Thursday, February 01, 2007

Planners Endorse Intersection Upgrade

A proposed makeover of a traffic island where three streets meet won Planning Board support Thursday (Feb. 1, 2007).

Residents near the intersection of East Ninth Street, Park Avenue and Prospect Avenue wanted the Union County redesign of a traffic island to include trees, grassy plots, floral plantings and benches along with pedestrian walkways. April Stefel of the city Planning Division and Union County engineer Paul Leso presented the plans and Crescent Area Historic District resident Maria Pellum explained how the concept was developed with the goal of adding green space to the neighborhood.

The intersection abuts both the Crescent district and the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District. It was up for a redesign to improve traffic flow and safety and residents asked to add the esthetic changes. The board’s decision on the capital project is advisory only, Planning Board Chairman Ken Robertson said.

Leso said the project is part of a proposal to improve nine “signalized intersections” from South End Parkway up to Front Street. The county was approved for federal funding to pay part of the cost. The entire project is estimated to cost $2.7 million and the federal “earmark” of $1,255,206 would pay for the first phase, from South End Parkway to Ninth Street, Leso said..

The intersection now has only a concrete island, which would be replaced by a peninsula with the improvements sought by the community. Pellum said residents would take care of the plantings and would make sure proposed benches did not lead to loitering or illicit activity.

Pellum said she moved to the neighborhood about 20 months ago and has since organized a block association in the district. (Click here for map.) She said residents worked with Library Director Joe Da Rold and Police Chief Edward Santiago to rid Library Park of drug activity, with extra lighting being a key factor.

Stefel said the city could supply two benches left over from a downtown streetscape project. The peninsula would not be a park, she said but “a nice-looking pass-through.”
The county agreed to provide light poles in black to blend with those at Park and Seventh.

Leso said the county will use traffic control cameras to monitor traffic flow and will install LED lights that require less maintenance than other street lights. The traffic lights will have battery backup for emergencies. The county’s goal is “to get traffic to move more efficiently and increase the safety of the corridor,” he said.

In agreeing to the concept, the board asked for stamped concrete portions of the peninsula to be colored and textured to look like slate. Board member William Toth suggested finding a way to get a water spigot on the site for plant maintenance. Stefel requested conduits to be installed for such time as the city can purchase six decorative street lamps. Pellum said walkways should be wide enough to accommodate the many students who pass through the intersection. The county will provide enough Belgian block to edge the central landscaped spaces.

The board unanimously approved the stipulations. The improved intersection will become an “entrance to the district,” Stefel said.

--Bernice Paglia


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