Ninth Avenue took a new move on Thursday evening, March 7 when Community Board Two Traffic and Transportation Committee reviewed NYCDOT’s latest proposal to redesign Ninth Avenue between Gansevoort and West 14th Streets. As illustrated in my earlier analysis of this proposal, (Jane, please insert title and date of earlier piece) this stretch of Ninth Avenue is unique in bringing southbound traffic head on into northbound traffic at 14th Street, an issue partially addressed in this latest design.
The new design would place virtually all pedestrian pavements on the east side of the avenue for two reasons. Most of the large night club and hotel pedestrians are on the east side while the west side is dominated by commercial and industrial uses dependent on truck access and designated parking limited to their owners and operators. The historic granite Belgian blocks and oblong slabs will be incorporated in the rebuilt narrower road bed. The widened eastern sidewalk will be separated by a shallow stone curb to maintain the historic unity and be planted with shrubs and a few trees. While the computer-generated rendering shows vague off-the-shelf landscape clip art, it appears to be intended to emphasize the warm and friendly surroundings and it represents an improvement over the existing unsafe chaotic mix of vehicles and pedestrians. It is hoped that further development of the plan will reflect a more thoughtful design for one of the most challenging street configurations anywhere in New York City except Times Square.
Some members of the committee expressed misgivings about dividing the historic cobbled space into distinct sections. While extensive time was given to committee comments and questions, there was no time given for members of the public to ask questions on this project. Questions raised in my mind include an extremely large curvature of the northeast intersection of Gansevoort Street and Ninth Avenue which produces a long and hazardous north-south crosswalk against high speed traffic turning north. There was no mention of traffic signals and safety. There was no discussion of vehicular traffic volumes which DOT once described as the third highest in New York City after Kennedy and LaGuardia airports. Let us hope to see further development of the plan in which DOT addresses these concerns.