Entitled Drivers Seek to Undermine Bus Lanes, Safety on Church Avenue

A public meeting descends into raucous heckling as DOT says it will curtail parking in Kensington.

A DOT presenter desribes plans for traffic calming on Church Avenue in Kensington, Brooklyn, at Congregation Beth Shalom v'Emeth Reform Temple. Rowdy audience members disrupted the presentation. Photo: Cal ista DeJesus
A DOT presenter desribes plans for traffic calming on Church Avenue in Kensington, Brooklyn, at Congregation Beth Shalom v'Emeth Reform Temple. Rowdy audience members disrupted the presentation. Photo: Cal ista DeJesus

A public forum this week to introduce a plan for safety improvements and dedicated bus lanes on Church Avenue in Kensington/Flatbush dissolved into a shouting match as NIMBY residents of Community Board 14 heckled Department of Transportation presenters.

Council Member Mathieu Eugene. Just. So. Bad.
Council Member Mathieu Eugene. Just. So. Bad.

Church Avenue has been in the news recently because of crashes that killed two pedestrians, and it’s known to be one of the deadliest roads in Brooklyn. But car-loving residents — many of them members of Congregation Beth Shalom v’Emeth Reform Temple, where the event was held Tuesday night — nonetheless lambasted Brooklyn DOT Commissioner Keith Bray for the sin of trying to save lives on the chaotic corridor. 

The rub, as usual, was parking, as residents and synagogue goers demanded free car storage on the public right-of-way for their private vehicles — even if that clogged the road and reduced visibility so much that it leads to traffic deaths, as the DOT representatives explained.

“Is this a done deal?” an angry resident shouted to loud applause and chanting — one of many expostulations from the crowd during the meeting. 

Bray replied firmly that he would take residents concerns under advisement, but that DOT is “moving forward with the improvements on Church Avenue, yes we are.” 

Bray’s firmness did not please local Council Member Matthieu Eugene, who called for the meeting even though he initially supported the DOT plan. Now, reading the crowd Eugene said he would bring up the matter with the City Council and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. 

“I am going to challenge this situation,” he said.

The scene at a fatal collision at Church Avenue and Ocean Parkway. Photo: Sam Polcer/Twitter
The scene at a fatal collision at Church Avenue and Ocean Parkway. Photo: Sam Polcer/Twitter

It was not clear, however, what Eugene could do to stall the plan, which DOT will begin implementing in the late summer through the fall of this year.

For all the displeasure, DOT plans are hardly revolutionary and have been put in place elsewhere in Brooklyn. The department will turn curbside parking on Church Avenue between Ocean Parkway and 16th Avenue into dedicated bus lanes between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, in order to speed the B35 bus, which travels along the route. The commercial stretch from Flatbush Avenue to 16th Street also would lose some metered parking in order to create loading zones for businesses, but metered parking would be added on side streets. Current two-hour metered parking would be converted to one hour on some blocks. 

The changes would enable faster deliveries to businesses and prevent double parking, which impedes bus service on Church Avenue and creates dangers as other traffic tries to adjust. 

Even so, the part-time loss of 113 parking spaces was too much for the NIMBYs, who repeatedly interrupted the DOT presenters with complaints and loud booing. The hecklers did not seem to care that DOT had reached out and surveyed the community about the plan; its data showed that the changes would benefit most users of the corridor.

According to DOT, the B35 is the third-busiest bus route in Brooklyn, with some 30,000 rides a day, yet bus speeds at peak times average only 4.25 miles an hour. Meanwhile, bus riders make up 72 percent of travelers on Church Avenue during peak morning hours, and only 7 percent of shoppers reach the street using their personal cars. But 72 percent of illegally parked cars on the avenue are personal cars, and 73 percent of drivers parking illegally do not attempt to find a legal metered space. 

Many audience members complained that the removal of parking spaces would affect their ability to attend worship services on Saturdays and holidays at Beth Shalom v’Emeth. Indeed, the temple’s rabbi, Heidi Hoover, who hosted the meeting, criticized DOT for not including congregation members in its data questionnaire.

Bray responded, however, that DOT had taken into account congregation concerns conveyed to the department by letter. A few audience members nonetheless accused DOT of discriminating against the congregation. There were calls for religious exemptions for metered parking. 

“So are our concerns going to be factored in?” shouted one woman. “What are you going to do with what we are telling you this evening or is this just an exercise…in futility?”

In the face of outrage from the entitled car drivers, one resident was brave enough to support the DOT plan.

“I do not own a car and I think that too much public space is allocated to parking,” said resident Warren Dobney. “I thought it was actually unfortunate the way that this event proceeded, where the noisiest voices were pro parking. … Their presentation showed clearly that most people commuting through this area are bus riders. I think that speaks for itself. I felt like the mood of the meeting did not reflect the needs of the community.”

  • PDiddy

    DOT should meter all parking spots in areas where they plan to build bike lanes in the future. That way you will not get as much push back in these meetings.

  • PDiddy

    Many audience members complained that the removal of parking spaces would affect their ability to attend worship services on Saturdays and holidays at Beth Shalom v’Emeth.

    TAKE. THE. BUS.

  • OnePersonOrAnother

    Given that the strongest opposition came from people who don’t live in the area, but drive in on Saturdays for religious services, shouldn’t it be NITPIVS (Not In The Place I Visit Sometimes)?

  • petercow

    And what about the ‘not driving on Saturday’ thing?

  • The only good thing here is that the City seems to have grown tired of deferring to these aggregations of local lunatics and half-wits, whether it be Community Boards or one of these ad-hoc gatherings.

  • HamTech87

    I witnessed backbone with the installation of the Bronx Broadway PBL along Van Cortlandt Park, a plan that actually INCREASED parking spaces and still was opposed by Bronx CB8. Bronx Boro Commish Nivardo Lopez toughed it out against heckling and ridiculous comments, and said basically ‘this is happening’.

  • Geck

    Truth be told, it can take a little effort to find car parking in that area on Saturday mornings because of all the sports teams playing at the Parade Grounds. It is much better to bike there is you can. The loss of a few spaces on Church Avenue will not make much of a difference.

  • kevd

    that isn’t a thing in reform judaism

  • remember that the lunatics are in the public in general, and are sometimes coincidentally appointed to the CB, and sometimes the CB actually approves the plans only for the lunatics to override them both at their own meetings and in lawsuits filed against the city by privately-managed “community groups”

  • quenchy

    This is like saying that at present, if they cant find a parking space, they won’t attend service
    When something is really needed, you will make an effort like PDiddy said..take the bus

  • Joe R.

    As near as I can determine, it seems to be that any improvement which takes parking spots will be opposed by people like this, while any improvement involving bikes will be opposed regardless. Even if you promised 1,000 new parking spots the naysayers will scream that bikes passing by are dangerous to their children or pets.

  • Joe R.

    Unlikely going to work, attending any kind of religious service is strictly optional. Those who consider it more important will of course make a stronger effort to attend. Those who don’t probably wouldn’t attend service if they couldn’t find parking.

  • maxmaxed

    Get your fucking cars out of NYC.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Bicyclists have had their issues with the Hasidm, but for exactly that reason I think it would be hard to find a community with a smaller carbon footprint.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Church Avenue, from McDonald Avenue east, and Flatbush Avenue, from Empire Boulevard south to Avenue H, are two Brooklyn streets for which there is ample justification for banning private cars altogether.

    Both these streets are part of one of Brooklyn’s only through-truck routes, and major bus routes, and major commercial streets with lots of deliveries, all at the same time.

    And all that traffic (plus any private motor vehicle traffic) has to squeeze through streets that are narrowed by the 1600s footprint of the Village of Flatbush.

    And there are no alternatives for the trucks.

    The cars should head for Caton, Parkside, Ditmas, Ocean, anywhere else.

  • Vooch

    ” bus riders make up 72 percent of
    travelers on Church Avenue during peak morning hours, and only 7 percent
    of shoppers reach the street using their personal cars. But 72 percent
    of illegally parked cars on the avenue are personal cars, and 73 percent
    of drivers parking illegally do not attempt to find a legal metered
    space. ”

    read these stats a few times.

    let them sink in

  • Daphna

    The way to create turnover of parking spots and availability is to meter more streets and raise meter prices. The DOT could offer to the temple congregation members that in order to help parking be available when they need it, MANY MORE side streets will be metered and there will be higher prices which will encourage turnover of spots. This would be a solution, the temple congregation members would be able to find spots when needed. But as they seem to be seeking both availability and free/underpriced parking, they would likely reject such a solution.

  • Daphna

    Beautiful statement by Warren Dobney. Cheers to that.
    Also, those statistics presented by the DOT are powerful and telling. Those statistics need to remain in the forefront of the discussion.

  • kevd

    MacDonald to Coney Island isn’t so bad
    East of CIA though…
    it is worst between CIA and Flatbush, but is still pretty bad east to at least Brooklyn ave. I was once on a B35 that travelled 4 blocks on Church in 20 min.

  • MatthewEH

    Ugh. It’s a shanda fur die goyim.

  • cjstephens

    But maybe offset by the whole “elevators that stop on every floor on shabbes”?

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Reynoso Tells DOT: Grand Street Needs a Safer Bike Lane ASAP

|
Council Member Antonio Reynoso today urged DOT to upgrade the bike lanes on the Grand Street in North Brooklyn. The existing painted lanes did not protect Matthew von Ohlen, who was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver in July. In a letter sent this afternoon to DOT Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Keith Bray, Reynoso calls for “the immediate installation of safety mitigations […]

The Problem With Designing a Public Space in a Sea of Traffic

|
Designing a successful public space surrounded by wide streets and a sea of traffic may sound like an exercise in futility, but that is what Forest City Ratner and DOT are trying to pull off at Brooklyn’s Times Plaza. Forest City unveiled its design for Times Plaza — the triangle formed by Fourth Avenue, Atlantic Avenue, and Flatbush Avenue — […]

DOT Plans Road Diet and Bikeway Upgrade on Deadly Section of Kent Avenue

|
Last night, Brooklyn Community Board 1’s transportation committee unanimously recommended the board support a DOT project [PDF] to calm traffic on a deadly stretch of Kent Avenue between Clymer Street and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. The project also upgrades a link in the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway to a two-way protected bike lane. Last March, hit-and-run driver Julio Acevedo, […]