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City Plans to Slow Traffic at Dangerous Mount Morris Park West Curve

By Jeff Mays | January 14, 2013 4:34pm

HARLEM— Mount Morris Park residents crossing the street near Marcus Garvey Park and 120th Street know they must have a little pep in their step.

Cars driving south on Mount Morris Park West making the sharp turn east onto 120th Street have been known to do so at a higher rate of speed than they should because of the deceptive curve.

"The cars think it's is a regular turn but it's not. We've had cars running into stoops, trees and planters. It's been going on for years," said Syderia Chresfield, president of the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association.

"We know to walk quickly. If you live there you walk quickly," she said.

Now the Department of Transportation is proposing to turn Mount Morris Park West into a one lane street to slow cars. Other proposals include sidewalk extensions and more crosswalks to help pedestrians cross more safely.

Currently, Mount Morris Park West before the turn onto 120th Street has two lanes. As an interim fix, the DOT has placed a barrier at the turn closing off one of the turning lanes. Cars are forced to turn in a single file.

Given the volume of traffic, the street is wider than it needs to be, according to the DOT. The wider street leads to more unpredictable driving in the brownstone-filled neighborhood that is also part of the Mount Morris Park West Historic District.

Mount Morris Park West currently has two 8 foot parking lanes, two 10 foot buffer lanes and two 12 foot driving lanes. The new proposal would include a 9 foot and 13 foot parking lane, 25 foot sidewalk extension and one 12 foot driving lane.

The plan would also increase the number of crosswalks and shorten some long crosswalks by adding painted or textured sidewalk extenders. Many of the current locations commonly used as crosswalks are unmarked.

The turning angle at 120th Street and Mount Morris Park West would be tightened. The double turn lanes would also be eliminated from 120th Street onto Fifth Avenue.

The area is on the New York City Marathon route and also hosts the Harlem Skyscraper Classic, a professional bicycle race, on Father's Day. Chresfield said organizers of both events have been consulted and neither raised concerns about the changes.

DOT's proposal to make safety changes to Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard after several deadly accidents ran into community resistance last summer, but the neighborhood supports this plan, said Chresfield.

"We've been pushing to have DOT change the traffic flow for 20 years because there have been accidents every year," Chresfield said.

The area is full of places that children and people with strollers frequent. There's a senior center, a New York Public Library branch on 124th Street, the Marcus Garvey pool and recreation center and Harlem Village Academy which will occupy the former Rice High School building.

"DOT is in active discussions with Community Boards 10 and 11 on the Marcus Garvey Park safety improvements," said DOT spokesman Nicholas Mosquera.

Community Board 11 voted in favor of the plan recently. The DOT is hosting another presentation at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 15 at the Pelham Fritz Community Center, 18 Mount Morris Park West at 122nd Street.

The changes are expected to begin this spring but can't come soon enough for some.

"That no one has been badly hurt so far is unbelievable," Chresfield said.