New security measures for city

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1,500 additional bollards will be installed as part of $50 million project


  • Additional metal bollards will be installed in Times Square and other high-profile Manhattan locations as a protective measure against vehicle attacks. Photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

  • A cyclist passes temporary concrete barriers installed on the Hudson River Park Bikeway in Lower Manhattan following the Oct. 31 vehicle attack that killed eight people. Photo: Michael Garofalo

Nearly eight months after a driver steered his car onto a crowded Seventh Avenue sidewalk and accelerated toward Times Square, killing one person and injuring 22 others, Mayor Bill de Blasio returned to the site of the crime to announce a safety initiative intended to prevent similar vehicle attacks in the future.

The May 2017 incident ended when the car driven by Richard Rojas, an intoxicated Bronx man, came to a stop in Times Square after striking a metal bollard at West 45th Street. The bollard, one of the dozens of small metal stanchions rising from the streets and sidewalks around Times Square, brought the car to an abrupt halt, likely preventing further injuries — but only after the vehicle had traveled three blocks on the sidewalk at high speed, striking and dragging bystanders along the way.

The city will install 1,500 additional bollards in Times Square and other high-profile locations as part of a new $50 million project to bolster security in public spaces. “These bollards will make sure that the vehicles can never come into the places where pedestrians are,” de Blasio said at the Jan. 2 press conference announcing the plan.

The May incident in Times Square was one of two deadly vehicle attacks in Manhattan in 2017. On Oct. 31, a man driving a rented truck steered off the West Side Highway near Houston Street and entered a protected bike lane running along the Hudson River waterfront. The driver, identified by police as Sayfullo Saipov, drove southbound on the bike path for nearly a mile, deliberately targeting cyclists and pedestrians along the narrow trail, leaving eight dead and seven injured by the time he was apprehended by police after colliding with a school bus near Stuyvesant High School. Police said that Saipov, a 29-year-old Uzbek immigrant, was inspired by the Islamic State.

In the days following the attack, city and state transportation officials installed dozens of large concrete barriers along the Hudson River Greenway at potential access points for vehicles as a temporary safety measure, prompting some cyclists to complain that the bulky blocks impeded the flow of traffic in the lanes by forcing bikers into dangerously narrow spaces.

Under the new initiative, temporary concrete barriers around the city will be replaced this month with “more aesthetically pleasing blocks” on a temporary basis until the installation of permanent metal bollards begins in March. The 1,500 new bollards will be installed over the next few years. The city has not shared a detailed list of the locations of the new security measures, but officials said new bollards will be installed in Times Square and additional sites will include “business corridors, tourist attractions and iconic sites.”

Pedestrian and bicycle safety measures became an area of increased focus for city officials in 2017 in the wake of the two Manhattan incidents and recent jihadist-inspired vehicle attacks in London, Berlin, Nice and elsewhere. In December, the City Council passed legislation requiring the DOT to submit annual reports to the council detailing the installation of bollards beginning in July of this year.

The mayor said that the bollards’ utility extends beyond protecting pedestrians from intentional vehicle attacks alone. “It’s also important to recognize that sometimes we’ve seen tragedies that were not based on an attack,” de Blasio said. “We’ve seen cars that just spun out of control or reckless drivers, or someone who, God forbid, had a heart attack while driving. We’ve seen cars go into pedestrian areas. We want to make sure in some of the most heavily traveled areas of this city that these bollards protect against those kind of tragedies as well.”

There were 101 pedestrian deaths and 23 bicyclist deaths citywide in 2017, the lowest combined total since the Vision Zero traffic safety program was launched in 2013. Pedestrian fatalities are down 45 percent since program started.

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