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Greenwich Street

A popular crosswalk (at Greenwich and Duane Streets) used by children, the elderly and families walking to Washington Market Park is constantly ignored by motorists. The dangerous situation has been the target of reforms by local schools and community organizations, including The Washington Market Park Board. The Park Board has formed the "Tribeca Kids Safety Zone" and would like to see a stop sign or a red light and a commitment to traffic calming before tragedy strikes.

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Nelle Fortenberry: [00:09] About two years ago the Board of Directors at Washington Market Park here decided something finally needed to be done about the increasing traffic dangers for children and other pedestrians trying to cross into our park and along this six block corridor here on Greenwich Street.

Speaker: [00:23] I shop here on a weekly basis and have two children that I have to pick up from school in the area. I find that trying to cross the street with shopping in hand and kids can be quite dangerous.

Speaker: [00:33] You have to be alert or very quick. And if there’s anybody or anything in the way, you in trouble.

Nelle Fortenberry: [00:41] We created something called the Tribeca Kids Safety Zone initiative and backed by the 12 schools and community organisations, all of whom have pedestrians crossing this Greenwich Street corridor every single day. We took our initiative to Councilman Gerson and the Community Board want. With their support we then met with the Department of Transportation. That meeting took place about ten months ago. All they agreed at that meeting was to study this area as part of their Lower Manhattan street works project. That was supposed to begin in January. It’s now mid-August and there has still been no study, and we are experiencing increasing dangers along this corridor.

Speaker: [01:21] It’s a little scary, especially when the taxicabs are coming down the street, and basically a lot of times you have to wait for all the cars to clear out before you can even attempt to cross because they just want to get to the next light.

Speaker: [01:33] What did that that cab driver just tell you back when you…

Speaker: [01:36] Ah, forget about it. Look it’s ridiculous, they’re… I have two kids in school here and they are going down on Greenwich. There have to be Stop signs and red lights on every single cross street.

Nelle Fortenberry: [01:45] We took some photographs here in front of the park showing pedestrians attempting to cross here at Duane Street. Not only is their sight line block by the dumpsters that are left here, but these parents are forced to cross out into the crosswalk with their strollers in order to see if traffic is coming. And here indeed is what is coming down Greenwich Street. It’s impossible for a pedestrian to even see oncoming traffic or visa versa, requiring pedestrians then go halfway out into the intersection to see if cars are coming.

Speaker: [02:14] It’s a tentative process to kind of creep out on the crossing, gage whether the person has seen you and whether they’ll stop or whether you have to kind of wait for a break in the traffic and then dash across. It’s a bit like a game of frog really. Scary.

Harriet Grimm: [02:27] As the neighbourhood is becoming increasingly residential, we’ve got skyrocketing population of young children and everyday children who attend PS34 or PS150, Park Pre-School Washington Market Park, pre-school, they are all using this park daily and we’re just really concerned about the safety of our children. We also here in Pennants Plaza a senior centre and a concentration of seniors, concerned about them as well.

Speaker: [02:56] There’s some old people, they can’t really walk across the street that fast. There’s young people, there’s strollers, there’s bikers, there’s dogs.

Speaker: [03:10] And there are also lots of children here [unintelligible 03:11] a bunch of schools.

Speaker: [03:13] And I see people around me who are standing on one side of the street hovering because they really don’t want to cross.

Speaker: [03:19] We’ve lived here 30 years and we’ve been fighting for a crosswalk light for that amount of time. It took somebody dying on Chambers Street, it was a professor from BMCC who died because of a car accident that we got our light on Chambers Street.

Harriet Grimm: [03:41] I feel like I’m gripping my eight year old by the hand when I cross the street and well, it sounds really dramatic to say I feel like I’m taking their lives in our hands. But we need some kind of traffic control here to ensure safety.

Charles Komanoff: [03:53] The city needs to decide whether Greenwich Street is an arterial like Varick Street or 7th Avenue or a neighbourhood street. And the parents, the schools, people who live here want it to be a neighbourhood street and the volume of children and others, requires that it be a neighbourhood street. So we start by changing the texture. We actually need to narrow the roadway by putting in neck downs on both sides of the crosswalk, or just even extending the sidewalks further into the roadway. Drivers know, they get the message intuitively that when the street is narrow they go slower. It’s for their own safety as well as the community’s safety. We need to raise the crosswalk to send the message to drivers that they’re not on a highway anymore but that they’re in some new zone which requires them to slow down and pay attention. At the same time we establish a 15 mile per hour speed limit for this entire six block stretch that has so many public schools, nursery schools, day-care centres, this wonderful park that’s at the heart of Tribeca. And we enforce the 15 mile per hour. We do that with a judicious helping of police enforcement that before long sends the message to drivers that if they just speed through here, or even drive here at 15 miles an hour but force people to wait at the crosswalks, that they’re going to get cited. And that begins to change the culture of driving, and it also changes the culture of pedestrians, and gets us more in the habit of asserting the right-of-way that the law entitles us to.

Speaker: [05:30] It’s time for the DOT to put the safety of children and other pedestrians ahead of the convenience of cars and trucks along Greenwich Street. The pedestrian situation here is unique, requiring the DOT to step outside of their normal requirements. We want them to stop looking at rules on paper and start looking at the reality of the danger.


Clarence Eckerson Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • Harriet Grimm

    This topic is still a hot one; January 2010.

  • JD

    Great video. It highlights a very important concern that we parents have. Would like to also see someone address the crazy cyclists (not the responsible ones) riding on the sidewalks and zipping through red lights.

  • Amy

    Section 1151?  What a joke!  With heart racing I watched the video, recognizing myself and Judd on his walker in each one of those pedestrians attempting to cross Greenwich at Duane.  DOT ... Department of Transportation, or a representation of however many DOTS of blood it will finally take before the irresponsible powers-that-be heed the outraged voices of this community!?! 

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