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The Most Influential Upper West Side Stories to Watch in 2016

By Emily Frost | December 29, 2015 8:55am
 These ongoing developments will have the greatest impact on quality of life and the feel and look of the neighborhood.
Stories To Watch in 2016
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UPPER WEST SIDE — The neighborhood saw big changes this year. 

The city proposed major improvements to a dangerous intersection near Lincoln Square, the area lost some local favorite businesses and more than 300 buildings were added to the Upper West Side historic district.

DNAinfo took a look back at other stories that mattered most to residents in 2015 and will continue to shape the neighborhood in 2016.

Amsterdam Avenue Protected Bike Lane

The Department of Transportation has proposed a northbound protected bike lane along Amsterdam Avenue between West 72nd and 110th streets, where cyclists will be separated from vehicular traffic by a line of parked cars.

Community Board 7 members lobbied the DOT to analyze the busy avenue — a truck route and a dangerous corridor in terms of the volume of crashes — as a potential host for a northbound bike lane. The DOT brought forward the plan in November and will discuss the proposal again at a board meeting on Jan. 12.

The DOT will present more details of the plan at the January meeting, addressing concerns about truck loading areas and congestion, according to DOT's Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione.

Many people in the neighborhood have said that with the DOT's support the bike lane feels like a "done deal." The DOT said it will listen closely to feedback and work with Community Board 7. During the 2012 and 2013 Columbus Avenue bike lane extension process, the DOT waited for the board's approval before beginning construction.

Citi Bike Expansion

Citi Bikes were rolled out in the neighborhood for the first time in August from West 59th to West 86th street.

More of the bike share stations are expected to arrive between West 86th and West 110th streets by early 2016, the DOT pledged this summer.

School District Rezoning

Throughout the summer and fall, the local Community Education Council held dozens of public meetings to solicit feedback on how best to redraw the school zoning lines in the southern part of the school district.

The current lines, which maps out where elementary school children will go to school in the neighborhood, need rethinking given the over-enrollment of some schools, the under-enrollment of others and a general lack of diversity, members said. 

The Department of Education proposed a plan to expand the P.S. 191 and P.S. 452 zones while shrinking the P.S. 199 zone. The proposal was unanimously voted down by the CEC. Members of the council and parents were disappointed when the DOE failed to come back with an alternate plan. 

Now the DOE has started meeting with key "stakeholders," including the PTAs and school administrators at P.S. 191 and P.S. 199 to take a closer look at the needs of each school. 

The CEC now aims for a more comprehensive plan — including possibly redrawing zone lines in the northern part of the neighborhood — that would go into effect in the 2017 school year. 

American Museum of Natural History Expansion 

The museum seeks to expand by building a new exhibit hall called the Gilder Center on a portion of existing park space — a plan that still needs city approval to reach fruition.

Neighbors have rallied against the loss of surrounding parkland and trees and are fundraising to support their efforts. The Defenders of Teddy Roosevelt Park, a non-profit group made up of neighbors that formed this summer, has said legal action against the museum is not off the table. 

Jewish Home Lifecare Construction

A 20-story nursing home planned for West 97th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues hit a legal roadblock this December, after residents and parents at a school on the same street have fought for years to block it from being built.

Jewish Home Lifecare, which seeks to create a modern nursing home along the block, must redo parts of its environmental impact statement, a judge ruled. Parents and residents sued JHL and the state Department of Health for authorizing the project, and a judge agreed the state must reexamine the impact of noise and toxins on the surrounding population during construction before the project can begin. 

JHL says the ruling won't affect its construction timetable and plans to break ground this summer.

Homelessness and Panhandling

DNAinfo found that complaints about homeless encampments, homeless people and panhandlers have risen dramatically over the years, with the number of complaints to 311 peaking at its highest in August 2015.

Readers responding to the story said the data reflected a tangible issue in the neighborhood.

Mayor de Blasio, who has come under fire for failing to address the growing number of street homeless, unveiled a plan in December to tackle the problem by increasing the number of outreach workers who canvas city streets and offer aid to those in need.

Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Gilbert Taylor resigned in December, and the mayor pledged the city is working on restructuring the department to be more effective.

New permanent affordable housing for homeless veterans is headed to West 95th Street, in a building formerly used as an emergency homeless shelter, the city's Human Resources Administration announced in December.

Residents are generally supportive of the plan for permanent housing for homeless veterans but wary of how the population will be managed and how it will fit in with neighbors, including a local school on the same block. 

Bowtie Redesign

This year, the DOT undertook a redesign of the bowtie, the name for a crisscross of streets around West 65th Street, Broadway and Columbus Avenue — near Lincoln Square.

The improvements include expanding medians to provide more space for pedestrians, creating new crosswalks and rerouting traffic to prevent dangerous turns.

Broadway and West 65th Street was considered one of the most dangerous intersections in the city between 2008 and 2012, the DOT reported.

The department hopes the changes will reduce crashes and curb pedestrian injuries and deaths.

Persistently Dangerous School Designation

Last summer, P.S. 191 was deemed "persistently dangerous" by the state based on two years worth of data tracking reports of violent incidents at the school.

The designation hurts the school's reputation and was based on bad data, the PTA told DNAinfo.

Elected officials have said that they've heard from school administration and the Department of Education that the designation will be lifted in August 2016

Cyclists Targeted for Traffic Tickets

An officer of the local 20th Precinct gave out more tickets to cyclists in a three year period than any other officer in the city, DNAinfo learned earlier this year — a discovery that's gotten mixed reactions from locals.

In the 24th Precinct, which also covers the Upper West Side, officers recently pledged they would not curb their focus on handing out tickets to cyclists this year. The targeting of unruly cyclists stems from an outcry from residents and evidence that these efforts have resulted in a decrease in injuries, police have said. 

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