Court: 14th St. car ban can start

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | A judge who temporarily blocked the 14th St. busway from going forward a month ago, on Tuesday gave the embattled scheme the green light.

State Supreme Court Justice Eileen Rakower ruled that the city can put its novel Transit and Truck Priority lanes plan into effect. In doing so, she found against a community lawsuit by a broad coalition of Village and Chelsea block associations and large residential co-op buildings.

Under the city’s plan — now set to go into effect Monday — only buses and trucks with at least three axles will be allowed to use 14th St. as a through street between Third and Ninth Aves. daily from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Buses and trucks will rule the road on 14th St. every day from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. starting Mon., Aug. 12, while cars will mostly be banished. It’s all being done in the name of increasing bus speed. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

Delivery vehicles and residents will be able to drive onto the street for drop-offs or pickups, but have to take the next available right turn. Residents will also be able to drive onto the street for parking. The first of its kind in New York City, the traffic plan is being called an 18-month “pilot project.”

Many opponents fear the 14th St. car ban will push displaced traffic onto their nearby side streets. Meanwhile, 14th St. residents are concerned about maintaining curbside building access. But the city says the scheme will speed up buses during the hours it’s needed the most.

Select Bus Service — along with a reduction in the number of bus stops — went into effect on the M14 route a month ago in another effort to get the buses moving faster.

Tim Minton, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, assured that speed and efficiency would be increased.

“This ruling is a win for 27,000 daily bus riders who can get to work and where they need to go faster,” he said. “Speedier rides mean more reliability, better service and added convenience. We thank the New York City Department of Transportation for its dedication to implementing a more efficient design on 14th St.”

A D.O.T. spokesperson added, “Today’s ruling allows us to move ahead to improve bus service along the corridor. We are beginning work immediately and Transit and Truck Priority will go into effect Mon., Aug. 12.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted his excitement at the plan’s court win:

“JUST IN: We prevailed in our legal fight to speed up buses on 14th Street! With this hurdle clear, @NYC_DOT is moving ahead with final roadwork so we can get New Yorkers moving on one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares. Let’s get this DONE!”

The plaintiffs were represented by activist attorney Arthur Schwartz, the Village’s male Democratic district leader, who did the case pro bono. Schwartz, who lives on W. 12th St., was also an individual plaintiff in the suit.

Schwartz, in a group e-mail to the opponents, wrote: “We think the judge made three errors. The first is that she allowed D.O.T. to assert that they took sufficient consideration of environmental factors, without any proof. Second, she did not make them explain why they need the restrictions to stretch from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., when the bus speed problems D.O.T. described were only between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., and 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Third, she did not consider at all how unsafe the 12th and 13th St. bike lanes are; they are an invitation to bicyclist injury.”

Crosstown bike lanes were added on the two streets, anticipating a full L-train shutdown, which never materialized — but D.O.T. made them permanent anyway.

“Over all,” Schwartz continued, “I am horrified that my block, 12th St., will now have 350 cars an hour going down it (D.O.T. numbers); that’s one car every 10 seconds on a residential street.

“I am also disappointed in the elected officials, particularly Mayor de Blasio, who wants to be president (!), and Corey Johnson, who wants to be mayor, because of their utter lack of consideration or concern about the people living in the affected communities. Not a great qualification for higher office.”

Speaking after the ruling, Schwartz said that Eric Beaton, D.O.T. deputy commissioner for transportation planning and management, submitted a letter arguing that traffic lights could be controlled to ensure that the traffic would flow smoothly, somehow avoiding vibrations that could harm fragile historic Village and Chelsea buildings. Schwartz said the judge deemed this the “hard look” she had asked the city agencies to do last month.

Schwartz added that traffic data and times were only presented for morning and evening rush hours — so the argument wasn’t made why the no-cars plan should exist at other times.

“It may be one of the reasons we appeal,” he noted.

The attorney also bristled at transit advocates and cyclists who criticize the opponents as wealthy.

“Most of the people in the block associations are not rich at all,” he said. “They tend to be an older group. They are in rent-regulated apartments.”

Schwartz predicted the T.T.P. plan won’t start until Labor Day since “they haven’t finished painting the bus lane.” However, again, D.O.T. says it will start Aug. 12.

The attorney also scoffed at the city’s claim that the situation on 14th St. with slow buses and traffic is an “emergency” since the M.T.A., in 2011, listed the street as one slated to get S.B.S. Yet, there clearly was no rush, as S.B.S. wasn’t implemented until last month — eight years later.

After all the hoopla, ultimately, the plan would only result in the crosstown buses running a couple of minutes faster, the attorney charged.

“The goal is to make the buses go 2.1 minutes faster in the morning — 2.1 eastbound, 2.9 minutes westbound, something like that,” he said. “It was in Beaton’s affidavit.”

33 Responses to Court: 14th St. car ban can start

  1. Let’s petition the city to create non through traffic on the side streets so that there won’t be any incentive for drivers to cross the city using residential streets. Let’s have multiple speed humps on every block in order to force drivers to drive slow. And let’s eliminate free car storage (“parking “) that way we will stop incentivize drivers from all over the country to drive into our neighborhood.
    Arthur Schwartz: as you have mentioned in the lawsuit the crosstown bike lanes are blocked by utility and delivery vehicles. The city needs to designate loading zones on the south curb of the street so that drivers of these vehicles that provide basic needs for the people living in this neighborhood and the businesses that operate on our streets will have a place to park.

  2. Golden Isles Beach

    Hey Art, in Florida small towns like Golden Isles beach have the power to de-map streets, restrict turns, and even put up manned gates to control the flow of visitors. It’s a much better system than in NYC where neighborhoods have no say and all streets are open to anyone. We do have bike lanes but they need to share the highway lane with cars. Move here, it’s more your speed (and the speed limit is strictly enforced)!

  3. Robert Lederman

    Under Bloomberg and diBlasio the DOT is ruining NYC, making every street more dangerous for drivers, pedestrians and bikes. As more and more people from outside Manhattan become unwilling to drive into Manhattan; unwilling to be subject to the insane chaos of painted markings, bus lanes, bike lanes, speed cameras, intersection cameras and DOT goons issuing summonses on every street, more stores will close, the economy will suffer and many more bike riders will be injured or die. Vision Zero has Zero Vision.

  4. TERRIBLE!!! Those of us who live on the secondary streets from 3 Ave to 9 Ave will bear the brunt of traffic jams, air, and noise pollution.

    How are emergency services, such as EMS, the Fire & Police Department, Access A Ride and other vehicles that need to gain access to the side streets? What happens when there is going to be continuous traffic?

    Let’s get over this and limit the number of cars that are already roaring through our communities. What about the dangers this entails of people who need the side streets to get off the grid, carrying groceries, using walkers, wheelchairs and baby strollers, or have mobility challenges?

    There is a disconnect that is happening here and the reality is different than the theory. It is another failing disaster waiting to be proven. We had a history with speeding cars for decades and advocated to install speed bumps to curtail the speed and flow of traffic from preventing accidents, injuries and fatalities. We had to get approval from the community through discussion at meetings, then have the community board vote to get the speed bump passed and approved with the DOT.

    Sounds like the mean spirit of Jabob Moses has come back to haunt us all. We need the wisdom of Jane Jabobs of the city and not the backward thinking of a Jacob Moses. Stop destroying our communities!

    What a mess you are creating for our beloved communities. SHAME ON YOU! Go back and look at other models in European cities. You get an F for failing the people, our communities and our city.

    • A note on historical accuracy

      Debbie- with all due respect you not only have Robert Moses name wrong, but you appear to be incorrectly assessing both his legacy, which you are defending, and particularly that of Jane Jacobs, who you are appropriating as spuriously as Mr. Schwartz meritless lawsuit.

      I recommend you read ‘Wrestling with Moses – How Jane Jacobs took on New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City’ by Anthony Flint to become better informed about these big names in NYC history.

      Ms. Jacobs, an avid cyclist, took on not only Robert Moses but also the tyranny of the personal automobile that our cities were being retrofitted to serve. It was in 1959, as she was writing her seminal ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ that street parking was first permitted in the city. She spent her career bitterly fighting the transformation of our streets into the car-oriented nightmare they have become.

      I’m not sure where you live, but suffice it to say that large swaths of our neighborhood would be an expressway if it wasn’t for Ms. Jacobs work. Trying to invoke her name on the wrong side of the continuing battle to reclaim space from personal cars is nothing short of blasphemy, and it has been disgraceful to see people opposing a mass transit enhancement repeatedly, regrettably, and wrongfully try to appropriate her legacy.

    • You’ll get over it.

      • Chris,

        Thank you for your criticism and expertise on this matter. Next time you can take the lead with your historical scholarly lecture and critique of this subject and continue to correct others who are not quite as intelligent to properly and appropriately uphold legacies.

        • Thanks, Debbie. I am just calling it like I see it.

          And yes(!) you’re absolutely right that the disgraceful 14th St. Coalition utterly lacked expertise and focus, even for a bad faith NIMBY group. It shows in the frivolous lawsuit and in the myriad attempts (like yours) to disguise the core argument that “we just don’t want this on our block or near our block.”

          I may not be Chris, but I will channel him when I say that you won’t notice much of a difference next week besides better bus speeds. And that is what this is all about.

        • As someone who has actually spent time reading about Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses, I think I could gladly spend time lecturing you on how you’re terribly wrong. But since you can’t even get their names right, I feel you have no interest in anything other than pathetic protectionism of your neighborhood over the people who rely on transit in neighboring communities. But please, Debbie, tell me how Jane Jacobs would support car parking and how Robert Moses would support bus lanes.

  5. Busway is a travesty. Contingent congestion will be horrible. Scientific theory “every action there is reaction”

    • That’s not how traffic works. Look up the theory of induced demand if you’re so interested in the science of traffic congestion.

  6. Absolutely ridiculous! Thought we dodged this completely non-researched plan. Us native Manhattan residents continued to be squeezed by those transplanted to our city and not accustomed to big city life. As a disabled driver, fortunate enough to have an automobile, this will cause undo hardship as I drive myself and disabled spouse to doctors’ appointments. Others, especially the elderly, extreme inconvenience losing their closest bus stops. And how about the young female,a nurse, e.g., who works nights @ lives in Stuy Town. She will now have to walk several additional blocks do get the bus to go to and from work @ the hospital at night. Thanks to the current (absentee…a good thing?) NYC administration, the streets are reverting back to the late 60’s/70’s (I was there and lived through the mess). As always, I refer even back to the previous NYC administration who wanted NYC to like London…no cars, but his. This is good….what is already, at times, a one hour ride for a two mile trip from downtown may now add at least another half-hour. Great job NYC. Is there a higher court to which an appeal can be filed. Andrew Cuomo came to the rescue at the beginning of the year with his plan not to close 14th Street due to the “L”….please! intervene again and stop this nonsense!

    • What about “us native Manhattan residents” like me who love and support this plan? They far outnumber you.

    • “Not accustomed to big city life?!” The only one not accustomed to that is YOU, who thinks you have a god-given right to drive everywhere and pull right up to the curb in one of the densest cities in the world. It’s selfish, it’s wrong, and it also defies logic in an era where climate change is real and we’re already experiencing the effects. If native Manhattan residents want to live in a polluted, desolate city like the Manhattan of the 60s/70s, they can move to Detroit. There’s plenty of curbside parking there.

      YOU LIVE IN A CITY. People need to get places, and the easiest way to do that is with mass transit. Deal with it, or leave.

    • Brian Van Nieuwenhoven

      Stuy Town didn’t lose any bus stops.

    • Unfortunately, NYC and many of these transplants don’t care about those of us with disabilities. For them, we are vermin who ruin the image of this utopian city.

  7. perry rothenberg

    The local citizens should be able to vote on our fate through a Referendum at the Ballot box. Next dictate will be a sidewalk walk tax.

    • We live in a representative democracy, and thankfully, we have elected representatives who are smarter than you.

  8. My, my, my, so many nasty, angry people! Can one of you take a few moments off from snarling and snapping at anyone who has a different opinion than yours and tell me why we need to do this to all the people on 14th St and the lower east side? To what purpose? 2 minutes faster on a crosstown bus?

    “Voted for it?’ The community never voted on the plan: never had a chance to vote – the ‘plan’ was presented as a done deal – no justification necessary because of the impending L Train shurdown (another wacky, ill-considered, unnecessary ‘plan’ imo. Gov. Cuomo spared us that.). Now that there’s no shutdown, and, presumably, no need for such drastic measures, the DOT and MTA are still pushing it rather than address the needs of people for accessibility to the subway. Why? I sincerely don’t get it. If the idea is to ‘serve the public better’ – why have bus stops have been eliminated (e.g. eastbound M14 A and D no longer stop at Fifth Ave – a major transfer stop forcing people to walk from Sixth Ave to Fifth in the snow and ice and rain – wheelchairs, rollators etc notwithstanding) Why? How does this serve the public? It doesn’t/ My guess: iskipping stops is one way to improve ‘speed’ and we’ll soon see reports of ‘improvements’ in crosstown bus speeds – with total disregard for us – the people struggling to use the system to go from one place to another .

    Right now this whole debacle looks more like an experiment in search of a reason – not a reason that needs an immediate fix.

    • Sounds like it’s about time to vote out these extremists.

    • Keep an eye on who’s allowing these car unfriendly changes, get together with like minded people and organize to fight this stupidity.
      Vote in center-right politicians, so we can get this city back to normal again.

      • What does “normal again” mean ? Is it like “great again” ? Just have 2 curb sides of the street designated as free storage for car owners ? and also eliminate home deliveries from Amazon ? And shut down Fresh Direct ? Does “normal again” take into account the existence of 140,000 For Higher Vehicles right now ? When is “normal again” ? 1980 when you moved into this neighborhood and only 7,000,000 were living in NYC ?
        And who will you unseat ? Deborah Glick who objected to this plan or Caroline Maloney who didn’t say a word of support ?
        Do you think that if devote in center-right politicians we can also lax some gun laws in this area a little bit ?

  9. DOT = Department of Tyranny
    DOT is now run by former Transportation Alternative staffers. The lunatics are running the asylum.

  10. Cory Johnson's days are over

    Cory Johnson needs to be taken down; sold out his community for the support of Alt transpiration

  11. Bobby
    How about re-naming 13th St. — in honor of this super numb skull idiocy — Cement Block Blvd? Or “Take a book byway”? Any other suggestions? My head is exploding…

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