DOT Waffles on Bed-Stuy Ped Safety Project After Resistance From CB 3

A plan to improve safety at a busy Bedford-Stuyvesant intersection [PDF] may not move forward after members of Brooklyn Community Board 3 opposed it, according to two CB 3 transportation committee members.

DOT buckled after Bed-Stuy community board members said pedestrian safety changes at this intersection would lead to traffic congestion. Image: DOT [PDF]
DOT buckled after Bed-Stuy community board members said pedestrian safety changes at this intersection would lead to traffic congestion. Image: DOT [PDF]

DOT’s Claudette Workman revealed the news at the CB 3 transportation committee meeting on May 13, said Shawn Onsgard, a public member of the committee. “She just said [it] off the cuff,” he told Streetsblog. “She was taking the safety changes off the table.”

“They said they may not do it, but then again they may do it,” said CB 3 member Doug Williams. “It depends on how much support they get.”

Asked for the status of the project, DOT spokesperson Bonny Tsang said the agency is “still discussing the project with local stakeholders.” DOT did not reply to a question asking if it has stopped moving forward with the design, which it presented to the committee last month.

Update 1:45 p.m.: “We are still discussing this project with the local stakeholders — in fact, we will be meeting with the Council Member, the District Manager and the CB Chair,” Tsang said. “We never said that we are not doing the safety improvements. As we do with many projects, we discuss with the local community if they have concerns about the project and try to address them.”

Onsgard and Williams said most board members were worried that closing two “slip” lanes, which allow drivers to make quick right turns from Fulton Street to Utica Avenue and Malcolm X Boulevard, would create congestion. Closing the lanes would create additional space for pedestrians, reducing crossing distances for people transferring between the B46, B25, and A/C trains.

“That slip turn is dangerous,” Williams said. “I would hope that they would change it.”

There were 58 traffic injuries at the intersection between 2009 and 2013, according to DOT. Fulton Street and Utica Avenue have been identified as Vision Zero priority corridors in need of safety improvements. In addition, the existing pedestrian islands are not accessible to people in wheelchairs, forcing them into the street.

The proposal was made in tandem with plans to upgrade the B46 to Select Bus Service later this year.

The intersection is in the City Council district represented by Robert Cornegy Jr. An inquiry to his office this morning was not returned. Borough President Eric Adams, who appoints community board members, also did not reply to a request for comment.

This isn’t the first time DOT has been cowed by Community Board 3. Last year, DOT scrapped plans to install a neighborhood Slow Zone, featuring 20 mph speed limits and speed humps, after CB 3 members objected that it would cause traffic congestion and pollution. The Slow Zone stops short at Classon Avenue, CB 3’s western border.

While more than two-thirds of households in Bed-Stuy don’t own cars, many CB 3 members view street redesigns from the perspective of motorists, said Onsgard. “People feel like they need to drive,” he said. “There’s a real resistance to Vision Zero-style, safety-oriented traffic engineering in Bed-Stuy.”

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