71st Street Crossing Has Many Seeing Red

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — There was fury and anger Monday night over the failure of the Department of Transportation to fix a dangerous Upper West Side intersection for over three years.

As CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reports, residents claim the agency is more concerned with building new bike lanes and plazas than community safety.

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CBS 2 has images of one of the 33 accidents that have occurred in the last 18 months at the “bow-tie” intersection near West 71st Street at Broadway and Amsterdam. Residents like Batya Lewton, an accident victim herself, said the DOT has ignored pleas to do something like make lights longer, have countdown clocks, or do anything to make it safe for people to cross the street.

“In order to get here I actually asked a woman to please cross me because I was afraid of crossing. Isn’t that silly?” Lewton said.

“It’s dangerous. I have a walker and, you know, there’s not enough time to cross the street,” added Upper East Side resident Anne Cunningham.

When asked how dangerous the area is, Upper West Side resident Judith Tannenbaum said, “I tell you, I avoid it no matter where I have to go. Even if it takes me 10 blocks I’ll walk it because they come form all directions.”

Traffic does come from all directions, and it’s scary. But despite bitter complains, accident after accident, the DOT has done nothing, residents said.

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“While the city is lavishing attention on making Times Square more attractive, what they ought to be doing is lavishing on this intersection to make it more safe,” Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal said.

Some charge that Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan hasn’t responded because her focus is on creating bike lanes and plazas like those in Times and Herald squares.

“You know if we were calling on them to create a plaza on 72nd Street it would be created in a month. Here we’re asking them to fix a couple of traffic lights and they still can’t do that,” Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said.

“We do have a big study underway and we are planning to make intersection improvements,” Sadik-Khan added.

Complicating the problem is that Trader Joe’s is going to open a new store here in just a few weeks and officials said traffic is going to get a whole lot worse — if that’s possible.

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The DOT said sometime next month the agency plans to present a plan for changes to that intersection that will reduce crossing distances for pedestrians.