D.O.T. should step up

BY MANHATTAN BOROUGH PRESIDENT SCOTT STRINGER  |  Recently, at the intersection of Greenwich and Duane in Tribeca, a three-year old boy was struck by a cab while crossing the street with his mother and older brother in the crosswalk. Luckily, the boy was wearing a helmet, and he escaped serious injury. But the incident underscored an alarming traffic problem that has been a hot issue in this community for many years — and the fact that it hasn’t been solved yet is unacceptable.

Simply put, the corner of Greenwich and Duane is too dangerous for pedestrians. We need to install a stop sign, traffic light or other ameliorating measures to make it safer. And we need to do it now.

On a typical day or night, cars and trucks driving down this narrow, two-lane thoroughfare consistently fail to yield to pedestrians. People in the crosswalks have come to feel they’re in the crosshairs every time they cross the street. We know that there have been at least ten pedestrian accidents at this site since 2000. The question is: How many more wake-up calls do we need before we take action?

I joined with other community members in 2008 to demand action from New York City’s Department of Transportation. But the answer we got then, and continue to get now, is that the city says its hands are tied. Traffic lights or stop signs cannot be installed on a corner unless they meet strict federal criteria, which are part of uniform national standards. According to these standards, the intersection of Greenwich and Duane doesn’t have a large enough volume of cars or pedestrians to warrant such safety measures, despite the clear dangers it poses to people crossing the street.

Hard as it may seem to believe, we are back to where we started three years ago.

This past week I stood at this intersection with residents, advocates, representatives of other elected officials and the parents of the little boy who was hit by the cab, and we spoke with one voice: There is no longer any excuse for inaction by the city D.O.T., and the federal Department of Transportation. No one who was present at this event will ever forget the anger expressed by Richard Carty, father of the three-year-old boy, as he talked about his frustration with the lack of a governmental response.

To spur action, my office has sent a letter to both the city D.O.T., and the federal Secretary of Transportation, asking them to do whatever is necessary to make this intersection safer as soon as possible. I pointed out that previous measurements of traffic flow at the intersection may be seriously outdated, since the Tribeca neighborhood is undergoing significant growth in traffic patterns due to World Trade Center construction and increases in pedestrian traffic. We need to recognize that Tribeca is an evolving place when it comes to traffic, and as it changes the guidelines measuring its traffic patterns must also change.

Specifically, I’ve asked the city D.O.T. and the U.S. D.O.T. to see if the federal guidelines can be amended on this block to pave the way for stop signs, traffic signals or any other appropriate traffic calming measures. Just as important, I have urged our city’s D.O.T. to play a vigorous role in pushing for such changes. They have a fundamental responsibility to protect pedestrians—not simply interpret or enforce federal regulations.

Even without federal action, I believe the city can take a variety of immediate steps to boost safety at this dangerous intersection, including increased pedestrian signage and speed bumps. The D.O.T., for example, should consider whether Greenwich between Duane and Chambers should be designated a “slow street.” This refers to a local street which discourages vehicular through-traffic, reduces vehicle speeds and creates a comfortable environment for bicycling and walking. The city should also consider installing “raised crossings,” which are marked pedestrian crosswalks at an intersection or a mid-block location constructed at a higher elevation than the adjacent roadway.  In this case, it would be the crosswalk on Greenwich, preventing fast left turns onto Duane.

Finally, the city should consider installing a “raised intersection,” where an entire intersection is raised above the level of surrounding roadways. A raised intersection at Slocum Place and Stratford Road in Brooklyn has had profound benefits for the residential neighborhood of Prospect Park South.

We need to act now. Let’s put our heads together and find a solution that is long overdue.