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Community Board Backs DOT Road Diet for Brooklyn’s Deadly Third Av.

“This is just a beginning of what we could do to fix our community,” said one board member. “This is not done, this is not where we finish off.”

A moped rider uses Third Avenue. File photo: Julianne Cuba

Brooklyn’s deadly Third Avenue could finally get much needed street safety redesign, after the local community board nearly unanimously endorsed a Department of Transportation proposal to narrow the speedway below the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in Sunset Park and carve out space for cyclists and pedestrians. 

The overhaul would put the avenue on a road diet, reducing it from three to two moving lanes in each direction and installing parking-protected bike lanes at the curb, along with painted pedestrian islands that could double as bus boarding spaces. 

Community Board 7 on Wednesday voted 32-1 in support of the design changes, which the civic panel’s transportation committee chairperson noted are long overdue for the highway-like strip, where more than a dozen people have died in crashes since 2016, including a rash of cyclists deaths in 2019.

“We are in so much need of these design changes,” said Katie Walsh. “Third Avenue has been a long overlooked corridor, yet it’s one of the most dangerous in our city.”

Third Avenue should get a road diet like this, Community Board 7 said on Feb. 21. Graphic: DOT

The board has been demanding a safer Third Avenue for 20 years, Walsh said, and DOT began gathering feedback for an overhaul at workshops last spring as local advocates and elected officials urged “dramatic” fixes for the thoroughfare. 

There have been a whopping 14 fatalities on that stretch of Third Avenue since 2016, with particularly dangerous intersections at 60th and 36th streets. That deadly tally is more than three times as high as on the same section of Fourth Avenue, which essentially has the design that DOT presented for Third: curbside protected bike lanes and two car lanes in each direction. 

A spike in cyclist deaths unfolded in 2019, when drivers killed 27-year-old Fernando Trejo near 52nd Street and 26-year-old Hugo Garcia near 28th Street within the first month of that year.

That July, the driver of a tractor-trailer fatally ran over 30-year-old Em Samolewicz after she was doored into traffic near 35th Street, and in December, a truck driver killed 85-year-old Brendan Gill near 39th Street. The following October, 31-year-old Clara Kang was killed by a motorcyclist while biking home from her shift as a nurse at NYU Langone near 56th Street.

Look at all these crashes on Third Avenue since 2018. Map: DOT

DOT in recent years studied Third Avenue, between Prospect Avenue to 62th Street, where the corridor runs below the elevated BQE. The highway’s gridlocked traffic affects Third because many drivers opt to avoid the highway. As a result, dark Third Avenue becomes a hellhole of speeding drivers with little regard for people on foot or bike, locals said.

“I hate crossing Third Avenue, because if you have someone making a left turn, then they’re gonna kill you,” said board member Diana Gonzalez at the Feb. 21 meeting. “They don’t know where the sidewalk ends and the road begins.” 

DOT first presented three options for changes in November [PDF]. 

  • The first proposal would have just added painted pedestrian islands in the parking curb lane at corners and kept six moving lanes. 
  • The second proposed a lane reduction to four lanes with painted extensions both at the curb and the median below the BQE, but Community Board 7 members said it didn't do enough to improve the chaotic streetscape. 
  • The third proposal combined the road diet and a protected bike lane, which DOT showed examples of on the stretch from 29th to 54th Streets, and which got the unanimous support from CB7’s transportation committee ahead of the full board vote. 

DOT said late last year it could implement the plans in the summer and fall of 2024, but an agency spokesman said they still want to do a traffic analysis and come back to the board with a more fleshed-out proposal before setting a date.

"The resolution will help inform a full proposal, which NYC DOT will present at a future meeting," said Vin Barone in a statement.

The board plans to draft a letter to DOT in support of the third option, while pushing the agency to go beyond just paint — which drivers routinely ignore — and install harder infrastructure. 

“This is just a beginning of what we could do to fix our community, but we have more to do,” said board member Gabino Morales at the Wednesday night meeting. “This is not done, this is not where we finish off.”

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