At the start of 2012, 12-year-old Dashane Santana was struck and killed by a minivan crossing Delancey Street—it was one of many fatalities along Delancey Street, home to some of the city's most dangerous intersections for pedestrians and cyclists. This morning, local elected officials unveiled some much-needed safety improvements along Delancey Street, including pedestrian plazas and increased crossing times—but for Santana's grandmother, Teresa Pedroza, the improvements aren't quite enough. "I still don't feel comfortable crossing the street," Pedroza said. "You see the countdown, but you still have to run. It's not that much."
DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, State Sen. Daniel Squadron, and Rep. Nydia Velazquez all attended the press conference, and dedicated the plaza to Santana's memory. "Of course nothing that we do is going to bring back Dashana," Senator Squadron said. "But I want you to know that we worked as quickly as we possibly could to make those ideas a reality so this can be a safer street. Hopefully from it we can ensure there will be no more such tragedies ever, in honor of her life."
The press conference was briefly interrupted by a man who claimed that the improvements weren't enough. Local resident Keith Rivera was eventually able to share his concerns to the officials, and he told us why he thought the improvements weren't enough to keep pedestrians safe: "This is nice and everything, but what they needed to do for safety is put some kind of speed bump for the bikes coming off the bridge during rush hour. They're zooming off at 100 MPH…it's not only the cars you got to watch out for, it's the bicycles coming downhill."
Sadik-Kahn explained many of the changes to the area: "We've added more 14,000 square feet of protected pedestrian space, added 8 more seconds of crossing time at Clinton Street, and decreased the crossing distance with these extended curves." The pedestrian crossing has been shorted by 49 feet altogether; in addition, there are several tables, chairs and potted plants in the expanded space. "Crossing Delancey Street should not be the stuff of fiction, and it should not just be for the brave of heart," Sadik-Khan added, referring to the movie of the same name.
The improvements to the area still seem incomplete: for one thing, we noticed mistakes including a crosswalk sign at the southwest corner of the plaza that is facing in the wrong direction (see picture 7 above). As for other improvements and changes, there are no plans for guards or railings on the street-side of the plaza, and there are no traffic cameras installed, despite many of the pols advocating for them. Sadik-Khan addressed that issue: "This is the perfect time to use technology on our streets, to better address the enforcement we need to see done. That's why we're working hard to get speed camera legislation passed in Albany, which would go a long way to help us address the problems of speeding and fatalities on the streets of NYC."
Squadron called the NYPD an "active, cooperative and creative member of the Delancey Street Working Group," but it was noted that there were no NYPD officers or representatives there for the unveiling (something Squadron said wasn't unusual for these types of events). Commissioner Sadik-Khan reiterated that they would continue to work with cops to improve traffic situations, and pushed back at one reporter's suggestion that NYPD enforcement on drivers is "lax," and argued that the problem is dedicating enough resources.
Nevertheless, she did acknowledge criticisms about drivers in the area: "The problem we have in NYC streets is people are speeding, they are running red lights, they are drinking while driving. These are all significant problems we need to address, and I think the speed camera legislation will be an extraordinary help to continue driving down traffic fatalities."
Pedroza, Santana's grandmother, also addressed the concern of further development bringing more traffic to the intersection, with a new hotel opening nearby and the SPURA development project being approved along Delancey Street. "You're going to have taxis coming in and out, dropping people off and picking them up. This is not going to hold all that traffic. It's going to be even worse." Pedroza added, "I would love to see a crossing guard for the kids, and a walkway for them. There are several schools in the immediate area. At 3 o'clock when those kids come out of school, at least they'll have a safe passage."
At least one person really loved the plaza already: "I've been here 55 years, and this is much better," said Billy Marino, who lives nearby on Grand Street. "It's beautiful, it's something that should be copied. Look at the umbrellas!" When we asked whether he thought he'd sit in the plaza, he responded eagerly: "I've done it already. I was sunning myself here the other day!" When Rep. Velasquez heard that, she laughed: "Now you're going to see beach towels here." Click through the photos above, and decide whether you're going to start bringing your towel to Delancey Street from now on.