UPPER WEST SIDE — The city wants to widen more than a dozen sidewalk curbs near three Upper West Side schools to help protect students at dangerous intersections, officials announced Tuesday.
The Ascension School, Collegiate School and M.S. 54 Booker T. Washington are part of the Department of Transportation's "Safe Route to Schools" plan, which is designed to improve pedestrian safety at 135 New York City schools that have been deemed high-risk.
The three schools have already had surrounding crosswalks and signage improved. Now the department’s plan calls for curb extensions that it says will increase pedestrian safety by modifying the design of nearby intersections to improve sight lines for drivers and pedestrians.
"The intent of widening the curb is to reduce the length of the crosswalk — the time that the student is within the crosswalk zone," said Marty Hartman, a consultant for the DOT, at a presentation for Community Board 7’s Transportation Committee Tuesday night.
Hartman said the curb extensions, which are already in place at many locations around the city, including on Broadway south of Houston, encourage drivers to slow down because the street narrows, he said. Officials said the extensions would not close off any lanes of traffic, but they might eat up some parking spaces.
The Ascension School, is a private elementary school located at West 108th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam, could see wider curbs at four intersections along Amsterdam Avenue from 107th to 110th streets.
Collegiate School, a private K-12 school, would see changes at six nearby intersections — West End Avenue between 77th and 79th streets, and on Broadway, at 77th, 78th and 80th streets.
M.S. 54, a public middle school, would get three traffic improvements at Columbus at 107th and 108th streets, as well as on 110th Street at Morningside Drive.
Community board members asked why more schools in the neighborhood weren’t considered for traffic safety improvements. DOT representative Kim Lua said his department only considered recent pedestrian accident data in determining which schools were a priority.
"Neck downs [curb extensions] are really expensive and sometimes we have to take out parking spots," Lua added, to explain why every school intersection wasn’t receiving the safety improvement.
However, he said not all curb extensions will mean the loss of parking spots.
The board agreed to review the proposed changes and visit the sites immediately. Board chairman Mark Diller cautioned the committee to act quickly, for fear of losing the important DOT offer.
"It could take a while for them to make these improvements. We could get moved to the back of the list," he warned.
If the full community board approves the proposed curb extensions by July, DOT reps said they would be on track to finish the design and put out a bid next spring, with construction to start next summer.