Community Board Fights for Safety Improvements at Crash Prone Intersection


Intersection at West 42nd Street and 11th Avenue

Intersection at West 42nd Street and 11th Avenue Photo: Sum Yi Karen Ng

Serious car accidents have spiked in Midtown amid the pandemic. Last month, at the intersection of West 42nd Street and 11th Avenue, a sedan collided with a bus and, in July, a station wagon ran into a cyclist. 

Now local residents want better safeguards erected in that location, which has a history of dangerous collisions. So far this year, the intersection has been the site of 10 crashes, according to the New York City Police Department. Since 2009, two fatal crashes and 141 accidents resulting in injuries have occurred there too, as reported by Vision Zero, a collection of citywide public data. And just a block away, at the intersection of West 41st Street and 11th Avenue, there have been 66 collisions since 2009, one of which was fatal.

Christine Berthet is the founder of the Clinton Hell’s Kitchen Chelsea Coalition for Pedestrian Safety, and the co-chair of Manhattan Community Board 4’s Transportation Committee. She said the intersection’s traffic lights for both vehicles and pedestrians are flawed.

“It’s a very complicated intersection, because you have local traffic and Lincoln Tunnel traffic…coming from the North, the East and the West,” said Berthet. “It’s a never-ending problem, and it’s getting worse because post-Covid, more New Jersey people have decided to use their cars.”

There has also been an uptick in accidents on the sidewalks around the intersection. In June, a truck driver fatally backed into a pedestrian on an adjacent sidewalk.

Several weeks ago, a car crashed into the market on the corner, shattering its windows. “You have to be really aware. It gets really crowded during rush hour. Weekdays especially, as this is a tourist area,” said Tsering Bista, a cashier at Sunac Natural Market.

Adding to the congestion in the area, new residential buildings have emerged around the block in recent years. According to census tracts, this area has witnessed a notable increase in residents in the past decade. “The sheer volume of residents over there calls for some action,” said Berthet.

But not everyone is concerned. Midtown resident Rachael Herbert said she hasn’t noticed the issue. “I just moved back. I lived here a long time ago. My husband and I come here often, and I’ve never felt like there have been close calls,” said Herbert, adding that heavy traffic doesn’t deter her. “I mean, it’s New York. I wouldn’t say I avoid this road.”

Berthet said several years of pushing for substantial improvement has been frustrating and merely resulted in gradual change. Currently, there are two to three traffic agents working on different corners and in the center of the intersection. Their presence is new and part of the changes Berthet pushed for.

In addition to improving the traffic lights, the community board has requested that traffic be redirected from the Lincoln Tunnel toward West 44th Street instead, to reduce congestion. But Berthet does not expect changes to be made within the next year, because there is “not enough community uproar to change the priorities of the Department of Transportation,” she said.

The Department of Transportation did not respond to requests for comment.