News | West Harlem

Morningside Avenue slowdown to wait until spring, after CB10 emphasizes concerns

  • Nia Brown / Senior Staff Photographer
    STOP SIGN | A taxi speeds down Morningside Avenue near 116th Street. Despite recent pressure from locals for the Department of Transportation to implement traffic-calming measures on the avenue, Community Board 10 wants a revised plan from DOT first.

Despite pressure from local politicians to implement traffic-calming measures along a stretch of Morningside Avenue, Community Board 10 leaders said at a meeting last Thursday that they want a revised plan from the Department of Transportation before continuing discussions.

“Two places where they reduced lanes, it created other problems,” CB10 chair Henrietta Lyle said of the DOT’s other changes in Harlem. She said a lane reduction in August on Mount Morris Park West aimed at slowing cars instead squeezed pedestrians, parked cars, and motorists into dangerous proximity.

“Right now, DOT’s not doing anything unless they come back with a revised plan,” Lyle said.

Last fall, the DOT presented plans to reduce lanes and introduce medians along Morningside Avenue between 116th and 126th streets—a runway-like stretch of road that local residents have long complained needs changes. Community Board 9, which shares responsibility for the avenue with CB10, voted to approve the proposal in November, but CB10 voted to hold further discussion.

After a spate of pedestrian deaths across the city in January, District 7 City Council member Mark Levine and State Sen. Adriano Espaillat wrote a joint letter to the DOT supporting the proposal. 

But instead of implementing the proposed changes, it was revealed at the CB10 meeting that the DOT will come up with a new plan that addresses the board’s concerns by March or April.

Lyle said that she acknowledged problems along the avenue and supports efforts to improve safety. When Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer asked the city’s community boards to identify pedestrian safety hotspots in their areas, Lyle included Morningside Avenue.

Still, the lack of action on CB10’s part has some safety advocates accusing the board of slowing down the overall process. 

Deborah Gilliard, co-chair of CB10’s parks, recreation and transportation committee, said the board still supports safety measures and felt that it was being used as a scapegoat.

“We always are safety first. That’s our priority,” she said. “Speed bumps by the school, that’s automatic.”

Karen Horry, the other co-chair of the committee, said she encouraged CB9 transportation chair Carolyn Thompson to steer her board away from supporting lane reductions and instead request the DOT to “identify alternative measures.” 

But despite Lyle’s recent assertion that the two boards are “on the same wavelength,” DNAinfo reported last week that Thompson does not intend to ask CB9 to amend its support of the proposal.

JP Partland, a local bike lane activist and advocate of the original DOT plan, said that he was disappointed that changes would be delayed.

“The community board appeared to have little interest in engaging the community,” he said. “I don’t think anyone in the transportation committee went out and visited anybody who goes to Morningside Park, or who goes to school along Morningside.”

With three schools located along that section of Morningside Avenue, some residents said that debates over the specific details need to take a backseat to immediate actions that can take place.

“Drivers in this neighborhood generally do not obey the speed limit,” said Nan Mead, PTA treasurer at P.S. 180, an elementary and middle school on Morningside Avenue. “We absolutely have to have the changes because there aren’t enough traffic lights and the lanes are too wide.”

Mead said that safety issues on the avenue caused a collision involving a P.S. 180 student last spring.

“Anything they were trying to do to reduce traffic or reduce speed in close proximity to where children are playing, I support,” said David Martinez, a 10-year resident of the neighborhood who was visiting a playground on Morningside Avenue with his children Sunday afternoon.

He said that even though there are traffic rules in place, “that doesn’t mean cars aren’t constantly speeding.”

deborah.secular@columbiaspectator.com  |  @DeborahSecular

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JP Partland posted on

The NYPD issued over 100 speeding tickets in less than 10 months of intermittent enforcement. In four years, there were over 263 documented injuries. The DoT's survey and projections are that it won't change the overall non-speeding car traffic flow, yet CB10's members seem far more concerned with the threat of inconveniencing drivers than they are in protecting people who live and go to school in our community. About 17% of the households in the area have cars and less than half use them for work, yet they are treated as the priority.

The speed bump issue is a non-starter because the DoT can't put in speed bumps on roads as wide as morningside and there isn't enough traffic to justify extra lights. Lane reductions have been proven to work, and yet CB10 refuses to consider them.

I have a petition, with more details, including the DoT's proposal at http://www.change.org/petitions/new-york-city-department-of-transportation-build-bike-lanes-on-morningside-avenue

I'd love your signature, but regardless, check out the plan.

Here's a video of cars speeding on Morningside. Cars going as fast as 47mph in a 30mph zone. https://vimeo.com/84496531

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Anonymous posted on

CB10 is the perfect example of failed "leadership". Sounds like their thinking on urban planning and transportation policy is about 90 years behind the times.

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New Yorker posted on

A very low percentage of the residents of this community own cars. Yet what do you want to bet that a majority of the community board members do? Tells you everything!

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Anonymous posted on

I've been cycling up and down morningside for many years. Never thought it to be a problem. Neither have my neighbors. This is just another fake crisis drummed up to punish drivers by the not-so-all-powerful-anymore car-hater lobby. Nice to see the locals standing up to the transplants who come here and whine about our neighborhood

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JP Partland posted on

Anonymous,

It's telling that you don't put your name on your complaint.

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