ACTIVISTS GET ACTION: City Pledges to Redesign Manhattan’s Third Avenue This Year 

Manhattan's Third Avenue, as it exists now. Pretty bad!
Manhattan's Third Avenue, as it exists now. Pretty bad!

The city will soon announce a long-awaited redesign of Manhattan’s Third Avenue car sewer, officials quietly revealed last week.

During a virtual town hall on Thursday night hosted by state Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Upper East Side), Department of Transportation Manhattan Borough Commissioner Ed Pincar said that the agency is in the final stages of drawing up a safer Third Avenue.

“We are looking very closely,” Pincar said. “I can’t promise a specific time, but I think we may be able to present a proposal maybe even later this year.”

Advocates and pols, including the former Manhattan Borough President (and now-Council Member) Gale Brewer, have long been fighting to reimagine the highway-like roadway that cuts through their neighborhood (the corridor is so bad that it was the butt of a Streetsblog joke on April Fool’s Day about Mayor Adams promising to turn it into the city’s first bike- and bus-lane boulevard).

“This car highway is long due a makeover and we are very excited to hear what the DOT has in store for us,” said Paul Krikler, a safe streets advocate who works with Transportation Alternatives, on the campaign to redesign Third Avenue between 24th and 42nd streets.

On just those 18 blocks, there have been 114 total reported crashes since last July, causing 51 injuries, including to 11 cyclists and 15 pedestrians, according to Crash Mapper.

The campaign calls for transforming the four travel lanes, two parking lanes, and one bus lane into a calmer boulevard with two lanes for cars, two bus lanes, a separated bike path and a widened sidewalk for pedestrians and restaurants — designers and architectures laid out a similar vision in New York Magazine and members of Manhattan Community Board 6 unveiled their own to remake the thoroughfare.

A spokesperson for DOT declined to comment further, but said “stay tuned.”

The Krueger event was billed as a discussion on improving street safety, but the NYPD — and Krueger herself, who was an early opponent of legalizing electric two-wheelers — spent the majority of the time asking about, and giving updates on, a handful of crackdowns launched against cyclists and e-bike riders, like the “Bicycle Enforcement Operation in the 19th Precinct,” the main focus of which was to “enforce the reckless riding of bicycles on Second Avenue corridor between E. 59th Street and E. 86th Street.”

“I know how challenging it can be to navigate the streets and sidewalks in my district. Sometimes my husband and I feel like we are taking our lives into our hands when we step off the curb,”said Krueger, who last year proposed legislation that would make it a felony for electric-vehicle riders — including pedal-assist Citi Bike riders — to crash into someone and leave the scene. “Practically everyday my office hears concerns from constituents who are upset about the proliferation of bikes, e-bikes, and e-scooters.”

So far this year, cops in the 19th Precinct have written 338 moving violation summonses to cyclists; 174 to e-bike riders, 256 to motorcyclists; and 172 to moped riders, according to Sgt. Joseph Palaguachi.

Palaguachi did not provide any statistics for the number of summonses issued during the same time period to speeding or reckless drivers, but, according to the NYPD, through the end of June, only 93 drivers have gotten speeding tickets in the 19th Precinct this year.

Palaguachi added that cops are deployed based on resident concerns and city stats, which explains why police, who tend to hear complaints at community council meetings that attract only those with a specific complaint, direct so many resources at cyclists instead of at drivers.

“Our deployment is according to statistics and community complaints, therefore please let us know any areas of concern and we will do our best to carry out initiatives,” he said.

Yet according to those very stats, in the 19th Precinct so far this year, there have been 731 reported crashes, which led to 281 injuries. Of those injuries, 264 — or 94 percent — were caused by the drivers of cars, trucks, buses or motorcycles. Only six pedestrians — or 2 percent — were injured by a cyclist or an e-bike rider.