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Posts from the "Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership" Category

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Park Avenue in Clinton Hill Awaits Fixes as Another Crash Caught on Camera

Last September, local elected officials joined the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership and students from Benjamin Banneker Academy on Brooklyn’s Park Avenue to clock speeding drivers. The Partnership released a report offering suggestions to city agencies about how to improve pedestrian safety on the dangerous avenue, which has a crash rate higher than three-quarters of Brooklyn streets. More than a year later, the city has yet to advance any significant changes.

In the meantime, the crashes continue. One hotspot is the intersection with Washington Avenue, which in the span of 20 days saw two drivers run red lights and crash into other vehicles, sending vehicles onto the sidewalk or through the crosswalk. Last month, a driver heading north on Washington Avenue ran a red light and struck another vehicle traveling west on Park Avenue. The westbound driver careened onto the sidewalk, and the car smashed through the front door of the Fresh Fanatic supermarket. The store captured the crash on its security camera.

Then last Tuesday at approximately 11:20 a.m., a northbound driver on Washington ran the same light, crashing into a westbound van driver before spinning through the crosswalk and into a bike-share station (above). Immediately after this crash, a third driver began driving the wrong way on the eastbound lanes of Park Avenue, crashing head-on into an SUV. FDNY says four people were transported to Woodhull Hospital after last week’s back-to-back crashes, including one person with serious but nonfatal injuries.

“We are puzzled that DOT isn’t taking the next logical step and prioritizing this project,” the Partnership said in a statement last week.  In addition to NYCHA’s Ingersoll and Whitman Houses, there are eight schools along this short stretch of Park Avenue. Community Board 2 unanimously supported the plan in June 2012 and a petition has gathered more than 1,000 signatures. The project is also supported by Council Member Letitia James, Assembly Member Joe Lentol, and Borough President Marty Markowitz.

“The traffic along Park Avenue has been consistently dangerous,” James said in a statement. “It is time DOT take action to address safety along the strip.”

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Eyes on the Street: New Places to Sit on Myrtle Avenue

A new tree guard bench on Myrtle Avenue near Carlton Avenue. Photo: Stephen Miller

Combining public seating and tree protection, the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership has begun a second round of street furniture installations. The project is bringing 28 tree guards and 22 benches to Myrtle Avenue between Flatbush and Classon Avenues by the end of the year, joining 40 tree guards and benches that were installed in 2011.

At one of the tree pits on Myrtle Avenue this summer, local residents set up folding chairs and hung out on the street, making it an obvious candidate for a tree guard bench, said the Partnership’s Daniel Scorse.

Students in art classes at neighborhood schools created the designs for ten of the new guards, which were then prepped for fabrication by the Pratt Design Incubator for Sustainable Innovation.

The Partnership is seeking sponsors to help defray the cost of maintaining the benches and tree guards. The latest installations were funded by the Partnership’s BID, ConEd and New York State urban forestry and Main Street programs.

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“Park Avenue Is Broken, And It Can Be Fixed”

Left, Council Member Letitia James and Assembly Member Joseph Lentol speak in support of MARP's Park Avenue plan. Right, an 11th grade student from Benjamin Banneker Academy measures speeding. Photos: Stephen Miller

Council Member Letitia James and Assembly Member Joseph Lentol joined local residents on Park Avenue in Brooklyn yesterday to push DOT and other city agencies to implement recommendations from the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Partnership’s pedestrian safety plan. The plan calls for a set of pedestrian safety improvements and traffic enforcement measures to make Park Avenue less of a BQE service road and more of a neighborhood street.

“Government’s most primary responsibility is to protect its citizens,” Lentol said. “We definitely need traffic calming measures.” Lentol also called for an expansion of speed cameras in the city. “Speed kills,” he said. “We’ve got to slow these cars down.”

Over a two-hour period on a recent afternoon, MARP clocked 40 percent of drivers on Park Avenue speeding, with the fastest hitting 53 mph. When a student from Benjamin Banneker Academy broke out the speed gun yesterday afternoon, the first reading came back at 38 mph. New York City’s speed limit is 30 mph.

M. Blaise Backer, executive director of MARP, called on city agencies to begin design and implementation of the report’s recommendations. “Park Avenue is broken, and it can be fixed,” he said. “We have to get DOT’s attention.”

Council Member James echoed the sentiment. “We really need to get all of the entities involved to focus on this,” she said. James and Lentol were joined by representatives of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Transportation Alternatives at the event.

Community participation in formulating the plan has been significant. If you’d like to learn more about how MARP and its partners collaborated on the report, the Center for Architecture will host a panel Friday morning featuring architects, planners and community members.

Community members read the report and sign the petition asking DOT to implement the pedestrian safety plan's recommendations. Photos: Stephen Miller

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Park Avenue Plan Challenges Agencies to Improve Street for Pedestrians

In 1959, when the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway was under construction, Park Avenue in the Wallabout section of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill was converted from a neighborhood street to a service road that would run underneath the new elevated highway. Walking on the street hasn’t been the same since. With 160,000 cars roaring by overhead each day, two lanes in each direction on the surface, and more than 300 parking spaces in the median, the street is not what you would call pedestrian-friendly. It’s also dangerous, with a crash rate higher than three-quarters of Brooklyn streets.

"The Crossover," where the BQE and Park Avenue part ways, currently functions like a highway merge on surface streets (top). Under a new, community-backed proposal, this location would see major changes to curb speeding and make crossings safer (bottom). Image: MARP/Architecture for Humanity

More than 50 years after Robert Moses and the BQE changed Park Avenue, the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project Local Development Corporation (MARP) is pushing to enhance the street for walking and public activity, unveiling a slate of proposals to reduce speeding and improve pedestrian safety [PDF].

In 2009 and 2010, MARP hosted three community workshops as part of an effort to reuse spaces beneath the BQE. Based on community feedback at those events, the group decided to focus on traffic safety. In late 2010, Architecture for Humanity New York joined the project, working with MARP throughout 2011 to conduct research and host workshops. An advisory committee comprised of residents, community organizations and city agencies also helped guide the recommendations. Funding for the report was provided by the Brooklyn Community Foundation.

The recommendations are comprehensive and address everything from litter to traffic signal timing. In May, MARP went before Community Board 2′s transportation committee, which voted unanimously to support the proposals.

Intersections would receive significant upgrades. The plan calls for neckdowns and crosswalk markings on cross-streets along the median. Access points to parking underneath the BQE would be marked as pedestrian crossings, with raised crosswalks and stop signs. At North Portland, Clinton and Clermont Avenues, the report recommends closing auto access to parking under the BQE to improve safety for the higher number of pedestrians crossing Park Avenue at those intersections.

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DOT Rolls Out Fort Greene Bike Lanes & Traffic-Calming


Via Brownstoner, the Department of Transportation is building out a nice street redesign project in Brooklyn right now as a part of its Ft. Greene Bike Lane & Traffic Calming Project (download a project description here). Formerly a 70-foot-wide one-way street, Carlton Avenue, above, has been converted to two-way operation with five-foot bike lanes on either side. DOT is now building a 20-foot wide planted median in the middle. The Carlton Ave. improvements are similar to recent projects on Park Slope's 9th Street and Vanderbilt Ave. in Prospect Heights.

The Myrtle Avenue BID reports:

Construction has begun on Carlton Avenue (Myrtle/Park) to build a raised median with trees. This bike lane and traffic calming project aims to connect bike lanes from Northwest Brooklyn to Prospect Park and is a collaboration between the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) and NYC Parks Department (Parks).

The DOT is constructing the median and Parks will maintain it. The project has moved very quickly. Planning began in 2006. By early 2007, the DOT made adjustments to the street configuration with painted lines. Now that construction has begun, the raised median should be completely installed by the end of the year. The planted median will have a mid-block break to allow cars to make a U-turn.

In a memorable meeting last June, Brooklyn's Community Board 2 rejected DOT's "complete street" plan in a 16-15 vote. CB2 member Anthony Ibelli said the neighborhood didn't need any bike lanes because cyclists are "thugs on two wheels." Other Community Board members argued that narrowing the 70-foot-wide one-way street would create traffic back-ups and bottlenecks. 

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Seeing Myrtle Avenue With Fresh Eyes

The folks over at the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership have unveiled the results of a collaboration with the Project for Public Spaces (PPS) undertaken over the last couple of years. Two public workshops were held to get community input on the plans, which address four different areas of Myrtle Avenue, one of the main commercial streets for Fort Greene and Clinton Hill.

The days when Myrtle was known as "Murder Avenue" are long past. Thriving shops and restaurants line much of the street, in part thanks to the efforts of the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project and the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Business Improvement District (constituent members of the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership). But many areas remain where the street's potential is going unrealized, and that's what the collaboration with PPS was meant to address. "We were looking at streetscape conditions," says Vaidila Kungys, the partnership's program manager for planning and economic development. "There's a lot of clutter, crowded sidewalks and problematic intersections."


There are also huge swaths of underused or poorly used space, including the area between Carlton and Ashland, which borders Fort Greene Park and the Walt Whitman Houses, and the portion from Hall Street to Emerson Place, which fronts on a superblock. Because of a four-block service road in this section, seven lanes devoted to vehicles separate one side of the street from the other. Pratt's freshly revealed plans for the site at 524 Myrtle could be a catalyst for improvements here.

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The report shows how a service road next to a superblock marginalizes pedestrians

Michael Blaise Backer, executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership, is optimistic about the group's chances for implementing at least some of the recommendations that come out of the study before too much time passes. Some solutions, like the ones proposed for the intersection of Clinton Avenue and Myrtle (sketches above), are relatively simple, and Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership's solid track record with community leaders, business owners and politicians will certainly make a difference. "We've got all the stakeholders involved," says Backer. He notes as well that the current leadership at DOT is likely to be receptive to this sort of "livable streets" improvement.

We'll keep an eye on it.