Street Seats and Bike Lanes Come to Brownsville and East New York

The Street Seat on Pitkin Avenue isn't even complete yet, but residents are already using it. Photo: Stephen Miller
The Street Seat on Pitkin Avenue isn’t complete yet, but residents are already using it. Photo: Stephen Miller

Livable streets improvements are rolling out for residents of Brownsville and East New York. Two new Street Seats have popped up just blocks from each other on Pitkin Avenue and Mother Gaston Boulevard. Meanwhile, DOT is installing the neighborhood’s latest round of bike lanes.

After a community-based planning process that began in 2011, the first phase of bike lanes in Brownsville and East New York was installed in 2013, followed by a second batch last year. The latest round focuses on east-west routes [PDF]: Pitkin Avenue should be finished soon, DOT said, and striping on Blake and Dumont avenues should begin in the next few weeks.

The neighborhood also got its first Street Seats, installations that convert a curbside parking space into seating and greenery maintained by a local organization or business. On Mother Gaston Boulevard near Belmont Avenue, the Brownsville Partnership is sponsoring a Street Seat in front of the MGB POPS local pop-up market.

Crews stripe crosswalks on Pitkin Avenue. The bike lane is up next. Photo: Stephen Miller
Crews stripe crosswalks on Pitkin Avenue. The bike lane is up next. Photo: Stephen Miller

A few blocks away, Sal & Paul Pizzeria is maintaining a Street Seat in front of its restaurant at 1686 Pitkin Avenue. Reactions so far have been positive, said Ugo Grassadonia, who owns the pizza shop. He said the idea for the Street Seat came from the Pitkin Avenue BID, which approached him about it.

“He was a logical choice,” said Pitkin Avenue BID executive director Daniel Murphy. Since the program began six years ago, Street Seats were designed individually, Murphy noted, but the Pitkin Avenue Street Seat is the first to be fabricated and installed by DOT using a standard design.

“We haven’t even finished it yet. We still have to put planters in. The furniture is temporary,” Murphy said. “We’re going to try and do a ribbon cutting soon.”

Even with the finishing touches missing, residents and shoppers were taking to the new seating area. “It’s relaxing,” said Marilyn Dejesus, who grew up in Brownsville and now lives in Woodhaven. She was in the neighborhood to visit her aunt when she joined a friend for a slice of pizza and settled into a couple chairs for a chat. “There should be more places like this on this side of town.”

  • AnoNYC

    Glad to see new seating. NYC severely lacks public seating for pedestrians. Especially in areas like Brownsville and East NY.

  • BBnet3000

    Wow. They’re actually going to make Pitkin worse with “lane clarifications” and edge-running sharrows. The section with sharrows today is far worse to ride today than the section they’re proposing to “improve”.

    Why do we waste our time spreading the lowest quality bike markings we can (which are just going to wear off anyway) to every corner of the city? Is our objective to increase cycling or not? I think at this point we can conclude not.

  • Joe R.

    It’s known as “tinkering on the fringes”. In other words, you have people who think they know something but really don’t trying to do what in their mind is the best way to solve a problem. The community asks for bike infrastructure but nobody wants to spend the money for it. More importantly, some influential people don’t want to lose travel lanes or parking. Sensible leadership would say given these stipulations we just can’t give you bike infrastructure. NYC “leadership” gives us sharrows. It’s a typical American have your cake and eat it too solution. Or it’s a painless “non-solution”, like cutting taxes but not spending by letting future generations pay for bond interest. On the one hand they can placate some bike advocates by saying we gave you x miles of bike infrastructure. They can also placate the complainers by saying we didn’t have to give up any parking or travel lanes to do it.

    There is no real desire on any level to increase cycling in this city. Some politicians talk a good line of sh*t on it but nobody puts their money where their mouth is. If there is any cycling growth in this city, I suspect the reason will be mostly because you’ll have a growing contingent too poor to even afford the subway. They’ll be biking in spite of the lack of infrastructure out of sheer necessity.

  • Come on. Sharrows are not as good as full bike lanes; but they are a positive thing because they unquestionably announce that bicycles belong there. The cumulative effect of all of these street markings (both sharrows and real bike lanes) is to engrain into people’s minds that bicycles are part of traffic; they these marking have a benefit everywhere, even on streets that don’t have them.

    Now, the wearing away is another issue. Even full bike lanes wear away, and so are useless without maintenence. No one would guess that there is supposed to be a bike lane on Borinquen Place between Marcy Ave. and Havermeyer St. in Williamsburg as you approach the bridge.

    But this does not excuse sneering at sharrows, which, while imperfect, are a big step in the right direction.

  • J

    Sharrows are literally pictures of bicycles being repeatedly run over by automobiles.

  • That was (barely) cute the first time someone said it.

    The important point is that they are pictures of bicycles, and that they are highly visible. This tells the world that we’re here.

  • BBnet3000

    They’re too small of a step in the right direction to be a good use of scarce resources. And like I said, the way they’re being used here encourages the idea that bikes should ride at the edge of the lane (even when it is unsafe to do so) and the visual narrowing of the lane with the new edge line will make cycling on this street less comfortable than it is today, not more.

  • J

    I want to make it safe for people to ride bicycles, and I don’t think this does much of anything to make that happen, just as all the bicycle signs that were installed in NYC in the 70s, 80s and 90s did pretty much zero to get more people bicycling.

  • Alerting the public at large that we bicyclists exist and that we are a legitimate part of traffic certainly does make it safer for people to ride.

    The danger to us due to drivers, the majority of whom are appallingly incompetent, has not disappeared, of course. But the fact is that drivers now expect us to be there to an extent that they formerly did not; and this makes us all safer.

    It is worth repeating that the benefit of bike lanes and sharrows accrues not just on the streets that have them. By providing a constant reminder to drivers of bicyclists’ existence and of our expected presence on the road, bike markings have an aggregate effect which improves conditions everywhere, even on streets that don’t have them.

    I have been riding in this city for more than 35 years; and the conditions now as compared to when I was a kid are improved to a degree that I could never have imagined back then. This is all down to the existence of bike markings — whether bike lanes or sharrows. Despite the various flaws in these pieces of infrastructure, all of them all have contributed to an unprecedented spike in our quality of life.

    The place where conditions have improved the most is Manhattan, which, not coincidentally, is the place with the most bike lanes, and lots of sharrows. The spread of bike infrastructure (even sharrows) to other boroughs is most welcome. In particular, this bit of Pitkin Ave. will be a little bit nicer. I live just on the other side of the Brooklyn/Queens border, in Woodhaven; so I am around there frequently.

  • Roger

    The only thing bike lanes do is lull cyclists into a false sense of security. Just you wait. There will be an increase in cyclist deaths and injuries following the implementation of these bike lands. Nothing to argue about here. Just wait and see.

  • qrt145

    The length of bike lanes has increased by hundreds of miles since the year 2000, the number of cyclists has about quadrupled, and yet the number of deaths and injuries remains flat. http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/2013-nyc-cycling-risk-indicator.pdf

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