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City Reveals Plans to Boost Safety at 96th Street and Broadway

By Emily Frost | January 31, 2014 11:51am
 The majority of residents who heard the new plan said they approved of the traffic calming measures. 
New Plan for Fixing West 96th and Broadway Gains Approval
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UPPER WEST SIDE — The Department of Transportation unveiled far-reaching plans to help make a pair of neighborhood intersections safer, including adjusting the timing of lights, limiting the ability for cars to turn and expanding crosswalks in the wake of a series of fatal accidents there.

The move came as police revealed they went on a ticketing blitz in the 24th precinct, which covers the neighborhood, targeting drivers who failed to yield to pedestrians, which officials say is the leading cause of accidents.

DOT officials said that many pedestrians cross Broadway and West 96th Street despite solid "Don't Walk" pedestrian signals, thinking they can dash between the medians or cross Broadway before traffic begins flowing again. 

"It’s really a recipe for impatience and poor decision making," said the DOT's Ryan Russo.  

The meeting came after two pedestrian crashes this month in the intersection that left Samantha Lee, 26 and Alex Shear, 73, dead.

Blocks away, Cooper Stock, 9, was hit by a cab and killed at West End Avenue and West 97th Street. 

Pedestrians are also tempted to cross to the median of Broadway when they see no cars are coming, said Russo.  

"They might make the decision to go at the wrong time," he said.

Under the new timing, which is set to be completed by March, "that confusing moment is where you see traffic stop and you don’t get a walk signal is completely gone," said Russo.

DOT recommendations for 96th and Broadway also include:

  • Banning the south- and east-bound left turn from Broadway to West 96th Street; and banning the west- and south-bound left turn from West 96th Street onto Broadway.
  • Expanding the northbound mall on Broadway so there is more space for pedestrians to stand. 
  • Creating a crosswalk in the middle of West 96th Street and Broadway for pedestrians to cross to the pedestrian mall. 
  • Creating new median designations along West 96th Street to keep cars driving straight as they cross through the intersection.
  • Reduction in pedestrian waiting time at the intersection with the new phase of signaling created by eliminating two left turns.
  • Doubling the walk time for pedestrians at 97th Street and West End Avenue to 12 seconds.

The plans were lauded by community members.  

"You did a much better job than I expected," resident Brian Zucker told the DOT. "I was expecting the worst."

Newly elected District 6 City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal said she was happy the DOT's plan came before the community so quickly.

"DOT can be a little slow on reaction and you weren’t this time," she said.

The 24th Precinct commanding officer, Inspector Nancy Barry, attended the meeting with several of her officers, and asked for a moment of silence for those killed.

Barry said "the 24th Precinct is very committed for zero injuries or fatalities," adding that the precinct issued 79 failure to yield — which she said was the number one cause of accidents to pedestrians summonses to drivers in January, an increase of 182 percent from this time last year, she said.

Locals had accused police of not doing enough to stop out-of-control drivers and focusing on jaywalking pedestrians, including an elderly man who suffered a cut to the head after officers arrested him for not obeying the walk signs.

Cooper's uncle, who was present at Thursday night's meeting, reminded police that the boy was killed after a taxi driver failed to yield as he walked inside a crosswalk.

"Cyclists and walkers do not kill innocent people. Cars driven by reckless and distracted drivers do," said Barron Lerner, Cooper's uncle.

The DOT said it plans to double the walk time for pedestrians at the intersection 97th Street and West End Avenue to 12 seconds, add a yield to pedestrians sign, and remove three parking spaces on the south side of  West 97th Street so that cars turning cars can see pedestrians more clearly.

The agency will also consider changing the timing the lights along West 97th Street so that cars do not get a series of consecutive green lights that allow them to build up speed.