MANHATTAN, N.Y. (PIX11) — Third Avenue in Manhattan has long been a headache for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers alike. On Wednesday evening, the New York City Department of Transportation presented its long-awaited plans for a reimagined corridor stretching from 59th Street to 96th Street.
Currently it’s seven lanes – two parking lanes and five travel lanes. The redesign would add a designated bus lane and a protected bike lane. That brings the number of lanes for vehicular traffic down to three. Additionally, some intersections would have designated turning lanes onto the cross streets, and that would eliminate between four to six parking spaces at each of those sections.
Paul Krikler is a safe streets advocate and member of Community Board 8, which encompasses the corridor to be redesigned. “Some people call this a car sewer. This is a seven-lane highway going through the center of Manhattan,” said Krikler. “It’s a terrible use of public space, but also it’s so dangerous.”
The current situation is unsafe for everyone who needs to use Third Avenue, which at 70 feet, is much wider than most other city streets, making crossing far trickier. “If you’re elderly or someone with mobility issues, it’s terrifying to cross this avenue,” said Krikler. “The cars are ferocious. As soon as the light turns green, they race across, and you may not be finished crossing the road.”
Krikler says the focus needs to be on three parts: a bike lane, a bus lane and sidewalk space. “If we had much wider sidewalks, not only can people get around and get around safely, we can do things like having street seating, benches, trees and it’d be a nicer place to live,” Krikler said.
According to DOT statistics, nearly 1,800 cyclists travel this corridor. There are more than 150 buses during peak hours and 50,000 daily bus riders. In the last five years, there have been six pedestrians and one cyclist killed and more than 500 people injured in accidents along the corridor.
Nick Carey, with DOT, presented the plan Wednesday night. “Third Avenue sticks out. It has a lot of pedestrian injuries and deaths, and that’s a big part of why we’re here.”
Drivers, however, feel the new plan penalizes them. One man who drives in and out of New Jersey is frustrated with the never-ending gridlock. “They don’t know what they’re doing. You close one lane when there’s construction, you can’t move.”
The DOT plans on implementing the changes for Third Avenue between 59th and 96th streets in 2023. They say they will also continue discussions for redesigning Third Avenue south of 59th Street and north of 96th Street. The city ultimately wants to make changes for all of Third Avenue from Cooper Square all the way up to the Third Avenue Bridge.