After a setback at Brooklyn Community Board 3 in February, Bed-Stuy and Clinton Hill residents asking for a 20 mph Slow Zone stepped up their organizing efforts. But a last-minute decision by CB 3 chair Tremaine Wright has stalled any action by the board until at least September. Faced with Wright’s obstruction, advocates turned to Borough President Eric Adams, who wants the project to move forward.
“I’m in support of the Bed-Stuy Slow Zone, and I will work in partnership with Community Board 3 to expedite this action,” Adams said in a statement. “The only thing that should be speeding in this community and others is the approval and implementation of these slow zones.”
The Slow Zone had been on the agenda for CB 3’s general board meeting Monday night, but the item was struck before the meeting, the last one before the board’s summer break. “[DOT was] going to come back, but the board changed its mind,” assistant district manager Beryl Nyack said. Nyack referred questions about who made the decision to Wright, who has not replied to requests for comment.
Wright is a co-founder of the Brooklyn Alliance for Safer Streets. The group “educates and advocates for roadways which promote walking, cycling and other forms of active transportation,” according to a description on its Facebook page. “BASS provides community residents and leaders with the tools to envision and create a safer and healthier urban streetscape.”
Despite this role, Wright told Streetsblog after the board voted against the Slow Zone in February that traffic safety is “not an issue in our community, by and large.”
Supporters of the Slow Zone say the board is opposing the project for the wrong reasons. Leah Bassknight has lived on the corner of Jefferson Street and Franklin Avenue for the past decade and has a 7-year-old son. She doesn’t agree with CB 3’s opposition to the Slow Zone. “I think their concern is that this is not a real concern of people who live in the community — just of parents whose kids go to the Waldorf School,” she said. “People who live in the community and don’t attend that school care about this.”
Coco Fusco lives on Monroe Street between Franklin and Classon Avenues. She often worries about walking to the YMCA on Bedford Avenue with her 9-year-old son. “I’m not a new resident. I’ve lived here 15 years. And a lot of the people I communicate with on the block have lived here for 15 years or longer,” she said. Fusco said she thinks it’s “appalling” for the board to claim there’s no need for traffic safety improvements. “Obviously there’s all sorts of politics, and resentment about new residents,” she said.
Slow Zones bring 20 mph speed limits and traffic calming measures like speed humps to neighborhoods that request them. DOT received dozens of letters in support from community groups and officials for the Clinton Hill/Bed-Stuy Slow Zone [PDF], which would encompass the area bordered by Classon Avenue, Lafayette Avenue, Bedford Avenue, and Fulton Street. After DOT decided to accept the Slow Zone application, Community Board 2, which covers the area west of Classon, voted to support the plan.
At the time, DOT was planning to install the Slow Zone in March, but CB 3 voted against it. Board members were upset that the Slow Zone had been enlarged to include more of the neighborhood than initially proposed, and were worried that it would increase congestion and pollution. “It’s not convincing,” Bassknight said of the anti-pollution argument. “I don’t see how that could be if they’re just going a little bit slower. You’re either idling or not.”
Since the February rebuke from CB 3, Slow Zone supporters have gained the backing of parent organizers at PS 3 and PS 56 and started a Facebook page and photo campaign to build support. Now they have another powerful ally on their side: Borough President Eric Adams, who has been a strong supporter of 20 mph speed limits and appoints community board members.
“It is proven that 30 mph takes lives, while 20 mph saves lives,” Adams said in a statement. “I’m pleased that… we are seeing areas like Bed-Stuy and Clinton Hill get the attention they deserve.”