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Expressing Concerns About DOT's Green Light for Midtown Project

 

April 15, 2009

Margaret Forgione
Manhattan Borough Commissioner
New York City Department of Transportation
59 Maiden Lane, 35th Floor
New York, NY 10038
Re: Green Light for Midtown

Dear Ms. Forgione:

As the State Senator whose district includes much of the Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen neighborhoods adjacent to Times and Herald Squares, I am writing regarding the New York City Department of Transportation’s (“DOT”) Green Light for Midtown (GLM) project. I have already expressed to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan my general support for this pilot project that, by closing Broadway to vehicular traffic from 47th to 42nd Streets and 35th to 33rd Streets, seeks to add to Midtown Manhattan’s economic and cultural vitality while reducing the area’s chronic traffic congestion. Nonetheless, I wish to raise several potential adverse impacts of the plan in the hope that they can be effectively addressed prior to the GLM project’s implementation.

First, as you know, traffic on Ninth Avenue already renders that artery inaccessible as it is virtually a parking lot during peak hours. The heavy traffic creates a dangerous and sometimes deadly situation for pedestrians and likely contributes to Hell’s Kitchen’s high asthma rate. By prohibiting vehicles from southbound Broadway around Times Square, notwithstanding any mitigation measures, I believe that the GLM project will push a great deal of additional traffic onto Ninth Avenue.

While I was heartened to hear that DOT will seek to divert vehicles to Seventh Avenue using signs and traffic attendants, and will be monitoring for increased traffic to Ninth Avenue, I believe more proactive prevention measures are necessary. Thus I urge DOT to consult Manhattan Community Board 4’s lengthy list of recommended immediate, short-term actions to improve area traffic flow. These proposed actions were developed with community input as part of DOT’s own Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Traffic Study, which was underway prior to the GLM proposal. Deductive reasoning dictates that, because the Traffic Study was started before GLM, its associated recommendations ought to be acted upon first. Accelerating the study and implementation of these proposals, especially where they relate to Ninth Avenue, might alleviate the effects of increased traffic caused by implementation of GLM.

I am also concerned about the GLM’s effects on accessibility for disabled New Yorkers who frequent the stores, theaters, and attractions in and around Herald Square and, especially, Times Square. It is important that DOT takes into account the fact that many disabled New Yorkers rely on vehicles as their primary mode of transportation due to an appalling dearth of accessible alternatives. Even though Times Square and Herald Square are accessible, the neighborhoods of origin often have no accessible subway entrances. Many persons with disabilities, because of their unique mobility challenges, may need to park or be dropped off extremely close to their destinations. DOT must ensure there is sufficient, convenient parking for disabled New Yorkers’ personal vehicles as well as loading and unloading space for Access-A-Ride vehicles. I know that DOT is aware of these concerns and I urge it both to take an inventory of parking regulations in Times Square and Herald Square and meet with disabled advocates to discuss potential mitigations.

Lastly, the Times Square Alliance has raised a number of important issues. The Alliance’s common-sense insistence that the new pedestrian spaces be designed so they do not inadvertently impede traffic and pedestrian flows should be heeded now and monitored as the pilot project moves forward. Additionally, I share the Alliance’s concern that the cross streets remain adequately accessible to deliveries, maintenance vehicles, and theater patrons. DOT must respect basic business needs if this project is to be successful.

Lastly, the Times Square Alliance has raised a number of important issues. The Alliance’s common-sense insistence that the new pedestrian spaces be designed so they do not inadvertently impede traffic and pedestrian flows should be heeded now and monitored as the pilot project moves forward. Additionally, I share the Alliance’s concern that the cross streets remain adequately accessible to deliveries, maintenance vehicles, and theater patrons. DOT must respect basic business needs if this project is to be successful.

Sincerely,

Thomas K. Duane
New York State Senate
29th District