A Short, Simple Bike Lane on Franklin Ave Got Snarled at Brooklyn CB 9

The stencils are in jeopardy. Image: NYC DOT
The stencils are in jeopardy. Image: NYC DOT

The Brooklyn Community Board 9 transportation committee endorsed a seven-block bike lane on Franklin Avenue earlier this month, but now it looks like a procedural snafu may scuttle the bike connection between Eastern Parkway and Empire Boulevard.

DOT reps told committee members that a repaving next month is an opportunity to extend the Franklin Avenue bike lane, which currently ends at Eastern Parkway [PDF]. CB 9 had rejected that plan in 2014, but last month the transportation committee voted 6-0 for the project with four abstentions.

Before yesterday’s full board meeting, however, committee member Karen Fleming called the vote into question, according to emails obtained by Streetsblog, since 11 people are needed for a quorum. (Fleming herself had abstained.) CB 9 Chair Musa Moore agreed to pull the project from the agenda.

With just weeks to go before DOT repaves the corridor, that could delay the bike lane installation another year.

At last night’s full board meeting, committee chair Fred Baptiste said that instead of installing a bike lane, DOT will devote that five feet of street width to extra-wide parking lanes, according to Transportation Alternatives organizer Erwin Figueroa. New crosswalks are still set to be installed at Union Street and Carroll Street.

“We are discussing internally the best way to move forward so markings can be installed, making Franklin Ave safer and efficient for all users,” a DOT spokesperson told Streetsblog.

An unprotected bike lane is a basic improvement that adds a bit of definition to where cyclists and drivers should travel on the street. Those treatments should be the default in the Vision Zero era. Instead, a procedural snafu at the local community board might put this off another year.

  • Brian Howald

    To recap: the lack of a quorum to legitimize the advisory opinion of a committee not required for the advisory opinion of a board not required for the action of a city agency is what throws a wrench in the plans.

    It doesn’t take a Machiavellian genius to work procedural delays like this to obstruct without looking like obstruction when there are nine meetings a year.

    I’m curious how often extra-wide parking lanes have been used to soften the ground for Class 2 lanes later.

  • A project gets delayed because ONE PERSON — who is not an urban planner or transportation professional — didn’t show up to a meeting? Come on. What the hell are we even doing with this community board garbage any more?

    I know it might seem hard in the short term, but DOT must go to boards and tell them, “We are fulfilling our legal obligation to notify the community, but do not need a supportive resolution to make this change to the street.” If they did that enough times it might return community boards to their rightful place in the process as sounding boards of local knowledge and not as agents of “no.” It would stop a lot of the procedural trickery and knee-jerk NIMBYism that delays simple projects like this.

    Forget Vision Zero. If DOT can’t pair painting lines with repaving streets then the municipal planning process is broken. It’s a waste of time, effort, and our tax dollars.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    which currently ends at Eastern Parkway

    It actually ends at St. Johns Place.

  • One person? Quorum is not when 100% people show up, it’s when a percentage (usually a simple majority) show up enough for the meeting to seem valid.

    If they didn’t have quorum it’s because 12 people didn’t show up! That’s not procedural trickery, that’s abidcation.

    (And yes, if they didn’t have quorum, the entire transpo agenda that month should not be on the full board agenda.)

    We are told as community board members (in Manhattan, anyway) that attendance matters very much. I’m aghast if missing quorum is a regular thing out there.

    (Let’s be blunt: it probably is the norm, and that means the Brooklyn BP / council members are not handling their appointments correctly. Without the community boards, these people would be the only sounding boards for local issues anyway, thus probably the best way to fix the istuation isn’t to change the city charter but to insist that responsible, respectable people are appointed to the boards)

    The State Liquor Authority will approve a licensing application if the community board doesn’t bother to file an official response under the given answering period. NYC DOT should proceed similarly with their own plans, regardless of what past mayoral candidates might have sniped about during the JSK era. Those past voices were wrong and DOT is overreacting to the criticism.

  • Six in favor. Zero opposed. Four abstentions. That equals 10. Fleming said they needed 11 for a quorum. So, yes. One person. If Fleming was wrong, that’s all the more reason for DOT to move ahead.

  • Kevin Love

    What is really crazy is that even after the proposed change, an absolute majority (18 of 34 feet) of the PUBLIC street would be devoted to the storage of private property.

  • Weird that changing the proposed bike lane to a wide parking lane didn’t require a new committee vote.

  • kevd

    I actually think Franklin Ave fr. Eastern to Empire is one of the best stretches of non-bike laned street that I ride regularly. Well aside from a couple large pot holes that showed up this winter. Also, it smells amazing…

  • JudenChino

    It’s the default setting. Everything else is gentrification or something bad.

  • Vooch

    This reminds me of the hysteria regarding the unprotected bike lanes on Upper East Side last year. Who can forget Woody Allen ?

    And note the DOT finally just did it. AND none of the pearl clutchers likely even even notice any bike lanes

    I am going to argue ( having witnessed the UES struggle first hand ) that it’s a waste of time & political capital to fight for unprotected bike lanes. The haters fight against unprotected bike lanes with the same muddled headed vehemence as they fight against PROtected lanes.

    The only bike lanes that really matter are PBLs. PBLs are what attract the ‘interested but concerned’

    If we are going to fight, then fight for something worthwhile – PBLs

  • Vooch

    zero

  • Walter Crunch

    The bike lanes are on the wrong side.

  • Bluewndrpwrmlk96

    Probably to keep it consistent. Wythe Av alternates between one-way and two-way somewhere in Williamsburg.

  • Absolutely. If there’s anything to fight about with regard to unprotected lanes it’s to make it so that they no longer have to be presented to community boards to be installed. They should be a default setting for any street wide enough to accommodate them. Anytime a street gets repaved, they should be laid down, no questions asked.

  • Nick Ober

    What’s so frustrating is that such a totally tame design gets shot down. Meanwhile, the street should actually look like this. There’s room to eek out a Parking Protected Bikelane. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bc8eebdecd56968e1ca143ec84f01b47fc07b8416c02e1999ed62a4e76566c7b.png

  • Quorum is not about approval or disapproval. It’s about “does this meeting count”? If they didn’t have quorum at this meeting, it’s because at least 6 and maybe as many as 12 people didn’t show up.

    If they had quorum at the meeting, this vote succeeds and is recorded as a committee motion presented to the full board. Then the full board can vote on it & present to DOT in a timely manner.

    Again, DOT is making a huge mistake to interpret the CB’s failure to address the matter as a veto here.

  • It’s not Machiavellian, it’s incompetence. Every other agency in New York State considers a non-opinion from a community board to be a non-opinion, whatever the cause. If DOT is holding out on safe streets because they want proven consensus every time, that’s THEIR failure. It’s not reasonable caution or buy-in seeking tactics.

  • Walter Crunch

    Consistency is often an exuse used to justify laziness, apathy or the way things always have been.

  • Note: the vote succeeded at the meeting!

    The problem was that not enough people showed up to the meeting to have anything count!

    And yes, that is proper procedure / rules of order, but it’s also a huge failure of the entities that supervise/staff community boards to make sure that meetings and hearings are appropriately attended. Yes, it happens to be a NIMBY lady pointing it out, but she wasn’t incorrect about the process.

    I feel the safe streets audience would do well to understand how meetings / rules of order work when they go to interface with community boards. (And, obviously, activists should join community boards & take the place of lazy members who don’t bother to show up at all)

  • I’m going off of what the story reported and what Fleming said her understanding was. She reasoned that without 11 people present, the meeting/vote didn’t count.

    The fact that we have to get so into the weeds on the definition of what a quorum is proves to me that the process for fixing streets is horribly broken.

  • Vooch

    thanks

    I’m convinced that fighting over unprotected bike lanes only wastes our time and mobilizes the counter revolutionaries

    painted bike lanes aren’t even noticed by the woody allens of the world

  • Tyson White

    If so many board members didn’t bother to show up to the meetings, does the public interest need to be held hostage? Why wait for their votes to take care of this?

  • Brian Howald

    I don’t think in this instance that it was a clever sidestepping of the issue, but plenty of opposition to bike infrastructure has taken the form of pretend concern for seniors, businesses, pedestrians, etc.

    CBs have the privilege to offer an opinion or not, but knowing that DOT often balks at anything less than CB approval of a project means that opponents need only delay rendering an opinion to stall it. 111th Street is a key example of how asking for tweaks to a plan under the guise of improving it is used as a delaying tactic.

    Yes, it’s DOT’s fault that they kowtow to this, but until they grow a spine, it’s important to point out false delay tactics.

  • This is for the entire audience, this is not just me trying to correct one person – quorum is not an ambiguous concept. This is how almost all deliberative bodies work, including City Council, the Legislature, and Congress. What is in question is, what is in BkCB9’s bylaws to define the number of people present needed for quorum? It’s usually a simple majority (in almost any other case it’s a 2/3 supermajority).

    If that’s true here, there are 20-22 total committee members, and only 10 showed up for the meeting. We don’t know this to be certain, but it’s a very reasonable guess.

    If you are seeing this sort of thing happen at your community board, it’s a story for the news + it’s something the electeds should fix. All appointed CB members should attend their meetings with a minimal number of absences.

    As for the “process for fixing streets”, a failed quorum at community boards should be treated as a no-comment situation by DOT, and they should proceed with whatever they intended to do (unless there’s flexibility to come back the following month). This is what every other agency does. PLEASE get on DOT for this, not on the Community Boards. DOT is punting their responsibilities to the boards, while in reality it is not beholden to them under any standard or law. It’s unacceptable for them to defer like this.

  • These tactics are obvious and thinly veiled. No one’s wrong to discuss them & criticize them, but they can be dealt with by sharp community board members, of which there are plenty lately. A broad number of CBs have been effective in evaluating and supporting safe streets plans. We should talk about those instances too.

    What happened with 111th Street is a long drawn-out fiasco of the sort we’ve seen with select other boards. If these problems rely on people with truly regressive (and sometimes self-serving) ideas holding onto power indefinitely, the good news is that the boards are all staffed by humans who eventually get too old to serve. I don’t see young people coming into these boards and widely waging war to maintain parking space counts.

  • JudenChino

    Shouldn’t that be a travel lane and not a bus lane? otherwise there’s no lane for cars?

  • Brian Howald

    “These tactics are obvious and thinly veiled.”

    To safe street advocates and DOT, they are thinly veiled, but to some on community boards, they are persuasive. I witnessed a pedestrian island in the middle of channelization space (https://www.google.com/maps/@40.7369519,-73.8516088,3a,60y,213.72h,59.87t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s3fBvvDWgXSaC-Uu2kN_bDQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656 ) get shot down by a whiny transpo committee member who insisted that data be collected and a site visit done, to which other members agreed.

    “A broad number of CBs have been effective in evaluating and supporting safe streets plans. We should talk about those instances too.”

    “What happened with 111th Street is a long drawn-out fiasco of the sort we’ve seen with select other boards.”

    Some community boards have been more supportive lately, but they are also the ones likely to have committee meetings monthly (as opposed to whenever they feel like meeting) and a full complement of members (instead of just a handful) assigned to a committee, let alone when they choose to show up. How boards are run varies greatly across the city, and we have yet to see many boards tackle significant street safety projects.

    “No one’s wrong to discuss them & criticize them, but they can be dealt with by sharp community board members, of which there are plenty lately.”

    I agreed with you when you had a discussion about this with Benjamin Kabak: there is no need to denigrate those who choose to effectively serve their communities. However, the boards (and transportation committees) with sharp members tend to be the ones we see good results from consistently or from time to time.

    “If these problems rely on people with truly regressive (and sometimes self-serving) ideas holding onto power indefinitely, the good news is that the boards are all staffed by humans who eventually get too old to serve. I don’t see young people coming into these boards and widely waging war to maintain parking space counts.”

    I agree with you. That’s why I serve as a public member of my board’s transportation committee. However, natural turnover is simply happening too slowly to effect Vision Zero’s goal of no deaths by 2024.

  • We’re agreeing more than we’re disagreeing. Here’s the thing: I couldn’t care less about any individual board’s procedures, how they do or don’t define a quorum, and whether they have the public comment period before of after they take a vote, for example. DOT has given too much power to these boards to delay even the most basic of street safety projects. It has to stop. Changing that is solely the responsibility of DOT.

  • reasonableexplanation

    We get it, you hate parked cars. Thanks for reminding everyone!

  • Andrew

    This is your takeaway when somebody simply points out how much public space we dedicate to the storage of private property?

    Whether you personally drive or not, there’s no denying the vast quantities of public space set aside for parking, even in parts of the city where drivers whine incessantly about how hard it is to find parking.

    It’s an unsustainable model, even as you wish to ignore it.

  • Reggie

    Well, you are going off of what was reported and your pre-existing conviction that since some community boards have varying levels of incompetence, they should all be removed from the local review process.

  • I serve on my local board’s transportation committee. While I make a point of attending meetings, if I happen to be absent one month, that shouldn’t have any bearing on whether or not DOT decides to move forward with a worthy street safety project.

    I don’t believe community boards should be removed from the local review process, but we have to define “local review process.” It should mean things like, “You can’t put that sign there because I’m not sure you know there’s an old elm tree that, during spring and summer, will block people from seeing it so you might want to consider moving the sign a few feet to the left” or “Just be aware that the restaurant on the corner has an annual pasta-fest and parks a truck in the same spot where you want to put a bike corral so you might want to reach out to them first.”

    “Local review process” should not mean “We are not going to make this street safer for people who want to bike.”

    And that goes for the good community boards that tend to be fair and open to this stuff like mine, and the ones that reflexively block anything that takes space from cars.

  • reasonableexplanation

    You can use a lot of different words to describe parking, but why do you think “unsustainable” is a good fit?

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