The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Morningside Avenue Lane Removal Plan Stalls

By Jeff Mays | May 8, 2014 5:31pm
Morningside Avenue safety
View Full Caption
Destinations Unknown Productions

HARLEM — A plan to remove a lane from Morningside Avenue has hit a roadblock.

Many residents want the Department of Transportation to move forward with its plan to take away a lane in each direction to calm local traffic. But Community Board 10 is opposed to the plan, and as a result the DOT will not move forward.

The stalemate continued Wednesday night when CB 10 deferred voting on a resolution to support safety changes on Morningside Avenue, sending discussion back to the transportation committee to make modifications.

"We have asked DOT to do some temporary measures," said CB 10 chairwoman Henrietta Lyle. "We wanted DOT to do what they have to do to make that area safer.

 A new video showing cars traveling up to 17 miles per hour above the city's speed limit on Morningside Avenue in Harlem is helping to renew a push for changes to the street. The Department of Transportation has proposed a series of changes to make the street safer.
Morningside Avenue Traffic Calming
View Full Caption

"We don't want DOT to use anyone as a scapegoat as to why they are not fixing the problem," Lyle added.

But some Morningside Avenue residents believe lane reductions are the most important safety improvements for the strip which is located next to Morningside Park and at least two schools and two playgrounds.

From 2007 to 2011 there were 102 injuries of vehicle occupants, pedestrians and cyclists on the avenue and nine were serious.

Under DOT's plan, the number of lanes on the avenue from 116th to 126th streets would be reduced from four to three. The 60- foot-wide road is simply too large for the 710 vehicles it carries per day and the extra space encourages drivers to speed, transit officials say.

Other proposed fixes include pedestrian islands, extended curbs and a stop sign at 118th Street.

"The lanes have to be reduced. That's the key to this whole situation," said Maurice Sessoms, a film producer who lives in the area and created a video showing cars traveling 17 mph over the city's 30 mph speed limit on the strip.

In addition, lane reduction proponents have collected almost 1,100 signatures in support of the plan.

Marianna Schaffer, 38, director of programs for a foundation, said she's witnessed cars running red lights and has had three near misses while crossing Morningside Avenue to take her 3-year-old son to school. Traffic enforcement is not a permanent solution in her mind.

"That extra lane is there 24 hours a day, seven days per week. The police are not," Schaffer said. "We need a sustainable, long-term lasting change like lane reduction that has been proven to reduce speeding and traffic violations."

Lyle said the board's resistance to lane reductions comes after previous lane reductions on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Mount Morris Park West caused problems. Some residents complained about double parking on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and some Mount Morris Park residents said they felt the changes made traffic congestion worse.

The board has requested a revised proposal from DOT, but has yet to receive one, Lyle said.

DOT has said previously that it would review community board resolutions before making additional proposals. Community Board 9 voted to approve DOT's changes with a few suggestions. A spokesman for DOT said they expect to meet with CB 10 about the proposal at an upcoming meeting.

Thomas DeVito of Transportation Alternatives said lane reductions can reduce crashes by anywhere from 19 to 40 percent. It's unfair to compare Morningside Avenue, a lightly used roadway, with the heavily traveled Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, he said.

"The community collected 1,000 signatures, which is a powerful statement," said DeVito. "This issue has energized a lot of people into thinking about street safety."