Transportation Officials Grilled About Plan to Send 70 Buses Per Hour Over Williamsburg Bridge

At a hearing held yesterday, members of the City Council raised serious concerns about the city’s plan to deal with the shutdown of the L Train in 2019. Local City Council member Margaret Chin said a part of the proposal – sending buses over the Williamsburg Bridge to the Lower East Side – seems like a recipe for disaster. Many of Chin’s constituents are already up-in-arms about congestion in the area around the bridge.

On Wednesday, the MTA and the city’s Department of Transportation released a plan for coping with the 15-month shutdown to repair the L Train tunnel under the East River. It includes stepped up service on other trains (including the J, M, Z), restricting usage of the Williamsburg Bridge to HOV-3 vehicles and deploying city buses over the bridge, among other measures.

The inner roadway of the bridge will be reserved for cars, while the outer roadway will be restricted to buses and trucks. There’s a possibility cars turning from the bridge onto Clinton Street would be allowed the use the outer roadway, as well. DOT has decided against a dedicated bus lane because the lanes of the bridge are too narrow.

During a hearing of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, Chin expressed deep skepticism about the practicality of moving so many buses over the East River crossing. “70 buses an hour? That’s more than one bus a minute,” said Chin. “I just can’t envision them coming down the Williamsburg Bridge.” 

Earlier this month,  residents packed a public meeting at the 7th Precinct, where DOT ‘s Manhattan Borough Commissioner Luis Sanchez addressed concerns about gridlock around the intersection of Clinton and Grand streets. The worsening conditions there are attributable to the heavy volume of traffic trying to access the bridge.

“You know that my constituents have been complaining about the congestion (in this area),” Chin added. “For them to see all these buses coming, especially during rush hour, and then making that turn where all those streets are so congested — it might work in a model, but in reality (the plan seems unrealistic).”

DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg conceded that the plan will only work if automobile traffic is reduced on the bridge (4,000 cars now cross during peak periods). This is why, she said, it’s necessary to restrict the bridge to vehicles carrying three or more passengers during rush hour.

In response, Chin said, “I fully support HOV lanes. We should implement them now… There are too many cars coming in (to Manhattan) with just one person in them… (Implementing HOV lanes) could help minimize congestion we have already.” Chin also raised concerns about the MTA’s planning for more passengers on alternate subway routes. Specifically mentioning the J and F lines, Chin said, “MTA, are you prepared to accommodate more riders on those platforms.? It’s already extremely crowded.”

During the hearing, MTA and DOT officials acknowledged the issues raised by Council members, but they said the L Train shutdown poses many difficult transportation challenges. No matter how much planning takes place, they suggested, commuters are going to feel the pain. They pledged to continue a dialogue with Council members and to reach out to local community boards to solicit feedback.

Click here to watch the video from yesterday’s hearing.

L Train Shutdown Plans Unveiled; Prepare For Big Impact Above and Below Delancey Street

delancey street bike 2

The MTA and the city’s Department of Transportation yesterday released their plan for dealing with the looming L Train shutdown. As you might have expected, there will be a big impact on Delancey Street, since the Williamsburg Bridge will become an even more important link between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

In April of 2019, the L Train tunnel beneath the East River will be shut down for repairs. More than 400,000 daily commuters will be affected for the 15 months that it will take to rehabilitate the tunnel. As the New York Times explained, “The plans represent a major challenge for the city, eclipsed in scope in recent history perhaps only by the transportation challenges following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack and immediately after Sandy.”

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According to the mitigation plan, the Williamsburg Bridge will be reserved for vehicles with three or more passengers during rush hour, and possibly at other times, as well. The HOV lanes will help accommodate increased bus service from Williamsburg to Delancey Street and to other locations in Manhattan. The agencies estimate that about 15 percent of current L Train riders will use buses on a daily basis. There would be no dedicated bus lanes on the bridge.

The rest are expected to use other subway lines, including the J, M, Z and G lines. The MTA plans to beef up train service at numerous stations to accommodate the extra passengers and to to add, “station turnstile, stair and control area capacity.” This part of the plan will obviously have a big impact on the Delancey Street station.

The city plans to install bus-only lanes on 14th Street, to launch a new ferry from Williamsburg to Stuyvesant Cove and to add more Citi Bike capacity.

As we have previously reported, DOT is also installing a two-way protected bike lane on the south side of Delancey Street (installation will begin next spring). Right now, 7,000 bicyclists use the Williamsburg Bridge daily. That number is expected to double during the shutdown. There will also be a new bike lane on 13th Street from Avenue C to Horatio Street on the West Side.

You can see the full plan here.

UPDATE 2:03 p.m. Here’s more from DOT on how traffic on the Williamsburg Bridge will be handled:

The outer deck of the Williamsburg Bridge will be for bus, truck and right turns only. (HOV3s will be directed to the outer deck if they wish to turn right at Clinton St, and trucks aren’t permitted on the inner deck.) The bus lanes on the approaches will feed directly into the outer deck, and the HOV3 rules will make the outer deck work reliably for bus passengers.


Campaign Seeks to Name Williamsburg Bridge For Sonny Rollins

A local resident has launched a campaign to name the Williamsburg Bridge for jazz great Sonny Rollins.

You might already know the story. For a two-year period starting in 1959, Rollins ventured up to the bridge every single day to play the saxophone. The “sabbatical,” as it has famously become known, led to some of Rollins’ most brilliant work, including his 1962 album, The Bridge. Rollins played a starring role in our 2015 magazine cover story, which bid a fond farewell to 400 Grand St., which is now part of the Essex Crossing development site. That’s where he lived in the late 50s and early 60s.

Some time ago, Jeff Caltabiano started The Sonny Rollins Bridge Project, which according to the fledgling organization’s social media channels, “seeks to rename NYC’s Williamsburg Bridge to commemorate Rollins’ musical sabbatical there from 1959-1961.” Caltabiano was interviewed for a piece that popped up yesterday on The New Yorker’s website.

He’s lived on the Lower East Side since 2004, having rented an apartment near the now-shuttered music club, Tonic. Writer Amanda Petrusich met Caltabiano for a stroll across the bridge recently, inquiring what inspired him to take on this project:

Last summer, Caltabiano had an epiphany of sorts after seeing an Instagram post by the horn player Ken Vandermark: a photo of the bridge with the caption, “It’s still Sonny Rollins’ bridge to me…” Now Caltabiano is working to convince the city to rename the bridge after Rollins. He would be content, he said, with a commemorative plaque to start—anything to mark what he understands to be a sacred, important place—though he has fantasized about corralling a saxophone choir onto the bridge to pay true homage. He has fantasized about getting Rollins to return… While Caltabiano and I walked across the bridge, toward Brooklyn, we discussed his plans for the renaming project. His proposal is still in its early stages. He wanted to get Rollins’s blessing before making any formal moves, he said—a couple of weeks ago, he mailed a letter to a P.O. box in Germantown, New York, which he was told Rollins (who is eighty-six, and lives near Woodstock) still empties from time to time.

You can read the whole article here.  Starting next month, Caltabiano will be leading downtown jazz walks, which will include the Williamsburg Bridge. You can follow his campaign on Instagram and Twitter.

Report: Protected Bike Lanes, Indoor Bike Parking Coming to Delancey Street (Updated)

Delancey Street. Photo by H. Spencer Young, April 2016.

Delancey Street. Photo by H. Spencer Young, April 2016.

Today the city is expected to announce plans to create a two-way bike lane on Delancey Street, leading to and from the Williamsburg Bridge. The idea is part of a larger initiative to make accommodations for commuters as the MTA plans for a shutdown of the L Train tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn in 2019. The story was first reported late last night by the Wall Street Journal.

The proposal is part of the Department of Transportation’s five year plan. It encourages stepped up bike usage, as well as improved mass transit. According to the Journal:

The plan, to be released Wednesday, also calls for a new, indoor, city-owned secure bicycle parking site on the Manhattan side of the bridge, near connections for four other subway lines. The site could serve as a prototype of a new kind of bicycle-storage system near transportation hubs… The two-way Delancey Street protected bike paths would run from Allen Street east to the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge, under current city plans. Under a pilot project, parking for dozens of bicycles would be made available next year, officials said, inside the Delancey and Essex Municipal Parking Garage, a 24-hour-a-day facility on Essex Street. Nearby is a subway stop on the F, J, M and Z lines. Similar secure bicycle parking will be provided in warm weather at transit hubs next year as part of the pilot.

Transportation and safety advocates have been calling for protected bike lanes on Delancey Street for many years. It’s a plea that, until now, the Transportation Department, has rejected. We’ll have more throughout the day as this story develops.

UPDATE 11:01 a.m. The DOT has now made its strategic plan public. Here’s what the document says regarding Delancey Street.

DOT will continue to develop bike access plans to its bridges and will implement four bridge access projects in the next two years. The agency will continue implementation of its Harlem River Bridges Access Plan and develop a plan for a protected bicycle lane on Delancey Street to better connect cyclists to the Williamsburg Bridge, the busiest East River bike crossing.
In a separate section of the report, the agency states:
The Great Streets program redesigns major corridors to prevent crashes, enhance mobility, increase accessibility, and bolster neighborhood vitality. The following projects are underway: Atlantic Ave. and Fourth Ave. in Brooklyn; the Grand Concourse in the Bronx; and Queens Blvd. in Queens. In addition, DOT is implementing Vision Zero capital redesigns on other major streets, including Delancey St. in Manhattan and Tillary St. in Brooklyn.
And here’s what DOT writes about Delancey Street in this morning’s press release:
One of the higher-profile projects the plan specifically anticipates for 2017 is a new protected bike lane along Delancey Street in Manhattan leading to the Williamsburg Bridge.   Already the busiest East River crossing for cyclists, the Williamsburg Bridge’s bike lane is expected to grow even more popular in 2019 during the MTA’s planned 18-month shutdown of the L train.  DOT plans to develop the new Delancey Street bike lane in consultation with the Lower East Side community next year.
You can read the complete strategic plan here.

Good Morning!

williamsburg bridge

Wednesday, April 15, 2015 | Lauren Oster took this photo on the Williamsburg Bridge | Weather: A mix of sun and clouds today with a high of 70. Hello, spring! | Happening Today: Historian Morris Dickstein, out with an autobiography, talks about growing up on the Lower East Side, Tenement Museum, 6:30 p.m. | Send us your photos and news tips | Subscribe to our daily email.

Happy Birthday, Williamsburg Bridge

williamsburg bridge sunrise

Photo by Laura Moss.

The Williamsburg Bridge opened December 19, 1903.  At 1600 feet, it was the world’s longest suspension bridge for more than 20 years.  Relive opening day here.


Bike Share Under the Williamsburg Bridge

Under the Williamsburg Bridge near Columbia Street.  Photo by Ovadia.

Under the Williamsburg Bridge near Columbia Street. Photos by Ovadia.

Last week we mentioned that New York’s long-delayed bike share program is set to launch in May.  TLD reader Ovadia noticed a whole bunch of docking stations stored under the Williamsburg Bridge.  Click here to check out the bike share stations coming soon to the Lower East Side.

Two Guys Chase After Bike Thief on Williamsburg Bridge; Suspect Still on the Loose

“Charles” snapped a photo of the suspect as he fled the scene. Photo Credit: Animal New York.

Police are on the look-out for a man suspected of stealing a guy’s bike on the Williamsburg Bridge Monday afternoon.  According to Animal NY, Stephen Perry was riding home to Brooklyn at about 2:15 p.m. when a “man grabbed his handlebars and told him: ‘Get off the bike, I need the bike. I’ll cut your face.'”

Perry apparently got off the bike and began arguing with the man, when the suspect got on the bike and started riding back across the bridge into Manhattan.  Two other bicyclists, Ian Bell and a “French photographer named Charles,”  chased after the suspect, following him onto Suffolk Street. 

Happening Now: Safety Improvements Along Clinton

Clinton Street at Delancey.

This morning, city crews are on the job along Clinton Street, implementing the final phases of a plan to improve pedestrian safety on and around the congested Delancey Street corridor.  Back in June, they created new pedestrian “safe zones” along a 12-block stretch from the Williamsburg Bridge and changed certain traffic patterns.

Today, the crews have removed barricades from Clinton, allowing cars to turn right onto the bridge.  They have also turned Clinton into a one-way northbound street and created a two-way bike path on the west side of the street.

Good Morning!

Williamsburg roll. Photo by C Merry:

Look for a high around 92 today, with scattered showers this afternoon.

Williamsburg Bridge Accident: Photos and More Info

We’re just back from the Williamsburg Bridge, where a vehicle overturned on the eastbound roadway this afternoon, snarling  rush hour traffic. Grand Street, Delancey, Norfolk and Clinton are all a mess.  The outer lanes reopened a short time ago and emergency crews were working on moving the vehicle and a mangled car from the inner roadway.

Firefighters got several people out of the wrecks; the victims were rushed to two area hospitals.  The bridge is crowded with onlookers snapping photos and watching the dramatic scene.  More photos after the jump.

Breaking: Overturned Truck on Williamsburg Bridge.

Williamsburg Bridge, westbound. Photo credit: @alwaysactions.

There are numerous reports of an overturned truck on the Williamsburg side of the Williamsburg Bridge.  The driver was apparently not hurt but the accident has blocked all of the westbound lanes, causing a major traffic backup just as rush hour is getting underway.  The Fire Department is on the scene.

Teenage Girl Killed on Delancey Street

A 12-year old girl was killed on Delancey Street this afternoon, after being struck by a Toyota Sienna minivan. It happened around 3:30 p.m. as the Castle Middle School student was heading north on Clinton Street with a group of friends.  According to Gothamist, she was rushed to Downtown Hospital, but there was nothing doctors could do. More from Gothamist:

One witness, a friend of the victim, says, “We were crossing the street and the light changed real quick. She started going, and then she stopped, but she tripped. The van hit her twice. The first time it hit her, then when it stopped and realized that it hit her, it hit her again.” Another student, who said she was the girl’s best friend, says, “The crossing guard didn’t even do anything they kept on waving cars through, telling them to go. You see the blood on the ground? That’s where it hit her.” The girl’s friend was extremely distraught and crying, but fortunately her mother soon arrived.

Woman Survives Fall from Williamsburg Bridge (Updated 10:25 p.m.)

Photo by Damien Acevedo.

There are multiple news reports this afternoon about an incident that occurred on the Williamsburg Bridge near Pitt Street. Police are saying a 34-year old woman survived a fall from the bridge, shortly before 3 p.m. today. Damien Acevedo sent us these photos of the aftermath.  A tipster told the Village Voice, “she fell onto the windshield of an SUV on Pitt Street, right across the street from the fire/police station.”

According to the reports the woman was rushed to Bellevue Hospital, where she is conscious. Another tipster told the Voice, “when I walked by…  it looked like the woman had driven her car on the bridge and then jumped — I saw the cops milling around what I assume was her car… They backed it off the bridge.”

We’ll let you know when we hear more about the woman’s condition.

Photo by Damien Acevedo.

UPDATE 10:25 p.m. The New York Post has more on today’s incident:

Charles Pichardo, 32, a car service driver from Manhattan, said the victim parked her (car) on the roadway above, climbed over the railing and jumped without making a sound — until she landed with a loud crash. “It’s crazy it was so quick. She just jumped from there,” he said, pointing up at roadway above. “She landed right there,” he added pointing at the grey Honda. “She just got out of her car and walked over by the ladder. She stepped one foot over the other and just jumped,” Pichardo said. “There was no noise at all. No honking, no yelling, no nothing.” Mercado and another witness said the parked Honda Ridgeline — registered to an NYPD detective — was directly across from the 7th Precinct, and that cops immediately rushed to aid the 34-year-old victim…

According to the story, the woman, a Queens resident, is “conscious and talking.”

Williamsburg Bridge Barriers Nearly Complete

The concrete barriers aimed at redirecting bicycle traffic at the bridge entrance are in place.

Closing the loop on a story we first brought you last June, we took a walk across Delancey Street (all 250 feet of it) this week to have a look at the new concrete barriers the city has installed to direct bike and pedestrian traffic flow at the entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge.

The barriers, which were not that popular with cyclists, were paid for with anti-terrorism funds, and along with countdown clocks on the walk lights, are an attempt to improve safety at the dangerous intersection of Delancey and Clinton streets.

Click through for more photos.