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
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
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).

Hasid Hole

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.

  • BruceWillisThrowsACar@You

    “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.” ”

    Everyone else uses it — having to go through your PoS neighborhood — whom are simply asking for proper protection and right of way you antisocial auto-headed isolated asshole stuck fucks. Fuck these people.

  • City officials to backward cult: “We might be thinking of enforcing the law — but only if that’s alright with you fellows.” Pathetic.

    And what is this about “opening up” the Navy Yard? Seems to me that it is open to bikes already; I have ridden through it several times without being stopped. There is even a CitiBike station in there, I think.

    But I certainly wouldn’t want to allow cars to drive through. That Community Board goofball evidently doesn’t understand that accommodating drivers just promotes more driving. If drivers have to take the long way around, that is the Universe’s way of telling them to ride a bike instead, or to skip the trip altogether.

  • R

    How are they not widening the bike lane!!?! Why make this permanent at this size in concrete? What a joke.

  • sbauman

    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.

    The changes are from Clymer St to the BQE. Domino Park is north of this area.

  • kevd

    “bustling Kent Avenue, now home to the new Domino Park”
    This section along the side of the Navy yard is not bustling.
    This seems like an improvement.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    For now we’ve only seen how they’re going to narrow the sidewalk and the bike lane. Wait till you see how there’s no best practice design at any of the intersections!

    We’ll be stuck with the results of this project for decades, and they’re never going to change this design.

  • Vralus

    This will be great to keep the tractor trailers and Brinks trucks from parking in the bikeway every morning for a cup of coffee. Aside from the food truck that parks on the sidewalk there in the mornings and those patronizing it there is very little pedestrian activity along that stretch. Nothing there except the back wall of Steiner Studios, the Brinks building, and their parking lot. I don’t think sidewalk width will be an issue.

    The bigger concern is when are they going to do something about the path on Williamsburg St? The Flushing path is nice, Kent will be nice but the little segment connecting them is shit. Even the sidewalk is totally jacked up… The motor lanes have been nicely repaved though… priorities…

  • BruceWillisThrowsACar@You

    > If drivers have to take the long way around, that is the Universe’s way of telling them to ride a bike instead, or to skip the trip altogether.

    Or rather make them realize they’re in a goddamn motor vehicle that can go 25+ mph with absolute ease sitting on their ass and shouldn’t complain about going the long way around. It should be peds and cyclists that complain about going the long way round considering the physical effort needed to do so compared to taking a shortcut.

  • Sure, but think of Mayor de Blasio’s non-existent future political prospects.

  • Pedestrian will lose 5 ft of sidewalk ! That is more than 30 % ! This is a sad day for the better streets movement when everyone wins on the back of pedestrians. The drivers won: bikes and pedestrians have to fight while they preserve their unalienable right to parking . Shame on us for not pushing back . cyclists have sold the pedestrians down the river… so much for pedestrians being at the top of the pyramid…

  • AMH

    I don’t understand why DOT is blowing 9 feet on a concrete median when that space could go to the bike lane, or at least stay on the sidewalk.

  • Simon Phearson

    Cyclists aren’t responsible for this. Drivers are.

    In practice, pedestrians will just co-opt the cycling space, like they always do when sidewalks are too narrow/crowded, or when they just feel like going for a jog.

  • Simon Phearson

    Why don’t the Satmars cycle more? I’m given to understand they oppose cycling because cyclists don’t necessarily dress modestly, but I see no reason why their garb wouldn’t work with a conventional dutch-style commuter, possibly one with a lower crossbar.

  • We’re on the same team here. Simon’s comment is right. This is a product of a DOT that continues to give drivers the whole loaf while people who aren’t in cars have to fight over the crumbs.

  • sbauman

    It’s more a question of control.

  • Joe R.

    Of the total 77 foot width being redesigned, 20 feet, or 26%, is for private vehicle storage. That’s the reason citiwide why pedestrians and cyclists both get substandard infrastructure, basically scraps left over from cars. While I think losing 5 feet of sidewalk space is totally unacceptable, keep in mind in most of the city bike lanes which are functionally too narrow are the rule, not the exception. So we share your pain here.

  • Jacob

    Agreed. The entire design change seems to be geared to move one lane of parking to the north/west side of the street and expanding the median. It’s not big enough for a turn lane and there’s little need of one on most of that stretch, so the only logical explanation is that DOT is planning to allow illegal parking there in a concession to the Satmar community, but they don’t want to actually admit they are greatly expanding parking there. Someone should go there the first big Satmar event after this design is implemented, and I guarantee that median will be full of parked cars. It’s not the end of the world, it just smacks of dishonest DOT messaging. The problem, though, is that when some rules are ok to break, most of the rules go out the window, and I bet you’ll see bike path parking as well.

  • Joe R.

    That’s probably the reason. Unfortunately, this particular group is politically connected. They get to violate whatever rules they want with impunity. If anyone cries foul, they’ll call them anti-Semitic and worse. Narrowing a sidewalk to create a defacto parking lane would never pass muster anywhere else in the city. It shouldn’t here, either. If these people want to own a gazillion cars that’s their prerogative. It’s not the city’s problem where they store those cars.

  • Joe R.

    Yep. If their youth were free to bike and see the world, the brainwashing they go through in the name of their religion wouldn’t be all that effective.

  • Simon Phearson

    This is a good observation. I live near 44th Drive in LIC, and it has a large painted median – which is routinely used for illegal parking.

  • Simon Phearson

    Properly speaking, “we” cyclists are also pedestrians much of the time, and we have to deal with these narrower sidewalks, too. The only people who don’t are people who only drive through the area.

  • These car-loving people are supposedly anti-modern. Ok!

  • Alex

    The maintenance of the sidewalk is the responsibility of the property owner. The city owns it, but property owners must perform repairs when needed.

    If it is very damaged (causing trip hazards), etc., I would do a 311 complaint so DOT can check it out and issue the property owner a citation to repair the sidewalk.

  • Vralus

    It’s along the Navy Yard so I think the city is the property owner. It doesn’t just need repair it needs replacing. There are gaps in the sidewalk that used to be for roadways and it’s like an 8 inch drop off the curb, no ramps. Not ADA compliant by any means. DOT knows about it, it’s been brought up before.

  • Yes, it will be used for Philadelphia style parking in the median. Not legal, but no enforcement.

    Thats why its 9 feet.

  • And they cant plant a single tree?

  • Daphna

    This shows that a group who is politically powerful can get whatever they want, even if it goes against city policy, against what is best for the community, against accepted standards for street design, etc.

    How can people who want better street designs amass political power such as the Satmar have?

  • The old Oregon Avenue manoeuvre.

  • Daphna

    This is an awful design. It takes away substantial needed sidewalk space from pedestrians. It takes away bike lane space from cyclists by removing a bikeable buffer. It gives more space than before to motor vehicles: 49′ before and 51′ in the re-design.

    There should not be a 9′ median. That 9′ needs to instead be re-allocated to the bike lane to make the 2-way bike lane a rideable size. The 1.5′ on either side of the bike lane is not usable, that means each bike lane is only 3.5′ which is absurdly small.

    Why are any travel lanes still being designed to be 11′?!? The citywide speed limit is 25mph. No lane, even one accommodating buses and trucks, needs to be wider than 10′. Change those two 11′ lane to 10′ and that is another 2′ to dedicate to the bike lane or the sidewalk.

    The sidewalk is too narrow. The bike lane is too narrow – it is barely wide enough to be a one-way bike lane, and is completely insufficient as a bi-directional bike lane. And it will not work to keep drivers from parking in it. When there is a group of people like the Orthodox Jewish Satmar who do not respect or obey the law, who do not respect those who are different from them, who have such political power that no law enforcement holds them accountable, they will what they want including to park where they want. They will park on the median, on the sidewalk, in the bike lane, and on the planted buffers if those are mountable. This design takes away needed space from pedestrians and cyclists, give more space to drivers, and attemps to put enough obstacles (raised planted buffers) to discourage illegal parking, but likely it will not work and it will just mean lost space for non-drivers.

  • Daphna

    Thank you for reporting on this.

  • Start a cult

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