Here’s a followup to last week’s bad car-pedestrian accident on South Street near Rutgers Slip. Three women were rushed to Bellevue Hospital after they were struck by the driver of a Volvo heading northbound at around 6:50 a.m. One of the three faced life threatening injuries.
The city’s Department of Transportation released a statement from Commissioner Polly Trottenberg that said, “DOT is committed to making streets safe for all users. DOT will be conducting a safety review at this intersection and the surrounding areas to see what safety improvements can be made. We will continue to work with local leaders and the community on additional improvements.”
Today, the office of City Councilmember Margaret Chin praised the agency’s decision to order a review, which Chin had called for last week. A representative said they are looking forward to learning the timetable for the traffic study and working with the city to improve safety in the area. On Friday, Streetsblog first reported that the DOT had agreed to a review and that the police department concluded the women had been walking against a traffic signal. The driver was not given a ticket. The signal was only just installed last year.
Shortly after the accident, TUFF-LES a new tenant organization representing buildings along the East River released a statement, noting that that safety on South Street has been a longtime concern of people in the neighborhood. The group called on the DOT to look at the possibility of adding more traffic signals, crosswalks and better lighting. The statement also pointed out that more residents are crossing South Street to use a new recreational area on the East River Esplanade. Elaine Hoffman is a tenant leader at Two Bridges Tower, located on the northwest corner of Rutgers and South Street. Sitting on a bench outside the building today, she observed that very few people have been using the rec area since the accident occurred. “They’re scared to cross the street,” she said.
The Two Bridges Neighborhood Council put out a statement of its own Friday:
Two Bridges has long advocated for traffic calming measures along the stretch from Montgomery to Pike Street—neck downs, speed tables, rumble strips or a median are all common and easily implemented strategies for redesigning dangerous streets. Many of our recommendations to address the problem along South Street were echoed in the recent East River Blueway Plan, but no action—or funding—has been allocated to address simple and essential urban design guidelines. On the Lower East Side, where pedestrians are by far the majority, why do we allow surface streets to favor automobiles over people, and speed over safety? South Street—wide, lined with residential buildings, and too infrequently interrupted by stop lights and pedestrian crossings—is treated as a high-speed extension of the FDR Drive on & off ramps. Cars, busses, and trucks speed past as residents take their chances crossing to the East River Waterfront Esplanade. DOT also quietly permitted bus layover parking long South Street, further obscuring site lines and visibility of crossing pedestrians. A similarly dangerous crossing stands just a block north at Rutgers Slip and Cherry Street. There, the intersection of a wide, one-way street lined with residences (Cherry) is offset from Rutgers Slip where it becomes Rutgers Street, requiring drivers to drive the wrong way on a one-way street to continue north on Rutgers, and requiring pedestrians to try as best they can to stay out of the way. It is time for the DOT to take immediate action to address these dangerous streets, and for residents, community based organization and our elected officials to hold them to account.