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Mount Morris Park Traffic Changes Not Enough, Opponents Say

By Jeff Mays | October 21, 2013 8:43am
 Residents of Harlem's Mount Morris Park have been pushing for changes to the dangerous turn at Mount Morris Park West and 120th Street for two decades after cars kept veering off the roadway and into million dollar brownstones and lampposts at the corner. 
Mount Morris Park West Traffic Changes
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HARLEM — The Department of Transportation has agreed to tweak its controversial reworking of Mount Morris Park West between 120th and 124th streets, but some residents say the changes don't go far enough.

"We do not want tweaks to a bad plan," read a flier for a recent meeting of Mount Morris Takes Action, a group formed to fight the changes.

Some residents along the strip say turning the street to one lane from two, or three lanes in some places, has created traffic jams and noise pollution. The street remodeling also includes an extended painted sidewalk, large stones and planters.

The street configuration also slows down emergency vehicles and makes it harder for pedestrians to cross, according to members of Mount Morris Takes Action.

"We want two lanes and we've come up with detailed plans that we think would work," said Janice Movson, a member of the group.

One proposal calls for making the Mt. Morris Park West side of Marcus Garvey Park resemble the Madison Avenue side, which has two lanes, rear-angle parking and an emergency lane. The group wants a light and crosswalk at every intersection and an emergency lane for Mount Morris Park West.

DOT officials have said one lane is necessary as a traffic-calming measure, especially at the dangerous turn at the intersection of Mount Morris Park West and 120th Street.

The intersections around the park averaged one serious injury per year between 2006 and 2011 and 10 motor vehicle accidents per year between 2006 and 2010, according to the DOT.

Cars have crashed into brownstones at the intersection and the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association has been calling for drastic traffic changes for 20 years. Both Community Boards 10 and 11 have written letters of support for the changes.

"The one-lane configuration...has reduced speeding, shortened crossing distances and improved park access without a negative impact on traffic flow," said DOT spokesman Nicholas Mosquera. "Still, as with all projects, we continue to make minor adjustments and respond to community requests."

After doing a walk-through with members from the two neighborhood groups, the DOT announced a number of additional changes to the configuration to address concerns.

Under the new DOT plan, the west-side parking lane will be widened to allow for easier loading, the size of a bus stop along the stretch will be increased to allow for greater maneuverability and lane markings will be enhanced.

A traffic signal will be installed at W. 124th and Fifth Avenue while W. 121st and W. 123rd streets will be considered for traffic signals.

The changes address some of the concerns being raised by Mount Morris Takes Action. The group also wants other changes such as a wider turning angle on W. 120th Street as well as metal barriers there.

"With any experiment you need to evaluate the situation and assess," said Laurent Delly, vice president of the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association. "That's it, they are not going to switch it to two lanes."