Grand/Clinton Street Gridlock: Here’s What DOT’s Borough Commissioner Said Last Week

7th Precinct Community Council meeting. Nov. 6, 2017.

7th Precinct Community Council meeting. Nov. 6, 2017.

A standing room only crowd turned out at the 7th Precinct last Wednesday evening to ask a top official from the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) questions about the worsening traffic situation at the intersection of Grand and Clinton streets.

As we reported last week, Community Board 3 and local elected officials have asked the DOT to propose solutions for making the area safer and less congested. At the meeting, Manhattan Borough Commissioner Luis Sanchez said traffic planners are still studying the situation and hope to have an action plan in the months ahead. Here are some of our notes from the meeting at the regularly scheduled Community Council meeting.

–Sanchez acknowledged that there’s simply “too much traffic” navigating the streets of the Lower East Side on the way to the Williamsburg Bridge. He said the lengthy East Houston Street reconstruction project likely prompted many drivers on FDR Drive to take Grand Street instead. Now that the construction is coming to and end, DOT is looking at redirecting (through signage and signal timing adjustments) cars back onto Houston Street.

–Sanchez said DOT is looking at lengthening the exit on FDR Drive above Grand Street in an effort to reduce the number of cars flowing onto Grand Street at any one time.

–Planners are studying whether some bridge-bound traffic on Grand Street can be funneled to Norfolk Street. While it could help relieve Clinton Street’s bottleneck, Sanchez said the adjustment might simply create more problems. “If we change it,” said Sanchez, “a year from now people will be saying, ‘You messed up another intersection.'”

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–Sanchez said DOT is looking at whether the south side of Delancey Street (from FDR Drive to Clinton Street) could be turned into a westbound access road to the Williamsburg Bridge. Engineers will be studying whether there’s enough room for vehicles to turn right onto the bridge at Delancey/Clinton.

–While a study of the Clinton/Grand intersection was completed, more work needs to be done. It was difficult to collect accurate date, said Sanchez, due to construction at Essex Crossing. That construction work on Clinton Street will, of course, be ongoing for another couple of years.

–Sanchez urged residents to continue calling 311 about traffic problems on the streets leading to the bridge. He said it’s important to document the trouble spots. People at the meeting begged police officers to step up enforcement of drivers leaning on their horns at all hours of the night.

–Without offering any specifics, Sanchez said the plan for dealing with the looming L Train shutdown would, “help alleviate traffic in the general area.” DOT and the MTA have come under criticism for failing to release the plan in a timely manner. Sanchez it would be made public “very shortly.”

–Part of the L Train traffic management plan entails the installation of a protected bike lane on the south side of Delancey Street. Work will begin on the bike lane in April or May of next year, once the Essex Crossing developers complete construction on their building at Delancey and Essex streets, said Sanchez.

 

No Relief in Sight For Grand/Clinton Street Gridlock Months After Traffic Study Was Ordered

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Six months after the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) announced it was conducting a study of the congested intersection at Grand Street and Clinton Street, the results of the agency’s analysis remain a mystery and no concrete solutions for fixing the Lower East Side trouble spot are on the horizon.

For several years, local residents have been complaining about gridlock and dangerous conditions for pedestrians, as well as honking from impatient drivers at all hours of the day and night. Cars waiting to access the Williamsburg Bridge are frequently backed up on Clinton Street all the way to East Broadway and on Grand Street to FDR Drive. In response to requests from Community Board 3 and local elected officials, DOT acknowledged on June 1 that a traffic study was underway. But the results of the study have not been made public, no meaningful changes are imminent and locals are becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress.

One night last week, DOT officials, police officers from the 7th Precinct and local community leaders gathered on the northeast corner of Grand and Clinton to talk about potential solutions. The Lo-Down was invited to attend the hastily organized meeting by Karen Blatt, a member of Community Board 3 and a leader of the Grand Gridlock Coalition (#GrandGridlock on Twitter), a neighborhood group pushing for action from the city. But upon arriving on Wednesday evening, we were asked to leave (reporters were not welcome, we were told).

 

On Friday, a DOT spokesperson said the Grand/Clinton Street study has, in fact, been completed, but that it was inconclusive. The spokesperson said the agency is entering what was described as – a new phase with new considerations – and was continuing a dialogue with the community board. If this explanation sounds vague to you, it struck us the same way. We have asked for clarification and will update this story if we learn more. The Lo-Down has also filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for the traffic study.

This coming Wednesday evening, DOT’s Manhattan Borough Commissioner, Luis Sanchez, is scheduled to appear at the 7th Precinct’s community council meeting (7:30 p.m.) to answer questions about the troublesome intersection from local residents. According to Community Affairs Officer Umberto Guardino, Sanchez was invited to attend because there have been a lot of questions during the past couple of public meetings that officers are unable to answer. While the police department is responsible for enforcement, traffic management is within DOT’s purview.

Clinton Street near Grand Street.  March 2017.

Clinton Street near Grand Street. March 2017.

Following a string of fatal accidents on Delancey Street, the city made several changes in 2012,  including opening Clinton Street to the Williamsburg Bridge. The changes resulted in a bottleneck at the Grand Street/Clinton Street intersection. Over the past few years, DOT has tinkered with signal timings, added signage and the police department has placed traffic agents at the intersection. But these moves have done little to improve the situation.

In April of this year, local residents successfully lobbied Community Board 3 for a resolution that urged DOT to address the problem. In September, the residents delivered a petition with more than one-thousand signatures to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg that read, in part, “We trust that the DOT will take (our) concerns into consideration and will propose a resolution that improves safety and quality of life in our community.”

One resident who attended last week’s Grand Street site visit, Matt Marello, said it was mostly an opportunity for locals to offer up potential solutions. Among the ideas floated by community members:

  • Turning Clinton Street between Grand Street and East Broadway into a southbound only block.
  • Routing Grand Street traffic through Suffolk Street to Delancey Street.
  • Allowing vehicles from FDR Drive to access the Williamsburg Bridge via Delancey Street (a u-turn would be necessary to accommodate this change).
  • Allowing cars to turn left from southbound Essex Street onto Delancey Street to reach the Williamsburg Bridge; currently they must continue past Delancey to Broome Street and Norfolk Street.

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This past Tuesday evening, we caught up with Karen Blatt as she was headed to the Grand/Clinton Street traffic meeting. She told us, “There has been no action, no communication and no collaboration. If (DOT) did conduct a study, they should have shared their findings, especially if they were unable to optimize the network. It’s ok for DOT to ask for help if they can’t fix the problem. We have lot’s of ideas and we want to help.”

In 2015, the city installed a two-way protected bike lane on Clinton Street and later added a mid-block crosswalk on the block between Grand Street and East Broadway (at that time, Blatt was chair of CB3’s transportation committee). In a recent letter to DOT, she and other members of the Grand Gridlock Coalition wrote, “We applaud the pedestrian and cyclist safety measures that DOT has installed in the last few years, but these safety measures have inadvertently led to an intolerable level of traffic congestion, noise pollution and unsafe conditions.”

Clinton Street

There was a ribbon cutting on Clinton Street last year to inaugurate a new crosswalk and traffic signal.

The problems on Clinton Street have been made worse by the ongoing construction at Essex Crossing. The developers blocked off the sidewalk on the west side of Clinton while a 15-story building at 145 Clinton St. was being built. As a result, pedestrians spilled out into the bike lane. While the sidewalk was recently reopened, work will soon begin on Site 4 of Essex Crossing, located on the west side of Clinton Street between Delancey and Broome streets. This means pedestrians will once again likely be forced out into the street.

There are other long-range concerns about the impact of the Essex Crossing development project on congestion in the immediate area. The building located at the intersection of Clinton and Grand streets includes a 30,000 square foot Trader Joe’s and a 22,500 square foot Target store. There’s a commercial loading dock for those stores on Clinton Street. Just one block away, NYU Langone will be opening a large medical center in another Essex Crossing building, and a publicly accessible park will border the congested Clinton Street thoroughfare. The new businesses and local amenities are sure to add significantly more pedestrian traffic and more vehicular traffic to an already overburdened area.

For their part, the Essex Crossing developers say they’ve been in constant contact with DOT, the police department and the community board about construction-related traffic issues and about traffic management once the first buildings officially open next summer and fall.

Wednesday’s 7th Precinct meeting takes place at 7:30 p.m. at the station house, 19 Pitt St. Another community meeting devoted to the Clinton/Grand Street traffic issue is in-the-works. It’s being planned by Grand Street Democrats, a local political club. We’ll let you know when there are more details about that.

Clinton Street near Grand Street. File photo.

Clinton Street near Grand Street. File photo.

1,000+ Local Residents Urge DOT to Fix Clinton Street Traffic Bottleneck

Grand Street near Clinton Street. Photo by Matt Marello.

Grand Street near Clinton Street. Photo by Matt Marello.

If you live near the intersection of Clinton and Grand streets, it’s impossible to forget that it’s is a dangerous and unpleasant area for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. Local residents want to make sure that officials at the city’s Department of Transportation don’t forget it, either.

Community activists last month sent a letter and petition with more than 1,000 signatures to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. It urged the city to make changes on Clinton Street, where traffic leading onto the Williamsburg Bridge has grown significantly in recent years.

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After hearing from Community Board 3 and local elected officials earlier this year, the DOT began a traffic study to evaluate safety concerns and to determine how to alleviate the traffic bottleneck. Cars are routinely backed up on Grand Street for several blocks and on Clinton Street below East Broadway. Drivers lean on their horns out of frustration, disturbing people who live in the area late into the night.

The other day we heard from Matt Marello, who’s helped lead the campaign for change on Clinton Street, along with Doron Stember, board president of the Seward Park cooperative. On Aug. 23, they tell us, DOT responded to the letter, indicating that the study is ongoing and that it should be completed sometime during the fall.  Marello said Daisy Paez, a new district leader who lives in the Grand Street Guild apartments, led the effort to collect petition signatures. He also noted that Karen Blatt, former Lower East Side district leader, worked with the 7th Precinct to install an electronic sign on Grand Street that reads, “Please No Honking” and “Watch For Cyclists.” Advocacy efforts, and a direct plea to the mayor from Grand Street Dems member Tommy Loeb, led the city to place traffic agents at the intersection. 

In the letter, Stember, Marello and Paez wrote, “…we implore the DOT to find a viable alternative to the current Clinton Street entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge. (Grand and Clinton streets) have, in essence, become de facto ‘on ramps’… from FDR Drive… We trust that the DOT will take (our) concerns into consideration and will propose a resolution that improves safety and quality of life in our community.”

Here’s the full letter sent along with the petition:

 

Letter to DOT: Clinton Street Traffic by The Lo-Down on Scribd

Squadron, Fellow Elected Officials Urge Clinton/Grand Street Changes

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State Sen. Daniel Squadron and other elected officials have sent a letter to the Department of Transportation (DOT), urging the city to do something about gridlock on Clinton Street.

Last month, local residents appeared before Community Board 3’s transportation committee to complain about ongoing safety and quality of life issues along Clinton, Grand and Delancey streets. The heavy traffic flow to the Williamsburg Bridge has become a major problem for the neighborhood. CB3 approved a resolution asking the DOT to conduct a traffic study in the area and to propose solutions.

In the letter to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, the elected officials wrote:

We urge the Department of Transportation to conduct a traffic study at (the intersection of Grand and Clinton) to determine potential traffic improvement measures, including reducing congestion, increasing safety and improving quality of life. Clinton Street north of Grand Street is a narrow one-way street that doubles as the entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge for drivers exiting the southbound FDR Drive. There is inadequate space for cars waiting to enter the bridge, causing traffic to spill into the intersection of Clinton and Grand Streets. In addition to causing gridlock, vehicles frequently stop in the crosswalk, preventing pedestrians from crossing safely. Vehicles also attempt to make right turns from the left lane, crossing over a bike lane and creating a dangerous situation for vehicles and cyclists. The traffic pattern also is a major quality of life issue in the neighborhood. Nearby neighbors report loud honking at all hours due to the gridlock. The new development at Essex Crossing will only add additional stress and traffic to the street grid.

In 2012, the city reversed the direction of Clinton Street and prohibited southbound drivers on Essex Street from turning left on Delancey Street (this forced cars to turn on Broome Street in order to reach the bridge). The changes were made after 12-year old Dashane Santana was struck and killed by a minivan at the intersection of Clinton and Delancey streets, prompting a public outcry for safety improvements. The following year, in 2013, the city made some small adjustments in response to complaints about traffic congestion.

The Squadron letter was co-signed by Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, City Councilwoman Margaret Chin, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

Pedestrian Safety Improvements: FDR Drive at Grand Street

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The Department of Transportation is making pedestrian safety improvements on FDR Drive at Grand Street. Thanks to Council member Rosie Mendez for the head’s up about this one. You can see details in the flyer posted above.

Can We Say So Long to That Pesky Grand/Clinton Street Lake? Hopefully

Good Morning!

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Friday, April 17, 2015 | Today’s photo was taken on Grand Street at Clinton Street | Weather: Scattered showers and cloudy skies today with a high of 72. Mostly sunny tomorrow with a high of 77. A mix of sun and clouds on Sunday and 60 | Happening this weekend: The Love Saves the East Village benefit happens tomorrow from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. at LaPalapa, 77 St. Mark’s Place | Send us your photos and tips | Subscribe to our daily newsletter.

Ferry Service is Coming to Grand Street on the Lower East Side

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Car Jumps Curb at Essex and Grand Streets (Updated 1:59 p.m.)

Bicyclist Seriously Injured on Allen Street This Afternoon

Grand Street Water Main Project Shifts to Bowery-Essex Streets

Armed Robbery at Clinton and Grand Streets Early Sunday Morning

City Takes Steps to Relieve Clinton/Grand Street Gridlock

Back in June, Community Board 3 asked the Department of Transportation to fix the auto bottleneck at Clinton and Grand streets. This week, city officials came back to CB3 with a plan.

What Do You Think of the Changes at Grand & Clinton?

Clinton and Grand streets.

Clinton and Grand streets.

It’s been almost a year since the Department of Transportation began implementing safety improvements in the vicinity of Delancey Street.  At next month’s meeting of Community Board 3’s transportation committee, you’ll have the chance to tell city officials whether you think the changes are working. Specifically, the panel will be focusing on the situation at the intersection of Grand and Clinton streets.  As part of the safety plan, the DOT changed the traffic flow on this stretch of Clinton, allowing westbound traffic on Grand to turn right on Clinton in order to access the Williamsburg Bridge. Some residents are concerned that the change has created frequent traffic backups and pedestrian hazards at this crossing.  The meeting takes place Tuesday, June 11, 6:30 p.m. at University Settlement, 273 Bowery.