TURN SIGNAL: Anti-Cyclist Bay Ridge is Now Increasingly Anti-Car

Out with the old, in with the new: State Senator Marty Golden objected to a street safety improvement on Gerritsen Avenue. Photo: Twitter
Out with the old, in with the new: State Senator Marty Golden objected to a street safety improvement on Gerritsen Avenue. Photo: Twitter

Bay Ridgites complained the other night about the safety of their neighborhood — but this time, the villains were drivers, not cyclists.

Residents who have long complained about bike lanes shifted their anger towards reckless drivers, and demanded on Wednesday night that cops crack down on the motorists who put their kids and families at risk.

“We have such a speeding issue,” Ridge Boulevard resident Marybeth Gazlay said at the neighborhood safety town hall, hosted by several local electeds.

The long-overdue tonal shift towards bike and pedestrian safety was dramatically demonstrated by the politicians who now represent the neighborhood, the residents, and even a crossing guard, who said she fears for her life as she escorts school kids across a street in Dyker Heights.

“People don’t care about the crossing guards because they know we can’t give tickets so they laugh at us, they go close to us, they beep at us, they mock us,” said Sandy Irrera, who works at the intersection of 65th Street and 16th Avenue — next to IS 227. “They go through that red light, they go through those stop signs, they don’t care about anything. It’s very dangerous there.”

Irrera’s concerns were echoed by local Council Member Justin Brannan, who hosted the meeting.

Brannan recognized the need for better bike and pedestrian infrastructure to stop people from dying in his district — because they are.

From July 2017 to date, there have been 5,834 crashes in Brannan’s council district, causing more than 1,500 injuries and the death of two pedestrians.

Brannan also recognized that the Wednesday night meeting was the first time residents in his district have come together to say that enough is enough — there should be no more carnage on their streets.

“This is the very first time we have ever gathered in this district to discuss traffic safety,” he said. “You now have a team of local elected officials who refuse to turn a blind eye to this problem.”

Brannan was likely referring to his predecessors, who frequently opposed street safety measures.

Previous Council Members Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge) and Domenic Recchia (D-Bensonhurst), were more anti-cyclist. The pair, backed by the local community board, killed a much-needed bike lane in 2010 and 2011 that has still never come to fruition.

Meanwhile, Brannan’s newly elected colleague, State Senator Andrew Gounardes, is credited with pushing the expansion of the life-saving speed camera program that Gov. Cuomo just signed.

But that office wasn’t always blessed with such a street-safety friendly politician.

Gounardes’s predecessor — Marty Golden — once ran over a pedestrian, who later died. He also bashed bike lanes and demanded that the Department of Transportation remove life-saving street-safety improvements on Gerritsen Avenue. Oh, and he also racked up 14 speeding tickets on his own vehicle since 2014.

But the dawn of a new era is taking shape in Bay Ridge — its politicians are aligning with its residents to finally prioritize safe streets over the deadly car culture.

“Every day we see cars blowing through stop signs, big SUVs speeding down residential streets near schools and people just driving way too fast overall,” said Brannan. “I refuse to surrender, refuse to be held hostage by reckless drivers — I’m not just going to throw up my hand and say that’s just how it is around here.”

 

  • Komanoff

    Super-encouraging story. Bravo the brave, outspoken crossing guard. And from this report and others, CM Brannan (he organized the neighborhood safety town hall) and state senator Gounardes (spearheaded the speed-cam expansion that just passed Albany) are extremely pro-active.

    Missing — surprise! — is NYPD. Seems like next step is for parents and other locals to leverage Brannan and Gounardes and demand the 68 PCT enforce no-standing, no-speeding, no-double-parking reg’s, starting with schools. If the precinct won’t step up, there should be picketing outside the station house. I showed up 4 days last fall to doorknock for Gounardes, I’ll certainly show up for that this spring.

    And I’ll say it again: the ability to bike/walk across the Verrazzano will do wonders for active transportation in Bay Ridge and throughout southern Brooklyn. That bike lane is so much more than just a bike lane, just as cycling is so much more than just cycling.

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Fourth Avenue is far and away the most viable potential bike route linking Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, and Park Slope, but it's still scary to ride on, with no designated space for cycling. At 4.5 miles long, a protected bike lane would make the reconstructed Fourth Avenue one of the most important two-way streets for bicycle travel in the city, connecting dense residential neighborhoods to jobs and schools.