New Delancey St. safety plan praised and criticised

NY State Senator Daniel Squadron at last week’s C.B. 3 meeting where the city D.O.T. unveiled a new safety plan for the dangerous Delancey Street corridor.
BY ALINE REYNOLDS  |  The Delancey Street corridor will soon be less intimidating for pedestrians, according to the city Dept. of Transportation, which in June will implement a new safety plan for the heavily trafficked street.

Responding to the latest death of 12-year-old Dashana Santana and a slew of other pedestrian accidents along Delancey Street in recent years, the D.O.T. plans to shorten nearly three-quarters of the street’s crosswalks located between the Bowery and Clinton Street, based on data that shows pedestrians are hurrying to cross the street as the light is turning red. The Clinton Street crosswalk, in particular, where Santana was hit and killed by a minivan, will be shortened by 30 percent.

The D.O.T. will also be widening sidewalks, chopping off sections of the Delancey Street service roads, adding new pedestrian-friendly signage and street markings, and increasing the pedestrian countdown time so that fewer people are forced to wait in the medians.

The plan was presented to Community Board 3’s Transportation Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 8.

According to D.O.T. Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan the goal is to transform the corridor from a frenzied thoroughfare into a local street for neighborhood residents and workers alike.

“This is the most concerted effort ever brought to bear on Delancey Street,” said Sadik-Khan. “Building on four years of improvements along the corridor, this plan will dramatically enhance safety for everyone on Delancey and the Lower East Side.”

The D.O.T. will also be instituting new left-turn restrictions at selected intersections along the corridor. Judging from the fact that nearly 50 percent of pedestrian crashes involved pedestrians crossing when they had the light, many turning vehicles are failing to yield as they’re supposed to, according to the D.O.T. Once the plan is put in place, left turns onto Chrystie and Allen Streets from Delancey Street, and onto Delancey Street from Essex Street, will be prohibited.

“The fact is, left turns aggravate congestion,” explained Josh Benson, director of bicycle and pedestrian programs for the D.O.T., who presented the plan at the C.B. 3 meeting.

The improvements also include the opening of northbound Clinton Street to drivers headed to the Williamsburg Bridge, which Benson said is intended to curtail speeding and running red lights.

Several C.B. 3 members applauded the plan, including David Crane, committee chair. “I’m pleased and I’m hopeful that it’ll really be a much safer situation,” said Crane.

However, Lower East Side resident Martin Glass and others want to see the D.O.T.’s proposed changes happen sooner. Glass contended that another person could be killed between now and June.

“Waiting three months is too long,” said Glass. “That to me is absolutely horrendous.”

Others in attendance requested that the pedestrian signal countdowns be lengthened right away.

“This is the most immediate remedy [and] it could happen in a day and could save lives,” said area resident Nahum Freidowitz.

Until signals are altered and crosswalks are shortened starting in June, Benson advised pedestrians against crossing all of Delancey Street at one time.

“When you’re crossing the street and the countdown’s ticking down, if you’re on the median, just stay put – I know it’s frustrating, but it’s much safer,” said Benson.

C.B. 3 member Morris Faitelewicz, former chair of the transportation committee, called for an increased presence of traffic enforcement agents, which isn’t currently a part of the D.O.T. plan.

“If you don’t have people giving summonses on a regular basis, people will continue [making left-hand turns],” said Faitelewicz.

While State Senator Daniel Squadron praised the proposal during a brief appearance at the meeting, he also noted that additional research and improvements for Delancey Street are needed.

“Even an aggressive, far-reaching, comprehensive plan [like this one] doesn’t solve everything in one fell swoop,” said the Senator. “We must continue to study and improve Delancey and the surrounding streets to prevent future tragedies and ensure the safety of all users.”

The C.B. 3 Transportation Committee is set to vote on a resolution about the plan at its March meeting.