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Company That Fought McGuinness Safety Project Wants to Seize Bklyn Street for Private Backlot

Broadway Stages to Greenpoint residents: "Street safety for me, not for thee."

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Monitor Street is sandwiched between Broadway Stages lots.

Street safety for me, not for thee.

Broadway Stages, the powerful Brooklyn film studio that fought a safety redesign of McGuinness Boulevard, now wants to demap an existing Greenpoint roadway and turn it into a “back-lot studio space” to provide “safe access between production facilities,” according to the company's permit application.

The story was first reported by Crain's.

Not only does the company's request for "safe access" irk locals who supported the McGuinness project, but Broadway Stages is now seeking its own private Idaho on Monitor Street south of Greenpoint Avenue — where the Department of Transportation proposed two years ago to install bike lanes that never came to fruition after Broadway Stages objected at public meetings. 

Safe streets advocates in the north Brooklyn neighborhood cried foul that the company’s proposed seizure would block the city's safe-streets project on Monitor.

“Obviously ... they pulled every string and killed it in the dark,” said Kevin LaCherra of the advocacy group Make McGuinness Safe. “It’s unacceptable that this is the way that our city does business.”

It’s unclear if the street safety project on Monitor got lost in the fray of the heated battles around McGuinness, or if big businesses again managed to get the ear of City Hall and stop it.

Broadway Stages is a big donor to Mayor Adams and the Brooklyn political machine and last year flexed its influence by successfully getting chief City Hall adviser Ingrid Lewis-Martin to intervene and scale back the proposal to overhaul McGuinness, a plan that included a protected bike lane and better pedestrian safety that was backed by the neighborhood's elected officials after a local teacher was killed by a driver on the strip in 2021. 

The new demapping will go through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which requires the sign-off from the City Council, which usually votes in line with the preferences of the area’s lawmaker, in this case, Council Member Lincoln Restler. 

The legislator strongly supported the McGuinness Boulevard safety redesign, but declined to give his stance on the ULURP so early in the process. However, he noted that Broadway Stages didn’t tell him about the plans in advance, and that he generally believes public land should remain so.

“I was surprised to see it online before we heard anything from the local business that is pursuing it,” Restler told Streetsblog. “In general, I think public land should be for the public.”

Monitor Street is a heavily industrial road sandwiched between Broadway Stages lots. In 2022, DOT presented a proposal to install a bike lane to make a direct southbound connection from the John Jay Byrne Bridge on Greenpoint Avenue to Meeker Avenue. The plan also called for a parallel northbound bike lane on Kingsland Avenue.

DOT planned to add bike lanes on Monitor Street and Kingsland avenues. Graphic: DOT

But the agency never followed through — keeping the corridor deadlier in the years since. According to city data, there have been a whopping 73 reported crashes injuring 31 people and killing two since 2022, including a cyclist at Monitor and Driggs Avenue last June and a moped rider at Kingsland and Greenpoint avenues in December. 

Broadway Stages honchos rebuffed the safety upgrades at meetings with Community Board 1 at the time. Company president Gina Argento, who also sits on the board, claimed that adding cycling paths to the busy truck route would make the street more dangerous — despite DOT stats showing that conventional bike lanes reduce the risk of injury by nearly one-third.  

“The business occupies — all these businesses occupy — both sides of the street, there’s no way that you can put a bike lane there and not have injuries and fatalities,” Argento said at a May, 2022, CB1 Transportation Committee meeting.  “I don’t understand how you can justify putting a bike lane on that street; it’s like you want the fatalities to happen.”

The film studio’s reps had for years been talking about privatizing Monitor Street, but when asked about by a fellow board member, Argento denied her opposed to the bike lane was because of those plans, claiming it was for safety reasons.

“This has nothing to do with that,” she said at the time. “We’re still not sure about that.”

Her brother Tony Argento voiced similar concerns about mixing heavy haulers with cyclists at the community board’s full membership meeting a few weeks later.

“Monitor Street and Kingsland are two major thoroughfare truck routes with hundreds of trucks a day passing these streets,” Tony Argento said at the time.  

However, Tony had previously suggested DOT move existing bike lanes on Greenpoint Avenue to Monitor and Kingsland, The Brooklyn Paper reported in 2011. At the time, he was opposing the agency’s 2010 plans to put the J. J. Byrne Bridge on a road diet to extend the cycling paths — a revamp which the city shelved for years before watering it down.

In more recent years, Broadway Stages began laying the groundwork to take over Monitor Street. 

In 2020, the company tried to temporarily close the street to cars as part of the city’s Open Streets program to set up outdoor staging and Covid testing to comply with early pandemic-era regulations. 

“Yes, eventually we will be in front of you asking to demap Monitor Street, and yes we’ll be back with a full land use ULURP, the whole shebang,” Broadway Stages’s land use lawyer Eric Palatnik told CB1 in September of that year. 

Broadway Stages's demapping proposal will have to go through several stages of public review and environmental assessments over the coming months, including advisory recommendations by the community board, Brooklyn borough president, and required approval by the City Planning Commission and the City Council.

Neither City Hall, DOT, nor Broadway Stages commented by press time.

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