West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 7 | July 18 - 24, 2007
Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel
An officer directed traffic at Ninth Ave. and 14th St., where a two-block stretch of the avenue was changed from two-way to one-way last week. In the background, orange cones mark where a new traffic triangle will appear.
One-way is sure way to improve safety on Ninth Ave.
By Albert Amateau
The gateway to the Meatpacking District at 14th St. and Ninth Ave. is undergoing a long-awaited transformation intended to improve pedestrian safety and to rationalize a confusing pattern of truck and car traffic.
The Department of Transportation began work on its Ninth Ave. Plaza project on the evening of July 9. New traffic lanes were marked out and the short stretch with two-way traffic on Ninth Ave. between 14th and 16th Sts. was changed to one-way downtown, continuing downtown on Hudson St. south of 14th St.
The former stretch of two-way traffic on Ninth Ave. was widely considered dangerous and to have contributed to the death of an 82-year-old woman hit by a truck while she was crossing 16th St. on the east side of Ninth Ave. on the morning of Feb. 5. The truck, traveling uptown on Ninth Ave., hit the victim when it turned right onto 16th St. The victim, Amelia Chimieti of 335 W. 14th St., was killed instantly.
The $200,000 Ninth Ave. Plaza project is creating a triangular plaza of 4,400 square feet on the north side of 14th St. On the south side of 14th St., there will be a 2,500-square-foot extension of the triangle between Ninth Ave. and Hudson St., plus a 1,400-square-foot neckdown at the corner on the west side of Ninth Ave.
“The project will improve safety for all street users,” said Craig Chin, a Transportation Department spokesperson. “It will make for a more pedestrian-friendly environment and add a public plaza to this important location,” he added.
Most of the infrastructure work street resurfacing, new signals and new signs is expected to be completed at the end of July. Additional amenities, including seats and planting on the plaza, will follow and are anticipated to take another month or so.
“The Department of Transportation has recognized that pedestrian safety is as important as traffic congestion,” said Jo Hamilton, a member of Community Board 2 and the steering committee of the Greater Gansevoort Urban Improvement Project. The urban improvement project group seeks to improve car traffic and pedestrian patterns in a 24-hour neighborhood where high-end retail, restaurants, nightlife, art galleries and meat wholesalers co-exist in a crowded historic district between Ninth Ave. and the Hudson River.
The pedestrian crossings in the district are among the longest in Manhattan, from 120 feet to 140 feet from curb to curb, Hamilton noted. The Ninth Avenue Plaza project adds a bicycle lane and reduces the number of auto lanes on Ninth Ave. from four to three. Hudson St. auto lanes are reduced from three to two. The project also creates shorter, conflict-free crosswalks.
“The plaza project bodes well for the larger plans of the Greater Gansevoort Urban Improvement Project,” Hamilton said. She noted that the group has been working with Sam Schwartz, a traffic consultant and former D.O.T. assistant commissioner, and staff members of the Regional Plan Association on a comprehensive plan for the entire district. “We expect to submit those plans soon to D.O.T.,” Hamilton said.
Jay Marcus, a Community Board 4 member and also a member of the G.G.U.I.P. steering committee, recalled that D.O.T. presented the Ninth Ave. Plaza plan to the board last month. Department staff promised that both Board 4, which covers Chelsea, and Board 2, covering the Village, would be consulted about the furnishings and maintenance of the plaza. C.B. 4 endorsed a request that D.O.T. fast-track a final design for the intersection.
Hamilton noted that the Ninth Ave. Plaza, an interim project, was funded in the city’s expense budget.
“It involves resurfacing but not street rebuilding,” she noted, adding that D.O.T. officials have indicated that the department hopes to include a final design for the plaza in its capital budget plans in three years.
In January, the Greater Gansevoort Urban Improvement District conducted an open workshop where neighbors came up with long-range solutions, including extending the 14th St./Canarsie L subway line from Eighth Ave. into the Meat Market and adding sidewalk space on the west side of Ninth Ave. between 14th and 16th Sts., where pedestrian traffic is heaviest.
Another idea calls for a median on Ninth Ave. below 14th St. to keep cars from weaving from one side of the street to the other.