Traffic signal approved; Tribeca parents rejoice

BY ALINE REYNOLDS  |  Following an accident involving her toddler, Tribeca parent Sonia Carty will soon feel safer when crossing a notoriously dangerous neighborhood intersection — thanks to the city’s decision to install a traffic signal there early next year.

On Sept. 30, Carty’s three-year-old son, Ozzie, was hit by a taxi while crossing Greenwich Street at Duane Street. Though the child left the accident largely unscathed, the Carty family was traumatized and the incident renewed a seven-year-long campaign for more safety at the intersection.

The need for a traffic light at the Greenwich and Duane Street intersection is greater now than ever, according to Carty. “I think the demographics have changed in the last seven years,” she said. “There’s a significant increase in families that have moved to Tribeca, and a significant increase of traffic… so the demand for taxis and cars has increased.”

Last Wednesday, Oct. 19, the D.O.T. announced it will be installing a traffic signal at the intersection, a result of a recent study that revealed a high volume of pedestrians crossing the intersection. The decision comes on the heels of a longstanding community-led campaign to install a traffic light, stop sign or additional signage.

Specifically, the study, which entailed digital and manual pedestrian and vehicular counts, revealed as much as a threefold increase in weekend pedestrian traffic compared to the number of people crossing the intersection in 2007.

The traffic light will likely be installed by next February, according to D.O.T. spokesperson Seth Solomonow.

“Greenwich is a key one-way Downtown residential and retail street in an area that has added hundreds of new residential units, major retailers, restaurants and a popular greenmarket,” said D.O.T. Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan in a written statement. “New York streets are safer than they’ve ever been, and we need to make sure that they continue to meet the changing needs of neighborhoods like Lower Manhattan.”

“It’s excellent news. We’re so grateful it happened so quickly,” said Carty, who had pledged to not settle for a stop sign or any other traffic calming measure than a traffic light.

“I was getting ready for the fight of my life,” said Carty. “I certainly wasn’t expecting them to give that extreme of a solution… but in my mind, there’s no alternative.”

It’s been an uphill battle to get a traffic light — the “holy grail” of safety measures — approved for the intersection, according to Tribeca parent Nelle Fortenberry, former president of the Friends of Washington Market Park, the group that led the Greenwich-Duane Street safety campaign dubbed the “Tribeca Kids’ Safety Zone Initiative.”

“It was constant fighting… but it was worth every single bit of it,” said Fortenberry. Compared to previous pushes to get it done, the activist said, “I think the urgency here was just a groundswell behind it from all our elected officials, community groups and advocates.”

Recurring incidents at the intersection also spurred the D.O.T. to finally act, according to Fortenberry. “It finally got everyone to say, ‘does a child have to die for the D.O.T. to decide to put pedestrian safety above the convenience of vehicle traffic?’”

As a driver, Greg Boettle, who lives on Chambers Street and North End Avenue, said he isn’t looking forward to the traffic slow-down the light will likely cause. Nevertheless, Boettle, whose two young children frequent the park, deemed the D.O.T.’s decision “genius.”

“There’s no other light for a long period of time, and there’s a lot of kids coming out of [the park], so having a light here makes a lot of sense,” said Boettle.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Assembly Member Deborah Glick and NYC Council Member Margaret Chin applauded the D.O.T.’s action in a written statement, saying, “The Tribeca community has known for years that this intersection, which is directly adjacent to two schools, posed an unnecessary danger to a community filled with parents, children and seniors. We look forward to working with the Department of Transportation and the community to… ensure that other traffic calming measures are taken to address dangerous conditions in Lower Manhattan.”

Carty, meanwhile, said she has received a good amount of support from the local community since word spread of her son’s accident, with strangers stopping her on the street and e-mailing her to express their condolences and back her in her mission.

“I was touched. I’ve never seen so many people rally together for a cause,” said Carty. “I think it’s a testament to a really wonderful neighborhood.”

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