CB 7 Backs Caton Ave Safety Fixes After Lander Urges “Yes” Vote

This plan, which drops Caton Avenue from two lanes in each direction to one, was almost derailed by a few members of Brooklyn Community Board 7 last night.
This plan, which drops Caton Avenue from two lanes in each direction to one, was almost derailed by a few members of Brooklyn Community Board 7 last night. Image: DOT [PDF]
Safety improvements for Caton Avenue in Brooklyn almost didn’t get a thumbs up from Community Board 7 last night when a few people spoke against the loss of five parking spaces. But Council Member Brad Lander stepped in and urged the board to support the redesign, leading to a vote in favor.

The plan [PDF] was developed after middle schooler Mohammad Uddin was killed by a hit-and-run driver at E. 7th Street and Caton Avenue in November 2014. On this short stretch of Caton, between Ocean Parkway and Coney Island Avenue, two bicyclists and one motor vehicle occupant were severely injured between 2009 and 2013.

A Caton Avenue road diet, going from two lanes in each direction to one, would more closely match other sections of the street nearby. The plan calls for turn lanes and three concrete pedestrian islands at intersections, along with a left-turn ban and signal changes at Ocean Parkway to give pedestrians a head start.

Although Caton Avenue west of Ocean Parkway has a bike lane, DOT is not extending it as part of this plan. Instead, the agency is proposing extra-wide parking lanes.

The project will remove five parking spaces to improve visibility at corners on neighborhood streets north of Caton Avenue. Separately, curb extensions are in the works for the intersection of Caton Avenue and E. 7th Street this summer and on Caton west of Ocean Parkway in 2017. DOT will also install a number of safety improvements near schools in the area.

After Uddin was killed, more than 150 people came out to the first public meeting with DOT about making local streets safer. Community Board 12, which covers the south side of Caton Avenue, later voted to support the road diet. The project also received the backing of the CB 7 transportation committee in a 7-1 vote last month. But last night the full board faltered at first.

PS 130 principal Maria Nunziata and Meema Spadola, who has a second-grader at the school, presented a petition with 278 signatures in support of the plan. They also reminded the board about plans for a new school on Caton Avenue. “There’s gonna be a ton of kids and parents,” Spadola said. “Like a lot of people in this community, I am really sick of how dangerous it is to walk around Caton Avenue.”

But some board members weren’t convinced.

“Many of the board members were not at the committee meeting to hear the full presentation,” said CB 7 chair Daniel Murphy. “One of the board members complained about the daylighting, as if DOT had cynically conspired to exploit the death of a young boy and rearrange traffic patterns on Caton Avenue, just to take away five parking spaces.”

Others were concerned about converting E. 7th and E. 8th streets from two-way to one-way. Seeing the opposition, many board members who didn’t live near Caton Avenue abstained. A resolution supporting the plan failed, with 20 in favor, nine against, and 13 abstentions.

“When they’re abstaining, that counts as a no vote,” Spadola said. Things looked bleak.

Soon after the vote, Lander arrived and heard that the board had failed to support the plan. “He gave a really stirring speech about how important it was for everyone to take a stand,” Spadola said. “He reminded people that this is something where DOT has been working closely with the community for a while. This isn’t something where they just swooped in out of nowhere.”

The board took up the issue again, and it passed, 31-3, with three abstentions.

“It was a very important project to me, because it’s so important to the neighbors and the Uddin family,” Lander told Streetsblog. “I appreciate that the board reconsidered.”

“I’m very proud of the way the board voted. They took a stand. And I’m very grateful to Council Member Lander on taking the lead, and asking the board to reconsider,” Murphy said. “It failed before it passed. If you fail once, try, try again.”

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