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City Plans Pedestrian Safety Improvements at Dangerous UES Intersection

 Two people have been killed at the intersection of 60th Street and Third Avenue in recent years.
Two people have been killed at the intersection of 60th Street and Third Avenue in recent years.
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NYC Department of Transportation

UPPER EAST SIDE — The city has a plan to improve safety at an Upper East Side intersection where two pedestrians were killed and several others have been injured in recent years.

According to a proposal that was approved by Community Board 8 Wednesday, the Department of Transportation will shorten the crossing distance on both 60th Street and Third Avenue, extend the dedicated right turn lane on 60th Street and add a left-turn-only lane on Third Avenue.

The proposal came just after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an initiative to bring the number of traffic fatalities in the city to zero after seven pedestrians were killed in the first few weeks of 2014.  

“It’s a very important issue, especially in our district where we have a lot of pedestrians, many of whom are seniors,” said CB8 chairman Nick Viest.

Last July, Renee Thompson, 16, who was struck by a tractor-trailer while crossing Third Avenue at 60th Street. In 2010, a 67-year-old man died when he was hit by a taxi while crossing 60th Street.

In addition, 28 people were injured at the intersection between 2007 and 2011, according to the DOT.

By extending the right turn lane on 60th Street from 5 feet long to nearly 16 feet long, the DOT hopes to limit turns onto Third Avenue from the middle lane. Illegally turning cars cause congestion and can catch pedestrians off guard, board members said.

“People are turning from the middle lane because it’s difficult to get into the right lane. It’s short and cars are parked in the area leading up to it,” said A. Scott Falk, chairman of CB8's Transportation Committee. “The hope is that this one change will make the intersection much safer.”

The DOT will also added painted curb extensions, or neckdowns, to both Third Avenue and 60th Street. The neckdowns will shorten the crossing distance at the intersection by 20 and 30 percent, respectively.

Residents have long complained about congestion and speeding in the area, which they attribute partly to vehicles exiting the nearby 59th Street Bridge. 

In addition to approving the DOT's proposed changes, the community board has requested that the agency return with proposals for additional pedestrian safety improvements on the streets surrounding the intersection.

Greg Thompson Jr., Renee Thompson’s brother, spoke on her behalf at the board meeting Wednesday night, urging the board to approve the proposal.

“If something as small as crossing the street is dangerous to our very smart and upcoming generation," he said, "then it’s something we must pay attention to and support."