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DOT Boss Tries to Stay ‘Positive’ on McGuinness But Won’t Commit to Safest Possible Design

The city's transportation chief "wants to be positive" about the future of McGuinness Boulevard — but couldn't promise the final result will be as safe as his DOT's original plan.

1:58 PM EDT on July 18, 2023

DOT Commissioner Rodriguez speaks Tuesday at the Astor Place Cube. Photo: Kevin Duggan

The city's top transportation official hasn't thrown in the towel after Mayor Adams shelved his agency's plans to redesign Brooklyn's deadly McGuinness Boulevard — but declined on Tuesday to commit that whatever the city ultimately proposes will be as safe as its original road diet.

"I want to be positive," Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said a press conference unveiling the newly-refurbished Astor Place Cube.

"When we’re ready, we’ll get back to you guys and let you know what is the final plan for that area," he told Streetsblog.

The city's $40 million plan — hatched in 2021 by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio after the hit-and-run death of a beloved local teacher — would have reduced McGuinness Boulevard from four lanes of car traffic to two to make room for parking-protected bike lanes and shortened pedestrian crossings.

But Adams reversed course earlier this month — after two years of DOT outreach — and ordered city planners back to the drawing board amid opposition from politically-connected Greenpoint businesses, Streetsblog exclusively reported.

Hizzoner's about-face followed a heated public meeting organized by opponents at a soundstage owned by Broadway Stages, whose ownership has led the fight against the safety project. Rodriguez attended as well as Brooklyn Democratic Party Chair Rodneyse Bichotte-Hermelyn, whose organization has received significant financial contributions from the film company.

Asked twice by Streetsblog Tuesday whether DOT's final redesign will make McGuinness as safe as the first plan would have, Rodriguez only pledged that DOT would try its best.

"We have a lot of work to do," he said. "[My] personal commitment as the commissioner of DOT [is] to do the best it can to continue doing my job to improve safety on McGuinness Boulevard."

North Brooklyn supporters of the initial plan fumed over City Hall's flip-flop. One prominent Greenpoint dad said advocates will do what is needed to keep the strip safe for pedestrians and cyclists.

"All the work we’ve done cannot just evaporate, so we’ll find a way kind of to make our presence known until we get a plan that is as safe as the plan that the DOT already approved and the mayor already approved," the dad, Chris Roberti, said in an interview on NY1 on Monday night.

The redesign was originally slated to happen this year, but it is unclear when DOT will propose their new plans, leaving locals at risk of traffic violence, Roberti said.

"School starts September 7th, that’s less than two months away and a lot of our parents and students cross [McGuinness] at least twice a day," he said. "After so much work we’ve done, so much kind of like buy-in from everyone — to go back to square one is unacceptable."

Over the past year, there have been 82 crashes on the corridor stretching between the BQE and the Pulaski Bridge, injuring 35 people — a rate of nearly three a month — including two cyclists, five pedestrians, and 28 people in cars, according to city data.

A City Hall rep referred a request for the mayor's comments last week that he stalled the proposal because he was "not going to force feed communities," despite support for the plan from every other elected official in the area.

"I think that what we’re really looking at is a few people really getting into the mayor’s ear and manipulating the situation," Assembly Member Emily Gallagher said Monday night on NY1.

"People are afraid that this is going to be very inconvenient [but] when we see with other redesigned streets, like 21st Street in Queens right across the bridge, and the 14th Street busway, all of those end up working better after a redesign. They all get safer and they work better."

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