Condolences—and Questions

I woke up to two emails from people who saw the horrible accident yesterday at Greenwich and Reade. Skip ahead beyond the “•••••••••” if you don’t want to read about it.

Here’s one: “My daughter and I were in a cab headed south on Greenwich, and as we just passed Koh’s Kids, the cab driver said, ‘That van isn’t watching where he’s going.’ I looked out the back window just in time to see a van hit three ladies, followed by some serious screaming. Two ended up underneath the van, and the other lady was (obviously) very shaken up. Two ladies were alive but one of them was very injured. (I told the police what I saw and they took my contact info.) When the paramedics were trying to remove the badly injured woman, she was screaming in pain. It was heartbreaking. If you hear how the ladies are doing, will you let me know?”


My first question is to anyone who knows the women: Please email information to on how they’re doing, and I’ll pass it along. The folks who wrote me are understandably concerned, as I’m sure everyone who reads this is.

The second question is for the Department of Transportation. How many more accidents will it take before the DOT understands that something has to be done? Oh, that’s right. Four.

There has long been a push by people who live in the area for a stoplight or a stop sign at Duane. As anyone who regularly crosses there knows, that part of Greenwich is an oddly dangerous corridor, with cars speeding up to make the light at Chambers (or, conceivably, too distracted by all the construction to notice pedestrians coming from all angles). That the area fronts Washington Market Park adds another layer of concern.

The DOT has maintained the street doesn’t have enough traffic to justify adding a light. Here’s a quote from the April 2010 Tribeca Trib: “According to the [Federal Transportation Administration’s] rules, streets must meet a certain ratio of cars to pedestrians to warrant a stop sign or traffic signal. The department last studied the intersection a year ago and found that it did not meet the threshold. In 2008, after a similar study of the crossing, the DOT rearranged the timing of the lights between Harrison and Chambers Streets to slow down traffic. The department also intended to install concrete ‘bulb-outs’ on either side of the intersection in order to narrow the street for pedestrians, but later scrapped the plan, saying it would have been too difficult to relocate the catch basins and utility lines beneath the sidewalks.”

And back in 2008, according to the Trib, DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan explained that a certain number of accidents have to happen (!) before changes can be made: “Friends of Washington Market Park took up the fight for a light more than two years ago. In March, the group’s president, Nelle Fortenberry, sent a letter to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, demanding that the department reverse its decision not to install a traffic light. She called the DOT’s strict adherence to the federal guidelines a’ compromise [of] the safety of hundreds of children and seniors.’ In her written response to Fortenberry, Sadik-Khan backed her department’s decision. At least five accidents that could have been prevented by a traffic light or stop sign would need to occur before the city would install one of the devices, she said. ‘That’s what it’s going to take, someone getting killed,’ said Andre Greaves, a 34-year resident of 310 Greenwich St. ‘I really believe that.'”

The italics are mine. I understand that bureaucracy ends up with these kinds of rules—rules that require people to be hurt before changes that would prevent people getting hurt can be made—but that, in theory, is why leaders exist: to know when those rules need to be broken.

UPDATE 4/2: DNAinfo has a report of sorts.



  1. I came upon the accident after it happened and saw them lifting the women into the ambulance. That straightaway on Greenwich gives drivers way too much time to speed up to make the light on Chambers. There needs to be a stop sign on the corner of Duane to break it up.

  2. Honestly, at the bare minimum there should be a yield sign and a crosswalk.

    I’m sure there will be a change after the women who were hit decide to sue the city. Isn’t that how change always happens?

  3. I can understand not putting up a stop light, but why not a stop sign? How much does it cost to install a stop sign on the corner. Yahoo answers said $6500 but I wonder what the actual price is

  4. DOT must have been busy putting up their only extra STOP sign on Staple Street at Harrison. It now has 2 STOP signs. I would love to see DOT’s official study that showed that that intersection requires 2 signs. DOT should throw out their ratio rule book and use common sense…it’s free.

  5. The problem isn’t so much Greenwich as it is Reade Street. I don’t know if it is the way Reade intersects with Greenwich or just drivers, but more often then not dirvers making the left onto Greenwich roll right through the stop sign. If have been nearly hit crossing the street with my dog many times as a car runs the stop sign only to then sit at a red light on Chambers. If the city wants to make some money they should have a cop sit there and write tickets. It is also an issue when cars park in they yellow and drivers can’t see oncoming traffic.

  6. Just found this online. Maybe a few requests again might wake them up to look into a stop sign on Duane:

    The Department of Transportation suggests that residents who believe their intersection meets the requirements write a letter to Transportation Commissioner at the Department of Transportation, 40 Worth Street, New York, NY 10013. The department provides an online form for this purpose.

  7. NYCDOT – “Our mission is to provide for the SAFE, efficient, and environmentally responsible movement of people and goods in the City of New York…” Sometimes citizens must act to protect themselves, so no one else gets hurt or dies because the DOT is running the numbers again or waiting for their next meeting.

  8. Maybe we should make our own signs. Seriously.

  9. The back in the day way to change things in TriBeCa was a Bake sale. Let’s
    have a sale to raise funds to put up our own traffic light and get press to embarrass the City to do it themselves. This is horrible and that street is a raceway.
    PLs tell us that these women are on the mend if you hear.

  10. The Friends of Washington Market Park waged an exhaustive 5-year campaign with the DOT to get a traffic light (or a stop sign, which must also meet their Federal Warrants requirements) installed at Greenwich and Duane Streets, with frustrating results. Because this is a “T” intersection, with Duane siphoning traffic away from Greenwich instead of feeding more cars into it, the crossing repeatedly failed to deliver the adequate ratios of cars v. pedestrians during the multiple Warrants Studies that our group requested. Our efforts bridged 3 different DOT Commissioners (Weber, Ardito and Sadik-Khan) — each time a new Commissioner was appointed, we started over again. Our demand for a traffic light gained the urgent backing of Julie Menin and CB1, Adrian Benepe and The Parks Department, Alan Gerson, and Margaret Chin (who called a hearing with the DOT on this subject as recently as last year). We formed a coalition with the 12 schools and community centers in the neighborhood whose constituency crosses Greenwich every day (“The Tribeca Kids Safety Zone”) and delivered a petition to the DOT and Mayor Bloomberg signed by almost 1000 neighborhood residents (…so you can forget about the DOT’s website suggestion to write them a letter!). And we even produced a short documentary about the dangers at this intersection ( Still the DOT refused to budge! At our last CB1 meeting on the subject, the DOT testified that they have never made an exception to the Federal Warrants Requirements and that “even the Mayor couldn’t get a stop light at Duane Street.” In their view there are only two ways to win a traffic calming device at this intersection: 5 preventable accidents there in one calendar year, or a dramatic increase in traffic down Greenwich, which would finally provide the wait time ratios required under their standards. Despite this bureaucratic brick wall, the fight continues.

  11. Great post Nelle and I know that this has been an ongoing battle. I would like further information behind the logic of stop signs at Harrison and Staple which was mentioned in a previous post. Is that for real?

  12. When you consider that there is a COMPLETELY USELESS traffic light at the corner of Hudson and Reade, yet none at Greenwich and Duane, it is truly a head-scratcher. Bureaucracy, gotta love it. Thanks for your dedication to the cause, Nelle.

  13. I came upon this accident seconds after it happened and as tragic as it was, the women that were hit were clearly jaywalking. The intersection is set up with a crosswalk on Greenwich just North of Reade Street, but people are too busy and/or lazy to cross Reade and then cross Greenwich. By walking across Greenwich without a crosswalk, these women endangered themselves needlessly. I’m not absolving the driver, but pedestrians need to be accountable for their own actions as well. I also agree that a Stop Sign is required on Greenwich, which will alleviate the turning driver’s need to speed up to make it onto Greenwich before a truck bears down on them.