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A nice turnout of concerned citizens walked all the way to City Hall tonight to meet in the Community Board 1 offices and listen to the City DOT present plans for slowing traffic and improving safer in Battery Park City. Of course, “A nice turnout” is a relative term and compared to the normal meeting of this nature. The first CB1 and DOT meeting had only one CB1 member in attendance and the fate of this important issue was set to be decided without real public input.
The City DOT staff led by Joshua Kraus still seems to be truly motivated to make the necessary changes this year. Mr. Kraus brought two of the DOT’s in-house city planner architects to explain the plans drawn up so far. Of note, many of the DOT’s design team were trained at the prestigious PPS city planning firm, which has redesigned the largest cities around the world to become more conducive to pedestrians.
Starting from the northern end of the problem, at Liberty Street and South End Avenue, the DOT plans to make minor changes to the turning lanes into Gateway Plaza. However, the biggest eyesore of Battery Park City, which is the sidewalk and commercial strip between the Gateway Plaza entrance and Albany Street, will not be addressed in this draft of plans. The commercial trucks will still be allowed to unload in the middle of the excessively wide South End Avenue. The narrow cluttered sidewalk will not be addressed in these current plans either.
Going one block south, the strip of South End Ave between Albany Street and Rector Place will have the parallel parking replaced with back-in parking (drivers will have to go in reverse to enter the parking spots, which is safer than backing out into traffic), and the entire street will be narrowed as a result. Narrowing and slightly curving South End Avenue will slow traffic down, according to the DOT.
Between the gaps in the Rector Place loop, where city buses now stop, those bus stops will be replaced with painted street texturing material, again for the purpose of narrowing and slowing the street. Since illegal tour buses use the same bus stops, those plans could help alleviate that problem as well.
Farther south is the main reason that the DOT was asked to make changes to the streets the first place. The intersection of West Thames Street and South End Avenue currently not only does not have traffic lights, but the DOT claims they are not allowed to paint pedestrian crossing strips (ala the Beatles Abby Road album). Bill Bialosky, a local resident in attendance who runs his own city planning architecture firm, seemed incredulous. He explained that plenty of other small towns nearby with less traffic have pedestrian crossings painted on similar intersections.
The big news of the evening was that the results of the most recent “DOT warrant study” were announced, and the DOT claims that there is not enough pedestrian traffic to warrant the instillation of traffic lights. The fact that two new pre-K schools will be going in soon at the intersection, and PS 276 already exist close by, seems to make little difference to the DOT planners.
When asked how traffic lights on North End Avenue and Murray Street were installed so quickly last year (after BatteryPark.TV initiated the process), the DOT simply stated that the traffic warranted them. (Skeptics believe that Goldman Sachs wanted them, which had much to do with the quick results.)
The DOT plans to make some minor changes to the Northeast corner of the West Thames and South End intersection, but nothing significant is planned. This quickly drew criticism from several members of the audience prompting the DOT to explain that an additional meeting would be required with new ideas to be presented.
Liberty and South End Ave
South End Ave looking south past Albany Street
Rector Place entrances onto South End Ave, with bus stops
Nearby example of a City DOT conversion of a street to other uses