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Posts from the "Park Slope Neighbors" Category

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Two-Way Protected Bike Path Sails Through CB6 Committee

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Eric McClure of Park Slope Neighbors files this report.

Last night, the transportation committee of Brooklyn Community Board 6 unanimously endorsed a plan by the Department of Transportation to calm traffic on Prospect Park West through a major street redesign.

The plan features the implementation of New York City's first on-street, two-way, physically separated bike lane, which will run alongside Prospect Park on the east side of Prospect Park West, and will be protected by a four-foot striped buffer and a parking lane. In order to accommodate the new bike lane, Prospect Park West will be reduced from three south-bound travel lanes to two, and the remaining lanes will be narrowed to ten feet each.

The planned changes address two major issues: the need for northbound bicycle access on Prospect Park West, for which there has been strong demand, according to DOT Bicycle Program Coordinator Josh Benson; and a major problem with speeding, which has been a longtime concern of residents and neighborhood activists.

Preston Johnson, DOT's project manager for the Prospect Park West redesign, highlighted the problems caused by the street's current configuration. At nearly 50 feet wide and with three travel lanes, the street encourages high speeds and reckless driving, forces pedestrians to make long crossings, and lacks dedicated cycling space, despite a high volume of bicycle traffic. Prospect Park West's existing vehicle volume, which peaks at about 1,100 cars per hour, can easily be accommodated by two lanes, Johnson said.

In field surveys last month, DOT found that more than 70 percent of the cars on Prospect Park West were exceeding the 30 mph speed limit, and at least 15 percent were traveling at 40 mph or faster. From 2005 to 2007, there were 58 reported crashes on Prospect Park West.

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Petition: Tell DOT to Reverse the Curse on Brooklyn Speedways

How fast do cars travel on Prospect Park West? Criminally fast. All the time. Members of Park Slope Neighbors clocked cars routinely exceeding the 30 mph speed limit -- including one sociopath racing at 65 mph -- during a ten-minute stretch earlier this month. Prospect Park West and Eighth Avenue form a one-way pair funneling drivers to and from the free East River bridges and the Prospect Expressway, a configuration that makes for hazardous conditions. Last summer a school bus driver struck and killed cyclist Jonathan Millstein on Eighth Avenue. A few weeks ago a 57-year-old pedestrian was nearly killed a couple of blocks away from the Millstein incident. Parents are afraid to walk with their children across the corridor's dysfunctional intersections. NYPD enforcement is sorely lacking.

In addition to turning these beautiful and historic neighborhood streets into mini-highways, the current design of Prospect Park West and Eighth Avenue helps to create a never-ending bottleneck on Union Street below Grand Army Plaza. Because the avenues are one-way, virtually every motorist heading from Park Slope to Grand Army Plaza gets funneled on to Union Street.

Recent adjustments to signal timing haven't solved the speeding problem, so the Neighbors are asking DOT to improve safety by restoring the avenues to two-way traffic flow. You can sign a petition to DOT that also calls for a two-way protected bike path on Prospect Park West and full traffic-calming on both avenues. Here's an intriguing piece of background on the campaign:

This would actually be a "restoration" project, as 8th Avenue was changed from two-way travel to its current one-way northbound configuration on June 10th, 1930 by order of the NYPD -- because they felt there was too much northbound traffic on 8th Avenue's one northbound lane. Rather than switching Prospect Park West to two-way travel (we believe it, too, was originally a two-way street, but have been unable to find conclusive evidence to that effect) to accommodate that traffic, they saddled Park Slope with nearly eight decades of bad road design, which is why we're asking DOT to "Reverse the Curse" and restore the original traffic pattern.

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Park Slope Has Its Park(ing) Day


Evicted from their Park(ing) Day spot by the 78th Precinct last month, Park Slope Neighbors (with the PD's permission) observed the event over the weekend. StreetFilms' new producer Elizabeth Press was there, talking to participants, passers-by and motorists who support human-oriented use of valuable public space.

There will be a Park(ing) Day celebration tonight in lower Manhattan, hosted by The Open Planning Project and Transportation Alternatives. Don't forget to RSVP.

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CB6 Committee Unanimously Approves 9th St. Project

The transportation committee of Brooklyn Community Board 6, of which I'm a member, voted unanimously last night to approve DOT's traffic calming and bike lane plan for Park Slope's 9th Street. The approval came with requests that DOT build a bike lane along Prospect Park West, undertake a curbside management study aimed at alleviating double-parking and that the agency monitor the effects of the new street design over the next year. 

A crowd of about 65 people were on-hand for DOT's presentation and the Q&A period that followed. Supporters outnumbered opponents of the plan by a two-to-one margin, at least. And the composition of the crowd highlighted a stark generational divide, with opponents of seemingly all falling into the 45-to-80 age bracket.

I'm Seeing Green has a report on the meeting and the arguments that were put forward in opposition to the bike lane portion of the plan in particular. The blog notes:

What was missing from it all was a feeling that maybe, just maybe, the roads could be for us all... bikes, cars, trucks, buses and walkers. Being a strong proponent of shared streets, it was sad for me to see so many staking out their personal positions without regard to the larger picture.

Prior to the meeting, Borough President Marty Markowitz weighed in with a letter of support for the 9th Street "Road Diet" plan. "I believe that it incorporates traffic calming measures which are much desired by the greater Park Slope community," he wrote. "I would therefore like to indicate my support for the concepts presented in this proposal." No word on whether Road Diets would become part of the BP's annual "Lighten Up Brooklyn" public health campaign. 

A staffer from Velmanette Montgomery's office was handing out letters of support from the State Senator at the front door. And Council Member Sara Gonzalez sent a representative to read a strong letter of support at the beginning of the meeting. Council Member Bill de Blasio has, likewise, expressed support for the plan. State Senator Eric Adams and Assembly Member Jim Brennan, both of whom have expressed doubts about the plan, were not present at the meeting.

Along with the more than 350 letters generated by Park Slope Neighbors, Transportation Alternatives and Streetsblog readers, the approval of these elected officials virtually guarantees that DOT has more than enough public support to go forward with its 9th Street plan regardless of how the full Community Board votes on June 13.

So, good work, folks. I would say that this is a win. But stay tuned!

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Brooklyn to Mayor: Get a Transportation Policy

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A 1997 traffic-calming protest in Brooklyn Heights (Photo: Transportation Alternatives).

The neighborhoods of north Brooklyn have long been some of the most abused by regional traffic and transportation policy. So, it is not a surprise to see that the Tri-State Transportation Campaign has managed to convince twenty-eight Brooklyn neighborhood organizations to sign-on to a strongly worded letter urging Mayor Bloomberg to "formulate and implement a thorough, urgent traffic management and relief strategy."

The groups signing-on to the letter (Disclaimer: My neighborhood organization, Park Slope Neighbors, is one of them) say that they support "well-planned growth," but add:

The city's traffic situation dictates that development must be mass transit oriented, and be planned and implemented concurrently with significant transportation improvements. These improvements must effectuate policies designed to defend and enhance quality of life in our neighborhoods.

Because of the Bloomberg Administration's failure to "articulate clear, goal-oriented transportation policies or priorities" the groups note that, "worthy city transportation initiatives are few, and many drift along as studies, failing to deliver any public benefit."

They urge the Mayor to "implement a people-first policy in our neighborhoods" and suggest that: 

Traffic engineers should not be in charge of the character of our neighborhoods. City planners who understand place-making and know how to converse and work with residents should be.

Finally, the groups come right and suggest that a full-scale overhaul of the city's transportation bureaucracy might be in order:

We would appreciate a reply from your office on these serious matters. We do not want another letter from the transportation department about why nothing can be done and how years of more study are required before any decisions can be made or anything concrete can be accomplished. The city must do a better job than that and test more innovations on a practical basis. If that requires changing institutional arrangements within city government to get more done, we encourage you to proceed in that direction.

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Liz Padilla Memorial & Bike Improvements

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 On June 9, 2005, one year ago tomorrow, 28-year-old pro bono lawyer and Park Slope resident, Elizabeth Kasulis Padilla was hit by a truck and killed on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Prospect Place while riding a bicycle to her new job at the Brooklyn Bar Association.

Since that day, members of Park Slope Neighbors have been working to get the New York City Department of Transportation to make bicycle safety improvements along the narrow stretch of Fifth Avenue between Carroll and Dean Streets.

Tomorrow morning at 8:00 am at the corner of Prospect Place and Fifth Avenue, Park Slope Neighbors, Transportation Alternatives and the Park Slope Civic Council, along with elected officials, local bike commuters will gather to honor Elizabeth Padilla, read a letter from her family, and to announce the bicycle safety improvements that the Department of Transportation has agreed to make in response to our requests.

After the brief memorial, cyclists will participate in a group ride to DOT headquarters in Manhattan at 40 Worth Street. There, DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall will be presented with a letter calling for stronger street design standards to encourage bicycle commuting by better protecting New York City's cyclists.

* * * * *

Elizabeth Padilla worked as a pro bono lawyer and legal services coordinator with the Brooklyn Bar Association and was a tireless volunteer with a number of organizations. After graduating from Cornell, Ms. Padilla spurned a six-figure starting salary with a Silicon Valley law firm to do poverty law.

She worked at the Family Center in New York, providing pro bono legal services to indigent persons suffering from terminal illnesses, primarily people living with HIV-AIDS. She volunteered for Human Rights Watch, taught English as a second language to immigrant high school students, and worked in a soup kitchen run by New York Cares. A cyclist, swimmer and marathoner, as well as a personal trainer, Ms. Padilla was a member of the Achilles Club, an organization that enables people with all sorts of disabilities to participate in mainstream athletics.

DETAILS:

What: A memorial for Elizabeth Padilla followed by a group ride to DOT

Commissioner Iris Weinshall's office in Manhattan to call for stronger bike safety measures.

Where: In front of 79 Fifth Avenue, at the corner of Prospect Place, Park Slope, Brooklyn.

When: Friday, June 9th, 8:00 am

Who: Members of family, Park Slope Neighbors, Transportation Alternatives, Park Slope Civic Council, Visual Resistance, Councilmembers David Yassky and Bill DeBlasio and Community Board 6 and neighborhood cyclists.

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