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DOT Wants to Replace Parking Spaces With Mini Parks

By Mathew Katz | October 19, 2011 6:57am
Cars line up diagonally at a parking area the Department of Transportation wants to see become a park.
Cars line up diagonally at a parking area the Department of Transportation wants to see become a park.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

HELL'S KITCHEN — The city could convert a collection of parking spaces into a tiny park in a bid to control traffic in congested Hell's Kitchen, according to a Department of Transportation report presented on Monday.

DOT officials want to turn a chunk of approximately 21 diagonal parking spots on the north side of West 36th Street, between Ninth and Tenth avenues, into a small "micropark," according to DOT planner Andrew Lenton.

"It would take time," Lenton said at a Monday night hearing on the study, part of the agency's four-year-long study of traffic and congestion in the Hell's Kitchen area presented at a DOT meeting at the Times Square Intercontinental Hotel. "It obviously requires maintenance partners."

A group of erstwhile 'park rangers' in just south of Hell's Kitchen have been pushing for similar microparks in Chelsea.

Leeroy Fitzerman, 32, said he had no problem with the DOT plan to take away his parking space, adding that he hoped as part of the greening plan they would clean up the row of shopping carts stuffed with rotting garbage at the proposed park site.

"Anything to make it nicer would be amazing," said Fitzerman, who often parks at the corner because it's near his office. "It can get pretty disgusting here."

Those present at Monday's meeting from Community Board 4 said they were not concerned about the loss of parking.

DOT officials said the proposed new parks could open by the end of next year, pending cooperation from the Port Authority and the Parks Department.

The suggestion was one of several long-term goals coming out of a four-year-long study of traffic and congestion in the Hell's Kitchen area. The study also suggested turning the southeast corner of West 41st Street and Ninth Avenue into a small "mini-plaza."

The traffic study's overall goal is to reduce congestion in Hell's Kitchen, where traffic can slow to a crawl due to buses from the Port Authority Bus terminal, loading trucks, and vehicles coming into the city from the Lincoln Tunnel.

It proposed a number of different anti-congestion measures for Hell's Kitchen, streamlining access to the Lincoln Tunnel, and shifting bus and shuttle parking west, to Tenth and Eleventh Avenues.

It also included safety improvements for pedestrians, including giving them more time to cross the area's wide Avenues.

But residents agreed that many of the measures would be useless if road users kept breaking the rules with impunity.

Locals say police don't do enough to enforce existing rules, including bans on blocking intersections and cars intruding into bike lanes.

"All these ideas are great, but you must find enforcement," said Walter Mankoff, a longtime resident and member of Community Board 4. "There needs to be more people giving out tickets."

Others were more creative in asking for ways to stop drivers from sneaking into intersections or making illegal turns.

"Why can't we have traffic teeth go up in a situation like that?" said Ellen Ko, referring to sharp metal spikes that would chew up the tires of rule-breaking vehicles. "We need something."

DOT officials said that some of the smaller anti-traffic measures could be implemented fairly quickly, but others would need more time and community input.

"We're trying to do a balancing act," said Margaret Forgione, the department's Manhattan borough commisioner.

The department will release the final Hell's Kitchen/Clinton traffic report by the end of 2011.