Nolita nightmare spot gets Vision Zero safety upgrade

A new “Qwick Kurb” divider on Kenmare St. at Lafayette St. keeps cars from “cutting corners” during turns. Photos by Tequila Minsky

BY TEQUILA MINSKY | Flexible street barriers now divide the east- and westbound lanes on Kenmare St. at Lafayette St.

The intersection where westbound traffic turns onto Lafayette St. is in the top 1 percent of the most dangerous crossings for pedestrians and bicyclists in the city. Last year, there were 11 crashes, though luckily no fatalities.

The new center-line “Qwick Kurb” keeps vehicles in their lanes, as well as inhibits faster speeds and “cutting corners” during turns. A Department of Transportation street improvement, it’s part of the Mayor’s Vision Zero street safety effort.

Other measures to increase crossing safety at the problem intersection include “Leading Pedestrian Intervals,” signals that give pedestrians a head start — a 12-second lead time for walkers crossing Lafayette — replacement of a green light with a flashing yellow arrow to increase driver caution, and refurbished lane markings and crosswalks.

Last week, D.O.T. Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, state Senator Daniel Squadron and Councilmember Margaret Chin met at the intersection as D.O.T. released its Vision Zero study on left-turn crashes in the city.

“D.O.T.’s data show that crashes occur disproportionately during left turns and cause nearly a third of pedestrian injuries on our streets,” Trottenberg noted.

Earlier this year, this corner crossing was the subject of a “Dear Polly Trottenberg” two-and-a-half -minute video by 9-year old Lucas Maxwell, a fourth grader at nearby P.S. 130. In the documentary, which includes both film footage and animation, Lucas urges the commissioner to take action to fix what he dubbed the “Corner of Death.” The video underscored an intersection that was already on D.O.T.’s radar.

“Lucas identified a key goal of Vision Zero,” Trottenberg noted, “the need to protect pedestrians and cyclists when vehicles are turning left. In January, Mayor de Blasio announced a new focus on left turns as part of Vision Zero.”

Zachary, left, and Lucas Maxwell made a video to call attention to the chaotic intersection at Kenmare and Lafayette Sts.

Lucas’s video, “Urgent — Imminent Death!” was produced and filmed by his older brother Zachary, and edited by his dad. However, D.O.T.’s evaluation of the intersection led to more dramatic improvements than he suggests in his video — in which he only requests additional signage. To watch the video, got to https://vimeo.com/168269025

Squadron, who is particularly supportive of citizen engagement in government, said, “Lucas and Zachary’s advocacy on Kenmare and Lafayette shows that all New Yorkers — no matter their age — can get involved with government and make positive changes in their communities.”