UPPER WEST SIDE — A plan unveiled by the Department of Transportation Tuesday night will bring 33 parking spaces to West 72nd Street and Riverside Drive as a way to improve pedestrian safety, officials said.
The addition of non-metered parking spaces along the north and south sides of West 72nd Street, between West End Avenue and Riverside Boulevard, marks an attempt to curb rampant illegal double-parking on Fridays, when taxi drivers attend services at the Islamic Cultural Center, officials said.
This stretch of West 72nd Street is also very wide and does not often experience heavy traffic, making parking spots feasible, said Dan Wagner of the DOT's Pedestrian Projects Group.
In August, several "no standing" areas will be converted to 33 new non-metered two-hour parking spaces active Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wagner said.
Adding non-metered spaces with mandatory turnover times was deemed the best solution to creating legal spaces for taxis that also serve local residents, the board and the DOT agreed.
The intersection's northeast corner will also have a new crosswalk running between the north and south sides of West 72nd Street, according to the DOT plan. Additionally, the DOT will install three sidewalk extensions to the narrow streets that surround the park's entrance to create safer pedestrian conditions.
Crosswalks in the area will be shifted to better mirror the way people walk in and out of Riverside Park, and a new traffic light will stop traffic in all directions for pedestrians to cross uninterrupted, DOT staffers explained.
The transportation committee approved the plan, which DOT reps said could be completed very quickly this summer.
The DOT noted the intersection was in the top 10 percent among borough intersections in terms of traffic crashes between 2007 and 2011.
At West 79th Street and Riverside Drive, the DOT had solutions to make gaining access to Riverside Park easier for pedestrians and bikers, who currently have to carry their bikes down a flight of stairs and through the Boat Basin Restaurant in order to access the park's bikeway.
Three new crosswalks will be added to the ramps leading to the Henry Hudson Parkway, and a traffic signal will replace a stop sign at the northbound exit ramp on the south side of West 79th Street.
"What this plan allows for is a safer pedestrian experience and a clearer vehicular experience," Wagner said.
Also, the sidewalks on the north and south sides of the park entrance would be extended so that crossing times are shorter, he explained, and a new left-turn ban for cars heading westbound would make flow onto the parkway easier.
For bikers, the DOT would create a "sharrow" with white markings along the roundabout to let cars know bikes are sharing the road so that bikers could get to the park without having to dismount. The DOT is also hoping the Parks Department will open a couple of service roads to bikers so that they can then get down to the promenade.
Several residents and board members said it was essential to move the layover spot for MTA buses from the western end of West 79th Street — an idea the DOT said it was discussing with the MTA.
Residents' response to the two new traffic plans, which were both approved by the transportation committee, appeared largely positive.
"I really like and applaud this proposal," said board member Ping Kwan. "It’s very thoughtful."