Safety Push At Three-Way Intersection

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By Dan Rivoli

The West 71st Street-Amsterdam Avenue-Broadway intersection can be an obstacle.

It is congested with motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians. Cars turn into crowded crosswalks, yellow lights are zipped through and bicycles peddle through a stoplight to get a jump on the idling traffic.

A woman crosses with her baby at West 71st Street and Broadway.

So far, by the count of elected officials in the area, there have been eight accidents at the intersection since the beginning of 2010. There were 25 accidents there in 2009.

Borough President Scott Stringer and Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal held a press conference Aug. 2 at an island in the middle of the “bow-tie” intersection to highlight what they feel has been the Department of Transportation’s slow implementation of safety measures it has been developing for the past year.

“It is a mystery to me that the Department of Transportation has not yet implemented changes,” Rosenthal said. “Seniors are afraid to cross the street.”

Bebe Robinson, whose apartment building faces the intersection, started collecting petitions for the safety improvements.

“It’s very nervous-making,” Robinson said about crossing the street. “You cannot get across safely.”

Stringer and Rosenthal joined residents and elderly pedestrians in calling for the department to increase crossing time, add count-down crossing signals, better signage and more traffic enforcement.

After a 2007 report from Transportation Alternatives that called the intersection the most dangerous on the Upper West Side, Rosenthal said she has been urging the department to address the problems.

“They’ve been studying this for three years,” Rosenthal said.

Stringer criticized the Department of Transportation for being able to quickly install a Time Square pedestrian plaza.

“If we were calling for them to create a plaza on 72nd Street it’d be created in a month,” said Stringer, who just moved to West 71st Street. “Thirty days from now, this district could be a lot less dangerous if they bring to bear the same energy… they have for creating plazas, bike lanes and other things.”

Last August, a taxicab took out a fence on Verdi Square at West 72nd Street and Broadway; Rosenthal went on a site visit with Department of Transportation officials last April. Inspections were expected to be made in 2011.

But Seth Solomonow, the Department of Transportation spokesperson, said safety changes are in the process of being made. A Safe Streets for Seniors plan was presented at a Community Board 7 meeting April 13.

“These changes will augment the steps we’ve already taken, including retiming the signals to allow more time for pedestrians to cross the street and installing a curb extension on the northwest corner of 71st and Broadway,” Solomonow wrote in an email.

As for the damaged fence on Verdi Square, a metal barrier plugs the gap. After the Parks Department took jurisdiction over the repair, they have tried to get the taxi company, Claron, to foot the bill.

But Rosenthal wants the gate fixed as soon as possible.

“Figure out the liability later,” Rosenthal said. “Don’t let that area go unprotected for a year.”

A Parks Department spokesperson did not return a request for comment by press time.

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