Will DOT Make Safety Upgrades Over Objections of Sheepshead Bay Cranks?
Update: DOT confirmed this project is happening.
DOT intends to go ahead with a project to straighten out a bus route and add pedestrian space in Sheepshead Bay, reports the Brooklyn Daily. DOT had let the project stall after Council Member Chaim Deutsch and Community Board 15 opposed it, but after a bus driver killed a pedestrian in December while performing a turn that would have been eliminated under the plan, the improvements now appear to be moving forward.
The plan was first put forward in 2014, when DOT and the MTA proposed eliminating a winding detour on the B36 bus route between E. 17th Street and E. 14th Street, removing bus turns at intersections that see a lot of collisions. Sheepshead Bay Road would be converted to one-way eastbound between Jerome Avenue and E. 14th Street, and a taxi stand would be installed near the B/Q entrance, where livery cab drivers now park illegally to wait for passengers getting off trains.
The plan would also replace a slip lane on E. 17th Street at Sheepshead Bay Road with space for people, and convert one block of E. 15th Street to a public plaza.
Seventy-four people were injured in crashes within the project area between 2009 and 2013, DOT says, and seven people were killed or seriously injured. A driver killed a pedestrian on Avenue Z at E. 15th Street in 2008, according to DOT.
But DOT shelved the plan after CB 15 and Council Member Chaim Deutsch objected to the street design changes and the proposed E. 15th Street plaza. Deutsch said he was concerned about plaza upkeep, and that bus riders would have to walk a block to transfer between the train and the B36. CB 15 chair Theresa Scavo was okay with the taxi stand but otherwise wanted Sheepshead Bay Road to remain as is. “The problem comes down to enforcement,” Scavo told Streetsblog. “If you have proper enforcement, traffic will move on Sheepshead Bay Road.”
Six months later a bus driver making a left turn killed 62-year-old Eleonora Shulkin at Avenue Z and E. 17th Street, an intersection where bus turns would have been eliminated had the redesign been implemented.
Now DOT is moving forward with the plan, according to the Brooklyn Daily, and some cranks are not pleased.
Under the inscrutable scare-hed “Road rash!,” reporter Julianne Cuba writes that DOT intends to — brace yourselves — “cede nearby streets to pedestrians.” Cuba says the planned pedestrian spaces will be “Times Square-style,” evoking images of topless ladies and grabby Elmos. Writes Cuba:
Area streets are already glutted with cars, and narrowing drivers’ options will just make the roads more bloated, [a] critic said.
“It is ridiculous to close two blocks right around the hub,” said Steve Barrison. “The cars — where are they going to go? It’s like squeezing a balloon.”
We have a message in with DOT asking whether the Daily story is accurate. If it is, good on DOT for prioritizing human life over the whims of the local community board. It’s a decision that should have come sooner.