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Crashes at W. 96th St. Intersection Remain Steady Despite Safety Overhaul

By Emily Frost | December 9, 2014 11:48am
 There were as many crashes at the intersection as in previous years, however. 
West 96th and Broadway Intersection
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Motor vehicle crashes at West 96th Street and Broadway have failed to fall significantly following the city's pricey overhaul of the intersection to improve safety, following the deaths of two locals at the intersection early this year.

In fact, the number of crashes over the past six months there was higher than similar periods in 2012 and 2013, DNAinfo found. 

There were 17 crashes in the six months after the Department of Transportation made its changes — a figure higher than two previous six-month periods in 2013 and 2014, when there were 14 crashes each, according to NYPD data. 

The number of crashes and pedestrian deaths at West 96th Street and Broadway spiked between November 2013 and May 2014, prompting an outcry from local residents and elected officials who successfully lobbied the DOT to make changes at the intersection. 

The $300,000 renovation, finished in early May 2014, included a new crosswalk, a larger pedestrian mall, curb extensions, left-turn bans and re-timed crosswalk signals. 

In the six months after the work was finished, only one pedestrian was injured — a 66 percent drop in the pedestrian injury rate from the previous 18 months, NYPD data showed.

Local residents have seen improvements at that the intersection, where thousands of people flow out of the subway station as cars and trucks barrel along Broadway while entering and exiting the nearby Henry Hudson Parkway. However, they noted that there's still work to be done. 

The new design is "more rational," said nearby resident Julie Kowitz Margolies, who crosses the intersection multiple times a day with her three elementary school-age children in tow.

"I wouldn’t say I feel safe crossing at busy times with my kids — my head is still swiveling all around, looking for turning cars and speeding cars — but it’s better," she said.

The western part of the intersection often feels the scariest, Kowitz Margolies noted. At rush hour, cars headed westward run the lights and then block the crosswalk, leading to close calls for pedestrians, she added. 

"I like the new crosswalk. It definitely feels safer," said Emma Tessler, 26, as she waited to cross the walkway that now connects the two medians on Broadway, before entering the subway on a recent morning. 

Some said the corner will remain problematic no matter what.

"If you are a pedestrian, [the intersection] has always been a nightmare," said Aaron Biller, president of the local group Neighborhood in the Nineties.

He said adding even more time for pedestrians to cross would help it feel safer, because right now "you have to hurtle across the street."

Restricting left turns helped cut down on conflicts between drivers and pedestrians, Biller explained, but the root of the issue is the sheer number of vehicles passing through the area.

"Our biggest enemy is congestion," he said, "and we have to find ways to relieve some of that."

Captain Marlon Larin, the commanding officer of the 24th Precinct, saw the whole intersection as "definitely safer."

"We haven’t really seen anything that’s a major cause of concern in terms of accidents against pedestrians," he said.

Larin blamed the persistent level of vehicle crashes on double-parked cars that get side-swiped and driver inattention that leads to rear-ended vehicles. 

DNAinfo recently observed dozens of pedestrians jaywalking at the intersection during the morning rush hour, dashing across the crosswalk with only seconds to spare on the countdown clock or walking without any walk signal. But Larin said that while it's a major concern, it's not something his officers will target by ticketing.

Unless they're "extremely reckless" in their jaywalking, an officer won't hand out a summons, he said.

And "although [the new crosswalk] gives pedestrians more options, with that is more options for people to do what they’re not supposed to do," Larin added.

The DOT said it's reviewing the changes to the intersection this summer and will look closely at vehicle volumes, among other factors, a department spokeswoman said. The study will also look at collisions and travel speeds, she added. 

“DOT has received positive feedback from the community related to this project and we have seen more orderly pedestrian flow," the spokeswoman said. "We will continue to monitor this intersection," the spokeswoman said. 

Larin believes the data shows they're on the right track in their enforcement. 

Between Jan.1 and Nov. 30, 2014, the 24th Precinct handed out 7,628 moving violations across the precinct, compared to 6,764 last year, he noted.

There were 1,116 crashes during the same period this year, compared to 1,218 the year before, Larin added.