B.P.C. residents press city & state on Liberty & West St. safety

Downtown Express photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic Pedestrians cross West St. at Liberty.
Downtown Express photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic
Pedestrians cross West St. at Liberty.

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC  |  Battery Park City Committee members raised safety concerns about the intersection at Liberty St. and West St. at a Mon., Sept. 2 meeting.

“It is a very, very dangerous crossing,” said committee member Ninfa Segarra. “It’s not just dangerous for those of us that are residents that understand the street. But these poor tourists, they have no idea they are on a highway.”

“We’re continuously monitoring and adjusting as appropriate,” said Shilpan Patel, deputy director of the state’s Department of Transportation, who is working with the city’s D.O.T. and various agencies on improving that section of the World Trade Center site. “However, I would like to point out that we are in the construction phase,” Patel added.

He listed all the improvements that have been made at that intersection: the straightening of the alignment of the crosswalk, which was zigzagged; the well-defined barriers on both sides; and the countdown signal.

“People are just lost,” said Segarra, who was a deputy mayor in the Giuliani administration. “They’re trying to get across and trying to figure out which way to go.”

Segarra said that something additional needs to be done and suggested more signage.

The high flow of pedestrians at the intersection is making it difficult for vehicles to turn left from Liberty St. northbound onto West St., also known as Route 9A, and the suggestion of making it a pedestrian-only crossing phase at certain times was floated.

The state D.O.T. studied signal timing at the intersection and analysis showed a high volume of vehicles exiting from Battery Park City eastbound onto 9A. Changing the timing of the lights and allocating it to pedestrians might create backup, Patel said.

“It is a balancing act here where we try to maximize the green time for the high volume of pedestrians that cross particularly during the peak hours” with the amount of vehicle traffic, said Conn MacAogain, from the city’s D.O.T. “We’re trying to serve both interests well in terms of safety and efficiency.”

Taxis dropping people off to go to the 9/11 Memorial was another issue raised. The cabs are not supposed to stop there, said committee member Tammy Meltzer. Tourists are also trying to hail cabs by the memorial, which adds to the problem. 

A pedestrian bridge that will cross West St. and that may alleviate some of the foot traffic at the crosswalk will not be completed until fall 2015.

The committee also asked the D.O.T. representatives about the bike path, which has been closed between Albany St. to Vesey St. since 2007. MacAogain, the city official, said it would not be reopened until the beginning of 2016.

The new estimate prompted audible grumbles in the room. 

In a Downtown Express article published two weeks ago, officials with both the state D.O.T. and with the Battery Park City Authority said the bike path would reopen at the end of next year.