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BY ALINE REYNOLDS | The Delancey St. corridor will soon be less intimidating for pedestrians, according to the city Department of Transportation, which in June will implement a new safety plan for the heavily trafficked street.
The D.O.T. initiative comes in response to the latest pedestrian death on the dangerous boulevard — Dashane Santana, 12, was killed while crossing at Clinton St. last month — and a slew of other pedestrian accidents along Delancey in recent years. D.O.T. plans to shorten nearly three-quarters of the street’s crosswalks between Bow-ery and Clinton St., based on data that shows pedestrians are hurrying to cross the street as the light is turning red. The Clinton St. crosswalk, in particular, where Santana was hit and killed by a minivan, will be shortened by 30 percent.
D.O.T. will also be widening sidewalks, chopping off sections of the Delancey St. service roads, adding new pedestrian-friendly signage and street markings, and increasing the pedestrian countdown time so that fewer people are forced to wait in the medians.
The plan was presented to Community Board 3’s Transportation Committee on Wed., Feb. 8.
According to D.O.T. Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, the goal is to transform the corridor from a frenzied thoroughfare into a street that neighborhood residents and workers alike can feel confident crossing.
“This is the most concerted effort ever brought to bear on Delancey St.,” said Sadik-Khan. “Building on four years of improvements along the corridor, this plan will dramatically enhance safety for everyone on Delancey and the Lower East Side.”
D.O.T. will also be instituting new left-turn restrictions at certain intersections along the corridor. Based on the fact that, in nearly 50 percent of car accidents involving pedestrians, the walkers were crossing with the light, many turning vehicles are failing to yield as they’re supposed to, according to D.O.T. Once the plan is implemented, left turns onto Chrystie and Allen Sts. from Delancey St., and onto Delancey St. from Essex St., will be prohibited.
“The fact is, left turns aggravate congestion,” explained Josh Benson, D.O.T. director of bicycle and pedestrian programs, who presented the plan at the C.B. 3 meeting.
The improvements also include the opening of northbound Clinton St. to drivers headed to the Williamsburg Bridge, which Benson said is intended to reduce drivers speeding and running red lights.
Several C.B. 3 members applauded the plan, including David Crane, the Transportation Committee chairperson.
“I’m pleased and I’m hopeful that it’ll really be a much safer situation,” Crane said.
However, Lower East Side resident Martin Glass and others wanted to see D.O.T.’s proposed changes happen sooner. Glass contended that another person could be killed between now and June.
“Waiting three months is too long,” Glass said. “That to me is absolutely horrendous.”
Other residents requested that the pedestrian signal countdowns be lengthened right now.
“This is the most immediate remedy, and it could happen in a day and could save lives,” said Nahum Freidowitz.
Until signals are altered and crosswalks are shortened starting in June, Benson advised pedestrians against crossing the full width of Delancey St. at one time.
“When you’re crossing the street and the countdown’s ticking down, if you’re on the median, just stay put. I know it’s frustrating, but it’s much safer,” Benson said.
C.B. 3 member Morris Faitelewicz, former chairperson of the board’s Transportation Committee, called for an increased presence of traffic enforcement agents, which isn’t currently part of D.O.T.’s plan.
“If you don’t have people giving summonses on a regular basis, people will continue” making left-hand turns, said Faitelewicz.
While state Senator Daniel Squadron praised the proposal during a brief appearance at the meeting, he also noted that additional studies and improvements for Delancey St. are needed.
“Even an aggressive, far-reaching, comprehensive plan doesn’t solve everything in one fell swoop,” the senator said of the D.O.T. initiative. “We must continue to study and improve Delancey and the surrounding streets to prevent future tragedies and ensure the safety of all users.”
The C.B. 3 Transportation Committee is set to vote on a resolution about the plan at its March meeting.