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University Place bike boulevard moved to back burner

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | The city has slammed the brakes on a planned virtual workshop for a possible University Place bike boulevard — and, in fact, the entire project could now be in limbo.

The online workshop had been set for Nov. 10. However, on Nov. 9, William Kelley, the executive director of the Village Alliance business improvement district, sent out an e-mail addressed to “Central Village Neighbors,” announcing the event had been postponed.

Kelley also shared a statement he received from the city’s Department of Transportation, which read: “D.O.T. is still in the process of developing potential design concepts to expand public space and increase safety on University Place. We look forward to additional outreach to community partners this winter, when we will be further along in our analysis.”

Kelley added that the BID would reach out to locals when the workshop date has been rescheduled.

On Oct. 28, D.O.T. did an in-person workshop on the bike boulevard, holding it outdoors on University Place. There was a strong turnout by residents from 12th and 13th Streets who oppose the project. A subsequent virtual workshop had been planned for Nov. 10, but Kelley at the time said D.O.T. actually had decided it wanted to push the second event off a bit and firm some things up more on its end.

Jessica Cronstein, a member of the D.O.T. Public Space Unit, did community outreach in June about ideas for University Place. (Photo by The Village Sun)

Meanwhile, Shirley Secunda, the chairperson of the Community Board 2 Traffic and Transportation Committee, on Tuesday told The Village Sun that the bike boulevard plan is being “put aside” for now.

“I just was told by D.O.T. that they’re putting aside the University Place study for now,” she said. “No other dates given. Maybe next year.”

As for what exactly a bike boulevard on University Place would look like, Secunda said there never really was a clear plan, and that a previous presentation at a C.B. 2 meeting this past June was mainly done for community outreach.

“There never was a plan,” she said. “Just outreach for feedback.”

While the plan was vague, opposition to it among many locals was vehement. University Place, which is less than 10 blocks long, is currently a relatively quiet, low-traffic street. Residents feared the bike boulevard would make the street noisier, especially at night, if it included tables and seating for people to hang out, as well as more dangerous for pedestrians due to a two-way bike lane.

“The street is already noisy at 2 to 3 a.m. with N.Y.U. students and people coming from Washington Square Park,” one Ninth Street resident complained at the June meeting. “The idea of connecting Washington Square Park and Union Square so people can go back and forth at any time of day is terrible. We’re now dealing with heroin and cocaine in Washington Square Park and now it’s going to be a drug highway,” he warned of the scheme.

One University Place small business owner told The Village Sun he thought the bike boulevard was silly and would hurt his business.

“They got a cell phone in one hand and a gelatta in the other,” he scoffed of cyclists. “They’re just looking for the next protest.”

Bike lanes, though, definitely do make the streets much safer for cyclists. In the absence of a University Place bike boulevard, cyclists currently can use the nearby downtown bike lane on Fifth Avenue and the uptown bike lanes on Sixth and Fourth Avenues.

44 Comments

  1. LES3025 LES3025 November 16, 2021

    If this city caved to NIMBY opposition on this like the article implies, that would be very disappointing.

    • Choresh Wald Choresh Wald November 17, 2021

      It’s disappointing only if you expected anything else.

      • LES3025 LES3025 November 17, 2021

        lol fair point

    • n pasley n pasley November 17, 2021

      If this city listened to residents’ opinions on matters that directly affect them, that would be very encouraging.

      • LES3025 LES3025 November 17, 2021

        Sure, listen to the entire city’s residents, including the thousands from across the city that would have used these bike lanes. Not the couple dozen people who own apartments nearby and showed up to yell at one or two community board meetings. I have a feeling you’re saying they should have listened to the latter though…

        • Carol from East 5th Street Carol from East 5th Street November 17, 2021

          Listening to the Vox Populi at last. There are more than a “couple of dozen” people who call this area HOME (as opposed to the transients who come to Manhattan to party for a few years and then move back to the suburbs where they belong). And the “thousands” from across the city who would use University Place to cycle? You obviously do not live in the neighborhood. A few hundred is an exaggeration. The main concern would be opening up this area to noise and drug dealing (a major problem in Washington Square Park).

          • Anti-Carol Anti-Carol November 18, 2021

            We definitely don’t care about what crusty white Carols have to say! Shoo, crusty!

          • NYC 4eva NYC 4eva November 18, 2021

            If you’re so invested in the street remaining open to cars, perhaps it’s you who has the suburban values.

  2. Mike Certo Mike Certo November 17, 2021

    Listening to the actual residents might be a refreshing change.

    • nina nina November 17, 2021

      Agreed!

  3. GJ GJ November 17, 2021

    The reason 12th and (especially) 13th St. residents are distrustful of the D.O.T. is because the 14th St Busway wreaked havoc on their formerly quiet, residential blocks surrounding University Place. The city promised the Busway was an “18-month pilot program where they would take community feedback and mitigate any local noise and traffic problems created by the Busway.”

    Everyone LOVES the Busway, but the noise (primarily horn honking) on 13th St. is, at times, maddening. After just a few weeks, the Busway was permanent and nobody at D.O.T. cared about the mess they left for the locals. When feedback from the community was taken, EVERY and ALL suggestions for relieving the noise was dismissed and NOTHING was done. The reduction of traffic due to the pandemic was the only relief these residents got.

    Even simple suggestions, like syncing the westbound lights on 13th St at Fifth Ave with the lights on University, do not get implemented. Presently motorists waiting to cross University Place see the green light and lay on their horns (sometimes for 20 seconds or more) because they do not understand that the light on Fifth Ave has not changed and it is bumper-to-bumper between Fifth and University since it is a short block and a short light.

    Many of the residents love their community and have lived there for decades, including when nobody even wanted to travel through Union Square, let alone live there. (Yes, that was a thing). They are not NIMBY cranksters. They just know that if the city does something and screws up University Place (presently one of the greatest streets in the world!), nothing will be done to fix it after the fact. The inaction on Busway noise solutions, as easy as some would be, has soured residents on changes by the city. They feel like the plans for University Place are a solution looking for a problem.

    • Mike Certo Mike Certo November 17, 2021

      GJ sums up many of our views on the DOT and their apparent disregard of the effect their changes have made on local quality of life.

    • LES3025 LES3025 November 17, 2021

      Look, you can’t say, “Everyone loves the busway, but it wreaked havoc on our formerly quiet block” and then say you’re not a NIMBY. You’re literally NIMBYing, admitting that everyone thinks it’s a good thing (which it is) but opposing it or other future developments like it because you think it negatively affects your neighborhood.

      I’m not even disputing that the change has negatively impacted your neighborhood or that the city could have done it better. I don’t know, I don’t go over there much, but I bet you’re probably right. But promoting transit over cars is critical and it should be the city’s job to do what’s right for the city as a whole rather than letting the homeowners in each neighborhood dictate policy.

      • The Village Sun The Village Sun Post author | November 17, 2021

        So, sort of the anti-Jane Jacobs school of city planning, eh? The local people don’t get to decide or have a say — City Hall calls all the shots, by diktat. If that was true, there would be a highway through Washington Square Park today, plus another highway running crosstown across Downtown Manhattan where Soho — the developers’ coveted prize — Little Italy and Chinatown are now today. Some logic!

        • LES3025 LES3025 November 17, 2021

          Hey Lincoln, always appreciate when you comment. Jane Jacobs existed in a very different time. There is no Robert Moses anymore, and there can’t be with the way power has been decentralized in city government. Moses died nearly a decade before the modern City Council even came into existence. It’s a different world and there isn’t some puppet master “calling the shots.” There are a bunch of bureaucrats in the Dept. of City Planning and Dept. of Transportation who are responsible for analyzing and developing various projects.

          The pendulum has swung much too far in the other direction. People today aren’t stopping the Lower Manhattan Expressway — they’re stopping bike lanes. Things like housing and transit are citywide issues and need to be addressed from a citywide perspective. If you let the loudest and most vocal of a neighborhood’s residents (which are the ones who show up to these public meetings) dictate what happens in each and every neighborhood, you end up with the fractured and dysfunctional system we have now, where we can’t build housing anywhere and it takes years to put in a bike lane or Citi Bike rack.

          Robert Moses was bad, but he was a problem two generations ago. What we have now is a different problem that also needs to be addressed. And there simply is no way to address it without centralizing a bit more power.

          • The Village Sun The Village Sun Post author | November 17, 2021

            So you are fundamentally against the “community-based planning” that Jane Jacobs championed. Most New Yorkers want more of that, not less.

          • nina nina November 18, 2021

            You are faulting people for showing up at community board meetings and exercising their right to free speech? Yes, the city should take a look at the city. Downtown is full, meanwhile we have huge lots (over six acres) on 38th St. and 1st Ave…it’s been sitting there doing nothing for decades. Why build a Tech Hub in Downtown and not Uptown, where there is more space and a greater need for jobs?

      • GJ GJ November 17, 2021

        I think you are missing the point. Most of the local residents love the Busway and support promoting transit over cars. What they do not support is being lied to and ignored by politicians, specifically Bill de Blasio and Carlina Rivera. It is not hypocritical nor greedy to say that the city could have created the Busway AND kept its promise to the neighborhood.

        Most of this nightmare was avoidable and is fixable. There is just nobody that seems willing and able to get it done. Not even in the smallest way. Creation of the Busway fixed a problem, now the D.O.T. just needs to clean up the collateral damage. So far there has been nothing done, and it’s 2 years.

        While we may also love what they ultimately do to University Place, we really need them to fix the mess they created on 12th & 13th Streets first. Jessica Cronstein admitted “We think University Place is already great, but we are trying to come up with ways to make it even better”. So they want to fix something that’s NOT broken, while ignoring something that IS broken. THIS IS THE PROBLEM!

        Be assured that the vast majority of this neighborhood is progressive and vote the same way you do. A lot of them even ride bikes. They are not selfish for wanting to peacefully live and/or work in their community when, despite promises to the contrary, nothing has been done to remedy a problem.

      • Mike C Mike C November 17, 2021

        Missing the point. Certainly OK in my backyard for the general good if the D.O.T. had some slight consideration of the impact and would consider changes that would improve things for everyone.

    • nina nina November 17, 2021

      GS is correct, many of us have been here for many decades or were even raised here, helped built the neighborhood, keep investing in it, paying some of the highest taxes in the country, but are overlooked and taken for granted.

    • Tom Wai-Shek Tom Wai-Shek November 17, 2021

      Thanks Gene.

  4. Davide Davide November 17, 2021

    What make me absolutely crazy is when the city takes advantage of the generosity of the local residents under the auspices of an “emergency,” only to then to make things permanent after implementation. This used to be called a “bait and switch,” and now it’s just called governance.

    Local recent examples:
    14th St. Busway and associated bike lanes on 12th and 13th Streets. Temporary! Oops, we meant permanent.

    On-street eating due to the pandemic. Temporary! Oops, we meant permanent.

    From my perspective, this is primarily a war against the trades. Goods and services have a ridiculously hard time getting in and out of here, which drives costs way up. Of course a lot of people don’t see or care about these costs, but I do.

    To the utopians: I can guarantee that your avocados do not grow in the basement of the Whole Foods and getting said precious avocados in and out of Manhattan more efficiently would help to keep the cost of your avocado toast down, as well as maybe keeping the costs of materials and labor from being astronomical.

    Just some random thoughts from someone that doesn’t really matter.

    • nina nina November 17, 2021

      Well said!

    • GJ GJ November 17, 2021

      You are spot-on, Sir.

    • LES3025 LES3025 November 17, 2021

      “Avocado toast.” Tell me you’re a Boomer without TELLING ME you’re a boomer.

      • Davide Davide November 17, 2021

        LES3025: I strongly suggest you take a good hard look at how you spend your time.

        • LES3025 LES3025 November 18, 2021

          lol very fair point.

  5. RW RW November 17, 2021

    Why would we give bicyclists anything at this point? They disobey every law they can and put lives in danger. The bike lanes on 12th and 13th Streets have contributed to the mess caused by the traffic pattern change for the 14th Street Busway. No residential or business comment was ever taken into consideration.

    • LES3025 LES3025 November 17, 2021

      Oh man are you going to be upset when you find out how much danger cars put people in!

      • Carol from East 5th Street Carol from East 5th Street November 17, 2021

        I’ve never been hit by a car, whose drivers I find basically follow traffic rules, stop for red lights and give pedestrians the right of way. I have however been hit by two bicycles, one of which was riding the wrong way in a bike lane (resulted in a concussion).

        Bicyclists REGULARLY do not stop for red lights, ride outside the bike lanes, ride the wrong way in the bike lane, ride on the sidewalks and now with e-bikes SPEED dangerously. There are no consequences for any of this behavior. Now crossing the street, I have to swivel my head five ways before I can cross the street safely.

        • LES3025 LES3025 November 18, 2021

          Each year, how many people in this city are killed or injured by cars and how many people are killed or injured by bikes?

          • Patrick Patrick November 18, 2021

            Cars have killed 2000 people in New York City in the last decade, bicycles have killed 10. Focusing on the mode of transport killing 200x fewer people is an interesting choice.

    • nina nina November 17, 2021

      What Davide said is right on. Good luck getting a delivery, or getting your elderly parent into a cab, or having the ambulance pull up when needed. It is beyond egregious that we are told things are just on an emergency basis, and then they become permanent without resident & taxpayer input. No wonder fewer and fewer people trust or have faith in government. The city keeps making clear that it is not interested in preserving the village and its community. #youravocadosdontgrowinthebasementofwholefoods

    • Choresh Wald Choresh Wald November 17, 2021

      Nonsense. The bike lanes use space that was designated free car storage before that. It was always a one-way street with one moving lane.

      • Davide Davide November 17, 2021

        Chroesh, what you are saying is not factually accurate.

        Prior to the bike lanes there was always enough space for two lanes of traffic. It was tight, but a car could double-park and a truck could easily get by. I’m not advocating for private vehicle parking, but I will always advocate for commercial vehicle parking and loading and unloading lanes.

        Old config on 12th and 13th:
        PARKING – TRAVEL – TRAVEL – PARKING

        New config on 12th and 13th:
        BIKE – BUFFER – TRAVEL – PARKING

        These are just facts. Correcting the record for anyone that’s interested.

        • Choresh Wald Choresh Wald November 18, 2021

          The buffer is the space where people double-park today. The parking lane needs to be removed to allow curb access for utility, delivery, emergency vehicles access instead of free car parking.

  6. Judy P. Judy P. November 17, 2021

    As a resident of 13th St with a bike lane outside my window, I can attest to the fact that bike riders (the majority of whom seem to be delivery people) take the quickest route to where they are headed, ignoring the directional arrows of the bike lane. Who on earth thinks that a 10-block bike boulevard on University Place will be such a draw that riders will head over there? If it’s not on their way, they won’t.

  7. Local Lady Local Lady November 17, 2021

    It would be great to see this kind of local opposition to the imminent implementation of the MTA’s “Congestion Pricing Toll” scheme, which charges private cars (not Uber cars, though, they are exempt) a fee to drive in Manhattan below 60th Street. Fees range from $11 to $35 depending on time of day, and are charged daily if you remain in the tolling area — even if you are parked. It’s nuts and will destroy local businesses and bankrupt residents.

    Info on the project and upcoming meetings:
    https://new.mta.info/project/CBDTP

    • LES3025 LES3025 November 17, 2021

      Ooof, awful take. Congestion pricing is the only solution to the traffic and vehicle noise problems the people in these meetings are complaining about. Car drivers should have to pay the costs of driving, which they currently do not. I’m all for charging Uber more, but all for-hire cars already pay a congestion fare on any fare going into Manhattan below 96th Street.

      It will be fine for local businesses. Studies have consistently showed that only a tiny fraction of retail customers in cities travel by car. The overwhelming majority are pedestrians or take transit. Making the city more pedestrian- and transit-friendly will be a boon for local businesses.

    • Choresh Wald Choresh Wald November 17, 2021

      The majority of us, who don’t own vehicles (80% of CB2 area residents), have been paying congestion surcharge when taking taxis and Ubers since January 1, 2019.

      • Shank’s Mare Shank’s Mare November 18, 2021

        Oh, it’s OK for YOU to take a taxi or Uber, but you criticize those who own a car? Like, it’s OK to rent, but not to own?

        Hypocrite much? Do as I say, not do as I do.

        If you are so interested in cutting automobile usage, you should do like the rest of us plebes do: support mass transit or walk.

  8. Johnny Walker Johnny Walker November 18, 2021

    20% of residents own cars?
    What percentage own bikes? Probably fewer.
    Doubt that?
    Count the number of cars v. bikes on the streets and bridges.
    So TransAlt loonies should pipe down. You are in the minority and generally disdained by most NYers.

  9. Patrick Shields Patrick Shields November 18, 2021

    Editor, any good studies out there on who patronizes local businesses more?

    Cars vs. pedestrians and cyclists? I’m willing to bet the economic impact is overwhelmingly in favor of the latter.

    Especially love to see if there are hard numbers yet regarding pre-street closure vs post-closure. The answer seems obvious.

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