On June 4, 2018 Councilmember Carlina Rivera convened a meeting to discuss safety issues on Cooper Square Plaza.
The meeting was attended by a variety of stakeholders concerned about these safety issues.
- Bob Gormley, District Manager CB#2 – attended
- Shirley Secunda, Chair, Traffic and Transportation Committee, CB#2 (DOT issues) – attended
- Joe Gallagher, Chair, Quality of Life Committee, CB#2 (handles Plazas) – attended
- Joyce Kuh, VP, Grace Church High School, which DOT has designated a “partner” for part of the Plaza – attended
- Zella Jones, President, NoHo-Bowery Stakeholders, Inc.
- Standard Hotel-East Village. The Standard has come forward to offer reports by their security and maintenance staff about use of the Plaza. Interim Hotel Manager, Kevin Rockey – attended
- Jaime Hernandez, Community Affairs Officer at the 9th Precinct – did not attend/schedule conflict.
He is aware of the issues and wants to coordinate as much as possible in curing them. Speed Bump, signage and video cameras. He has requested special surveillance to document abuses.
The following conditions and suggestions addressing safety issues on Cooper Square Plaza have been included in CB#2 budget requests and were topics discussed and observed for implementation.
Slowing vehicular traffic entering from Bowery. Suggested: A speed bump at the bend/entrance from Bowery to 4th Ave.
Though originally planned for buses only, this artery is open to all traffic most of which is unaware that there are pedestrians crossing at all points of this roadway. Because of the odd nature of this roadway splitting the Plaza, most pedestrians are unaware of the crosswalk at the 6th entrance to the Plaza; additionally, there are 10 breaks in the planters on the east and fully open sidewalk access on the west suggesting multiple allowable crossing points from 6th St. north to Astor Place. Passengers discharged from the busses on the north eastern section of the roadway regularly cross at these planter breaks.
Vehicles – including buses – entering this roadway frequently speed up before the right-angle bend and cannot see pedestrians crossing.
At the meeting we discussed the remedies at length. Shirley Secunda felt strongly that DOT should be asked to study the situation and offer best cures for slowing down traffic. Upon observation of actual use, the option of a speed bump gained favor with many attendees. Everyone agreed that if installing a speed bump could not happen in the very near future, signage (see item 2) should be installed immediately.
In a post meeting conversation with Det. Jaime Hernandez, he emphasized what the 9th Precinct knows to be a problem at this location and recommended a speed-bump.
There are NO signs warning of pedestrian crossings for any vehicular traffic entering the roadway.
For a time, the 9th Precinct had an electronic sign at the southwest corner saying Yield to Pedestrians, but that has been removed. Signage at the entrance of the roadway that prominently warns vehicles of pedestrian activity AND signage directing pedestrians to safe passage at the crosswalk seems necessary.
During a post meeting tour by the above attendees, it was observed that many pedestrians used the crosswalk – including a significant number of handicapped people, traveling to the JASA Center, but that the current coordination of traffic lights at 6th St and Bowery sets up conflict. The walk lights for the Plaza Crosswalk are perpetually white. We observed pedestrians legally crossing at the Plaza Crosswalk while vehicles entering the Plaza were also legally moving. This presents a particularly dangerous situation for handicapped crossers with less ability to stop or veer from moving vehicles.
We also suggest right and left hand turn lights on Bowery that prevent moving traffic when the pedestrian lights at the Plaza crosswalk say “Walk.”
Another of the safety issues is the lack of plaza monitoring. While the commercial and institutional buildings (note picture at the top image) have video surveillance for their own buildings, there is no overall security for the Plaza itself that is continuously monitored. Nor is there any manned security, except for patrols from the Ninth Precinct. Grace Church High School does have ONE video camera pointed at the area directly in front of the school. It is monitored from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm, Monday through Friday and until 6:00pm on Saturdays. This surveillance does not cover a majority of the Cooper Square Plaza or the “blind spots” created by trees, planters and benches.
Video surveillance that can be accessed by the Ninth Precinct placed at the eastern periphery is a responsible, and probably least cost answer. This is a large Plaza, not very well lit, lined by buildings that are not open at night. Additionally, with so many unobstructed access points, the Plaza itself is vulnerable to unrecorded hostile activity when and if events occur.
Management at the Standard East Village Hotel has observed frequent use of the Plaza at night by derelicts for sleeping, defecating, trashing.
The Plaza is heavily travelled by students from NYU and Cooper Union at night traveling to and from their dormitories in the East Village. On weekends the usual visitor pedestrian traffic to Bowery entertainment venues is particularly heavy – often after 4 am closings.
A full set of images depicting the safety issues on Cooper Square Plaza can be seen by clicking on THIS LINK. They are all titled by their subject. These were taken on a Sunday afternoon. Conditions during the week, and particularly during school and University hours are more compromising.