By Albert Amateau
Congestion pricing was not the only traffic issue between Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the city Department of Transportation over the past few weeks.
A D.O.T. crew began digging up four locations at Grand St. intersections on Sat., March 15, one at Clinton St., another at Pitt St. and two at Bialystoker Pl.
“I passed by and I first thought it was a Con Edison dig,” Silver said in a telephone interview. But a few days later, the signs appeared at one of the sites identifying the work as the city’s traffic refuge islands project. Silver fired off a March 24 letter to Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khano.
Silver was troubled because the project began without prior notice and he questioned the need for the islands. He feared they would impede Grand St. traffic, which includes the M14A bus, commercial delivery and sanitation trucks and cars going to and from the FDR Dr. and the Williamsburg Bridge.
Susan Stetzer, Community Board 3 district manager, said she was taken by surprise even though she received an e-mail from the city on Fri., March 14 announcing that “our in house contractor is scheduled to start construction of the refuge islands tomorrow,” as part of D.O.T. “Safe Route to School” initiative.
“It was presented as if it was scheduled for that date,” said Stetzer. “It turned out that it was originally scheduled for the end of April, but a slot opened up for it in the middle of March,” she said.
The project was not presented to the monthly Community Board 3 district service cabinet meeting and the police and fire departments were out of the loop, Stetzer said.
In an e-mail, a D.O.T. spokesperson said the islands in the Grand St. medians are for pedestrian safety especially students and seniors and tree plantings on the islands would calm traffic. P.S. 134/184 was notified the day before construction began.
But Silver told Downtown Express that drivers are confused and have run over one work site twice in the past three weeks. In his letter to Sadik-Khan, Silver said, “D.O.T., while expressing its desire to reduce congestion on our streets, is in fact instituting measures that will have precisely the opposite effect.”
Two of the islands are complete and work on the other two is underway. “This is part of the ‘I am right. Don’t listen to anyone’ policy,” Silver told Downtown Express the day after the Assembly shot down Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing program.