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‘Dysfunction’: Adams Again Stalls McGuinness Blvd. Safety Redesign for Further ‘Analysis’

The Adams administration will conduct more "analysis" before finalizing its redesign of deadly McGuinness Boulevard — and street safety advocates are stunned.

8:08 PM EDT on September 8, 2023

File photo: Gersh Kuntzman|

Rough road, indeed.

The Adams administration will conduct more "analysis" before finalizing its redesign of deadly McGuinness Boulevard, the Department of Transportation said in a late Friday announcement — one that came just days after Mayor Adams had signed off on watering down a much more complete safety revamp to appease a key political supporter.

On Aug. 29, the DOT had announced that compromise — and that it would start work this week on a design that included protected bike lanes throughout the dangerous Greenpoint corridor.

But late on Friday, DOT said it will start the northern portion of the project next week and then perform a new "traffic analysis" before continuing on — a traffic analysis that "will inform any adjustments," to the southern portion of the redesign. That leaves in question whether the southern stretch would be narrowed to one travel lane as part of a road diet as the DOT had announced in that statement 10 days earlier.

The agency claimed on Friday night that it is not changing the previously announced design, but would also not commit to building it as announced after the additional study is completed. It preemptively dismissed criticism by saying that adjustments to large projects are common.

City Hall's latest backpedal — the second in as many months — frustrated one insider who was briefed about the earlier comprise plan during a meeting with local elected officials in late August.

"This is a completely dysfunctional administration that is impossible to work with," said the political staffer.

The area's Council Member, Lincoln Restler, simply said: "This process has been so messed up that I have no comment."

Make McGuinness Safe, the local group that has been advocating for the redesign over the past two years, slammed Adams for once more caving to special interests over the safety of Greenpointers.

"Our streets are not for sale. But yet again, Mayor Adams is prioritizing his donor’s woes over the safety and demands of the community of Greenpoint," the group's statement read. "Every week that this project is delayed leaves our community vulnerable to the dangers of an unnecessary highway that the actual residents of Greenpoint need to cross multiple times a day."

"A decision has been made. Twice. A traffic study has been done. Put the paint on the ground, and let’s move on."

Residents have long sought a safer McGuinness Boulevard, but the current chapter in that effort began after a beloved local teacher, Matthew Jenssen, was killed by a hit-and-run driver on McGuinness in 2021.

Days after that death, then-Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged $40 million to redesign McGuinness, but left the details up to his successor, Eric Adams. Since then, there have been 159 serious crashes on the corridor, according to city stats, injuring 66 people — about one person every other week.

After nearly two years of public engagement, the Department of Transportation presented in May a plan to reduce all of McGuinness Boulevard from two car lanes in each direction to one, while installing a parking-protected bike lane along the curbs, and pedestrian islands for shorter crossing distances and loading zones to help businesses with deliveries.

Then, just as DOT was about to begin construction, an opposition group rallying under the banner "Keep McGuinness Moving" but funded by the powerful local film studio Broadway States got the ear of close mayoral adviser Ingrid Lewis-Martin, a frequent street redesign saboteur. Lewis-Martin convinced Mayor Adams that there was significant local opposition to the redesign, and Adams ordered the DOT back to the drawing board.

Adams then approved the compromise announced on Aug. 29 that would keep the roadway two lanes between the Pulaski Bridge and Calyer Street between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., and switch the outer lane to parking outside those hours. The remainder of the road diet was meant to remain in place south of Calyer to Meeker Avenue.

It is that southern section that is now also subject to "adjustments" after the DOT does more traffic counts, even though the agency already collected data on McGuinness as recently as 2021.

More study is exactly what Keep McGuinness Moving demanded, claiming that the plans that were two years in the making were "rushed." But DOT has long held that implementing road diets reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured in crashes by 30 percent.

The agency said it still plans to begin construction on the northern segment starting at the Pulaski Bridge next week, with the work including "roadway improvements to increase visibility and additional speed limit enforcement." The agency did not answer questions about the design, beyond saying that the design had not changed from the Aug. 29 announcement. DOT did not explain what the additional enforcement consisted of. City Hall did not respond to a question about why the DOT was making a new announcement so soon after the previous compromise was announced.

"The Adams administration has continuously listened to members of this community and updated our design accordingly," said DOT spokesman Vin Barone in a statement. "This project will calm traffic, create protected bike lanes, and better accommodate everyone traveling through this neighborhood."

Hizzoner’s latest pivot also comes as Keep McGuinness Moving plans to stage a rally at a local Key Food parking lot Tuesday with the slogan “OUR FIGHT IS NOT OVER!” 

A small parcel surrounded by the supermarket car parking is owned by Gina Argento, the president of Broadway Stages, according to property records. 

The Argento family has been a powerful force behind the opposition to the safety revamp and previously reeled in DOT leadership and the Brooklyn Democratic Party boss to a meeting at one of Broadway Stages's studios where supporters of the redesign were locked out. 

Broadway Stages and its owners have donated more than $80,000 to the Brooklyn Democratic Party and its boss, the Adams ally, Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte-Hermelyn, campaign finance records show. The Argentos have given a combined $15,100 to Adams over the years, The City reported.

A spokesman for Keep McGuinness Moving was optimistic about the latest development.

"We are pleased that the city is seeking improvements to increase visibility and additional speed limit enforcement methods and believe it's an effective start to making the roadway safe and accessible," said Juda Engelmayer in a statement.

"We are also hopeful that an updated study of the traffic and existing movement, the economic and communal requirements, will help all stakeholders understand the need for continued commercial access while making sure pedestrians, bikers and riders of all vehicles are protected from anticipated and even unexpected harm."

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