Brooklyn CB 6 Unanimously Approves DOT Modifications to PPW Bike Lane

In a unanimous voice vote last night, Brooklyn Community Board 6 passed a resolution supporting NYC DOT’s proposed modifications to the Prospect Park West bike lane. The changes include building raised pedestrian islands, adding bike “rumble strips” at crosswalks, and narrowing the buffer between the bike lane and parked cars at the northernmost end of the street. The resolution includes several other requests, asking DOT to search for ways to add on-street parking spots on PPW and side streets, and to monitor safety stats on the redesigned street for the next three years.

The vote was preceded by a public hearing last month where speakers in favor of keeping the current design outnumbered opponents by about eight to one. The board had previously approved the PPW redesign in a May 2009 vote, and had asked DOT to study the implementation of a two-way separated bike lane in June 2007.

Immediately before last night’s meeting, board chair Daniel Kummer and district manager Craig Hammerman were sent this charming letter from Gibson Dunn attorney Jim Walden, on behalf of the groups suing the city to remove the bike lane (the letter also went out to several members of the press).

We’ll walk through all the distortions in this letter later today. For now, here’s some related reading:

  • A Prospect Park West timeline, including a brief history of community efforts to tame speeding and improve bike access on the street, going back to 2006.
  • Independent experts in the field of street safety have reviewed the plaintiffs’ lawsuit and concluded that DOT’s data is solid and well-presented, while the opponents have cherrypicked data points to fit their conclusions.
  • Is Streetsblog editor emeritus Aaron Naparstek (“The Blogger”) a pawn of the nefarious, traffic-calming-obsessed DOT, or is he someone who’s been involved in neighborhood-level advocacy to improve street safety for several years, trying to defend a popular project from the predations of a U.S. Senator, concerted PR attacks, and frivolous litigation? You decide.

Plus one more sidenote: I’m not sure what point is being made by saying that the city’s first two-way, on-street, parking-protected bike lane doesn’t border a public park, but it’s not true. The Kent Avenue bike lane most certainly does border a public park.

  • Ben, you just don’t get it. The fact that this is a relatively new kind of bike lane is a completely valid critique. New York City, the world capital for innovation in finance, technology, fashion, dining, media, entertainment and the arts is totally scared out of its collective gourd by this “experimental” road design.

  • J G

    What letter?

  • Anonymous

    I guess the PPW lane is in the air. I literally just finished having an incredibly upsetting argument with someone I would have thought was a rational and kind man… who’s opposed to the bike lane because it’s “dangerous.” Because you can’t double park anymore. After having to deal with that, it’s truly heartening to be able to see this good news.

  • Anonymous

    I guess the PPW lane is in the air. I literally just finished having an incredibly upsetting argument with someone I would have thought was a rational and kind man… who’s opposed to the bike lane because it’s “dangerous.” Because you can’t double park anymore. After having to deal with that, it’s truly heartening to be able to see this good news.

  • dporpentine

    I know I’ve said this before, but this lawsuit represents a direct assault on personal and professional integrity of a good many involved in CB 6. I don’t see why this angle isn’t more frequently mentioned, but in any case, that’s no small part of what “unanimous” means here: we’re united against this frivolous, offensive lawsuit.

  • WordPress glitch was hiding the embed for a few minutes. You should be able to see it now.

  • Andy

    Just because the US has been mostly ignorant to real bicycle infrastructure, doesn’t make it experimental. Plenty of cities worldwide “experimented” with it for decades already.

  • Good point dporpentine.

    Walden’s threats and bullying against the Community Board has to be seen against the consistent contempt for the Community Board exhibited by NBBL. I am not an uncritical lover of community boards and there is tremendous variability in the quality of their members, processes and outcomes. But in some cases, such as Districts 6 in Brooklyn and 2 and 7 in Manhattan, the CB seems to be fairly representative of at least a majority (if not the entire) community, attempts to run a fair and open process, and usually reaches results which (though non-binding by definition in virtually all cases) provide useful guidance to elected official and agencies.

    From everything I’ve seen and read, BCB6’s handling of the Prospect Park West traffic calming and bike lane project is just such a case of exemplary CB action. But the NBBLrs, whose leadership is composed of politically sophisticated insiders, ignored the CB process, with showing open contempt for people who volunteer their time to participate in a non-binding process. Naturally. Iris Weinshall and Norman Steisel spent their careers in city government ignoring community boards. Why would they listen now?

    When the CB didn’t give them the outcome they wanted, the NBBLrs used a lawyer to threaten the CB and its leadership. They did so at their peril. Having alienated the entire leadership of a community, NBBL has no leverage left except its bogus lawsuit.

  • krstrois

    Anyone who employ editorials in the Daily News and Post as a stand-in for real statistics is both desperate and crazy. He is trying to wage a PR war to to drum up public support in advance of his frivolous lawsuit and that is as plain as day. He’s a bully, and his clients are tedious. I look forward to the end of this.

  • Anonymous

    I can think of a second two-way barrier bike lane, and it is next to a park.
    Canal Street at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge, between Chrystie and Forsyth Streets. It’s only one block long, and the barrier is a planter, not parked cars, but it is two way, next to a park and successfully interfaces with a huge volume of pedestrian traffic crossing Canal.

    As I read this letter and the PPW law suit, I keep thinking of JFK assassination conspiracy fanatics. Come to think of it, Prospect Park does have quite a few Grassy Knolls. Maybe there is the connection….

  • What’s wrong with consistent contempt for community boards? They’re not democratic institutions.

  • Slope Cyclist

    I can think of another two-way, on-street protected bike lane that borders a park — the one on Tillary Street in Brooklyn leading to the Brooklyn Bridge. It runs along the edge of the Cadman Plaza War Memorial Park. Guess whose DOT installed that “radical experimental” bike lane? That’s right: PPW plaintiff and former NYC DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall installed the Tillary Street two-way protected bike lane in 2005. Maybe someone should tell her lawyer.

  • Cap’n,

    A body appointed by an elected official is by definition not directly democratically elected, but I don’t know if you can categorically say it is “not a democratic institution.” Certainly, such bodies can play a useful role in a democracy. Are federal judges and juries deserving of contempt because they are not democratically elected, but rather appointed by elected officials?

    I think community boards are deserving of praise or contempt based on how they discharge their function in the overall scheme.

  • Albert

    There’s also the 2-way bicycle lane that borders the Brooklyn War Memorial park, running along Tillary fr. Cadman Plaza W. to Adams, with concrete and plastic barriers.

  • Eliot

    From tomorrow’s New York Times:

    BROOKLYN — A Community Board vote on the controversial Prospect Park West bike lane almost didn’t pass last night after a contentious discussion of dangerous conditions caused by the unpopular street design. In the end, the coterie of cyclists, bloggers, and Park Slope Food Coop members on the board passed a non-binding resolution in support of the lane by a narrow margin.

  • Clarence

    Someone should tell these lawyers and NBBL thay two-lane lanes are happening all across the country. Here’s one in DC that is probably more difficult than any since it has residential homes on both sides of the street:

  • Andrew

    There’s also the two-way protected path on Harlem River Drive north of St. Nicholas Place and W 155th Street. This was also installed during Weinshall’s tenure, in 2003. However, this and Tillary Street are protected by jersey barriers, not parked cars.

  • eLK

    The Hudson River Greenway has been popular since it was opened. That might have been around 2000. Well before our current Bike Crazy JSK.

  • Jay

    I’m not sure I would read Mr. Walden’s letter at a community board meeting. I would distribute the letter to the members of the board and acknowledge receipt, but if he wants his specific arguments to be presented as part of a public meeting, he should appear in person so the Board can also direct questions to him.

  • Anonymous

    Here are some sample of “experimental” two way cycle tracks from the National Association of City Transportation Officials
    http://nacto.org/cities-for-cycling/design-guide/cycle-tracks/two-way-cycle-tracks/

  • Anonymous

    Not just cheering the home team here (I try not to weigh in much on PPW or dismiss wholesale the opponents’ points), but that was a weak letter. For one thing, the wish expresssed in only the last paragraph should have been the very first thing mentioned. Too bad for him. Next, even if the CB’s silence DID mean that the CB condone’s the public official’s conduct, and the integrity of the data (it means neither), that still doesn’t mean

  • Anonymous

    that the CB ought necessarily comply with the letter writer’s wishes. The CB could silently disapprove of the conduct and the data but still decide perfectly ethically to go ahead and have the vote, and vote the way it did.

  • Slope Cyclist

    Why can’t Iris Weinshall, Norman Steisel, Louise Hainline and Lois Carswell appear at the Community Board meeting, take their two minutes of public comment at the end of the meeting like any other citizen, and make these points themselves? Do they really believe themselves to be so special and so entitled that they can have an attorney send a letter to the Community Board and demand that it be read publicly on a night in which many important issues are on the agenda and being discussed. There were 100 angry Con Ed workers outside the meeting last night protesting a whole other issue. The Community Board deals with a lot more than just the Prospect Park West bike lane and the concerns of some former city officials. Who ARE these people that they think this is how local government should work?

  • J

    This is great news for Park Slope bikers, walkers, and even drivers! Pedestrian islands equal safer streets, where pedestrian space is clearly defined and protected by a curb, as it should be. This solidifies the shorter crossing distances, and creates a sort of bike traffic calming at pedestrian crossings.

    The letter from Gibson Dunn is pretty amusing. At the same time he berates the Community Board for prior actions, he asks them for a favor: to delay the vote on the ped islands. He knows that once pedestrian islands are installed, the PPW bike lane will be even harder to remove, as doing so would be much more costly and more clearly at the expense of pedestrians, who he claims to represent. I see this as a very desperate and extremely misguided stall move on his part. A move that wouldn’t be considered if this lawsuit had any chance of success.

  • Winning

    If a lawyer or a representative can’t even show up to voice concerns about a vote, then how much effort are they really putting into this lawsuit? I think the tide continues to turn and they know it: the NBBLers have lawyers, politicians and the press on their side, the pro-lane side has common sense and the people’s will (oh, and the wonderful Brad Lander).

  • Andrew

    The NYU study he mentions in the letter: does he mean the Rutgers study that Streetsblog posted about the other day? The State of the City report by the Furman Center barely touches mode of transportation to work.

    Way to go, Jim Walden!

  • Anonymous

    @ Slope Cyclist: They are people who have been completely shocked to discover that in this case they can’t make a coupe of phone calls, twist a couple of wrists, and poof, get whatever they want like usual.

  • Anonymous

    Indeed, and they are scared to death of crossing a bike path (that nobody uses), or a street that is less than three lanes wide.

  • Anonymous

    I can think of a whole list of public officials who’s conduct on this issue–willfully contradicting the majority and the results of a long, open, citizen initiated public process–has earned them a place on my s*** list. Schumer, Weiner, Brennen…anyone else want to get on the bus?

  • Anonymous

    BTW: Yay. I’m glad there appear to be some adults in the room who are actually looking out for the public interest and making our neighborhood an even better place to live. Three cheers to the CB and Mr. Lander.

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