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Advocates Slam Prospect Park Striping as a Half Measure

The Department of Transportation heralded its completion of its repainting of Prospect Park's East Drive, but the measure to give pedestrians more marked space barely scratched the surface of what advocates sought.

12:03 AM EDT on August 10, 2023

Paint job or snow job? It depends on who you believe. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Nice try.

The Department of Transportation heralded its completion of its repainting of Prospect Park's East Drive, but the measure to give pedestrians more marked space barely scratched the surface of what advocates sought.

The agency touted that the new configuration of the former car-filled roadway inside the park now helps pedestrians get across the multi-lane roadway, but even after the improvements, the steady stream of cyclists mean that pedestrians still have to find the very "gap in traffic" that the DOT's Heidi Wolf says the agency created for them in the promo video (see our photo below):

Pedestrians have marked space to wait, but there are so many cyclists in the park that pedestrians still have to wait for their chance to cross. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

But there is more paint indicating what space belongs to pedestrians and what belongs to cyclists, giving the former roadway a little bit more of the "park drive" feel rather than the original roadway feel, as Wolf said.

The woman in green is walking in the newly created pedestrian space. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

But it's not enough; weeks before DOT finished its work, leaders of the Transportation Alternatives Brooklyn activist committee had warned the agency and the Parks Department that it was wasting "an opportunity to truly transform the road and imagine a completely new design that prioritizes people over cars."

Members of the activist group demanded more than just paint to create dedicated pedestrian space on both sides of the roadway; they wanted the elimination of the "street-like design" of the ostensibly car-free space, which "many drivers still use ... illegally," wrote Brian Howald and Sam Anderson, the co-chairs of the activist committee, joined by Kathy Park Price, TA's Brooklyn organizer.

"The entire park loop must be people-first through design and infrastructure," they added.

For one thing, the city must be more diligent about keeping out cars — whether operated by city employees, city agencies or the public.

"Private cars and other motor vehicles are routinely driven in the park illegally, and city agencies use trucks and cars where smaller vehicles would suffice," the trio wrote. "NYPD patrols the park regularly with SUVs, endangering all who use the park drives. We recommend that rules that govern vehicles in Prospect Park are agreed upon by all city agencies that may drive in the park, put in writing and shared publicly."

The group called for physical barriers to prevent drivers from accessing the park drive, which they can do from two locations along Ocean Avenue. The park's 20 mile-per-hour speed limit should be reduced to 10, as well.

The recommended improvements were not limited to slowing down drivers, but cyclists as well. The group advocated for raised crosswalks "to signal that cyclists as well as authorized vehicles must reduce speed and be alert for pedestrians crossing."

The group also wanted DOT and Parks to "update the stop lights and other crossing signage so that it’s clearer that both bikes and cars need to stop for pedestrians" — but that did not happen.

And in support of cyclists, the trio demanded two changes, though either one of which would go a long way towards improving the other: the park drive should be available 24/7 for cyclists (the park is officially closed in the wee hours) and create a protected bike lane on Prospect Park Southwest, which the DOT failed to do, even though it repaved the roadway earlier this summer.

DOT spokesman Vin Barone said the agency is "reviewing the letter."

He also added that the agency released its video in order to solicit more comments — and, indeed, the agency's tweet included a survey link.

One park goer obviously filled out his or her survey in a more tangible manner this week:

The Parks Department did not respond to an email seeking comment.

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