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Mayor Walks the Walk on McGuinness Blvd. with $40M for Redesign

Mayor de Blasio had promised to fix McGuinness Boulevard when he attended a vigil for Matthew Jensen. File photo: Gersh Kuntzman

He put his money where his mouth was.

Less than a month after walking with mourners at a vigil for a beloved teacher killed in a hit-and-run on McGuinness Boulevard, Mayor de Blasio announced on Friday that he would rejigger the city budget to provide close to $40 million for the redesign of the deadly roadway, where 11 pedestrians and three cyclists have been killed since 1995.

According to a city statement, the Department of Transportation will "fully redesign the corridor, including immediate safety enhancements and a full corridor redesign in 2022, with a commitment of $39 million in capital funding."

“Vision Zero has made New York City safer and more livable – but its work isn’t finished until corridors like McGuinness Boulevard are improved for everyone who uses them,” de Blasio said in a statement.

Beloved teacher Matthew Jensen.
Beloved teacher Matthew Jensen.
Beloved teacher Matthew Jensen.

DOT Commissioner Hank Gutman added that "fixing McGuinness will be among our very highest priorities this year." (It is already a very busy year for the DOT amid a very bloody year on the streets.)

The first step in the fix will be the low-hanging fruit: adding missing crosswalks, turn calming, and other safety treatments, the agency said. Those changes are slated for completion this fall (which runs from Sept. 21 to Dec. 21).

Next comes the heavier lift, which (like other projects) will involve the next mayor: There will be $39 million in capital funding allocated by this mayor, but it will only be spent after "the city will engage the community," City Hall said.

But the redesign is expected to include:

    • protected bike lanes
    • shortened pedestrian crossings
    • "other proven safety enhancements."

The redesign will be implemented in 2022, the agency said.

Assembly Member Emily Gallagher called the de Blasio investment "historic."

"It will restore a basic right to our community: the freedom to cross the street without fear of death of injury," she said in a statement. "I am grateful to our mayor for truly listening. Let's get to work."

The listening part has happened since long before Matthew Jensen, a beloved teacher at PS 110 nearby McGuinness, was killed by a hit-and-run driver (allegedly in a Rolls-Royce) on May 18 near the entrance ramp to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway along the speedway boulevard. A week later, de Blasio joined mourners at a funereal procession from McGolrick Park to the scene of the crash and promised that the city would fix McGuinness.

Friday's announcement puts a price tag and a timeline on that commitment. Activists and locals were pleased.

"This is a big deal," said Lincoln Restler, a former City Hall staffer running for Council in the district. "Credit is due to the administration for putting up real money to make McGuinness safe. Our community will be sure to hold the next mayor accountable to spending every penny of the $39 million on a complete redesign of McGuinness to end the highway that cuts through our neighborhood once and for all."

Restler's rival for the seat, Elizabeth Adams, also called the news "a great development," but added, "We also need to ensure the timeline for implementation moves forward quickly and in partnership with the community, so that we see improvements before the end of this mayor’s term.”

Danny Harris, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said his activists have been "sounding the alarm" for a decade — but he wasn't downplaying the importance of the mayoral moolah.

"A $39-million plan to immediately begin safety improvements will go a long way to preventing crashes like the hit-and-run that killed Matthew Jensen."

But he cautioned the DOT that TA and other activists will not accept anything less than a complete redesign.

"This plan must include a road diet, protected bike lanes, and improved crosswalks," he said.

A petition started by local school families also seeks a serious redesign that includes “at a minimum”:

    • Widened sidewalks and a wider median to help pedestrians as they cross the street
    • A two-way protected bike lane connecting the Pulaski Bridge (which would connect to an ongoing bike lane project on Meeker Avenue).
    • The elimination of one lane of traffic in each direction as a traffic-calming measure.

Since 2013, there have been 1,548 reported crashes on the mile-and-a-quarter stretch of McGuinness between the Pulaski Bridge and the BQE entrance ramp where Jensen was killed. Those crashes — basically one crash every other day — have injured 40 cyclists, 59 pedestrians and 236 motorists.

The NYPD says there is no update in the search for the driver of the Rolls-Royce, a rare luxury car that was likely badly damaged in the fatal crash.

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