Calls to “Fix” Delancey Street — Is the City Listening?

May 2011; the scene of a fatal accident involving 51-year old Patricia Cuevas and a garbage truck. Photo by Adrian Fussell.

More now on the renewed calls for improved safety on Delancey Street, in the aftermath of another death along the dangerous thoroughfare last week. A short time ago, we posted the full text of a letter from State Senator Daniel Squadron and City Councilmember Margaret Chin to NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. In that letter, they urged the DOT to “take immediate action” on Delancey Street. It turns out the Lower East Side’s most influential elected official, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, has also weighed in on the topic recently. 

In a letter to Sadik-Khan dated August 5th, Silver said:

I am writing to express my grave concern about safety conditions at the intersection of Delancey and Essex Streets on the Lower East Side… I urge the Department of Transportation (DOT) to undertake a comprehensive safety study and recommend improvements that would help pedestrians safely cross this busy intersection.

Silver also nudged the DOT to finally install countdown clocks on Delancey Street (something the city announced it would do many months ago) and to consider other safety measures:

I am encouraged that DOT plans to install countdown clocks, a project that I urge you to complete without delay. But more needs to be done. A delayed green light that gives pedestrians extra time to cross would be helpful. Another possibility would be to use pedestrian managers, a program that has been quite successful at other dangerous intersections on West Street and Church Street. I also urge that you fully consult with Community Board 3 to ensure that local residents and businesses play a proper role in managing this intersection. As the Lower East Side continues to be an extremely popular residential neighborhood, it is essential that we do everything possible to make sure we have the most effective safety measures in place, especially at intersections we know are dangerous.

The intersection at Delancey and Essex streets is growing in notoriety for pedestrian deaths.

Silver’s letter was apparently written in response to a Daily News story which reported there had been 523 accidents near Delancey and Essex streets in the past decade, making it one of the city’s deadliest intersections.

In the past couple of years, we have detailed the dangers on Delancey Street and the repeated (yet unheeded) calls from elected officials for action.  A review of this coverage highlights why many people on the Lower East Side doubt the DOT is listening to anyone in this community about the neighborhood’s deadliest stretch of roadway:

  • AUGUST 2011Cyclist Jeffrey Axelrod is killed on Delancey, near Chrystie Street, after being struck by a cement truck.

While the city has had very little to say publicly about these accidents, DOT officials have indicated to members of CB3 that victims in most of the accidents had been disobeying traffic laws. The suggestion has been, therefore, that these incidents, while tragic, do not justify additional safety enhancements on Delancey Street.

Delancey Street, near Chrystie -- the scene of last week's fatal accident.

On Friday, Nicole Garcia, a DOT spokesperson, said officials were reviewing last week’s accident report, but she noted that there had not been any fatalities at this particular intersection (Delancey and Chrystie) in the past five years.  Another DOT spokesperson, Montgomery Dean, told the Daily News earlier this month:

…reengineered streets and retimed traffic signals (at Delancey and Essex) led to 21% fewer pedestrian fatalities in 2010 than in 2001.”Our goal is to cut traffic injuries and fatalities even further, and we’ll continue to work with communities to make their streets safer for pedestrians, bikers and motorists.”

There is another perspective, of course. In the wake of Jeffrey Axelrod’s death, quite a few cycling advocates have been questioning basic assumptions (and media coverage) of the fatal accident. Specifically, they have suggested the NYPD’s assessment of what occurred in the minutes before the collision just doesn’t add up. They’re calling for a full investigation.

As of this afternoon, Speaker Silver had not received a response to his letter from the Department of Transportation.

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