Brooklyn to City Hall: Give us Planning Not Traffic Engineering

noway1.jpg

Last night the transportation committee of Community Board 6 fully and unequivocally rejected the Department of Transportation’s proposal to transform Park Slope, Brooklyn’s Sixth and Seventh Avenues into one-way arterials.

I am a member of the commitee and typically we have about 15 people in the room. A big meeting will be 35. Last night, well over 400 people showed up for a meeting in an auditorium that held about 125. A line of people snaked around the block. 200 more jammed an ante-room just outside listening in on a speaker. I have never seen such an intense turn-out for a neighborhood-level issue. It was truly inspiring to see how much people care about their neighborhood and how well regular community people understand what’s at stake when we let traffic engineers do our planning for us.

Not a single person spoke in favor of DOT Deputy Commissioner Michael Primeggia’s plan to turn two community-oriented avenues into one-way arterials designed to move more through-traffic. Though the Community Board leaders cut off discussion very early, there appeared to be nearly total unanimity that DOT’s plan was a bad idea and a real desire among the crowd to see the city do some real, comprehensive planning for the neighborhoods around Downtown Brooklyn. The community’s message amounted to a total and complete rejection of secretive, top-down, traffic engineer-driven planning.

While I work on a more detailed write-up and upload a bootlegged copy of Primeggia’s presentation (it still has not been released to the public) let these photos tell the story:

noway2.jpg

Standing at the entrance to the hospital looking up the street. None of these people got in to the meeting.

noway3.jpg

The line actually snaked around the block. Community Board 6 thought to call the 78th precinct to ask for police to help manage the crowd but didn’t think to book a bigger venue. Strange.

noway4.jpg

About 200 people filled an ante-room outside of the meeting hall listening to he proceedings on a speaker.

noway5.jpg

Unable to voice their opinion at the meeting, community members turned this table cloth into an ad hoc petition.

noway6.jpg

The auditorium was full beyond capacity.



Lydia Denworth, president of the Park Slope Civic Council explains why DOT’s plan is a bad idea. Everyone seemed to agree with her except for one stone-faced Deputy Commissioner of Traffic Operations.

  • mike

    Wow, wow, wow.

    I’ve never seen so many people at a full Community Board meeting, much less a Committee meeting.

    I hope it’s not too premature, but congrats to the Park Slope Civic Council, T.A., and everybody else who organized against this plan.

  • liz

    i hope that the new DOT commissioner is someone who understands that the traffic engineers’ time has past. we need new solutions for our streets, not the same old traffic tricks.

  • P

    Excellent!

  • PS Guy

    I’m wondering if there was any mention last night of how 4th Ave fits into the plan? There was talk of 4th ave originaly when this whole thing started, but suddenly that part of the picture is gone.

  • James

    Likewise, I’m wondering whether the CB6 committee vote’s language addressed 4th Avenue at all.

  • Not to be greedy, but now that the community has DOT’s attention, could 8th Avenue be turned into a two-way street, too? Prospect Park West?

  • street walker

    Despite the emotional opposition to converting 6th and 7th avenues into one-way roads, the opponents offered no evidence or support for their claims that the change would be for the worse.

    Let’s face it, Manhattan has been a good laboratory for the transition to one-way avenues. Meanwhile, much of Park Slope and Brooklyn is covered with one-way thoroughfares. Has anyone begged to convert the one-way roads back to two-way arteries? No.

    Opponents, such as Eric Adams, believe, though offer no evidence, that one-way streets are a paradise for drag-racers. Please. What nonsense. That doesn’t happen on any street in neighborhoods with heavy retail and pedestrian activity. Drag racing occurs far from the crowds and the police.

    Others make nonsensical claims about increasing the traffic in Park Slope. Interesting. Almost every parking space is almost always occupied at every available hour. The shops are busy and the sidewalks are heavily traveled.

    I suppose a few more cars and people could squeeze in, but aside from gaining a few more parking spaces due to the removal of some bus stops, it’s pretty much a matter of physics when it comes to calculating how much matter can actually fill the available volume on Park Slope streets.

    Maybe store owners could stay open extra hours and serve a late-night crowd. Or maybe a few more early birds.

    But the reality of more cars in Park Slope boils down to the number of housing units within the neighborhood. More housing, more cars.

    A little more prosperity would also boost the car population. Those without cars may choose to buy them if an improving household budget permits.

    Furthermore, it’s hard to imagine store operators would choose to stick with a plan that supporters claim keeps potential shoppers from their favorite shops.

  • The 4th Ave. plan was very much lacking. Paint left turn bays on the inside lanes of the Avenue and that’s that. They didn’t even propose to create protected ped refuge areas at the crossings. No trees. No nice urban Blvd. Just 4th Ave with painted left turn bays.

  • Charlesbklyn

    As a street walker, and a street driver, I am glad the community’s majority consensus is to reject the proposed traffic changes. I know the prohibition on fast driving down 7th or 6th avenue, due to the two way status, creates a slower yet safe speed for vehicles. This fact is especially important with all the children who use these avenues. I would rather drive slower than have an accident, and I would rather keep Park Slope BROOOKLYN then turn it into a Manhattan style urban model. Brooklyn has much to teach the other boroughs, including Manhattan. Its not the other-way around.

    Charles M Jr

  • mfs

    street walker- nostrand ave in East Flatbush. big retail avenue, 3-lane drag strip.

  • Doug

    Let me tell streetwalker, comment number 7, that I live on PPW, and yes, there are drag races. Maybe not “American Graffiti” style drag races, but motorcycle packs and bunches of souped up cars with customized mufflers to make them extra loud zooming down PPW at nights and on weekends. Racing from traffic light to traffic light. And sometimes blatantly ignoring them altogether. They are so loud and cause such vibrations that they literally set off car alarms. Nobody wants to see that on 6th or 7th Avenues.

    I’m sorry for all the new people who are going to move into the new highrises on 4th Avenue, but right now THAT avenue is the one viable option when the BQE/Gowanus grinds to a half (virtually all the time). Until something better is developed (3rd Ave.? A replacement for the entire elevated highway?) that’s it. Fair to the people who already live there? No. But unfortunately NYC is a tough place to live. If you have a lot of cash, you don’t get the best choices of places to live. Hey, I’ve been in the Slope for over ten years, but I couldn’t afford to move there now. I got lucky and bought cheaply in the South Slope at the absolute bottom of the real estate market in the mid-’90s–when South Slope was still looked down upon by those living north of 9th Street. But I would never want to move into one of those new 4th Ave. apartment buildings with 4th the way it is now. If I wanted to live on Queens Blvd., I’d move to Queens.

    And don’t even get me started on the Atlantic Yards project…

  • AD

    So street walker, I guess we should keep out the housing, right? That way it can be built in the suburbs, where instead of driving being optional, it will be required.

  • street walker

    AD, you wrote:

    “So street walker, I guess we should keep out the housing, right?”

    Not at all. I look forward to more un-subsidized housing in the area.

  • street walker

    mfs, you wrote:

    “street walker- nostrand ave in East Flatbush. big retail avenue, 3-lane drag strip.”

    Therre was a year when my homeward bound commute took me from Eastern Parkway down Nostrand. During commuting hours it was never a dragstrip. In fact, car speeds were usually at strolling velocity because so many delivery trucks were double-parked outside the stores they served.

    More importantly, Nostrand is a street that connects some major roadways and provides direct access to other neighborhoods. It would serve this purpose if it were a two-way street.

  • Judy

    Word of the meeting last night has just reached me in Boston. My two children and their families live in Park Slope. I love visiting them, in part because of the strong sense of community and neighborhood feeling. I love the small individually-owned shops, lots of people walking everwhere, the human sense of scale. To me, it’s a miracle you’ve been able to maintain this community in New York City. Keeping 6th and 7th avenues 2-way will keep the traffic at a neighborhood-level speed. So please, fight to retain it. And if you need someone to carry signs, let me know. On behalf of my grandchildren, I’ll be there in a New York minute. And lest you think my preference for 2-way streets is purely sentimental, I came across this list of benefits for two-way streets on a traffic-calming website:
    * Less driving, less confusion, and better traffic access
    * Eliminates the need to drive blocks and blocks out of the way
    * No need to make extra turns to get to nearby destinations
    * Drivers can get directly to their destination
    * Increases commercial traffic and business
    * Decreases the speed of traffic

  • street walker

    Doug, you wrote:

    “Let me tell streetwalker, comment number 7, that I live on PPW, and yes, there are drag races.”

    Noisy “dragracers” choose that roadway due to its width, the fact that cars are not streaming into it from two sides as well as the fact that there are fewer lights on PPW than 7th or 8th.

    You wrote:

    ” Maybe not “American Graffiti” style drag races, but motorcycle packs and bunches of souped up cars with customized mufflers to make them extra loud zooming down PPW at nights and on weekends. Racing from traffic light to traffic light.”

    Frankly, loud accelerations from one light to the next doesn’t fit the bill for dragracing. Nevertheless, the guys in question do operate noisy vehicles and intend to annoy as many people as possible. But they didn’t parachute down to PPW before starting their engines. Call the cops.

    And finally:

    “They are so loud and cause such vibrations that they literally set off car alarms. Nobody wants to see that on 6th or 7th Avenues.”

    Won’t happen on 6th or 7th. By the way, I’ve been on 4th Ave when the Ridge Runners or some other Brooklyn Biker gang decided to ride in a procession down 4th. They blocked every cross street while hundreds of them cruised slowly through red lights and kept all other traffic off their side of the avenue.

    As far as I know, no important gang member had died. They were just out for a group ride on a nice Sunday afternoon.

  • Clancey

    I live on PPW as well – it’s a speedway (you’d think Iris Weinshall, our neighbor, would’ve noticed). The motorcycle packs and car service drivers are the worst; they careen down the street, utterly heedless of lights or pedestrians. On the whole, drivers on PPW seem to view red lights as mere suggestions. The problem with DOT is that they’re just focused on moving cars, not on what works for people (including pedestrians, bike riders and those who simply enjoy a decent quality of life). Now that this issue has become such a source of public concern, I hope we’ll continue to press for measures – like changing PPW and 8th Avenue to two-way streets – that will make Park Slope better for everyone, not just drivers.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    I think the “drag race” argument is a red herring. Regardless of whether people are actually racing (and they do in this area – people regularly die on Sunrise Highway, I believe) on Prospect Park West, there’s still a lot more joyriding, speeding and reckless driving on it than on Sixth Avenue or Central Park West.

  • SmithBrotherJoe

    “Streetwalker?” You chose that name knowing there ARE other words for streetwalker, right? Is this a hint?
    I think the sum of “streetwalker’s” arguments would be “Change is inevitable, get over it, you have no right to try to maintain your neighborhood. And any of you who pose reality based opinions that differ from mine are simply wrong.” Now why would anyone who lives in this wonderful area have this view, unless they are really a streetwalker working for the man…

  • At the March 15th Brooklyn Community Board 6 (CB6) Transportation Committee meeting the committee heard a presentation by the Department of Transportation (DOT) on two proposals regarding Park Slope traffic. After DOT went through their presentation during the period of questions that followed it was clear that the committee and community were interested in seeing more data from the department, engaging the department and the community in more of a comprehensive, collaborative planning process, and hearing from other parties that would be impacted by the proposal such as New York City Transit and Brooklyn Community Board 7. The following motions were adopted by the committee, and will be presented for a vote to the full Community Board at their next meeting of April 11th:

    Motion 1: CB6 thanks DOT for their efforts to improve pedestrian safety and facilitate the flow of traffic in and around Park Slope as dialogue and discussions are always beneficial; however, we request that DOT not proceed with their proposal to convert 6th and 7th Avenues from two-way to one-way streets at this time because there are too many questions about the impact of this change and how it would effect the neighborhood’s traffic flow and pedestrian safety.

    We further request that DOT continue to work with the Community Board and the Park Slope community in resolving Park Slope’s very real traffic and pedestrian safety problems. For example, the perceived/actual high rate of speed of vehicles traveling on 8th Avenueand Prospect Park West, and the congested Union Streetapproach to the GrandArmyPlaza. By working more closely with the Community Board and community we are committing to work with DOT to produce an improved set of remedies and actions designed to further enhance pedestrian safety and facilitate the safe movement of vehicles within our community.

    Motion 2: CB6 would table making a recommendation on the 4th Avenueproposal until after such time as we have had a chance to engage DOT in a more comprehensive discussion of the traffic planning needs and challenges facing the Park Slope community.

  • prospecter

    I read with interest the previous thread (prior to the CB meeting) about the one-way proposals for 6th and 7th Avs and changes to 4th Av, and noted some comments from James (?) and another person to the tune of, why should the rich people on 6th and 7th have their nice low-trafficky neighborhood at the expense of the people living on 4th, which is a highway? I think this is a really good question and deserves some thoughtful answers.

    My current answer (work in progress) is that at least some of us on 6th and 7th have become oldtimers in the neighborhood (I lived here for many years and bought my home at the bottom of real estate prices in the mid-90s; I couldn’t afford to live there if I had to buy in now). We, and many more before us, moved to Park Slope when it wasn’t the rich, known-nice neighborhood it’s become since. We helped make it a great neighborhood, and now we’ve been discovered and the rich people have come to partake.

    Put brutally, no one has particularly cared about 4th Av. until now, and the only reason DOT and others care now is because developers see potential to make money off of it by rezoning and trying to turn it into a ritzy neighborhood for fancy people. There is no great concern for any poor people who may live there, only for the rich whom they hope to attract. The current proposals are made with a profit motive in mind, not concern for poor people’s quality of life.

    If you should happen to live along 4th now and consider yourself poor, you should worry about your future if all the gentrification happens, because you will be forced out by rising prices, just as is happening in the Slope now.

    The issue was set up in James’s post as “poor oldtimers on 4th vs. rich newcomers on 6th/7th.” But this is false. It really is about oldtimers on 6th/7th being sacrificed to create potential for future rich arrivals on 4th and greater profit for developers.

    Ratner had too much success framing the AY debate as a race and class issue because liberal whites were afraid to look racist and didn’t handle the debate well. I think we should pay attention to attempts to frame the 6th/7th Avs vs. 4th Av debate the same way. Yes, it’s a problem that fast through-traffic has to be routed somewhere, and nobody wants it in their neighborhood. Yes, the fast traffic is now on 4th Av. Yes, this makes it a less desirable place to live. You’re right. But no, this doesn’t mean that snotty rich people are pulling strings to get what they want and being insensitive to poor people. It means rich developers are once again using race and class issues to neutralize opposition to their schemes to make a few extra million. They want to trash a neighborhood that has been built up over a couple of decades and now works well — because it might be competition for them!

    This doesn’t address the problem of quality of life on 4th Av. It doesn’t. James is right about that. It only raises the very pertinent question of why quality of life on 4th has suddenly become of interest.

    James, I’d welcome your thoughts.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Prospecter, I agree with all of your points except “fast through-traffic has to be routed somewhere.” It doesn’t, actually. It can just be eliminated, if that’s what people want. It can also be reduced.

    If people don’t want to eliminate fast through-traffic, they can route it onto a higher-density mode like trains. Why don’t we have the cross-harbor rail freight tunnel yet, again?

  • Steven

    This is good news. Take back the streets! More pedestrian zones and bike routes and bus only lanes and less pampering to the cars will reduce the number of cars in all our neighborhoods and make our city more liveable, our planet’s air cleaner and our citizens more healthy.

    Wake up! We live in a compact area – perfect for public transport and biking. Cars are for outer suburbia and rural areas. They have ruined our landscape (development pampering to them) and our environment and health. Let’s not pamper to their needs when MOST of US don’t even own cars in NYC. I own a car – but keep it parked where it belongs 95% of the time.

    Who is the real majority?

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

CB 7 Members, Upper West Siders Back Amsterdam Ave Protected Bikeway

|
The room was packed last night for DOT’s long-awaited plan for a protected bike lane and pedestrian islands on Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side [PDF], with about 120 people turning out at the Manhattan Community Board 7 transportation committee meeting. Most residents and committee members praised the plan, though no vote was held. DOT says it […]

James and Cumbo Wilt Under Pressure, Oppose Clinton Ave Bikeway

|
Last year, Public Advocate Tish James called on DOT to make protected bike lanes a standard feature of street redesigns, a stance she recently elaborated on in an interview with Streetsblog. In December, Council Member Laurie Cumbo stood with the family of Victoria Nicodemus, who was run over and killed on a Fort Greene sidewalk, at […]

After a Packed Meeting, CB 7 Punts on Amsterdam Ave Complete Street Study

|
Few people have ever accused Manhattan Community Board 7 of expiditiously resolving to do something about dangerous streets. After devoting two hours last night to discussing a resolution asking DOT for a complete street study of Amsterdam Avenue (which the board’s transportation committee passed last month), CB 7’s reputation for inaction and delay remained intact: The board […]

Brooklyn to Bloomberg: Include Local Stakeholders in Planning

|
Below is a letter from the Park Slope Civic Council to Mayor Bloomberg and local elected representatives regarding the City’s plan to transform Sixth and Seventh Avenue’s into one-way streets. It’s lengthy but it’s worth a read (and full disclosure: I’m a trustee of the Civic Council): Park Slope Civic Council March 7, 2007 Dear […]