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Kent Avenue Will Have More Protection for Cyclists, But Less Space for Pedestrians

Big changes are coming to Kent Avenue in South Williamsburg, including a narrower sidewalk to accommodate the neighborhood’s drivers. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Could the city be finally reining in the rogue parkers of South Williamsburg?

At an unpublicized meeting, the city has apparently told the Satmar community in South Williamsburg that it will fortify the two-way protected bike lane on the stretch of Kent Avenue between Clymer Street and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway — a move that could prevent drivers from parking, as they so often do, in the bike lane.

As part of the deal, the Satmar community will retain as much on-street car storage as they currently enjoy.

The deal was not announced by the city, but by the Twitter account of the Satmar Headquarters late last Tuesday.

In that social media posting, the Satmars showed renderings of the re-imagined two-way stretch of Kent Avenue north of the BQE service road, Williamsburg Street. The roadway currently features a 14-foot-wide sidewalk, the current two-way protected bike lane and a lane for southbound car traffic on the west side of Kent Avenue, plus two lanes of parking and one travel lane on the east side of the avenue.

Under the plan revealed to the Satmars, the 14-foot sidewalk would be trimmed to nine feet. And the parking lanes would be split so that one would be on the southbound side and one would be on the northbound side.

The tweet also featured pictures of city officials working out the deal across a table at Congregation Yetev Lev D'Satmar, the main Satmar synagogue at 14 Hooper St.

Streetsblog visited the location on Sunday and was rebuffed by a rabbi, who referred Streetsblog to another Satmar official, who said his community doesn't love the compromise because it maintains the two-way bike lane and raised it slightly above the southbound car lanes.

"The Satmars don't use the bike lane," said the official. "It disrupts the parking for its congregants."

Drivers in Williamsburg have long parked in the bike lane. The local precinct and the DOT often make accommodations for the community, including creating more space on Hooper Street with angled parking.

The city allows drivers to fill Hooper Street, thanks to angled parking. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Hasidic Williamsburg is choking on cars, though it is reluctant to admit it has a problem.

"Williamsburg Street is a total mess during rush hours," Community Board 1 member Gary Schlesinger told Streetsblog, which pointed out that the "mess" is caused by too many cars that fill the roads because there is too much free on-street parking provided in the neighborhood, where there are no Citi Bike docks (see photo, below).

This is the existing gap in Citi Bike racks.

Schlesinger offered an alternative "solution": opening up the Brooklyn Navy Yard to cars and cyclists.

"Someone from Greenpoint needs to drive all the way down [Kent Avenue] to Williamsburg Street" before heading west towards the Manhattan Bridge or Downtown Brooklyn, he said. "Opening up the Navy Yard to bikers and vehicular traffic is the best option."

Streetsblog asked Navy Yard officials in September whether they would consider opening up the Yard to bikes while Flushing Avenue, a key east-west route, is being rebuilt. The officials declined.

But Schlesinger said CB1 is going to push for it.

Meanwhile, pedestrians will have five feet less space to walk along bustling Kent Avenue, now home to the new Domino Park and many other attractions. The person who maintains the Satmar Twitter account did not appear concerned.

"Don't you think the sidewalk is way oversized," the official said in a DM to Streetsblog.

Some cyclists were initially upset by the Satmar announcement, but as bike Twitter debated the compromise, the conclusion seemed to be that the changes may keep Satmar cars out of the bike lane.

But some cyclists suggested that the current two-way bike lane — which is nine feet wide with a five-foot, at-grade buffer — might be better than a nine-foot-wide bike lane constrained by a plant-filled buffer.

"[It] is effectively being narrowed by having the same width, but with no buffer zone to drift into," wrote Jonathan Hawkins.

But other cyclists said there's an easy fix.

"WTAF, take out the farking parking," tweeted Melody Bryant, using the internet abbreviation for "what the actual fuck."

Construction along Kent Avenue has only just begun. The timeframe for completion is unclear.

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