Brooklyn CB1 Approves Bike Path in Place of Parking

kent_before.jpg

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."

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…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

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