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Jessica Swanson for Spectator

Ryan Russo, the Department of Transportation’s director for street management and safety, outlined a plan to make the 96th Street intersection safer for pedestrians at Thursday night’s meeting.

The Department of Transportation unveiled plans for extensive safety changes to the 96th Street and Broadway intersection at a public meeting with Community Board 7 on Thursday night.

The meeting, held at the Goddard Riverside Community Center on 88th Street, was prompted by three recent pedestrian fatalities in the area and a subsequent letter by CB7 members to DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione asking for immediate steps to make the area safer.

Some of the changes in the plan include restricting some left turns at the intersection, widening the median where the subway hub is located, creating new turn and lane assignments, and changing signal timing. They come after changes made to the nearby 97th Street and West End Avenue intersection earlier this week.

Those present included neighbors and family of Cooper Stock, the nine-year-old killed by a taxi on 97th Street and West End Avenue on Jan. 10.

“We've heard a lot of discussion about potential barriers that have prevented major reform. The fact that plans drawn in 2008 and 2010 to fix the traffic problems in this area were not acted on makes us sick,” Barron Lerner, uncle of Stock, said. 

“I have three children, they go to school on 96th between Amsterdam and Columbus. Every day our walk to school crosses several dangerous intersections,” Julie Margolies, an Upper West Side resident, said. “We need change quickly because lives are at risk.”

The question of what the safety changes should target came up several times during the meeting—the audience appeared to support targeting drivers, applauding whenever a speaker voiced such a sentiment.

“This is not Los Angeles—we don't need anybody to tell us when it is safe to cross the street,” Ken Coughlin, a member of the CB7 transportation committee, said. “We need the police to enforce the laws on the drivers who are actually doing the killing.”

Local politicians joined neighbors in the meeting to voice their concerns about safety in the 96th Street area.

Gale Brewer, the newly inaugurated Manhattan borough president and former City Council member for District 7, which covers the 96th Street intersection, spoke to the crowd after the meeting about her efforts to push for change. 

“We met with all of the community boards today and said, ‘give us hot spots [of traffic problems],'” she said. She mentioned her role in commissioning the Nelson\Nygaard study, which was completed in December and examined potential changes around 96th Street.

“In this case, me and Melissa Mark-Viverito and Inez Dickens gave the community board money for the study,” Brewer said. 

The Nelson\Nyggard study also recommended limiting left turns and expanding the mall.

She said that now that she is borough president, she is the “convener of all the community boards” and appoints the members, giving her the opportunity to gather their feedback and information. 

District 69 State Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell also spoke about his recent bill to lower speed limits citywide.

Jane Thompson, an elderly resident of 96th Street and West End Avenue, spoke bluntly about the recommendations of the study and the speed at which changes have been implemented.

“Too bad they weren't done in December,” she said. “Maybe more people would be alive.” 

eva.kalikoff@columbiaspectator.com  |  @evakalikoff

Department of Transportation 96th Street Community Board 7 pedestrian safety DOT Gale Brewer Daniel O'Donnell
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