Who Opposes A Plan for Safer, More Livable Streets and Why?

The scene in front of Dizzy’s Diner on 9th Street and Eighth Avenue.

Park Slope’s 9th Street corridor, with Prospect Park on one end and the Battery Tunnel on the other, has long been known as one of the most dangerous streets in the neighborhood when it comes to car crashes.

In March 2004 two fifth grade boys were killed by a gravel-filled landscaping truck that took a careless right turn into the crosswalk at Third Avenue. After that, Councilmembers Bill de Blasio and Sara Gonzales held an unprecedented joint public hearing of City Council’s transportation, public safety and education committees putting intense pressure on DOT to come up with a plan to improve pedestrian safety.

dizzys.jpgIn July 2005 a vehicle taking a left turn off of 9th Street collided with a sedan speeding recklessly down Eighth Avenue sending the sedan into the front door of Dizzy’s Diner. Miraculously, no one was hurt. After that incident, a 9th Street resident named Konrad Kaletsch teamed up with the owners of Dizzy’s, to launch a petition drive for pedestrian safety improvements around the intersection of 8th Avenue and 9th Street. They collected 1,187 signatures and even got Borough President Markowitz pushing DOT to make some immediate fixes. DOT told the community that they would be back with a more detailed plan at a later date.

Less than two years after the community outcry, DOT has come forward with a thoughtful, detailed plan. It promises to improve pedestrian safety, smooth out and calm traffic flow and provide cyclists with bike lanes along a key route on New York City’s bike map. And while the transportation committee of Community Board 6 was impressed enough with DOT’s plan to vote to recommend it to the full board, a number of 9th Street residents are absolutely infuriated by it. Why?

Here is one what community member told the Park Slope Courier newspaper:

The bike lanes will effectively "stop us from using our street," Robert Levine, co-president of the 9th Street Block Association, told Community Board 6’s Transportation Committee last week. Levine, a member of the board, said the lanes would make it harder for residents to double-park in order to drop off packages at home, or pick up family members.

Ninth Street residents handed out a flyer at the last meeting of the Park Slope Civic Council bullet pointing a number of objections to DOT’s 9th Street plan. These include:

  • These changes should have been done as a proposal, not a plan.
  • There will be a hardship for people living on Ninth Street because of the inability to stop and drop off passengers or unload their vehicles because of the bike lane.
  • Bike riders should not be placed in danger by routing them on the busiest street in the neighborhood.
  • Pedestrian safety will also be negatively affected. Bike traffic is harder to see from the curb than vehicular traffic.
  • There are nearby existing bike lanes such as on Third Street.
  • We had a similar restriping in Berkeley, replacing four lanes with two traffic lanes, a center turning lane, and bike lanes.

    Residents were just as mad, because they considered this an issue of bicyclists vs. cars, rather than seeing that it is a matter of slowing traffic and making the street safer for everyone (particularly for residents).

    At the time, I suggested that it might be easier to get the plan through if we eliminated the bike lanes and just had the center turning lane plus two wide traffic lanes.

    Let me make the same suggestion here. It would eliminate all of the resident’s objections listed above. It would be almost as safe for bicyclists to ride in those wide lanes as in a striped bike lane (since cars will stop and block the bike lane even though it is illegal. Two traffic lanes would mean slower traffic that is safer for everyone, including bicyclists.

  • Channelizer


    That’s a thoughtful suggestion, but not quite right. The reason bike lanes are good for everyone is that they traffic calm the street and help reduce speeding by making the street seem narrower. Traffic planners call it “channelizing.” We know from lots of studies (maybe someone can link a couple in here) that motorists go slower when they think the street is narrower. Narrower lanes also have this effect. So if you went without the bike lane, you would still want to narrow the lanes, widen the median and create the appearence of a narrower street.

  • And even without bike lanes, pedestrians would be exposed to an increase in invisible deadly bicycles. Streets must be used ONLY by non-deadly, loud, 2-ton-plus vehicles–think of the children!

    (Something tells me these residents don’t walk around a whole lot.)

  • ddartley

    If Brooklyn enforcement against bike lane abuse is anything like it is in Manhattan, these residents who want to double park have NOTHING to worry about.

  • random

    How about we just admit instead that community boards in NYC are more likely than not to in no way represent the views of the actual full community? With some exceptions, these folks are demographically and mentally out of synch with the people living next door to them, and tend to choose their narrow self interest (like being too lazy to bother to look for a parking spot down the block to drop off a package) than what will actually benefit their community. It’s a sham.

    And why should bike lanes and other traffic calming devices be subject to community board approval? Nothing else is.

    Either turn these hack boards into something that really speaks for their neighbors, hook them up with some permanent professional planners or stop giving them any control over the few good ideas that are coming out of our city government these days. These 9th Avenue nay-sayers clearly no longer give a sh*t about their neighborhood.

  • I know it is better to have bike lanes and narrower traffic lanes, which will slow traffic even more. But going from four lanes to two lanes will slow traffic without the bike lanes.

    It might be better to support a slightly inferior plan that is politically possible rather than a superior plan that is politically impossible.

    Just a thought. Since I am not there, I am obviously not an expert on the political realities that are involved.

  • JF

    The community boards were reappointed (with new appointees to fill vacancies) by Marty Markowitz. Is he completely unaccountable for their representativeness?

    How many of you were among the 79% of Brooklyn voters who re-elected him in 1995, instead of the 7% who voted for Gloria Mattera?

    In general I agree with Random’s idea that the boards are broken, but have you even tried to make them work? How about if you took note of every community board member who opposes the bike lane and wrote to Markowitz to complain?

    And has anyone figured out who the community board member was who, when faced with 700 constituents adamantly opposed to the DOT one-way avenues plan, drafted a wishy-washy resolution that failed to reflect the mood of the neighborhood, and that failed to call for any specific measures to calm Eighth Avenue and Prospect Park West?

  • JF

    Also, is it possible that the community board members are chosen(or retained) not because they represent the residents of their neighborhoods, but because they are in sync with the agenda of Markowitz and the unrepresentative Democratic machine that he serves?

  • mork

    Clarence from StreetFilms for BBP!


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