Area residents and community leaders are sounding a chorus of alarm about pedestrian safety concerns in and around Battery Park City. At the November 27 meeting of Community Board 1 (CB1), resident Allison Turkel rose during the public session, holding her two-year-old daughter, Sloan, to say, “I am very concerned about the intersection of West Street and Liberty Street. The signal is just not long enough for pedestrians.”
“I raised this issue with the City’s Department of Transportation [DOT] in March, 2017,” she continued, “when I was eight months pregnant and could not make it across the street in the 31.5 seconds that are allocated. In the nearly two years since, I’ve given birth to one child, am expecting another, and still can’t make it across that street”
“I’ve spent time on de Blasio Administration’s Vision Zero website,” she added, in a reference to Mayor de Blasio’s program to cut pedestrian injuries. “It says this is one of the most dangerous intersections south of Canal, with more accidents than any other.”
The Vision Zero website aggregates data about accidents involving pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists City-wide. Its Crash & Interventions Map interface, when zoomed into Battery Park City, documents a total of 56 injuries to pedestrians inflicted by vehicles in the community thus far this year (through September 30). All but four of these have occurred at various intersections along West Street: two at the Chambers Street crossing, ten at Murray Street, eight each at Vesey and Liberty Streets, seven at West Thames Street, and eight more at Battery Palace.
The crossing at Liberty Street is especially vexing for pedestrians, because it contains multiple turn lanes (both into Battery Park City and the World Trade Center complex), and well as eight lanes of through traffic, making it more akin to a freeway than an urban street.
This intersection is approximately 207 feet wide. Crossing it in 31.5 seconds requires a pedestrian to cover that distance at a speed of more than seven feet per second, or approximately 4.8 miles per hour, which is closer to a moderate jog than to a brisk walk. Reaching and maintaining this aggressive pace is arguably realistic for young adults in good health. But for the elderly, handicapped, or parents with small children, it is practically impossible. “I’ve run the New York City Marathon, and the Women’s Half Marathon this past April, and I have trouble with this intersection,” Ms. Turkel remarked after the meeting.
The crossing at West and Liberty Streets poses a further hazard for tourists visiting Lower Manhattan, who necessarily move at a slower pace than other pedestrians, either because they are unfamiliar with the surroundings, or else are transfixed by iconic sightseeing destinations nearby.
“I’ve seen hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in the community by Brookfield Place to draw visitors,” Ms. Turkel, who is now expecting a second child, observed. “And in addition to all the issues we have at West Street and Liberty, we’ve also had the Cortland Street subway station open. This is fantastic, but it also drives many more pedestrians to this intersection.”
“There is not enough time for any of these people to get across, and no safety personnel are patrolling this intersection,” she noted. “It is incredibly dangerous. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to make it across with my daughter, and now also being six months pregnant, and I have cars gunning for me. We’re here tonight to ask that you make the walk signal a little bit longer. It needs to be at least 45 seconds long to ensure that everyone can get across.”
These concerns were underscored within days, when two more pedestrians were injured at West Street intersections. Hours before Ms. Turkel rose to speak at CB1 on November 27, a woman crossing West Street at Albany Street was struck by a cab turning left from Albany, onto the northbound lanes of West Street. She was injured seriously enough to be taken by ambulance to a local hospital. Three days later, another pedestrian was hit by a motorist at the West Thames Street crossing with West Street, and evacuated by ambulance.
Nor are these worries confined to Battery Park City. On November 27, a driver attempting to park his mini-van at the corner of Canal and Forsyth streets jumped the curb, driving onto the sidewalk, killing a 56-year-old man and injuring six others.
In response, City Council member Margaret Chin said, “pedestrian safety is among the primary issues facing Lower Manhattan, but there is no reason that we should view this tragedy as an inevitable consequence of living and walking in our City. More must and can be done to create a safer environment for New Yorkers simply trying to go about their day.”
In a separate, but related development, CB1 enacted a resolution at the November 27 meeting that acknowledged Ms. Turkel’s concerns about the crossing at West and Liberty Streets, and endorsed her call to adjust the signal timing to provide for a lengthier crossing interval. But CB1’s resolution also called upon the DOT to study similar concerns at the intersection of West and Laight Streets, in Tribeca. Finally, the Board also pushed the DOT to implement a series of pedestrian safety measures along West Street, covering the length of Battery park City, that were originally promised in July of this year, but have since been delayed.
(Visited 159 times, 1 visits today)