City to Create New Mid-Block Crossing on West 57th Street

By Jill Colvin on November 11, 2011 7:35am 

The Department of Transportation is planning to create a new mid-block crossing on West 57th Street.
The Department of Transportation is planning to create a new mid-block crossing on West 57th Street.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

MIDTOWN — Jaywalkers are about to get some legal cover on West 57th Street.

The Department of Transportation is planning to install a new midblock crossing on West 57th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues, complete with pavement markings and a traffic light.

The block includes several high-profile businesses, including Le Parker Meridien Hotel, the Directors Guild of America’s office, and Steinway Hall.

“At the request of the community, DOT studied this location and found that pedestrian and traffic conditions are appropriate for a midblock crosswalk,” a DOT spokesman said in a statement.

The signals and markings for the crosswalk are expected to be installed by the end of the year.

Advocates pushing for the change said they were thrilled.

“We’re really happy,” said Brian Nesin, the founder of Friends of Privately Owned Public Space, who submitted a request for the crossing to the DOT in April as part of a larger effort to turn the spotlight on a little-known network of mid-block plazas and pedestrian arcades between Sixth and Seventh avenues.

The privately-owned public passageways, which include atria, plazas and building lobbies, stretch all the way from West 51st Street to West 57th Street, allowing pedestrians to travel north and south without having to walk to the end of the block.

Many who work nearby were also eager for the new crossing.

“That’s awesome! Now we won’t have to dodge cars,” said Andrew Bowers, 31, a salesman at Stack’s Rare Coins on West 57th Street, who often travels back and forth from the company's showroom on the north side of the block to their offices on the south.

Manager Tom Bowers said he sees people jaywalking along the stretch all the time, with some of his own customers reporting close-calls.

“A lot of people don’t walk to the corner," Tom Bowers said. "It’s a long block.”

Mark Orba, 80, was among those weaving through traffic Thursday, as he rushed to make a doctor's appointment on the north side of the street.

A man jaywalks on West 57th Street, where the DOT plans to build a new crossing.
A man jaywalks on West 57th Street, where the DOT plans to build a new crossing.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

“It’ll be a very good idea!” he said of the plan, out of breath and running late.

But some wondered whether it was really the right move to add another crossing when there is already a mid-block light on West 57th Street a block away, between Fifth and Sixth avenues.

“In my opinion it’s not necessary,” said one woman, who works at a restaurant along the stretch, but asked that her name not be used because she wasn’t authorize to speak to the press.

She said the eatery suffers from too much traffic and construction noise and fears a stoplight will only make things worse.

“They’ll stop at the light and it will be ‘Horn, horn, horn, horn,’” she said, mimicking a honking car.

Midtown’s Community Board 5 voted unanimously in May to support Nesin's request to the DOT to study the merits of adding crossings to all of the blocks along the pedestrian corridor, though the board has not weighed in since.

Mid-block crossings have been installed along many pedestrian-heavy stretches across Midtown, including Eighth Avenue between West 31st and West 33rd streets, West 34th Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues and West 43nd Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues.

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