Transportation & Infrastructure

A 197-A Plan for Manhattan Community district 11 (Revised 1999)


East Harlem has strong internal transportation systems and some of the most important regional links in New York City, it has many infrastructure problems. Residential streets are in need of resurfacing, bridges must be brought up to a "state of good repair" and sidewalk and fighting deficiencies hamper pedestrian movement.

Census Information
The vast majority (78 percent) of East Harlem residents work within Manhattan. The remaining (22 percent) are split between other parts of New York City (17 percent) and outside of the city limits (5 percent). Journey-to-work data reveal that in 1990, 71 percent of the workers use public transportation to get to their place of employment The data also indicate that the, use of bus, rail and livery service has risen while the use of the subway fell. Table 5 shows the marked increase in all modes with the exception of the subway.

Table 5
Mode of Travel to Work Socioeconomic




Percent Change

Drive Alone




Car Pool
























Source: Department of City Planning, Socioeconomic Profiles: A Portrait of New York City's Districts From the 1980 & 1990 Censuses of Population and Housing (New York: 1993).

The institution of the MTA's Metro Card with easy transfers and two hour stopover privileges is affecting these figures radically.

In 1980, only 11.4 percent of East Harlem commuters used a car, truck or van to travel to work, as compared to Manhattan's 10.9 percent. By 1990, 12.5 percent of all East Harlem commuters used a private vehicle. Despite the small increase in vehicle usage, ownership rates remain low in 1990, 15.9 percent of the households owned at least one vehicle, up from 14.8 percent in 1980.

Regional Connections
The community district offers outstanding regional connections to all areas in the City of New York. On the eastern border of the district, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and the Harlem River Drives run the length of the district, offering express motor vehicular access to midtown and downtown Manhattan. The Harlem River Drive leads to the George Washington Bridge providing rapid access to New Jersey, These highways also lead to the Bronx and Queens via the Triborough Bridge.

The Triborough Bridge leads to the Bronx-bound Major Deegan and Bruckner Expressways to the north and to the Queens-bound Grand Central Parkway and Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to the south.

Three bridges cross the Harlem River and connect the area with the Bronx: the Madison Avenue Bridge, Third Avenue Bridge and Willis Avenue Bridge. The Willis and Third Avenue Bridges are important truck freight connections to the Bronx as well as traffic moving north and south. The community district is also connected to the Bronx by the New York City Railroad Bridge north of Park Avenue.

East Harlem is a short distance from La Guardia Airport, a terminal that serves as a regional hub for travel and air freight. The M60 bus, which starts in Morningside Heights, travels across 125th Street and terminates at La Guardia Airport--for a token.

Public Transportation
East Harlem is served by the New York City Transit Authority's (NYCTA) 4, 5, and 6 subway fines that run along Lexington Avenue. The 4 and 5 are express lines that have only one express stop in the district -125th Street. The local number 6 line makes stops at 96th, 103rd, 110th, 116th and 125th streets. To the north, the 4, 5 and 6 fines connect to the D, C and number 2 lines, while to the south, the 4, 5 and 6 fines connect
to the N, R, E, F, B, D, Q, J, M, A, C, Z lines and the number 7 line (see Map 627K).

Like others parts of the Fast Side of Manhattan, one subway line limits accessibility to many residents in the community. The certain portions of the eastern section of the East Harlem (Second, First, Pleasant Avenues) tend to be isolated. The NYCTA is currently conducting a federally funded study of Manhattan East Side Transit Alternatives. The Second Avenue subway is one of the study's alternatives. The construction of the Second Avenue subway fine or another type of new transit service serving the far East Side would provide greater access to the subway system and aide the development of the eastern parts of East Harlem, including the East River Plaza.

There are sixteen NYCTA bus routes, both local and express, that take area residents to the West
Side, Central Harlem, Washington Heights, Inwood, the Bronx, Queens, Midtown and Downtown Manhattan. Cross-town buses operate on 96th, 106th, 116th, 125th, and 135th Streets. Buses also run on all primary north-south avenues except Park Avenue. While bus service is adequate, the number of bus shelters is inadequate.

A number of private bus fines run through the community district. Liberty Lines offers express stop service to Midtown Manhattan with four stops along Fifth Avenue in East Harlem. New York City Bus Service runs buses through the community but does not serve the area residents. With destinations Eke Co-op City and White Plains, these buses run along Madison Avenue and generate noise and air pollution as they travel through the area.

The Metro North station, located at Park Avenue and 125th Street, serves as the uptown stop for over 500 trains a day. These trains run from Grand Central Terminal on the Harlem, Hudson and New Haven Lines. The station presently serves over 4,000 commuters a day, many of whom are employed at the district's regional institutions such as Mount Sinai and North General Hospitals.

The 125th Street Metro North station and the Park Avenue viaduct began rehabilitation in April 1994. Although the work is mostly structural, some work will improve the visual quality of the station and since the station is a designated landmark, all improvements have been approved by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Streets and Traffic Flow
The major east-west arterials are 96th, 106th, 110th, 116th, 121st, 124th, 126th, and 127th Streets; major north-south arterials are First, Second, Third and Park Avenues. North-south movement is adequate along all avenues. East-west traffic tends to be congested due to the funneling of traffic onto major arterials to avoid super blocks, the Park Avenue viaduct, the large hospitals and Marcus Garvey Park. There are two streets there are presently wide one way streets that could accommodate more through traffic if they were converted into two way streets: 100th Street between the FDR Drive and First Avenue and 99th Street between Madison and Park Avenues.

There are many locations where traffic becomes extremely congested. These areas include 97th Street (third to Fifth), 116th Street, 124th Street, and 132nd Street. Entrances to the Triborough Bridge from 124th and 125th St.,, the Drive entrance at 132nd Street, and East 135th Street near the Madison Avenue Bridge. In all cases, entrances to the drives are narrow which makes merging into traffic is difficult.

The Department of Transportation has rated all of the avenues in the community district as "high" which means that their condition is as good or better than many in the City, but many of the side streets are in need of patching and repaving.

Safety is also big concern in the community, especially for school age children. Emphasis should be placed on teaching the children the importance of street safety. On the other hand, certain intersections should be made safer to ensure safety for all pedestrians, particularly near schools.

The Community Board has long advocated and endorsed the DOT's program that takes photographs of vehicles running red fights as a technique to protect pedestrians,

The sidewalks in disrepair impede pedestrian movement. The problems are most severe in front of city-owned vacant buildings or land which has been damaged by heavy equipment that is used to clear or fence these properties. Some of East Harlem's intersections still do not have curb cuts to accommodate the physically-challenged and baby strollers. Also, many sidewalks are not adequately landscaped with trees.

Many vacant lots are used by pedestrians to bisect blocks or cut corners and many of these lots are frequently filled with dangerous trash and debris while others me fenced by city agencies. The City does not service these large expanses of vacant land. They are a hazard especially during the winter months when vast stretches of sidewalks become covered with dangerous patches of ice and snow. Pedestrians, including young children and adults with baby strollers are forced into the streets to avoid the slippery sidewalks.

Since only 15.9% of East Harlem residents own a vehicle, there is a sufficient amount of legal on street parking in the East Harlem's residential neighborhoods. The 63 parking lots in the community district occupy five percent (13 acres) of the total land area. Of these lots, 68 percent are city-owned.

The illegal conversion of vacant lots into temporary parking lots has occurred in many areas. In commercial clusters, Third Avenue and police and fire stations, parking is inadequate. As a result, double parking is prevalent at these sites. Other problematic parking arms include Madison Avenue (near Riverton Houses) and streets surrounding Metropolitan and Mt. Sinai Hospitals.

For example, the bus stop at Second Avenue and 97th Street causes traffic congestion and hinders the flow of emergency medical vehicles. In addition, parking regulations along Second Avenue between 97th and 98 the Streets and 98th Street between Fifth and Madison hinders the efficient movement of emergency vehicles. Parking for Metropolitan Hospital staff and visitors is inadequate.

Street Lighting
Adequate street lighting is very important to the East Harlem Community with its large population using sidewalks day and night. The basic city "street lamp" is simply that--it lights the street where the traffic is, but not the sidewalk where people are. One area where lighting is extremely critical is along the Metro North Viaduct and in the pedestrian tunnels underneath the Metro North viaduct.



1 . The NYCTA should improve subway transportation to the east side of the Community District.

2. The Second Avenue subway line should be constructed.

The City should increase and expand the bus shelter program.

4. Authorize ferry service from 125th Street to midtown and Wall Street.

5. All cross-town busses should be changed from diesel fuel to electric motors.


1 . In the hope of eliminating bottle necks created by cars exiting and entering the Harlem River, East River, and FDR Drives, work should be done on design and improvement of certain street and an ramps.

2. The City should install vehicular traffic lights at intersections that are in close Proximity to schools.

Certain one way streets should be considered for conversion to two way streets, such as, East 100th Street, between FDR Drive and First Avenue and East 99th Street, between Madison and Park Avenues.

4. The traffic photo system should be expanded to cover more dangerous intersections in East Harlem, to apprehend unsafe drivers.

5. The City should conduct annual traffic studies in East Harlem.


1 . The City should expand the tree planting program along East Harlem's sidewalks.

2. The City should install curb cuts at intersections on East Harlem's sidewalks.

The City should remove snow from sidewalks in front of all city-owned properties in East Harlem.

4. The City should enforce sidewalk quality requirements, and follow same on the city's own sidewalks.


1. The City should relocate the bus stop at the corner of Second Avenue and 97th Street to accommodate Metropolitan Hospital emergency medical vehicles.

2. Vehicular parking should be made illegal by all of our medical centers where it might impede upon the access for emergency vehicles, and for the discharge of persons coming for treatment

3. Adequate parking for hospital, school, police and fire staffs should be provided in a fair manner. No sidewalk or crosswalk should be blocked by any car.


1 . Metro North Transit Authority must install vandal proof lighting in all of its pedestrian underpasses located where no lighting exists or functions, it creates dark and dangerous pedestrian passage ways.

2. The Department of Transportation must install pedestrian (sidewalk-side) lights on the avenues.

Other Sections of the 197-A Plan

History of East Harlem
Demographic and Socio-Economic Profile
Land Use and Zoning
City-Owned Vacant Property
Housing and Urban Renewal
Economic Development
The Waterfront
Tranportation and Infrastructure
Institutional and Historical Resources
Non-Profits At Work In East Harlem
For Profits At Work In East Harlem

Maps (all pertain to Community Board # 11)
The maps are in Gif format. File sizes are big, but you can better see the details in the maps.

Community Board District # 11 (162K)
Population of Race and Ethnicity by Census Track (679K
Land Use (Color 579K)
Zoning Map (244K)
Major Housing Developments (329K)
Urban Renewal Areas (328K)
Empowerment Zone (630K)
Economic Developement (628K)
Public Transportation (672K)
Historic District and Landmarks (610K)
Crossroads (589K)


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