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Wider Sidewalks Coming to Delancey Street After Dashane Santana's Death

By Julie Shapiro | February 8, 2012 1:46pm

LOWER EAST SIDE — The city is planning a sweeping series of safety improvements to Delancey Street in the wake of a crash that killed 12-year-old Dashane Santana last month.

The Department of Transportation will announce plans Wednesday night to widen sidewalks, change signal timing and create new traffic patterns along the most hazardous stretches of Delancey Street, according to four people familiar with the proposal.

The city plans to implement the changes by early summer, said State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who leads a Delancey Street working group and was briefed on the city's plan.

"We're going to see significant safety improvements on Delancey Street in months, not years," said Squadron, who commented broadly on the city's plan. "This is a quick and dramatic proposal."

In response to pedestrians' concerns that they do not have enough time to cross Delancey Street's rushing lanes of traffic, the city will bump sidewalks out into the street, possibly using planters, sources said.

This will shorten crosswalks at the most heavily used Delancey Street intersections, including Essex Street, Christie Street and Forsyth Street — but the impact may be biggest at Clinton Street, where the city will shrink the crosswalk by nearly 50 feet, from about 125 feet long to about 75 feet long, sources said.

The city will make room for the wider sidewalks by eliminating some parking and by changing traffic patterns. At Clinton and Delancey, for example, the city will force drivers on Delancey Street's westbound service road to turn right onto Clinton Street, which will mean fewer lanes of cars for pedestrians to cross.

The city is also planning other changes to turning patterns, including eliminating the left turn from southbound Essex Street onto Delancey Street (which is already barred during evening rush hour) and adding a right turn from northbound Clinton Street onto the Williamsburg Bridge, sources said.

In light of all these changes, the DOT will also do a comprehensive study of signal timing along Delancey Street, sources said.

The DOT is presenting the proposal to Community Board 3 Wednesday night and declined to confirm details Wednesday afternoon, pending the presentation.

"The proposal we will present tonight is the most concerted effort that’s ever been brought to bear on Delancey Street and will really help to elevate safety on the Lower East Side," DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said in a statement.

City Councilwoman Margaret Chin released a statement Wednesday saying she was impressed with the scope of DOT's plan.

"DOT is aggressively tackling the root cause of safety hazards on Delancey by addressing vehicle congestion and traffic flow," said Chin, who has been briefed on the DOT's plan.

"They are also significantly shortening cross times by extending sidewalks and street corners to allow pedestrians to cross in one stage. The improvements will make Delancey Street safer and better suited to serve the Lower East Side community."

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver praised the DOT's plan but also reiterated his call for crossing guards along Delancey Street.

"This plan will help address the long-term safety needs of our community, so that tragedies like the death of Dashane Santana will not have been in vain,” Silver said in a statement.

Santana, a talented singer and dancer who had applied to The Juilliard School, was struck by a minivan near the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge on Jan. 13.

"I am encouraged that the DOT is looking to shorten crossing times, widen sidewalks and improve traffic patterns," Silver said. "Until these changes are implemented, I once again call on the DOT to post pedestrian managers to better help the flow of foot traffic across these dangerous intersections."

Community Board 3 will meet to see the DOT's Delancey Street presentation Feb. 8 at 6:30 p.m., at the Seward Park Community Room, 264-268 East Broadway.