Planned Bike Path on Park Row Raises Residents' Safety Concerns

Nick Stabile, a Chatham Green board member, told a Community Board 1 committee and DOT officials that he wants to ensure pedestrian safety when a bike lane is installed as part of the city's plan for the street (shown in rendering). Together, Chatham Green and Chatham Towers contain nearly 700 units on Park Row. Rendering: NYCDOT; Stabile: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib 

Oct. 10, 2017

A plan proudly announced by city officials in August to create a pedestrian and cyclist friendly stretch of Park Row is now drawing the ire of some nearby residents.

Closed to unauthorized motorists, Park Row’s unwelcoming half-mile connection between the Brooklyn Bridge and Chinatown is slated to get a protected two-way bike lane and expanded pedestrian access. It’s a partial concession to many who called for reopening the street, closed since Sept. 11, 2001 out of terror concerns for 1 Police Plaza and the area’s Civic Center buildings.

The changes are intended to bring safety and aesthetic improvements to the street. But residents of Chatham Green and Chatham Tower, two large apartment complexes adjacent to the project that house many seniors, say they fear that cyclists on the new bike path will create a crossing hazard for pedestrians. They voiced their concerns last week at a Community Board 1 committee meeting where Department of Transportation officials who were on hand to explain the plan.

That plan calls for removing various security barriers and perpendicular parking spaces reserved for members of the police department. The street, officials say, can accommodate separate lanes for pedestrians (who now have no sidewalk), bikes and a row of parallel parked cars for cops, as well as one lane for moving vehicles.

Nick Stabile, co-founder of the Park Row Alliance and a Chatham Green board member, commended the city for opening Park Row but said the proposed addition of a bike lane creates added dangers.

“I’m curious how you’re going to handle pedestrian safety at the intersection of Pearl Street and Park Row,” said Stabile, who noted that earlier that day he was forced to dodge a cyclist “whizzing” through a stop sign and riding against traffic. “I am young, I am spry. My senior citizen friends do not share that,” he said. He called on the DOT to come up with a safety plan that would include posting a police officer at times at the intersection to ticket cyclists who run the light.

Others among the three dozen residents from the two buildings and nearby Southbridge Towers recounted their own mishaps with cyclists and growing fears about Park Row.

Vivian Eng of Chatham Green said members of her family had been hit by bikes and, like Stabile, wanted to know how the city would prevent accidents on Park Row, and not just with bikes. “People like to speed,” she said, “and skateboarders love all kinds of paths they can find.”

A Chatham Towers resident said she feared that the “huge community of seniors” who are used to the closed off street will forget to look out for bikes traveling in both directions and possibly ignoring the light.

Ed Pincar, the DOT’s Deputy Manhattan Borough Commissioner, pointed to his agency’s bike safety programs. In one, “street ambassadors” hand out reminders to cyclists about lawful riding.

“There is a moment where a cyclist is going to do the wrong thing,” Pincar said. “Our hope is to make sure that they’re educated about the rules of the road before they ride.”

“That’s a laugh,” someone in the room shouted.

“I don’t believe it is,” Pincar responded. “When they do, it becomes a matter of enforcement.”

“Rules cannot be enforced,” someone else called out.

Pincar acknowledged that there are cyclists who “don’t do the right thing, just like there can be motorists who don’t do the right thing.”

“There are more cyclists who are breaking the rules!” came the response.

Craig Broward of the DOT’s Bikes and Greenways Program, tried to assure the residents that changes at the intersection will help. The sidewalks on both sides would be expanded to make the crossing distance shorter, and parking spots might be moved farther from the intersection to make it easier to see oncoming cyclists. He also said he would consider rumble strips or additional markings near the crosswalk.

And to the skeptics he promised that the city would “keep an eye” on the intersection. “We will work with the Police Department,” he said, “and make sure that cyclists are compliant and obeying the laws.”

Broward said some street paving an other work will begin this fall, with the project scheduled for completion in the spring.



'Bike lane will make another street hazardous'

I think adding bike lanes to Park Row is just going to make another street dangerous to cross in this city. I live in Queens and what they've done to Queens Blvd. has gone beyond being hazardous to drivers as well as pedestrians. I have had to move out of the way many times when crossing Broadway (with the light) because a person on their own bike or a Citibike zooms or zig zags through the red light going the other way. Most times if I had taken even a small step, I would have been hit. This is a city of drivers and walkers and why we are catering to bicyclists who don't pay for licenses, registration, inspection or even insurance is beyond me. I hope the bike lanes are not put in.