but still allowing 5MPH travel by cars who may need access to the street ? All this and more can be realized with this plan. There is NO “ban” on car access for pick up, drop off, loading, or unloading, service vehicles, or paroling for locals, so please, critics, stop trying to whip up fear. Please think of the BENEFITS included in this proposed redesign, be constructive and think about how these streets can be better and safer. Thank you.

    34. Kathy R says:

      This “solution” is overdone. IT SEEMS LIKE “A SOLUTION IN SEARCH OF A PROBLEM”.