DOT fails to provide any near-term relief from Grand Street gridlock

Sean Quinn, Assistant Commissioner for street improvement projects at NYC Department of Transportation, visited the Community Board transportation committee last night to update CB and community members on DOT’s work to solve the gridlock around Grand Street caused by car traffic heading east across the Williamsburg Bridge.

Quinn gave a short presentation outlining two possible solutions, but did not present any proposal for the committee to vote on. He suggested he would be ready to do so in two months.

Quinn first listed several small changes that have been made to improve traffic flow toward the cramped Clinton Street on-ramp to the Williamsburg Bridge, admitting that none of these changes had made any significant impact.

He then discussed two possible solutions, both of which were first presented by community members at the GSD Traffic Town Hall in January 2018:

  • Opening Delancey Street under the bridge to thru traffic from the FDR Drive to the bridge entrance, in order to bypass Grand Street.
  • Forcing Grand Street traffic past Clinton Street (to Norfolk), in order to avoid the pinch-point at Grand & Clinton.

The first suggestion, he said, had been studied more completely, and presented several big challenges, including getting NYPD and FDNY to agree to having bridge traffic pass right by their stations at Pitt and Delancey. (Quinn said that neither department had yet been contacted to get feedback.)

The second suggestion, he said, had not yet been fully explored but looked more promising from a logistics point of view — but would not be able to be implemented until construction on Norfolk was complete, perhaps two years from now.

Community members asked questions and made further suggestions for over an hour, including many that have made repeatedly over the two years that we have been pursuing a solution to the traffic problem with DOT.

District Leader Daisy Paez presented Quinn with a petition with over 1000 signatures from community members demanding a solution to the gridlock.

Tuesday 12/10: Grand Street Gridlock meeting with DOT and CB3

We’ve been at this for a couple of years, but we still haven’t seen a reasonable response from NYC Department of Transportation to address the traffic madness on Grand Street, Clinton Street, and East Broadway. Tuesday’s meeting at Community Board 3 is the next chance for us to raise our voices. Please join us!

Tuesday, December 10, 6:30 pm
Dale Jones Burch Neighborhood Center
at Henry Street Settlement
269 Henry Street
CB3 Transportation, Public Safety,
& Environment Committee

DOT has promised to release data from traffic studies, and to respond to suggestions made by community members at our Town Hall back in 2018. We need to come out in strength to this Community Board meeting to hold them to their word.

In addition, please sign this petition, started by District Leader Daisy Paez, that we are proud to co-sponsor. Petitions will be presented to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and DOT Manhattan Commissioner Ed Pincar.

Tuesday, 10/9: Important traffic meeting with CB3 and DOT

Community Board meeting wth DOT
Tuesday, October 9, 6:30 pm

Seward Park Extension Community Center
56 Essex Street (between Grand and Broome)

We have an important opportunity on Tuesday to make sure that the Department of Transportation helps to solve our neighborhood traffic problem.

DOT has been dragging its heels coming up with a solution for the traffic that starts at Grand & Clinton and radiates throughout the neighborhood. When DOT last presented to CB3 this summer, there were no new solutions proposed, just promises that data collected in the spring will be analyzed with proposals to come.

On Tuesday, DOT returns to CB3 to report on two potential traffic pattern changes:

  • Eliminate Clinton Street access to bridge.
  • Reduce Clinton traffic by eliminating left turn from East Broadway, Henry, and Madison during rush.

Based on the soft dividers recently installed on Grand near Clinton, DOT appears to be aiming for more low-impact improvements instead of looking for alternative traffic patterns. A strong public showing at CB3 Tuesday would emphasize that residents believe Clinton Street is not an appropriate approach to the Williamsburg Bridge.

DOT has no proposals yet for Grand/Clinton congestion

Staff from the NYC Department of Transportation presented to Community Board 3’s Transportation Committee on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in regards to the traffic on Grand, Clinton, and East Broadway.

DOT promised elected officials a traffic study of the area in 2017, but by the end of last year could say only that no conclusions could be drawn until after Essex Crossing construction is completed. Additional pressure from community leaders and elected officials this year brought DOT back to the neighborhood … but its report last week was still inconclusive.

The DOT says that data traffic collected this spring still needs to be analyzed. Aside from minor changes to signage and light-timing, no new proposals were presented for review by the CB3 committee.

What we did see were slides indicating a dozen or so proposals from the community that DOT has said it will be considering in the coming months, plus an estimated timeline that pushes any real proposals to the end of 2018. No date has been set for a return to CB3, and it was noted that this timeline pushes right up against considerations for L Train shutdown mitigation beginning spring 2019, which will make it even more difficult to implement.

In the past two months, DOT has made small changes to make drivers aware of other ways to the Williamsburg Bridge:

  • signage southbound on the FDR has removed the word “alternate” from the Houston Street exit;
  • new signs have been placed on Grand to let drivers know that both lanes will get them to the bridge (using Clinton and Norfolk); and
  • a “no-honking” sign has been moved slightly east on Grand to warn drivers earlier to lay off their horn.

Coming soon:

  • A new traffic agent will hopefully be assigned to the Clinton/East Broadway intersection to help pedestrians cross there during rush hour and keep drivers from blocking the intersection.
  • DOT is also experimenting with light timing along Grand Street to increase the flow of traffic.

Now DOT is modelling more far-reaching proposals based on recent data:

  • Eliminate Clinton access to bridge. Create dedicated left turn from Essex to Delancey (safer than before). Can Essex and Allen Streets handle the additional capacity? Estimated analysis completion: Aug. 2018.
  • Reduce Clinton traffic by eliminating left turn from East Broadway, Henry, and Madison during rush. Can Essex and Allen Streets handle the additional capacity? Estimated analysis completion: Aug. 2018.
  • Open access on Delancey Street from FDR to bridge. DOT is not sure Delancey has the physical characteristics for this to be possible. Parking in the neighborhood would be reduced, and the NYPD and FDNY at Pitt and Delancey would need to be accomodated. Estimated analysis completion: Dec. 2018.

CB3 will invite DOT back in the fall. In the meantime, we believe that continued pressure from elected officials and community leaders, including members of Grand Street Democrats, will be critical in forcing DOT to recognize that Clinton Street is not an appropriate approach to the Williamsburg Bridge.

Here are the slides from DOT’s presentation on June 28:

Thursday 6/28: Can DOT stop the traffic madness?

With our elected officials’ help, we’ve been pushing the Department of Transportation to make good on its promise to provide a solution to the traffic problem that plagues Grand Street, Clinton Street, and East Broadway.

On Thursday, we might finally get a chance to hear the DOT proposal at a special CB3 meeting:

Thursday, June 28
6:30 – 8:30 pm
301 Henry Street
(Henry Street Settlement Youth Services Gymnasium)

If you can, please show up (wearing your pink Grand Street Dems shirt) so DOT knows just how important this issue is to our neighborhood.

Grand Street Democrats urges formal review of MTA/DOT mitigation plan for L Train shutdown

At last night’s regular meeting, Grand Street Democrats approved the following resolution:

The L Train East River Tunnel requires extensive repairs that will disrupt the commute of thousands of New Yorkers for 18 months or more. These repairs are necessary, and the disruption is unavoidable. However, the current MTA contingency plans fail to adequately address the challenge. For example, with the current plan, non-HOV cars will be forced off Delancey onto smaller streets that already suffer from congestion and unsafe conditions for pedestrians. We urge the MTA to consider several important changes to its plans and approach.

  1. Fully review the impact on residential streets surrounding the 14th Street and Delancey Street corridors, particularly along Grand Street and Clinton Street.
  2. Assign electric buses, not diesel, to the Delancey and 14th Street corridors. The sheer volume of additional bus traffic on these routes as part of the mitigation plan makes diesel a disastrous choice for air quality.
  3. Provide long-overdue access for people with disabilities and elderly to all subway stations undergoing renovation.
  4. Vet mitigation plans through a formal and collaborative environmental review and impact study and commit to getting approval from Community Boards in the affected neighborhoods before work begins.

We support the lawsuit brought by community groups, individuals, and organizations representing the disabled which would require the MTA and NYC DOT to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and prepare an environmental impact statement.

We urge our city council members and state representatives to officially support these efforts to improve the existing L Train contingency plan.

Community Leaders continue to push for more information from DOT

Following a letter from local elected officials last week urging NYC DOT to address the ongoing traffic problem in our neighborhood, Grand Street Democrats District Leaders and other community leaders involved in January’s Traffic Town Hall have sent their own letter to DOT Commissioner Trottenberg asking for the release of traffic study data that was promised in 2017 and for the development of a strategy to address the traffic.

With new retail opening this fall at Essex Crossing, and especially the L Train shutdown starting in 2019, we need to develop a better plan to handle cars now so that the problem doesn’t get out of control.

Below is the letter we sent out today:

Commissioner Trottenberg,

We write to you about the intersection of Clinton Street and Grand Street on the Lower East Side. Significant traffic congestion at this intersection continues to impact the surrounding streets and neighborhoods. We urge the Department of Transportation to release data, progress, conclusions, and recommendations from any traffic study at this intersection conducted in 2017 or that is underway, and to commit to developing a comprehensive plan for community review that will route bridge traffic to wider streets with more capacity.

The conditions at this intersection and nearby streets continue to worsen.
• Narrow streets that approach the Williamsburg Bridge here are inadequate for the number of cars leaving Manhattan by this route.
• Gridlock at Clinton and Grand creates a backlog of cars in two directions, impacting East Broadway and extending up the FDR Drive as far as Houston Street.
• This bottleneck creates a safety hazard for pedestrians and bicyclists over several blocks.
• Incessant honking from frustrated drivers, often late at night, is a serious aggravation for residents.
• New construction of several high-rise buildings with active retail will compound the congestion problem within this traffic zone.
• The L Train shutdown starting in 2019 will have a big effect on these same streets, as non-HVO cars are diverted from the Williamsburg Bridge.

We must make plans now to help this neighborhood accommodate its rapid growth. It is not appropriate to use this residential area as an on-ramp to the Williamsburg Bridge.


Caroline Laskow
Lee Berman
Daisy Paez
Democratic District Leaders

Sandra Strother
President, Grand Street Guild Residents Association

Doron Stember
President, Seward Park Cooperative

Vaylateena Jones
Lower East Side Power Partnership

Naama Laufer
President, PS 110 PTA

Jeremy Sherber
President, Grand Street Democrats

[View PDF]

Update: Howard Stern has also signed the letter for the Hillman Board of Directors. [PDF]

Local elected officials pressure DOT for more action on Grand Street traffic

Local elected officials this week petitioned DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill about the ongoing traffic problem at Grand and Clinton Streets.

State Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, State Senator Brian Kavanagh, US Reps. Nydia Velázquez and Carolyn Maloney, Borough President Gale Brewer, and Councilmember Margaret Chin all signed the letter, writing, “It is critical that your agencies work swiftly with the community to find solutions to this ongoing traffic problem.”

The letter indicates that DOT will present findings of its traffic study at a Community Board meeting in May. No date for such a presentation has yet been announced.

Elected officials wrote to Commissioner Trottenberg almost 1 year ago, after a Community Board resolution, to ask for a traffic study of the area. On June 1, 2017, Trottenberg promised the study would begin, but no results have been released.

Earlier this year, Grand Street Democrats convened a Traffic Town Hall with elected officials to help make sure DOT officials understood the seriousness of the growing problem.

Click for PDF.

Follow-up letter to DOT on Clinton/Grand jam

District leaders Caroline Laskow, Lee Berman, and Daisy Paez, along with other GSD members, joined a call last month with Luis Sanchez and Sean Quinn of the Department of Transportation to follow up from our Traffic Town Hall in January. There was very little new information on the call. DOT officials said they needed time to gather and analyze data from traffic counters that have been placed in several locations around the neighborhood.

Below is a letter from GSD President Jeremy Sherber to Sanchez and Quinn being sent today. Our goal is to set reasonable deadlines for DOT to deliver data analysis and new plans.

March 5, 2018

Luis Sanchez, Manhattan Borough Commissioner
Sean Quinn, Senior Director, Office of Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs
NYC Department of Transportation
55 Water Street
New York, NY 10041

Commissioner Sanchez and Director Quinn,

Many thanks for continuing to speak with community members about the growing traffic problem around Grand and Clinton Streets.

First of all, I’d like to get a follow-up meeting on the calendar for the week of May 21. That should provide enough time to read preliminary data from traffic counters and for us to have a more meaningful discussion of possible solutions and how to present options to the community.

Are you free Tuesday, May 22 or Wednesday, May 23 at 10:00 am or 11:00 am?

Second, I want to make sure to emphasize a point that I keep hearing from neighbors, and that we tried to convey in our call last month. High-rise development in the area right around the Grand/Clinton intersection has only just started: residents and stores have yet to move in to the three buildings already constructed, two more buildings are underway, and three new developments have been announced all within the immediate area we are discussing. The new buildings will be constructed as-of-right, so DOT may never be asked to weigh in on their impact — but that does not mean they won’t have an impact. Any plan we make now to mitigate the traffic in this area must take into consideration the rapid growth these few blocks are experiencing.

The existing traffic problem creates a noise and safety challenge for our residential neighborhood. New development will only add to the amount of legitimate local traffic and to the people being affected by congestion. Next year’s L train shutdown will undoubtedly create even more traffic on these narrow streets. So the solution we are asking for is one that routes Williamsburg Bridge traffic around these blocks, not through them.

We shouldn’t have to wait years until construction has stopped to plan a better traffic pattern. Drivers need to be directed to major arteries like Houston Street, Essex Street, Allen Street, and Delancey Street. The smaller streets in this residential area are not an appropriate approach to the Williamsburg Bridge — and tweaks to signage and traffic light timing are not going to change that.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Jeremy Sherber
President, Grand Street Democrats

GSD Traffic Town Hall Recap

Manny Cantor Center was filled Thursday night with 175 residents, half a dozen elected officials, and two high-ranking Department of Transportation officials to talk about the growing traffic problem on Grand and Clinton Streets. District Leaders Caroline Laskow and Lee Berman hosted the event.

The problem is focused on the corner of Grand and Clinton Streets, where cars coming west on Grand Street from the FDR Drive and north on Clinton Street from downtown Manhattan converge before getting on the Williamsburg Bridge. The bottleneck there keeps our streets clogged with honking cars during evening rush hour and late at night, dramatically impacting safety and quality of life. (See Matt Marello’s video to witness the problem.)

Existing traffic conditions.

How did this come about? Sean Quinn, from DOT’s Office of Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs kicked off the evening with a presentation detailing 10 years of pedestrian safety improvements in the neighborhood that have left these streets unable to cope with the increase in automobiles. Most impactful was the decision in 2012, in response to the growing rate of accidents on Delancey and the tragic death of 12-year-old Dashane Santana, to block left turns from Essex Street onto Delancey and to open Clinton Street as an access route to the bridge. This made it more difficult for drivers to get to the Williamsburg Bridge from the Houston Street exit of the FDR, and pushed them to Grand Street.

The drivers who come through, honking in frustration at the traffic, do not live here, or work here, or shop here.
Since then, we’ve watched as our residential neighborhood has been turned into an on-ramp to the Williamsburg Bridge. The drivers who come through, honking in frustration at the traffic, do not live here, or work here, or shop here — they are just trying to get out of Manhattan. And despite a petition last year signed by more than 1000 residents, letters of concern from our elected officials, and a resolution from the Community Board, no progress has been made by DOT to improve the situation.

Grand Street Democrats members Jeremy Sherber and William Rockwell presented two short-term ideas to relieve pressure at Clinton and Grand. One would force Grand Street drivers to drive past Clinton and make turns on Norfolk or Essex Street to get to the bridge, while allowing Clinton Street drivers to continue to feed onto the bridge. The idea here is that both streams of traffic might flow more smoothly if they were not forced to merge together.

One interim solution would reduce gridlock at Grand and Clinton.

The other idea would be to stop the Clinton Street approach south of Grand Street altogether, making sure drivers from downtown used larger streets like Allen and Essex to get to the bridge. In this scenario, the number of cars on Grand would not decrease, but the flow of traffic would improve, hopefully getting rid of the angry honking.

Or eliminate bridge traffic from Clinton Street altogether.

But even these suggestions don’t address the real issue: these streets are not appropriate for bridge traffic at all. That’s why DOT needs to explore changes that take commuters off these residential streets altogether and push bridge traffic to larger, more appropriate avenues on the perimeter of our neighborhood.

Bridge traffic should be routed to larger avenues on the perimeter of this neighborhood.

Essex Crossing construction is in full swing and will bring thousands more residents to this neighborhood, along with significant new retail that will draw shoppers, car service pick-ups, and delivery vehicles. The streets directly involved today in feeding the Williamsburg Bridge are facing a major increase in local traffic in 2018. To support the residents and businesses in these new developments, DOT must find some other way for drivers to get to the bridge.

Many residents spoke Thursday about other ideas that need to be explored, including a safer, dedicated left-turn lane from Essex to Delancey; moving bike lanes to streets not also used by so many cars; an exit from the FDR directly onto Delancey; better timing of traffic lights at Grand and Clinton; and a general realignment of tolls that would limit the attraction of the free Williamsburg Bridge to commuters and delivery vehicles. Undoubtedly any comprehensive solution will need to consider all of these options, and more.

These residential streets are not appropriate for bridge traffic at all.
So what’s next? DOT did not give any new information about its plans or offer any specific recommendations of its own. In fact, Manhattan Commissioner Luis Sanchez said that they don’t like to do full studies unless they have a baseline “normal” traffic to start with, and since Essex Crossing construction will continue for another 5-6 years, there won’t be any “normal” traffic pattern for years. District Leader Lee Berman countered that the long lines of cars, the gridlock, and the honking — these are the new “normal” for our neighborhood, and DOT can’t keep dragging its heels on producing real recommendations to solve this problem.

Thursday’s large, passionate turnout will help convince the elected officials in attendance that this is an issue of great concern to our community. Grand Street Democrats will continue to put pressure on our elected officials and DOT officials to deliver meaningful results.