Cumbo Calls for Safer Atlantic Ave, and Trottenberg Promises Action

Photo: Ben Fried
City Council Member Laurie Cumbo with advocates from the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, Make Brooklyn Safer, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, New York League of Conservation Voters, and Transportation Alternatives. Photo: Ben Fried

Minutes after Council Member Laurie Cumbo and street safety advocates called for immediate action to reduce traffic violence on Atlantic Avenue, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the audience at a Vision Zero forum in Crown Heights last night that DOT intends to make Atlantic one of its early priorities for safety fixes.

Atlantic Avenue is one of the biggest and most dangerous streets in the city, running east-west across the length of Brooklyn. It routinely ranks near the top of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s list of the borough’s deadliest streets for pedestrians. From 2002 to 2013, more than 1,400 pedestrians and cyclists were injured on Atlantic.

At a press conference preceding last night’s Vision Zero town hall at Medgar Evers College, Cumbo stressed the need to act soon. “We can’t wait for another child to be the face of why we need Vision Zero,” she said. “So many of these accidents could be avoided with the right measures.”

As it happens, the city intends to tackle Atlantic Avenue soon. During the forum, Trottenberg said Atlantic would be one of the 50 street safety projects DOT takes on this year. Noting that Atlantic Avenue is a big, wide, heavily trafficked street, Trottenberg said, “That’s the kind of street that DOT views as a challenge, and we want to step up.” The city’s Vision Zero action plan calls for “arterial slow zones” on streets like Atlantic that see a disproportionate share of injuries and deaths.

The nature of the improvements to Atlantic has yet to be determined. Signal adjustments to slow drivers and give pedestrians more crossing time could be implemented very quickly, but Atlantic is ripe for a much more extensive overhaul. In a press release, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White suggested bus lanes, protected bike lanes, and pedestrian safety features should all be part of a redesign.

In Cumbo’s district, which encompasses Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, Clinton Hill, and parts of Crown Heights — not to mention the throngs of people who now walk to and from events at the Barclays Center — Atlantic is “a place where people are afraid to cross the street to get to one neighborhood from the other,” said Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council. “It should be a pedestrian-friendly, safe street, that can unite neighborhoods instead of divide them.”

Keep your eyes peeled for public workshops where you can weigh in on Vision Zero initiatives like improving Atlantic Avenue. Trottenberg said yesterday that DOT will be putting on events in Brooklyn on April 24 and April 29 for residents to share ideas about how to make neighborhood streets safer, though the details aren’t on the agency’s calendar yet.

  • guest

    Signal timing will not fix Atlantic Avenue. They need to fix access to Brooklyn Bridge Park at Henry Street and points west; the intersection at the Barclays Center (S Portland/6 Ave) and curb management issues for miles and miles east of there.

  • dave “paco” abraham

    Really looking forward to BOLD plans put on the table. Atlantic is a highway that cuts through multiple neighborhoods. With the right design, it could become a great unifier of spaces rather than the place to test your frogger skills. Plus, the area under the LIRR viaduct is just begging to become a linear ped plaza.

  • JT

    I’m a bit surprised that I’m still alive after living near Atlantic for five years. It’s not just pedestrians/bikes either – last time I was in a car on Atlantic (car service to the airport) they guy was going almost 60mph, weaving and running red lights (as were most of the other cars on the road) until I yelled at him to slow down. That’s what passes for traffic enforcement in New York City – a passenger in a car begging the driver to keep it under 30mph over the speed limit.

  • Charles Gilliland

    You have to know your history to understand why Atlantic Avenue is so screwed up and what it will take to fix it. From Wikipedia:

    “Atlantic Avenue is the sole east–west through truck route across Brooklyn,[1] mostly serving the purpose of the canceled Bushwick Expressway (I-78) and the Brooklyn portion of the Cross Brooklyn Expressway (I-878).”

    Atlantic Avenue became a truck route because the I-78 construction was defunded. I’ll say it again: Atlantic Avenue became a commercial truck route! There is HEAVY commercial traffic going east and west 24/7. Commuters alone would have been manageable, the real problem is getting noisy, polluting and dangerous trucks, semis and lorries off the Avenue and then adding arterial obstructions. They MUST rezone the Avenue and start levying heavy fines against commercial trucks using it.

  • Ian Dutton

    Congratulations to TA and specifically the TA Brooklyn Committee for putting a bulls-eye on Atlantic Avenue and seeing to it that the fear and discontent all the way along Atlantic has been channelled into the political will to get something done.

  • lilflourocheezits

    It was a stupid idea to build Barclays Center and bring massive amounts of additional traffic to a residential area that already sees so many accidents. They have only worsened matters by reducing left turns, adding bike lanes and not providing parking. There is a large field of bike racks that go entirely unused. The city engineers need to think practically and give up on idealism.

  • MichaelPaone

    I cross this thing nearly every day. I see it the worst down by Nostrand Ave. Lots of drivers don’t even use blinkers to get on and off. Even something like greater enforcement would be a small step, but I too look forward to more sweeping planning changes. It’s just a silly area now — hotels and stores popping up on the sidewalks, while the street remains loud and dangerous and dirty.


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