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Neighbors Rip Proposed UWS Street Safety Features as 'Ugly'

By Emily Frost | May 14, 2014 5:33pm
 The board overruled opposition from local residents who didn't want to change the intersection.
West 72nd Street and Riverside Drive
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UPPER WEST SIDE — A plan to extend sections of sidewalk at the corner of West 72nd Street and Riverside Drive out into the street was blasted as "ugly" and "incovenient" by neighbors at that intersection, despite getting the green light from the local community board.

Community Board 7's transportation committee approved Tuesday the Department of Transportation's plan to make the intersection more pedestrian friendly by painting over portions of the street and separating it from traffic using plastic bollards, forcing vehicles to slow down while approaching the corner.

The plan would also add a new crosswalk connecting the north and south sides of West 72nd Street on the eastern side of the intersection

By painting the street beige at the northeast and northwest corners of Riverside Drive, as well as at the intersection's southern strip,the DOT said it hopes to make it easier and safer for people to enter and exit Riverside Park. Plastic buffers would also be added to seperate the painted sections from vehicles.

But neighbors near the corner called the proposed paint job "ugly," begging the DOT and committee members to heed the complaints of those who live nearby.

It is a landmarked area and it’s beautiful, and these are not beautiful," complained West 72nd Street resident Amy Wolf.Wolf said she was in favor of curbing speeding drivers who would have to slow to navigate the extensions, but that the city's plan wasn't the right one.

"Everybody is concerned about the change of the look and the effect on the quality of life,she said.

CB7 member Klari Neuwalt, who lives near the intersection,said the extensions went against the "classic New York look" of the area, adding, "these things are fairly ugly."

Residents said one of the proposed extensions, on the south side of West 72nd Street, would sit right in front of the entrance to their apartment buildings, infringing on school bus drop-off and pickup, deliveries, garbage removal, street sweeping and snow plowing.

Transportation committee co-chairman Dan Zweig acknowledged the changes would "inconvenience the neighborhood."

However, local resident Jeff Cohen argued in favor of the plan, calling it "a dangerous, chaotic intersection."

The majority of the committee agreed that safety had to come before aesthetics.

"Anything that we can do that can prevent a child or an adult from being seriously injured is very important," said committee member Roberta Semer. 

Despite only two injuries occurring at the intersection between 2007 and 2011, Dan Wagner of the DOT's Pedestrian Projects Group said the agency wants to be "more proactive than reactive."

"In the community board, we’re acting in the interest of the community as a whole," member Ping Kwan said, "not just two buildings."

The vote will next go before the full board in June for its approval. The DOT said the project would begin in August if approved, and that it would combine it with a project at West 79th Street for a total cost of $150,000.