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Hamilton Terrace Residents Push for More Intimidating Speed Bumps

By Jeff Mays | October 1, 2012 10:46am

HARLEM — The kids of Hamilton Terrace, a quaint three-block long side street filled with historic brownstones, can tell you exactly where it's safe to cross the street.

"We'll cross further up the block so we can see the cars coming," said  Isabel Geddes, 14, a ninth-grader who has lived on the block for several years.

"The cars go at a good speed. There have been a lot of close calls," said Malcolm Griand, 16, a junior who has lived on Hamilton Terrace for five years. "Younger kids have come close to getting hit."

The street, which stretches from 141st to 144th streets, is often described as one of Harlem's hidden gems, a little bit of the suburbs in the middle of the city. Neighbors hang out on their stoops and kids play manhunt and football in the street.

But the one-way street is also a magnet for speeding drivers who zip down the road as a shortcut to the nearby thoroughfares of 141st and 145th streets, especially during rush hour, locals say.

On a recent afternoon, a gray car made a right from 141st Street onto Hamilton Terrace and accelerated it for half a block to the first speed bump. The car barely slowed down before speeding off at a speed of about 40 miles per hour or more several witnesses estimated.

"The minute they turn the corner, they fly up the hill, especially during rush hour," said Jennifer Geddes, 45, who works in magazine publishing.

Area residents blame the two weak speed bumps on the block. One is almost non-existent while the other lacks much height and curve.

"There used to be two speed bumps," said Marvin Terry, 62, a wood worker who has lived on the street since 1995. "The bump's that left is too low."

Residents are drafting a petiton to get new speed bumps and have asked Community Board 9 for help. Nicole Garcia, a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation, said the agency recently received a request regarding speed bumps on Hamilton Terrace.

The DOT typically examines the history of accidents on a street, layout and the speed of vehicles before determining whether to add speed bumps.

"Safety is a top priority and the DOT received a request...to evaluate Hamilton Terrace for the installation of a speed bump. The agency is now looking to schedule a study," said Garcia.

From 2006 to 2010 there have been two accidents in which pedestrians suffered injuries, according to DOT statistics.

The speed limit on the street is 25 miles per hour, five miles lower than the city speed limit of 30 miles per hour, but cars still tear through the block.

"The reckless driving occurs on a daily basis. There is no regard for any kind of speed limit," said Juliet Masters, 38, a private chef who has lived on the street for a year.

Justine Masters, 36, a real estate agent, takes the speeding cars personally.

"I've yelled at cars because I'm flabbergasted how they think they can speed without concern for all the kids around here," said Masters.

Zuhri Sinclair and Owen Draplin, both 12, said the speeding cars have made them extra cautious when out playing on the block.

"Some cars slow down when they see us but most don't," said Sinclair. "I don't think anyone reads the speed bump sign.

"One of my friends was running across the street and a car clicked the back of his heel," added Draplin.

Ashley Andrews, 32, a customer service representative whose family has lived on Hamilton Terrace since 1980, said the area has changed. City College is thriving and its shuttles regularly pass through the street.

Hamilton Grange, the estate of founding father Alexander Hamilton, was moved to St. Nicholas Park at 141st Street, just across from where Hamilton Terrace begins.

"If you don't live here to you this is just a shortcut," said Andrews.

Until the situation changes, the kids of Hamilton Terrace say they plan to stick together.

"I'm afraid a younger kid will get hit one of these days," said Griand. "I'm often the oldest kid out here, so I try to look out for them."