Lower East Side BID Advances Plan to Widen Pedestrian Waiting Areas on Delancey Street

Delancey Street, at the Clinton Street crosswalk.

A couple of weeks ago, we reported that local elected officials, community activists and city agencies had formed a “working group” to discuss what to do about Delancey Street, the Lower East Side’s most dangerous thoroughfare. Most everyone involved agreed that a lot could be gained if all of the neighborhood’s stakeholders were able to sit around the table on a monthly basis, coordinating their efforts and comparing notes.

Recently, the team at the LES Business Improvement District (which is participating in the working group) briefed us on a plan they’ve been developing to make Delancey a bit more hospitable to pedestrians.  In a previous story, we noted that the Transportation Department expects people to cross the street in two sections.  That’s right. You’re supposed to seek refuge in the center island, waiting for a second green light, rather than trying to get all the way across at one time.

Delancey Street, at Essex.

The trouble is, the waiting area in the median (especially at Essex Street) is fairly narrow, leaving little room for people to wait, as cars and trucks go racing by. So, the BID has been working with DOT on a proposal to widen several of the “refuge areas” (perhaps by 10 feet or so) by extending them into the part of the median reserved for plantings.

The BID would use money left over from a grant it received from the Borough president to replace lighting fixtures along Essex Street. There’s around $220,000 left from that grant. Bob Zuckerman, the BID’s executive director, said additional money would be needed, but not a lot. In recent weeks, BID staff accompanied DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione on a walking tour of the neighborhood, so she could get a sense of the pedestrian issues. The BID will be working with other working group stakeholders to decide whether the median improvements, as well as other ideas, should be implemented.

There’s also been some discussion in the community about another possible (long-term) solution to the problems on Delancey Street. This conversation has taken place in the context of the Seward Park redevelopment process. In June, the urban design guidelines approved by Community Board 3 called for the construction of a “pedestrian overpass” at Delancey and Essex streets.

David Quart of the NYC Economic Development Corp., later told CB3 members it was “highly unlikely” a pedestrian bridge could be incorporated into the SPURA project. He did, however, offer to help facilitate a dialogue with the DOT about the broader safety concerns on Delancey. Alyssa Konon, senior vice president at the EDC, went further, calling Delancey Street a “major issue” and promising to devote a significant amount of time to the topic at a future SPURA meeting.