Volume 19 | Issue 28 | November 24 - 30, 2006


Traffic safety can’t end on Warren St.

We’ll start by giving the state Department of Transportation some credit. It’s not uncommon for government agencies to obfuscate and deny when inconvenient facts turn up in an environmental impact statement (see the West Side stadium E.I.S.). But D.O.T. did not try and pull a fast one when the environmental study on its plan to “improve” West St. predicted that the corner of West and Warren Sts. would become 60 percent more dangerous.

We accept for now D.O.T.’s claim that the plan to rebuild the Downtown portion of West St. would make the highway safer for pedestrians at other intersections to cross into and out of Battery Park City. But it is completely unacceptable to ask Warren St. crossers to “take one for the team” and put up with more accidents and possible deaths to ensure the safety of others. It would be unconscionable regardless of who uses that intersection, but the fact that it is a major crossing used by Little League and youth soccer players, P.S./I.S. 89 students and senior citizens going to and from the Hallmark residence makes it shocking.

The purpose of doing an E.I.S. is not because it is legally required. The purpose is to identify problems and make adjustments accordingly. D.O.T. has failed miserably on the second part. If transportation planners took a Hippocratic Oath it would undoubtedly have the same rule as doctors: first, do no harm. Good traffic planning puts safety first and it is hard to imagine that simple rule is lost at D.O.T.

The problems with the Warren St. change are that it encourages drivers to turn off West St. into crossing children and seniors, shortens the time pedestrians have to cross West St., and reduces the size of the pedestrian island. A smaller island sends signals to drivers that this is a highway, not a street in an increasingly residential neighborhood.

Battery Park City is home to the only community living west of West St. – that’s Route 9A to D.O.T. – and the agency must understand a cookie-cutter approach to intersections will not work. Some will have to be designed differently than others. We understand that D.O.T. cannot make adjustments on Warren St. in a vacuum – that it will have implications for the rest of the plan. But that can’t be an excuse to leave a dangerous component unchanged.

It is also not at all clear to us that D.O.T. has considered the fact that residential buildings continue to be built within a block or two of this intersection, and that Bed, Bath & Beyond and Whole Foods, soon to move into the Minskoff development on Site 5B, are large destination retail chains that are vehicle magnets. D.O.T. can’t possibly know where the tour buses going to the W.T.C. memorial will go when it opens in 2009 because as we explained last week, the agency responsible for that, the Port Authority, hasn’t figured it out yet.

Fortunately these half-baked plans are not final yet. We’ll grade generously — maybe they’re 90 percent baked. But they are not ready to be served. How many additional injuries are enough to accept on Warren St.?

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