BY ELISSA STEIN | On Fri., July 13, a significant chunk of a statuesque tree in front of 79 W. 12th St. was shorn off by a truck that didn’t successful make the turn off Sixth Ave.
This was not the first time the tree had been hit, and the next day the city marked it to be taken down, saying it was too weak to survive the accident. The awning in front of the building was irreparably damaged by the heavy branch’s fall and needs to be replaced, as well.
According to the city’s Department of Transportation, it is illegal for trucks of this size to be driving on side streets. But, there’s no signage on 12th St. stating that, and since there is little visible regulation by the police or D.O.T., large trucks traversing side streets happens on a regular basis.
So now, one of the Village’s tree-lined blocks will have a gaping hole, which will take years to fill.
This unfortunate accident, in which fortunately no one was injured, leads to bigger questions and highlights serious issues. As of now, the city plans to move forward with an experimental (their word) 14th St. “busway/truckway,” which includes a vehicle ban on cars traveling across the city between Ninth and Third Aves. on 14th St. This will result in through traffic being shunted to side streets. Since 12th and 13th Sts. are the closest to 14th St. that run from river to river, they will absorb much of the overflow.
In addition to that dramatic increase in traffic, vehicles now cannot make left turns from 14th St., so trucks have been, and will continue to use side streets for that purpose. Currently there is a temporary restraining order against the busway plan in effect until Aug. 6, when a hearing is scheduled to determine whether to issue a preliminary injunction.
While the city and monied forces beyond are working hard to vilify cars, there are key points that are buried underneath their “bikeways and PeopleWays for everyone” rhetoric.
First, Manhattan is an island and vehicles are necessary to bring goods to stores, and provide services to business and residents. This borough is home to residents of mansions as well as city housing projects, those who can easily take mass transportation and others who cannot, people who ride bikes and people who use wheelchairs, a destination for commuters and a home to residents.
This flippant attempt to cut traffic congestion in order to shave a few minutes off travel time has made our streets more dangerous. The death of a beautiful tree is a shame. But incidents and accidents are becoming more commonplace and the mayor and D.O.T. need to listen to people who are the most affected.
Stein is a Village resident, writer and community activist.