It is unacceptable to have to wait a decade for Upper East Side's transportation improvements to materialize.
Underground, it took 10 years for the Second Avenue subway construction to be completed. Now we can't wait another 10 years for a safer design of Second Avenue at street level.
Any pedestrian who has tried to cross under the Queensboro Bridge on Second Avenue knows it is not safe, and while the new subway runs in both directions, residents of the Upper East Side who travel above ground via bicycle have no safe route downtown Community Board 8's Transportation Committee. But we can work with the city to change this, by demanding Second Avenue safety improvements at next tomorrow's public session of. Second Avenue needs a road diet, and the Department of Transportation is proposing just that, with the addition of five proposed crosswalks, two new pedestrian islands at 59th Street, and the continuation of the parking-protected bike lane from 68th Street to 60th Street.
The new crosswalks and pedestrian islands will allow pedestrians to navigate under the bridge on a brand new route that will give Upper East Siders of all ages ample time to cross, avoiding the need to rush past cars turning onto the bridge at dangerous speeds. The extension of the bike lane, which would be protected by parked cars during non-rush hours, is a common-sense improvement to protect the thousands of cyclists who use this street every day. When safety on our streets is at stake, we cannot afford to delay another safety plan for pedestrians, cyclists and even drivers.
Once the Department of Transportation's plan is approved and implemented, it should be treated as a first step toward fully reimagining Second Avenue north of the Queensboro Bridge. Going forward, we must find locations for additional pedestrian refuge islands between 68th and 60th Streets, both to make it easier to cross the wide avenue and to better protect cyclists as they head downtown.
CB8 has set a precedent of supporting Vision Zero measures and protecting pedestrians on the Upper East Side, and this plan is another step in the right direction. With the completion of the Q train stations, the Upper East Side now has more mobility than most of our children can remember. However, they do not have to remember the threat of a dangerous intersection; at the base of the Queens Borough Bridge it is still there putting East Siders at risk.
The Second Avenue plans are a necessity that will keep pedestrians safe and improve transportation in our district. Please speak out at the public session taking place at the Community Board 8 Transportation Committee Meeting on September 5, at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the NY Blood Center, at 310 East 67th St. in the auditorium.
Second Avenue cannot afford another 10-year delay. Your community needs you.
Ben Kallos represents the Upper East Side's District 5 on the City Council. Paul Steely White is executive director of Transportation Alternatives