Skip to content

Posts from the "Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project" Category

14 Comments

Coalition Calls for Comprehensive Transpo Plan for Northwest Brooklyn

Choked by traffic, Downtown Brooklyn and its surrounding neighborhoods need a comprehensive agenda for transportation — and the current ad hoc approach from the city and state isn’t cutting it in the fast-growing area, says a coalition of community groups, elected officials, and advocates.

The report calls for the expansion of popular programs like 20 mph zones while asking the city to take bolder steps to redesign major streets.

Last week the coalition unveiled the “BK Gateway Transportation Vision” [PDF], covering a broad range of steps to curb traffic, improve surface transit, and make streets safer for walking and biking. The organizations that produced the report and rolled it out include the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, the Park Slope Civic Council, the Boerum Hill Association, and the office of Council Member Letitia James.

The heart of the plan calls for congestion pricing and residential parking permits, as well as an expansion of the PARK Smart program beyond Park Slope and 20 mph neighborhood slow zones beyond the one in Boerum Hill. Congestion pricing — by far the most transformative single proposal in the plan — and RPP — recently rejected by DOT for neighborhoods near the Barclays Center — need Albany’s say-so to advance, while NYC DOT could move forward with more PARK Smart areas and slow zones independently.

Other key coalition requests within the city’s control are street redesigns. The plan calls for protected bike lanes and Select Bus Service on Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues — two critical transportation corridors with terrible safety records — as well as extending the bus-only lanes on Fulton and Livingston Streets.

The plan also calls for a “pedestrian safety rapid response team” around the Barclays Center to handle overflow crowds. This and other arena issues are likely to be addressed as part of DOT’s study examining traffic and parking after the Barclays Center opened this fall.

Parking placards, which are used, abused, and counterfeited all over Downtown Brooklyn, are not mentioned in the report. When Streetsblog asked James if she supports placard reform, she said, “There should be areas where placards are not allowed at all. That includes my placard.”

Read more…

No Comments

Legacy of Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Advocates Continues

A bit more background on the generous neckdown at Smith and Bergen spotlighted earlier today: This pedestrian amenity never would have been built without the long-term organizing for the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project. Street protests and advocacy campaigns stretching back more than a dozen years are bearing fruit now.

And advocates are still on their game, pushing for more. This slideshow comes from Dave "Paco" Abraham, a volunteer with Transportation Alternatives' Brooklyn Committee who's had his eye on the corner of Smith and Bergen in particular. "I always thought that intersection needed something," he said. Thousands of commuters pass through the subway entrances on these corners every day. You've got students walking to schools on Bergen and customers heading to the restaurant row on Smith. They're all contending with traffic that tends to accelerate on the excessively wide Bergen as drivers try to make the light at Court Street.

When Abraham heard the city was moving on a big slate of downtown Brooklyn traffic calming measures, he drew up a letter urging the maximum possible sidewalk extension and the addition of bike parking at the northwest corner of the intersection. He met with more than a dozen merchants in the immediate vicinity and asked them to sign on. "I don’t think there was a place I went to that said no," he says. "It was tremendous." He also garnered support from local civic groups and the two nearest schools -- the Brooklyn Heights Montessori School and the Mary McDowell Learning Center.

It's hard to say precisely what effect Abraham's campaign had on the final outcome at this intersection. But there's a lot more sidewalk real estate here than at your typical curb extension, and, at the very least, DOT knew there was widespread local support for something ambitious, thanks to his organizing. DOT is considering the addition of bike parking, a spokesman told Streetsblog earlier this week.

If you're interested in putting together a similar campaign for a specific intersection, Abraham has a whole tutorial about building momentum for a "bike parking swap" posted on the Livable Streets Community site.

9 Comments

One Year After $5M Promise, Downtown Brooklyn Safety Fixes Are Nowhere

mural_promise.jpgThe death of 8-year-old Alexander Toulouse on Saturday has re-focused public attention on the dangerous streets of downtown Brooklyn. Toulouse was killed by a turning postal van at the intersection of Boerum Place and Livingston Street while riding his bike with his father.

The intersection where Alexander died is exceedingly hazardous. CrashStat shows that 28 pedestrians and 11 cyclists were struck there between 1995 and 2005. Last August, at the unveiling of a mural in memory of three children killed by cars (right), the city promised to make good on $5 million in traffic calming improvements for the area, though not at the specific intersection where Saturday's crash occurred. One year later, not a single shovel has gone in the ground.

DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow says that the contract for the improvements was awarded in May by the Department of Design and Construction and work should begin this calendar year. DDC is the city agency charged with building DOT's capital projects. Solomonow attributes the lag to "slow-going through the budgetary process." (Also note that last year's promise followed a 2004 pledge by then-commissioner Iris Weinshall for $4 million in improvements, which were supposed to get built by 2006.)

The glacial pace of progress raises the question: What good are pledges of "not one more death" from DOT if the city agencies that actually build and finance capital improvements -- DDC and the Office of Management and Budget, respectively -- don't sign on as well?

Another question: How deep is NYPD's commitment to traffic safety? Their public information office apparently follows a policy of divulging as little about traffic deaths as possible. When Streetsblog called to see if NYPD possessed any information to buttress witness accounts in the Daily News of the crash, a spokesperson provided nothing, saying that accident reports are not even given to victims' families.

Alexander Toulouse's family released a statement soon after the crash:

Zander was a very popular little boy at his school and the neighborhood where he was known for being polite and very smart. He loved subways and ‘Dancing with the Stars’. He was a joy to his parents who are utterly devastated by their loss.

Photo: Aaron Naparstek

4 Comments

Infinite Jest


Here's a little back-to-school fun:

With the help of an underground tunnel this group of 94 high school seniors from who-knows-where created a never-ending line of pedestrians crossing the street, not allowing a single car to pass for a full 15 minutes. Granted, it's a bit man power-intensive but wow, is this ever an effective traffic-calming technique. At one point in the video above, a thrilled particpant says, "We are going to get in so much trouble for this!"

In addition to being a fine prank, this is pretty much exactly the same tactic that Transportation Alternatives and Downtown community members used in 1996 to launch what ultimately became the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project. As an act of civil disobedience, a line of marchers ground traffic to a halt by walking in a continuous circle, filling all four crosswalks at a busy intersection during morning rush hour.

Via CollegeHumor.com

13 Comments

City Promises $5M in Ped Safety Improvements at Mural Opening


The mother and grandfather of James Rice.

With weeping family members and the ghostly, smiling images of three boys watching over them, city officials and elected representatives joined 100 community members on a Brooklyn street corner Tuesday evening to pledge "Not one more death."

mural_sign.jpg 

State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Assembly member Joan Millman and representatives from the Department of Transportation, NYPD and the Brooklyn District Attorney's joined members of Transportation Alternatives and the Groundswell Community Mural Project for the emotional unveiling of the three-story tall painting at the northwest corner of Butler Street and Third Avenue in Gowanus, Brooklyn.


Created by a group of local teens in a summer-long collaboration with professional artists Christopher Cardinale and Nicole Schulman, the mural depicts fifth-graders Victor Flores and Juan Estrada and 4-year-old James Rice holding traffic signs designed to remind drivers motoring along dangerous Third Avenue that pedestrians, cyclists and drivers share New York City streets. The silhouette of a fourth figure, a girl, holds a stop sign that reads, "Not one more death."

Flores and Estrada were killed at Third Ave. and 9th St. in 2004. Four-year-old James Rice was run over by the driver of a Hummer just a block away from the site of the mural earlier this year. 

Read more...
2 Comments

Why Wasn’t Traffic-Calming Built on Third Avenue?

DOT has gotten back to me with some answers.  

As Streetsblog reported Monday, New York City's Department of Transportation failed to follow through on a 2004 pledge to build potentially life-saving pedestrian safety improvements along the Third Avenue corridor where a 4-year-old boy was run over and killed last Tuesday.

Streetsblog asked DOT why the pedestrian safety recommendations were never implemented despite a March 19, 2004 announcement by DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall that DOT would make an "immediate review" of the Third Avenue corridor and accelerate "$4 million in funding for capital improvements associated with the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming... from Fiscal Year 2009 to Fiscal Year 2006."

Here is a reply, from the agency's press office:

DOT has acted on many of the recommendations of the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Report since it was published in June 2004 and improved conditions for pedestrians and cyclists. On several streets in Downtown Brooklyn, DOT has reduced the number of travel lanes, added medians and left turn bays, adjusted signal timings, converted one-ways to two-ways and added parking, all to slow vehicles down and discourage through traffic. Miles of bike lanes have been installed, including a physically separated path on Tillary Street. Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPI) were installed at 9 locations and LPI studies will begin shortly at 3 more intersections.

Capital work was delayed because the construction was more complicated than initially anticipated. Preliminary plans for all 250 recommended neckdowns were completed by DOT in March 2005, but underground utilities issues led to the need for more complex designs. The project has been divided into two phases to be handled by the Department of Design and Construction. The first phase, in the capital plan for fiscal year 2008, is fully funded at $5 million and includes the construction of neckdowns at 101 locations at 43 intersections.

To put the 2008 date in perspective, the public demonstrations that led to the creation of the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project began in 1996.

16 Comments

DOT Pledged Ped Safety Fixes by 2006 on Deadly Third Ave

New York City's Department of Transportation failed to follow through on a 2004 pledge to build potentially life-saving pedestrian safety improvements along the Third Avenue corridor where a 4-year-old boy was run over and killed last Tuesday.

DOT's announcement of $4 million in funding for the installation of "median extensions, neckdowns and other traffic-calming" measures recommended by the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming plan was made after the February 9, 2004 deaths of Juan Estrada and Victor Flores. The Park Slope fifth graders were run over and killed by a gravel-filled truck at Third Avenue and 9th Street in circumstances eerily similar and almost exactly three years prior to Tuesday's tragedy

Last week, 4-year-old James Nyprie Rice was killed at the intersection of Third Avenue and Baltic Street in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn (newspaper stories had him incorrectly named as James Jacaricce). The boy and his 18-year-old aunt were walking in the crosswalk with the pedestrian signal giving them right-of-way when a yellow General Motors Hummer, driven by 48-year-old Ken Williams of Brownsville, made a right turn off of Third Avenue and ran them over, killing the boy and injuring his aunt. Juan Estrada and Victor Flores were also killed by a right-turning truck while walking in the crosswalk with the right-of-way. In both cases the drivers walked away with a summons from police.

As reported Thursday on Streetsblog, the May 2003 final report of the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project had recommended a set of pedestrian safety measures -- a "gateway treatment" consisting of "neckdowns" and a "raised crosswalk" for the intersection of Third Avenue and Baltic Street. These particular traffic-calming measures (illustrated at right) are designed specifically to protect neighborhood streets from through-traffic and help prevent the type of "right turn conflict" that killed all three boys.

The pedestrian safety recommendations were never implemented despite a March 19, 2004 announcement by DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall that DOT would make an "immediate review" of the Third Avenue corridor and accelerate "$4 million in funding for capital improvements associated with the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming... from Fiscal Year 2009 to Fiscal Year 2006." These funds, according to the commissioner's statement would "enable DOT to install median extensions, neckdowns and other traffic-calming initiatives." Fiscal Year 2006 ended on June 30.

The 2004 deaths of Estrada and Flores made the front pages of all of the dailies and Commissioner Weinshall's commitment to accelerated traffic calming was made following an unusual and emotional joint meeting of City Council's Transportation, Education and Pubilc Safety Committees. The March 1, 2004 public hearing, which opened with a moment of silence for the two Brooklyn boys, was convened to press DOT for pedestrian safety improvements around city schools and at the location where the two boys died.

Since March 2004 the Department of Transportation has accelerated the planning of its once-moribund Safe Routes to Schools program and provided Downtown Brooklyn and surrounding neighborhoods with a number of spot traffic-calming, pedestrian safety and bicycle infrastructure improvements, many of which are illustrated in this PDF document. At Third Avenue and 9th Street where Estrada and Flores died, DOT "granted to pedestrians" a seven second head start across the intersection ahead of motor vehicles, a traffic-calming measure known as a Leading Pedestrian Interval.

Yet, three years after Commissioner Weinshall's apparent commitment, DOT has not built neckdowns, median extensions or any other significant, physical pedestrian safety measures along the dangerous Third Avenue corridor.

The three fatalities above aren't the whole story either. On December 7, 2006 a 6-year-old boy named Andry Vega, was fatally struck at 3rd Avenue and 46th Street in Sunset Park by a truck running a red light.

Though pedestrian fatalities, on the whole, have declined in New York City in recent years, Third Avenue appears to be bucking the trend.

16 Comments

Plan Urged Safety Measures for Intersection Where Boy Died

The May 2003 final report of the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project recommended pedestrian safety measures designed specifically to prevent the kind of collision that killed a four-year-old boy in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn on Tuesday afternoon.

 
A graphic from the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project final plan showing pedestrian safety recommendations for Third Avenue and Baltic Street

The five-year, $1.2 million, Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project recommended "neckdowns" and a "raised crosswalk" at Third Avenue and Baltic Street, the intersection where four-year-old James Jacaricce and his 18-year-old Aunt Ta-Nayin St. John were run over by a bright yellow General Motors Hummer driven by Ken Williams, a 48-year-old Brownsville resident (Click here to download that section of the Traffic Calming plan).

The boy and his caretaker were on their way home from the Police Athletic League nursery school at the Warren Street Houses when they were hit by Williams' SUV. They were walking in the crosswalk with the pedestrian signal giving them right-of-way when Williams, traveling northbound on Third Avenue, made a right turn and hit them, killing the boy and injuring his aunt. Police told the Daily News "The guy didn't realize he hit them because the vehicle rides very high." There is a car wash on the southeast corner of Third and Baltic. It is set back from the street and was closed for the day when the crash occurred. Apparently, the only thing impeding Williams' sightline was his own vehicle.


Looking up Baltic Street from Third Avenue

While it is impossible to know definitively if Tuesday's crash could have been prevented, the pedestrian safety measures recommended nearly four years ago in the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project are designed specifically to prevent the type of "right-turn conflict" that resulted in the four-year-old's death. The community-driven plan, created by the international consulting firm Arup, urged New York City's Department of Transportation to install neckdowns and a raised crosswalk at Baltic Street where vehicles from busy, fast-moving, truck-heavy Third Avenue turn onto the quieter, more residential street. A raised crosswalk makes pedestrians more visible to drivers as they walk across the street. Neckdowns make it more difficult for drivers to execute fast, careless turns into the crosswalk while pedestrians are crossing.

The recommendations were never implemented by the Department of Transportation despite widespread community support for the plan. DOT has not yet responded to questions about why the safety measures were never implemented.

Tuesday's crash is reminiscent of the deaths Juan Estrada and Victor Flores, fifth-graders at P.S. 124 in Park Slope, who were crushed to death by a right-turning, gravel-filled landscaping truck as they crossed Third Avenue at 9th Street, on February 9, 2004, nearly three years ago to the day of James Jacaricce's death.

5 Comments

Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project: Ten Years On

March 1996:
Residents in Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, and Boerum Hill are tired of their streets absorbing overflow from the nearby Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Neighborhood groups have tried repeatedly to convince the City to protect the neighborhoods from rush hour through traffic. So far, the City has done nothing but promise further study. DOT officials have even criticized residents for not wanting to serve as doormats for Manhattan-bound motorists. Residents are now considering civil disobedience to protect their safety and quality of life....

traffic_calming.jpg

October 2006:
Donald Gianchetta looks out from his Atlantic Avenue antique shop - which cost him more than $70,000 to restore after a cab went flying through the front window last year - and watches an endless stream of cars speeding past. "This strip is just a highway," he says. "Three of my workers have been hit just trying to cross the street here," he said. "It's out of control, this area. Something absolutely must be done. Just the other week a dear friend of mine died because of this madness"... City Transportation Department officials noted Atlantic Ave. is a busy city thoroughfare and said several improvements, such as longer pedestrian crossing times to increase safety, already have been implemented.

atlantic_ave.jpg

3 Comments

Having it Both Ways in the “Atlantic Yards” DEIS

Combing through the massive Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the "Atlantic Yards" project in Brooklyn, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign has found at least four instances of the strange, Hamlet-like soliloquy, exemplified below. 

"During this period, it is anticipated that the DOT will implement traffic calming measures developed as part of the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project (DBTCP). Under this project, which was initiated by DOT in 1997, a comprehensive area-wide strategy of physical and operational traffic calming measures was developed for Downtown Brooklyn on a corridor-by-corridor basis.... With the exception of the conversion of Smith Street from two-way to one-way northbound operation from Atlantic Avenue to Schermerhorn Street in November 2003, no specific measures in the DBTCP have been identified for implementation within the study area at this time. However, all measures remain candidates for implementation. DOT is working with the Community Boards on prioritizing these measures. DOT intends to implement measures based upon further detailed review, analysis of impacts, and community review. As no measures have been identified for implementation, the analysis of future pedestrian conditions therefore assumes that no additional improvements are implemented at analyzed pedestrian facilities in the 2010 future without the proposed project. (13-40)

So, let's see if we've got this straight:

At the start of the paragraph the DEIS anticipates that the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project will be implemented, but since no measures have been identified for implementation at this time, by the end of the paragraph the analysis assumes that Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project will not be implemented.

Is this just unclear bureaucratic writing? Careless editing? A lawyer covering all his bases by acknowledging every possible scenario? Does anyone understand this?