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Amsterdam Avenue Redesign Approved by Community Board

By Emily Frost | December 4, 2013 4:40pm
 The board said it thought the avenue was too dangerous and needed traffic calming measures from the Department of Transportation. 
Board Calls for Redesign of Amsterdam Avenue
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UPPER WEST SIDE — A resolution calling for the redesign of Amsterdam Avenue passed by a wide margin Tuesday night at Community Board 7's full board meeting. 

The resolution states that Amsterdam Avenue has become an unsafe street for pedestrians and cyclists, and asks the Department of Transportation to review the avenue and suggest changes, which could include a protected bike lane. 

While several board members have been vocal supporters of a northbound protected bike lane along the avenue, the resolution does not ask explicitly for a lane. Instead, it names the lane as just one of the options DOT could utilize and leaves open the option for other traffic-calming measures, including countdown clocks, extended curbs, and changes to traffic light timing. 

The vote by the full 50-member board comes after months of debate during which cyclists came out in force, pleading for a new bike lane to pair with the southbound one along Columbus Avenue.

"We heard from the community last month," said board member and bike lane proponent Roberta Semer. "There were 80 speakers, the majority were for [the bike lane]. There was a small minority against it."

Other members pushed for the resolution to insist that action be taken by the DOT to immediately make the avenue safer, an idea that was eventually incorporated. 

"We cannot wait on being able to change things for pedestrians. Some things have to be done for pedestrians now," said Transportation Committee co-chairman Dan Zweig. 

"Amsterdam may turn out to be a good place for a bike lane, it may not turn out to be a good place for a bike lane."

Fast action by the DOT could mean temporary curb extensions in the form of concrete blockades so that the four-lane avenue, where many have said there is rampant speeding, is narrowed, he said. 

The resolution also insisted the DOT seek input on a potential bike lane from local police, fire and sanitation departments, as well as the local the business community.

"Amsterdam has a number of truck deliveries, business issues, and all of these have to be taken into account," board member Ethel Sheffer said. 

But the work would not be finished just with the passing of a resolution, Sheffer pointed out. 

"In the next month, there’s going to have to be considerable lobbying done to bring attention to the Upper West Side," she said of the board's need to get help from the DOT regarding Amsterdam Avenue.

The final version of the resolution also included a reference to what some believe have been mixed results in terms of the safety and usage of the Columbus Avenue bike lane by asking for its continued review.

In addition, it called for a broader study of all of the neighborhood's north-south avenues and other possible bike-lane options.