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Inwood Mulls Plan to Slow Down Neighborhood Traffic

By Carla Zanoni | March 1, 2012 4:28pm

INWOOD — Inwood, known for having a slower pace of life than the rest of Manhattan, may soon slow down even more if a plan to limit traffic speeds is put on the fast track.

Community Board 12 approved a resolution this week asking the city to consider making the northwestern section of Inwood a Slow Zone, a program that “reduces the speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph and adds safety measures within a select area in order to change driver behavior,”  according to the Department of Transportation.

CB12’s vote on the program, proposed by an Inwood resident, is the first step in examining whether the area is appropriate for such measures, which include adding reduced-speed areas with speed bumps, markings and other traffic-easing initiatives. 

The implementation of a Slow Zone “safety treatments can result in the loss of some on-street parking,” according to the department's website. Until the department begins a study, however, it is unclear what actions would be needed to take to create such a zone. 

With that in mind, the board said it is open to a discussion of the program, but would not yet say whether it could support such an initiative. 

“We support the idea of looking into it and support the concept,” said Rabbi Yosef Kalinsky, chair of CB12’s traffic and transportation committee, which drafted the resolution. 

Dave Thom, who lives on West 217th Street in Inwood, said his interest was piqued in December after learning of the program’s goals to “to reduce the risk and severity of vehicle collisions, and to reduce short-cutting traffic.” 

After receiving more than 40 letters of support, including letters from Columbia University, State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, Assemblymen Denny Farrell and Guillermo Linares, area schools and restaurants, residents and activists, Thom submitted an application to the DOT in February. 

Although the blocks that would be considered for the program — between Isham and West 218th streets and west of Broadway to Inwood Hill Park — are very residential, several issues present hazards in the area, Thom said. 

“It's a lovely spot, but the roads are hilly and narrow and tempting to speeders and toll-dodgers,” he said, referring to drivers who cut through the neighborhood to avoid paying a toll on the Henry Hudson Bridge. 

“Various individual requests and measures for improvements have failed to make headway over the years," he added. "But a comprehensive neighborhood wide program like this to reduce speed and deter traffic might be the answer residents have been looking for."

Locals say they are concerned about traffic as their children walk through an area that has only two traffic light and few stop signs — a stretch that in the last century had no streets and was made up of three grand estates — and support the idea. 

“This is a highly residential area that needs more checks in place to keep it safe,” said Inwood resident Gina Ortiz, 34. “I’m happy the community is getting creative here.”

The next step is for the DOT to review the Slow Zone proposal submitted by Thom in February. If the department selects the application, it will hold a public hearing to solicit opinions on its potential implementation.