Brooklyn CB1 Approves Bike Path in Place of Parking


Here’s how space is divvied up on Kent Avenue today…

On Tuesday night, Community Board 1 in north Brooklyn voted 39-2 to support adding a separated bike path to Kent Avenue, a truck route through Williamsburg and Greenpoint. The path will be part of the Brooklyn Greenway, which is slated to follow the waterfront from Greenpoint to Red Hook when complete.

What makes the overwhelming "Yes" vote especially noteworthy is that the greenway section on Kent Avenue will displace hundreds of on-street parking spaces. "That was one of the biggest hurdles, getting a community to accept a loss of parking," says Milton Puryear, director of planning for the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative. "For people
who have cars that’s a lightning rod issue."

…and how it would be allocated under the proposal approved by CB1 on Tuesday. (Rendering by the Regional Plan Association.)

Two other community boards had to vote on the greenway, but parking was only affected in the CB1 district. To defuse the expected opposition, the Greenway Initiative identified side streets — usually former industrial blocks converted to residential use — with areas where on-street parking could be "reclaimed," such as defunct loading zones. Offsetting the loss of 500 parking spots on Kent Avenue was seen as necessary to gain community approval.

"When it first started off a lot of
people didn’t think it was doable from a political point of view," says Puryear, noting that it was already an unconventional idea to add a bike path and green space to a designated truck route. "But
after years of engagement, it began to evolve as something that people
really wanted."

A number of factors fueled that desire. For one, the 2005 rezoning of 175 blocks in north Brooklyn left many in the community feeling like they had been denied adequate green space. "We received no open space in return for density," says Teresa Toro, transportation chair of CB1.

When the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative and the Regional Plan Association organized a public workshop about the greenway last May, residents saw a way to make up for what they had lost before. "[The participants’] responses were, ‘If we have to find some parking
spaces elsewhere, we should do that,’" says Toro.

Improved waterfront access was another big draw. "Kent Avenue, since it was repaved, has become something of a speedway," says Toro. By narrowing the crossing distance on Kent, the path will make the street — and the truck route — less of a barrier to the water.

At the meeting on Tuesday, a broad coalition of bike advocates and open space advocates supported the plan. Only one person voiced displeasure at the loss of parking.

About $9 million has been secured for the Brooklyn Greenway so far, mostly from federal grants. With the final community board vote settled, the project is now in the hands of DOT. Before construction begins on the Kent Avenue section, Toro says, DOT has indicated they will "move" some of the on-street parking and stripe down the greenway footprint.

Coming so soon after the demise of congestion pricing, the community board vote was "a shot in the arm," says Toro. "It shows that communities here in the city can still do a lot to create livable streets."

Images courtesy of Milton Puryear / Brooklyn Greenway Initiative / Regional Plan Association

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    This is great news! Kent Avenue used to be part of my commute route between Park Slope and Rockefeller Center. It would have been so much nicer with this path.

  • dporpentine

    That really is great news. I commute along Kent every day, and up by the BQE, it’s hell–people cutting me off, schoolbuses passing within inches, you name it. This can’t happen fast enough.

  • mfs

    I was one of the folks who spoke in favor of the Greenway and was surprised by the warm reception it got at the community board. Milton and the rest of the BGI gang did a really good job anticipating the objections and addressing them.

  • Milton Puryear

    Regional Plan Association played a major role in the planning effort that led to this outcome. Rob Freudenberg and Rob Pirani of RPA were indespensable partners.

  • Awesome! I love more bike lanes, and Kent is crazy with truck in the morning or when I am coming home from work.

  • Lars

    39-2! Wow, what a great bunch of real community people must exist on that community board.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    My hats off to the planners that were able to do some innovative wheeling and dealing to get this project moving ahaead.

    HOWEVER!! If this plan actually calls for two-way bicycle traffic to be on one side of an urban surface street, they are creating a very dangerous condition that could be statistically more dangerous than riding in the street. If it is as I suspect from the diagram above, this is like encouraging cyclists to ride in the wrong direction with the added danger of being hidden behind a planted buffer. Drivers will not expect cyclists to be “popping out” from behind this buffer at intersections particularly when they are headed in the “wrong direction”. I’ve nearly crashed into cyclists numerous times while on my bike because I didn’t expect them on the wrong side of the road and situational awareness on a bike is much better then it is in a car!

    I’m all for buffered bike lanes but I think something like this, if it is as I suspect is absolutely the wrong way to go!

  • Andy,

    This setup looks alot like the West Side Greenway but (perhaps and hopefully ) without all the motor vehicle cross traffic. I agree that bicyclists put themselves in danger by “popping out” of the separated path into the motor vehicle traffic in unpredictable ways, but so do children or pedestrians who unexpectedly dart out into motor vehicle traffic. Purely on the descriptive and not the normative level, motor vehicles are dangerous and non-armored people have to use care in interacting with them. I see that as a fundamental flaw of our current transportation system, not of this particular greenway design.

  • Petals

    This is great!! I live in CB 1 but in the east section where the meeting took place. I couldn’t talk but was one of those loud clappers at the meeting.

    I agree with Bicyclesonly that this is the best solution at the time. In Amsterdam, they have protected bikelanes and people seem to get along. And in the world of worstnesses I would rather be hit by a bicyclist than a car.

    Bravo to the Regional Planning people to do there homework and get this passed so overwhelmingly. Hmmm. I wonder who those two dissenters were…

    Can’t wait to ride on it!!

    More protected bikelanes!!

  • williamsburg

    thanks for the Borough President
    Marty Markowitz for the bike lane

  • Brooklyn Dad

    As far as I know, Marty had nothing to do with this project.

  • williamsburg

    Brooklyn Greenway Initiative


    Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, Regional Plan Association (RPA) and the Bloomberg Administration are coordinating

    Phase 2 planning for the greenway in Community Boards 1, 2 and 6. Funded by the NYS Environmental Protection Fund and sponsored by Borough President Marty Markowitz,


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