A proposal to enhance safety on Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights, which would put the street on a road diet and extend a painted bike lane one mile further south, is stuck in a tale of two community boards. CB 8, which covers the northern half of the project, is set to back the plan after its transportation committee voted 9-1 in support on Tuesday. CB 9, covering the area below Eastern Parkway, narrowly rejected the plan at a general board meeting last week, though the board’s district manager says it will likely come up again for another vote next month. The vote was a surprise coming from CB 9, which has a track record of urging the city to retrofit streets with bike lanes.
This stretch of Franklin Avenue is 34 feet wide and currently has one dotted line down the middle, with one parking lane and one travel lane on each half of the street. The narrow moving lanes leave little room for drivers to share space with cyclists — or even other drivers. Requests from the Crow Hill Community Association in 2011 and Assembly Member Walter Mosley in 2013 prompted DOT to take a look at the street. On April 2, the agency hosted a public workshop with members from both community boards to come up with solutions.
The plan [PDF] swaps the narrow two-lane configuration for an 11-foot travel lane, a striped five-foot bike lane, and nine-foot parking lanes on either side. The street would retain two car lanes for two blocks between St. John’s Place and Eastern Parkway to leave space for drivers to queue up before the light at Eastern Parkway.
Combined with changes to better coordinate the signal timing along Franklin for southbound traffic, DOT says the new configuration will have plenty of room for existing car traffic.
The plan also restricts left turns from westbound Atlantic Avenue to Franklin and would expand the concrete median on Atlantic to shorten crossing distances for pedestrians and slow drivers turning left onto Atlantic from Franklin.
“Our membership did have some concerns about eliminating the left turn from Atlantic to Franklin,” said CB 8 transportation committee co-chair Rob Witherwax in an email, but he noted that pedestrian safety improvements for residents crossing the 100-foot wide arterial street “will be well worth it.” DOT says the diverted car traffic, which it counted at no more than 83 vehicles per hour, can easily be absorbed on nearby streets.
DOT also proposed some ideas for parking restrictions along four commercial blocks of Franklin, such as adding one-hour limits during the day, except Sundays. Witherwax said that while these changes would not be implemented with the rest of the project, committee members were particularly interested in better managing curbside parking and hoped to work with DOT in the future on this issue along Franklin Avenue.
Things didn’t go as smoothly at CB 9. “This plan seemed like a slam dunk,” said Daniel Kristjansson, who was at the April workshop and last week’s CB 9 meeting, in an email. “I foolishly didn’t even stand up to speak in favor of the plan because it didn’t seem necessary.”
But after some procedural confusion, including a rejected motion to table the resolution, the plan was narrowly voted down — 10 in favor, 11 against, with three abstentions. CB 9 District Manager Pearl Miles said the board is likely to consider the plan again at a later date. The board’s next meeting, the final one before its summer break, is scheduled for June 24.
“We continue to work with them on this proposal, which originated from community requests, and look forward to returning at an upcoming meeting,” said DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera.
CB 8 is set to take up the proposal at its general board meeting on June 12, which will be attended by DOT staff. The agency says it could implement the project as soon as July, with concrete pedestrian islands installed on Atlantic Avenue next year.
This post has been updated to accurately reflect the status of proposed parking regulation changes on Franklin Avenue.