Kent Ave Bike Lane Stirs Passions in Williamsburg

kent_ave_small.jpgThe Kent Avenue lane at work, with squad car. Photo: i’m not sayin, i’m just sayin.

New York’s latest bike lane skirmish flared up Monday night at a "transportation town hall" in Williamsburg. About 150 people turned out, and DOT bike program coordinator Josh Benson caught an earful from bike lane opponents upset over new parking rules on Kent Avenue, in effect since last month.

Convened by City Council members Yassky and Reyna, the meeting got off to a rough start after MTA reps delivered news about service cuts that will affect the neighborhood. The tone was set for a contentious discussion of Kent Avenue. "Business owners came out against it," said Sholom Brody, a member of TA’s Brooklyn Committee. "The problem is ‘no
standing’; they’re really upset about the stretch between Clymer and Division Avenue," a small portion of the lane’s full length.

The parking situation has already been through community board review. In April, CB1 approved plans for the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, which would offset the removal of parking spots on Kent by identifying new spaces on side streets. (The current bike lane is a stopgap until the Greenway is built.) All told, DOT made three presentations to the community board about the project [PDF]. Opponents now say this process was insufficient.

An NYPD ticket blitz immediately after the parking rules took effect appears to have inflamed opposition, and the usual canards, of course, are in full effect. According to Brody, one bike lane opponent claimed to have seen only 20 cyclists use
the lane over the course of a full day, a figure that DOT refuted with its own 12-hour count — 500 cyclists.

Streetsblog regular Dave "Paco" Abraham inspected the new lane on a recent ride organized by the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative. Any hindrance to drop-offs and deliveries caused by the "no standing" rule need not give rise to a hot-blooded confrontation, he says. "The problem is very workable and the BGI and CB1 supporters readily admit it should be addressed and corrected."

Fine-tuning is already underway. "DOT has been working with local businesses and the community to address changes brought about by the project and will continue to look for ways to minimize any impacts," said spokesman Scott Gastel. The agency has set aside a bus pickup and drop-off zone outside one school and approved a loading zone for a local business.

Despite signals that the kinks will be worked out, a vocal opposition based in the neighborhood’s Hasidic community is not embracing a conciliatory tone, to put it mildly.

All indications are that the all-out war approach is a non-starter. "We often see issues like Kent Avenue turned into a referendum on
bicycling. That doesn’t get us anywhere," said TA’s Wiley Norvell. "Turning Kent back into a
dangerous truck route with no provision for the hundreds of bicyclists who use it every day would be reckless."

  • Ryan Lee

    Kent is a dangerous street for biking and pedestrians. The section from N. 12th to the bridge can be overwhelming during the day given the vehicle traffic due to construction and its use as a truck route. At night cars are are often travelling at dangerous speeds and passing in the oncoming traffic lane.

    With the waterfront changing from industrial to residential and to accomodate current and future parks, things will have to change moving forward.

  • bk

    it is too bad that this issue took over the meeting–our community has many transportation issues besides this.

  • al

    a lot of businesses can’t get deliveries right in front because of legal parking, and lot of retail stores suffer from lack of parking (because all that legal parking is taken up all day by residents). this just seems like kind of a spoiled complaint, that they can’t get deliveries.

  • “they’re really upset about the stretch between Clymer and Division Avenue,” a small portion of the lane’s full length.”

    This sentence caught my eye, and as I rode by this short block I studied the geography. There are 2 curb breaks, one for an apartment building driveway, (there’s another driveway but no curb break) and one for a construction site where a factory is being demolished. This stretch has only two buildings on it, one of which is being torn down. On the West side of Kent is the DOT Salt storage and a graveyard for used city garbage trucks, then the demo site. One the east side of Kent is a park, with a gate I have never seen unlocked, an apartment building that extends through to the block to the east and then another park. The Salt storage has no access to Kent. The Apartment building has quite a bit of off street parking and a bunch of on street on Whythe. I am not sure what businesses are complaining, the lumber yard who parks his trucks along this stretch? He hasn’t changed his operating procedure, his 18 wheelers still sit there, on the side, in the bike lane. The apartment building must have the loud mouth, even with all their parking.

    This vid shows a typical (getting buzzed by a speeding car) morning on Kent, on the stretch between Clymer and Division. As New Yorkers, the imperative here is Safety, not private car storage on the city streets.


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