Coalition Gears Up to Defend Allen Street Mall Project
A coalition of community groups is stepping in to defend the beautification of the Allen and Pike Street corridors below Delancey Street. Led by the LES Business Improvement District, the coalition is responding to concerns raised about the project during a CB3 committee meeting. The issue is expected to come up again at tonight’s full Community Board 3 meeting.
The city is making improvements to the center islands on both streets, as well as reconfiguring bike lanes and making other changes. In recent weeks, questions have been raised about how traffic will be re-routed, whether the modifications will snarl automobile traffic on Allen Street and whether the new bike lane configuration is safe.
The Lower East Side BID has prepared a document, responding to the community concerns. You can read it after the jump. They have also been circulating a petition, to be presented this evening.
Tonight’s meeting begins at 630pm, at IS 131, 100 Hester Street. More information on CB3’s web site.
Lower East Side BID Response to Allen/Pike Mall Concerns
1. Allen & Pike Street Mall Improvements: Why this project is important for Chinatown and the Lower East Side
The New York City of Parks and Recreation is presenting a proposal for park improvements to the Allen & Pike Street Malls. These park improvements would nearly double the amount of park land at the malls. Community benefits of this proposal include:
• Increased green open space for passive recreation & leisure
• Safer bike lanes
• Increased pedestrian and cyclist safety
• An amenity that can draw foot traffic for businesses, etc
To create more park space, the Department of Transportation has removed one lane of traffic and closed through traffic at Monroe, Hester, Broome and Stanton Streets to create pedestrian plazas.
Why is this project important to Chinatown and the Lower East Side?
• Chinatown and Lower East Side have one of the lowest amounts of open space per resident in all of New York City.
• Many residents live in overcrowded apartments, and use the parks as a place to gather, exercise, play with their children, etc
• Allen and Pike are unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists. Because the road is wider than necessary, vehicles pick up speed and cause accidents. Between 1998 – 2007 over 300 pedestrian injuries and 5 fatalities occurred along Allen & Pike. This statistic does not to include cyclists. At least one of whom was killed by a car last year at the intersection of Hester and Allen since 2007.
2. UNRAP’s Response to Community Board #3 concerns
Some members of the Community Board #3 have raised concerns about this project, particularly around the transportation improvements. UNRAP coalition believes that the benefits to the larger community far outweigh any small inconvenience to motorists, and that many of the assumptions underlying these concerns are unfounded.
Community Board #3: “Who will maintain it? It will it be neglected like the 70’s”
• Parks and DOT are engaged, and will work with BID. The BID is committed to assisting with maintenance of the site. This project is important to the Mayor and its progress is being closely followed, starting with the recent plantings, fence repairs, and maintenance efforts.
Community Board #3: “The new bike lanes are unsafe”
• Current lanes (outside the parking lane) are much more dangerous and currently conflict with parking cars, cabs, and truck deliveries. ALL cyclists we have interviewed prefer moving the bike lines along the malls. The new bike lanes in the DPR will be protected from traffic by higher curbs, permanents planting beds, and post and chain fencing.
• The new safer bike lanes offer an opportunity to promote a more environmentally sustainable form of transportation and decrease car exhaust in our community.
• There is a demonstrated need for safer biking conditions as more New Yorkers than ever are cycling for recreation and commuting; there is an especially high volume of bikers to and from Williamsburg Bridge.
Community Board #3: “Connecting malls creates unsafe and congested traffic patterns”
• None of the “connectors” affect a major cross town traffic pattern. Each of the connectors corresponds to an already existing closure at SDR Park, or in the case of Monroe at Rutgers Houses.
• DOT is working with the community board to address its community-wide plans to ensure that there is a regionally coordinated plan.
• People don’t currently walk from mall to mall because it is unsafe. The new design incorporates signal changes and protected pedestrian cross walks which will encourage more foot traffic.
• The environmental and social benefits outweigh any minor inconvenience a motorist might face. Environmental benefits include: increased plantings = reduction of the heat island effect; increase permeable surface/less storm water run-off. Social benefits include location for respite, reflection, recreation along with cultural and artistic gathering points for interactive activities sponsored by City, community groups or local businesses.
Community Board #3: “Widening the malls will congest streets already full of commuter and travel buses along with double parked commercial vehicles making deliveries”
• Traffic studies and the history of accidents along the mall both confirm that road is wider than necessary. (Details of the project: There are currently 3 lanes of traffic along the malls, the new plan eliminates one lane on each side and creates a dedicated turn lane.)
• Wider malls provide more flexibility in design and programming of activities
• The widening of the mall appears to re-claim more roadway on first glance the bike lanes have been shifted to run along the malls rather than along the parking lane. In fact only one lane of traffic on each side is disappearing.
Community Board #3: “The malls are an unsuitable location for a park; there is too much truck and bus traffic for the malls to serve as a viable park.”
• By moving the bike lanes to the outside of the mall and doubling the width of the planters along the edge of the malls the seating and pedestrian paths will be significantly buffered from the street creating a more serene environment. This type of condition already exists in SDR Park.
• This is a rare opportunity to increase park land in community district 3, and will be lost if the community board does not sign on.
Community Board #3: There is insufficient room for emergency vehicles to make turns through connection malls or widened malls.
• The pedestrian plazas are designed to leave clearance for emergency vehicles. This has been piloted city-wide and already works in many other locations.