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DOT Will Give Deadly McGuinness Boulevard Some Safety Fixes Before Full Redesign

12:10 AM EDT on August 31, 2022

Despite a city commitment last year, McGuinness Boulevard remains a speedway. Photo: Google

The city is taking small steps to bring some safety improvements to deadly McGuinness Boulevard in Greenpoint, promising that in the coming months it would remove parking for improved visibility at several intersections and paint extra pedestrian space at three intersections on the street.

The initial safety measures were announced by Assembly Member Emily Gallagher, who tweeted that the Department of Transportation agreed to a community demand for immediate work while the agency considers how to completely remake the Greenpoint road where 11 pedestrians and four cyclists have been killed since 1995.

Per Gallagher's tweet, the DOT is daylighting "select intersections" on McGuinness between Freeman Street and Meeker Avenue, blessing the intersections with either neckdowns or bike corrals. A graphic the Assembly member shared stated that the daylighting would involve removing parking within 40 feet of each chosen intersection to create more visibility for drivers and pedestrians crossing the street.

In addition to the daylighting moves, the DOT is also banning left turns from McGuinness onto Nassau Avenue, Driggs Avenue and Engert Avenue and replacing the existing left turn bays on McGuinness and each block at the intersections with painted pedestrian extensions in order to give pedestrians a refuge if they don't make it across the wide boulevard.

"We’re not going to wait; as we develop the final proposal for McGuinness Boulevard, DOT will deliver immediate, short-term safety improvements to calm traffic and protect pedestrians along the corridor," said spokesperson Vin Barone. "We appreciate the continued advocacy from the community and their representatives on this project."

Gallagher has been a proponent of a full-scale redesign of the street, but praised the initial work as extremely helpful for pedestrians trying to make it across the long crossings on the boulevard.

"Quick, iterative incremental changes will be a great way to reduce injuries and fatalities rather than waiting for an entire overhaul," she said.

The improvements are all set to be installed this fall (which begins September 22 and NOT after Labor Day). The city will return to Greenpoint in the winter "to discuss the full corridor safety plan as soon as our additional analysis is complete" according to a message from the DOT that Gallagher shared. Neighborhood advocates vowed to keep pressing for a full facelift for the street.

"We’re glad to see DOT implement interim safety improvements on McGuinness Boulevard while they continue to study a comprehensive redesign," said Bronwyn Breitner, Coordinator for the Make McGuinness Safe Coalition. "However, interim improvements must be just that — interim. Our community has asked loud and clear for a full-scale redesign of McGuinness which reallocates space from cars to pedestrians and bike riders without delay."

Because so many drivers use McGuinness Boulevard as a connecting road between the Long Island Expressway and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the road is a calamitous speedway, despite the fact that it runs through the spine of a residential neighborhood. Since 2013, there have been 1,594 crashes on McGuinness between Freeman and Meeker, causing 44 cyclist injuries, 67 pedestrian injuries and 251 motorist injuries, along with one cyclist death and two pedestrian deaths.

After teacher Matthew Jensen was killed by a hit-and-run driver on McGuinness and Bayard Street in May 2021, political and community leaders came together to pressure then-Mayor Bill de Blasio to commit to a real redesign of the road. While de Blasio committed $40 million for capital improvements to fix McGuinness, the announcement of the funding hinged on the major work being done in 2022, pushing the job to incoming Mayor Eric Adams.

In June, the DOT presented three redesign options to Greenpoint residents and elected officials at a meeting where numerous attendees told the DOT to figure out how to implement a plan that would reduce the number of moving lanes on McGuinness to one northbound lane and one southbound lane. Council Member Lincoln Restler told the DOT to "go back to the drawing board" after seeing the agency's plans.

Restler praised the upgrades planned for the fall, and said he's looking forward to the winter reveal of the long term redesign for the road.

"DOT’s proposed near term safety improvements for McGuinness are a step in the right direction and I’m pleased that progress on them will be made this fall," he said. "I am thankful DOT appears to be taking safety on McGuinness seriously. I am keen to review plans from DOT and engage with our community this winter to finally transform this highway that divides Greenpoint into a safe road."

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