A coalition of six elected officials representing Lower Manhattan are urging the City’s Transportation Commissioner to undertake a study of how vehicles and pedestrians move around Lower Manhattan, to address issues related to safety, sanitation and crowding.
In a February 14 letter to Polly Trottenberg, who heads the City’s Department of Transportation (DOT), U.S. Congressman Jerrold Nadler, State Senator Daniel Squadron, State Assembly members Deborah Glick and Yuh-Line Niou, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and City Council member Margaret Chin note that, “Lower Manhattan’s popularity inevitably increases pressure on the area’s streetscape, the design of which remains a vestige of the City’s earliest days.”
The day before, Diana Switaj, director of planning and land use for Community Board 1 (CB1) said in testimony before the Manhattan Borough Board that, “CB1 has long requested a study of traffic and mobility issues in our district and specifically in the Financial District area. Our street grid is the oldest in the City and was not built to support a high density, 24/7 mixed-use community with car, truck and bus traffic.” She added to the list of pressures, “high volumes of commercial and residential garbage and recycling; pedestrian traffic from residents, commuters and tourists; and security infrastructure that crowds already-narrow streets and sidewalks.”
Ms. Switaj continued, “we reiterate the request for funding to facilitate a study of these conditions as the first step to establishing a proactive, holistic approach to implementing a plan for better managing the unique street and sidewalk conditions in Lower Manhattan.”
At the same hearing, Amanda Timchak, a board member with the Financial District Neighborhood Association (FDNA), testified that, “vehicular and pedestrian congestion is a major quality-of-life and safety issue for those that live, work and visit our neighborhood,” adding that, “high-density buildings stack garbage onto narrow sidewalks, commercial vehicles park on the sidewalk, and outdated and cumbersome security infrastructure is scattered through the district.”
Ms. Timchak also noted that, “commercial delivery trucks, service vehicles, construction and sidewalk sheds all obstruct the sidewalk. These factors often dangerously force pedestrians into the street, leaving vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians in conflict over the same narrow, shared space. Recently a senior citizen was killed near the Staten Island Ferry and a Millennium High School student was struck by a taxi driver.”
FDNA is also hosting an online petition to build public support for a study that will address all of these issues. (The petition can be found here: campaigns.transalt.org/petition/lower-manhattan-mobility-study.) More than 750 people have thus far signed the demand for public funding for, “a comprehensive survey and action plan to measure and mitigate these unique stressors on our neighborhood’s quality of life and create a more livable, walkable Lower Manhattan.”
Paul J. Proulx, a land-use lawyer and urban planner who also serves on the FDNA board, says, “the situation on our neighborhood’s sidewalks is just intolerable. But there are absolutely no metrics on any of the problems: placard parking, residential garbage pickup, on-street parking, freight delivery, or pedestrian injuries. We need a study!”
In a separate, but related, development, CB1 has passed a resolution urging the DOT to implement a series of traffic mitigation measures near the intersection of Broad and South William Streets, outside Millennium High School, where a student was run over by a taxi on the morning of January 17. Among the measures that CB1 is pushing to have in place before the end of the current semester are new signage and a speed bump between the corner and the school’s front door. The same resolution also calls for traffic lights with modified timing (to give pedestrians a longer time to cross before traffic begins moving) at another nearby intersection, Broadway and Morris Street, that is used by large numbers of students from five nearby middle and high schools.