DOT Now Reconsidering Morris Park Avenue Safety Redesign After Crazy Megaphone-Toting Mark Gjonaj Harassed a State Senate Candidate About It

Alessandra Biaggi, challenging Jeff Klein in District 34, has come out in favor of the Morris Park Avenue redesign. DOT says it's reviewing the project and has yet to commit to implementation.

The plan for Morris Park Avenue still includes a bike lane on both sides, but only for 13 blocks instead of the original 31. Image: NYC DOT
The plan for Morris Park Avenue still includes a bike lane on both sides, but only for 13 blocks instead of the original 31. Image: NYC DOT

Will NYC DOT move forward with a much-needed redesign of Morris Park Avenue, or cave to Bronx Council Member Mark Gjonaj and the local sticks in the mud who oppose basic public safety upgrades? Opposition from Gjonaj has already prompted the agency to review the project, and DOT says it will present a modified version soon.

Last week, Gjonaj was caught on video harassing State Senate candidate Alessandra Biaggi, who is challenging incumbent Jeff Klein in District 34. As Biaggi and her staff ate at Patsy’s Pizzeria on Morris Park Avenue, Gjonaj chanted “shame” like he was hurling abuse at Cersei Lannister walking through the streets of King’s Landing.

What was Gjonaj so sore about? Well, aside from challenging Bronx machine stalwart and former IDC ringleader Klein, Gothamist reports that Biaggi has committed the offense of supporting the Morris Park Avenue redesign. Gjonaj was harassing Biaggi as part of a “protest” against the project organized in tandem with members of the Morris Park BID Association and the Morris Park Community Association, his chief of staff told Gothamist.

Here’s what the Morris Park Avenue project would do: Between Adams Street and Newport Avenue, a little less than three miles spanning Van Nest and Morris Park, DOT plans to convert the street from two moving lanes in each direction to one motor vehicle lane and a painted bike lane in each direction, plus center turn pockets. A standard “road diet” in other words, with a few handy loading zones to help reduce double-parking.

Not only does the current design lead to excessive speeding, but because drivers waiting to turn left impede motor vehicle through traffic in the center lanes, it also leads to extraneous weaving and rushed turns. These are dangerous conditions: From 2010 to 2014, 367 people were injured on this stretch of Morris Park Avenue, including 23 severe injuries and one fatality, making it one of the more dangerous streets in the Bronx. Half of the 71 pedestrian injuries in the five-year study period were caused by motorists failing to yield, exactly the type of crash that the road diet is meant to prevent.

The road diet simply formalizes the fact that the center lanes already don’t work for through traffic. With the redesign, left-turning drivers would no longer have other motorists bearing down behind them as they wait for a gap in oncoming traffic — reducing the risk that they will rush the turn and strike people walking across the side streets. The painted bike lanes, while lacking protection and vulnerable to illegal parking, will at least impose a little more order than the current free-for-all.

DOT’s redesign is the kind of basic, inexpensive project that prevents traffic injuries without altering how many motor vehicles the street can process in any significant way — the bare minimum that responsible local governments should do to protect public safety. On a section of White Plains Road that intersects Morris Park Avenue, DOT implemented a similar road diet in 2014, which led to a 37 percent drop in traffic injuries and a slight decrease in motor vehicle travel times. Other Bronx road diets on Allerton Avenue and Burke Avenue have produced similar results, according to DOT.

But to hear Gjonaj and the rest of the road diet opponents tell it, making the street safer for everyone will somehow harm the hospitals and schools in the area.

In May, Community Board 11 sent a letter to DOT opposing the project. And Gjonaj, a lackey for some of the most reckless companies in NYC’s notorious waste carting industry who quickly established himself as an exceedingly backwards council member on transportation and street safety issues, needed little prompting to go full tilt against it and harass Biaggi in the process.

Jeff Klein, meanwhile, is so close to the Morris Park Community Association that he secured $100,000 in public funds for the group to buy new patrol cars. Klein did not mention the Morris Park Avenue redesign in his Streetsblog candidate Q&A, and his office did not return phone or email queries today about his stance on the redesign.

Gjonaj and company might succeed in getting this safety project watered down. DOT first presented the redesign in February and has yet to commit to implementation. “DOT is still considering safety improvements along Morris Park Avenue, however due to community concerns we are currently modifying the plan,” said a spokesperson. “We will return to the community board and elected officials with an updated proposal in the coming weeks.”

  • J

    DeBlasio’s Vision Zero policy:
    Do some safety stuff where it doesn’t make too many people mad, except sometimes he’s cool with making people mad, but he’s not super into telling DOT when that will be.

    Oh, and the NYPD can basically just ignore the whole Vision Zero thing and do whatever they want, cause if he makes them mad they’ll turn their backs on him, and he’ll be sad.

  • Michael Kaess

    What is there left to water down? The version presented to the Morris Park Community Association removed the bike lanes from the proposal as a “concession.” I told the DOT Bronx Borough Commissioner, Nivardo Lopez, that he has won no new support for the plan with the change, and that he may as well include it. The community concerns are nonsense and they will complain until they get to keep all four travel lanes whether the traffic volumes warrant it or not.

  • The Lazarus Modal Split

    One of the biggest problems about opponents of common sense transportation re-designs is that the opponents generally have no idea how traffic works and zero education. It is not something you can have an “opinion” on like whether or not strawberry ice cream goes good on a donut. What these people should do is visit other places that have instituted the road diets and they’ll find traffic moves better (and they might even get jealous.)

  • r

    It’s lines of paint. Goddamn double parking lanes. This is garbage. DOT needs to get an effing backbone. Implement the changes and in a few short weeks no one will remember it was any different. They have the nerve to be responsible for whatever it is that they call Vision Zero? Give me a break. Can someone at this city agency tell us what is going on?

  • I’d predict even in Sunnyside – site of the incredibly contentious Skillman/43rd Ave battle – you’d probably find a few of the anti-bike redesign shrug their shoulders at what it looks like now. Not all of course, but in a few months there will be a few angry voices left and it will be business as usual.

  • Michael Kaess

    I wish that were the case. Nearby Allerton Ave, White Plains Rd, and E. Tremont Ave all received similar road diet treatments, and folks in Morris Park are convinced that they have all been ‘ruined’ because of it. This is despite DOT data showing that average travel times on Allerton and White Plains Rd haven’t been impacted. People value their own windshield perception that much, even if facts contradict it.

  • Windshield is right. I mean if the travel times are the same, they are gonna get mad for sure because same might as well be worse to them. The only thing they would probably ever confirm is if travel times dropped dramatically and of course that will NEVER happen again in NYC or nearby parts of it. Traffic is only going to get worse. Until we can start using Star Trek Transporter technology!

  • I’m finally understanding what makes New Yorkers more mad about anything. It isn’t the GOP, burning the republic down and stacking our Federal courts. it isn’t our broken mass transit system. It isn’t our crumbling infrastructure. No, it’s street parking. We feel entitled to all the free street parking we want. Because we “pay taxes” and own cars we technically can’t afford. When a bicycle lane is proposed or built, we take to the streets in a furious rage.

  • You just described our do-nothing Congressman, Adriano Espaillat. He didn’t know how congestion pricing would work. He doesn’t know how traffic works. And yet we sent him to DC to represent us. He’s dumb as rocks.

  • Simon Phearson

    I suspect there’s something genuinely psychological about the “windshield perspective.” Like, it doesn’t matter if you get from point A to point B in the same time; if you look out your windshield and you see yourself surrounded by slow-moving cars, you feel like you’re going slower, even if your average speed hasn’t changed that much.

    The tension may well be that every driver always wants to see a clear street ahead of them, a parking space exactly where they want to go, etc. And the only way to achieve that “ideal” is to ensure such a massive glut of supply – of roadspace, of parking – that there aren’t enough people to soak it up.

  • Joe R.

    It seems to be all about peak speed, not average speed. From the windshield perspective of these people a trip averaging 15 mph where they briefly hit 50 mph before slamming on the brakes for the next red light will seem faster than one averaging 20 mph where they might never break 25 mph. Road diets which have traffic flowing more slowly but more steadily contradict these people’s idea of “fast”. It seems a lot of quick, jerky accelerations make people think they’re going faster than they really are.

    It’s much the same as the idiotic idea of calling a car “fast” based on its 0 to 60 time, instead of its top speed.

  • It takes a room full of supporters to push a safety project through to completion. It takes one vocal naysayer to kill it.

  • KeNYC2030

    Volunteer to help Alessandra:

  • Argle Bargle

    are you always such an asshole or did you wake up on the wrong side of the gutter?

  • You funny reading my comments history.

  • 1soReal

    They do, and this angry and loud minority is not jealous. They see nearby Allerton Ave had the same treatment (east of the Boston Rd) Its just fine, nobody cares anymore. Traffic isn’t any slower. What bother them is the fact that it does make it harder to drive well over the speed limit. The cars that would weave back and forth are now stuck in a single file lane. With traffic volumes in the area not that high, traffic moves at or above the speed limit virtually all the time. What some ppl are mad about is that its harder to excessively speed doing 45 down a local street. Politicians shouldn’t cater to that.

  • 1soReal

    You hit the nail on the head. it happens elsewhere, but it is really a NYC area phenomenon. Everyone has this irrational desire to go nowhere fast. Race to a red light 100 feet away while the same cars you blew past arrive at the same light 2 secs later. Some people love replacing their brake pads I guess.

  • 1soReal

    Klein is not in favor of road diets in general. At least thats what his flyers say that get sent to my house daily. Overall Klein has been a good representative for the area and has done alot of positive things..but this issue is really giving me second thoughts and seriously considering Biaggi

  • Ike1

    PLEASE consider voting out that corrupt traitor Klein so we can reform the state Senate! Don’t take my word for it — learn more about what a shady character Klein is by googling “IDC New York” or anything similar (assuming you don’t already know). The New York Times and Planned Parenthood endorsed her, too. I don’t deny Klein has done some positive things but that’s largely because the Republicans give him lots of legal bribes to vote with them, so he’s able to bring home lots of pork. It’s time for the old Dem machine that does stuff like this to GO.

    Did you seen that NYT article about the old Queens Dem machine that stuffs old folks on to the County Committee ballots — 80- and 90-year-olds who have no idea they’re running for office — to keep out new people and activists? As long as people like Klein cling to power, this’ll keep happening all over the city.

  • BF

    There are MANY local leaders who are against the Morris Park Road Dieting. Not just Gjonaj and not just Klein. As President of the Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance (VNNA) and a CB11 Board Member, I have opposed the original plan that went from Newport to Adams street on Morris Park. Previously, DOT, implemented the White Plains Road Road Dieting 3 years ago and Van Nest is STILL suffering from the congestion. After MANY meetings and a small left hand turn, no changes will be made. Van Nest is stuck with the rush hour congestion on White Plains Road. DOT won’t change and Con Edison won’t change. Now even though this new proposal was cut to begin on Bronxdale to Newport, Van Nest will still be the recipient of the funnel effect and those merchants will STILL be effected and so will the community. So WHY would Van Nest say it is okay? ALL OF MORRIS PARK WILL BE EFFECTED. This is just common sense that DOT is trying to rationalize. Sorry, ALL of Morris Park Merchants and ALL of both communities will be effected. It will NOT WORK. Van Nest and VNNA are opposed to this because we CARE not because we are “stick in the muds”. We live here, We know what we are talking about. This is all stemming from the Mayor’s Vision Zero. His only focus is Pedestrian Fatality and there will be no fatalities because there will be no flow of traffic. Seriously?

  • Kevin Daloia

    How about reading what the Chairman of CB11 thinks about public safety and double parking on Norris Park Avenue, of with he owns a business:

    “Cutting a lane down [on Morris Park Avenue] is only going to make traffic worse and double parking more difficult,”said CB 11 chairman Al D’Angelo.

    Double Parking more difficult. He did say that.