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Bay Ridge CB Overwhelmingly Backs Bike Lanes, Pedestrian Safety Fixes

Bike lanes and pedestrian safety improvements are coming to Bay Ridge after a pair of votes at Brooklyn Community Board 10 last week. It’s a turnaround from just a few years ago, when the board gained a reputation as one of the most anti-bike in the city.

After years of work at the community board, bike lanes are coming to Bay Ridge. Map: DOT [PDF]

After years of work at the community board, bike lanes are coming to Bay Ridge. Map: DOT [PDF]

After voting down a 2011 DOT proposal to add bike lanes to Bay Ridge Parkway, CB 10 went back to the drawing board and came up with its own list of streets where it wanted bike lanes. DOT came back with a plan last summer, and the plan finally passed the transportation committee on April 16 before clearing the full board in a 30-5 vote on April 20 [PDF].

“Most of the people were quite satisfied with the changes that DOT made. The process was very long and cumbersome, but in the end the final proposal that DOT brought forth was perfectly in line with the wishes of the committee,” said CB 10 member Bob HuDock. While a handful of people, led by former transportation committee member Alan Bortnick, voted against the plan, it passed the full board with flying colors last week.

“It was a really stunning turnaround from four years ago,” HuDock said. “It was not a very controversial thing. Everybody had seen this plan evolve over the years.”

The proposal [PDF] forms a loop on the northern, eastern, and southern sides of CB 10. Shared lane markings will be added to Sixth Avenue from Fort Hamilton Parkway to 68th Street. Fort Hamilton Parkway will get striped bike lanes, from Sixth Avenue to 92nd Street, and shared lanes from 92nd Street to Marine Avenue. Shared lanes will also be added to Marine Avenue from Fort Hamilton Parkway to Colonial Road.

In the northern section of the neighborhood, striped bike lanes are being added to 68th and 72nd streets west of Sixth Avenue. Fifth Avenue from 65th Street to 72nd Street will receive shared lane markings.

Some of the biggest changes are coming to Seventh Avenue near the Gowanus Expressway, where extra-wide lanes will be narrowed to make room for striped bike lanes.

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Bike Lanes on Track for Staten Island’s Clove Road Early This Summer

The project has three segments: sharrows north of Forest Avenue, narrowed car lanes to make room for bike lanes south of Broadway, and a road diet plus bike lanes in the middle. Map: DOT [PDF]

The project has three segments: sharrows north of Forest Avenue, narrowed car lanes to make room for bike lanes south of Broadway, and a road diet plus bike lanes in the middle. Map: DOT [PDF]

Clove Road is set to get bike lanes this summer, including a half-mile road diet, nearly two years after Staten Island Community Board 1 asked DOT for the street safety fixes.

Running past the Staten Island Zoo on the way from Wagner College to Port Richmond, Clove Road is a key diagonal connection across North Shore neighborhoods. The project covers 2.3 miles, from Richmond Terrace to Howard Avenue, just north of the Staten Island Expressway.

With 7.3 traffic deaths or serious injuries each year per mile, this section of Clove Road is a “high-crash corridor,” according to DOT [PDF].

The northernmost section, between Richmond Terrace and Forest Avenue, will get sharrows. On the southernmost section, from Broadway to Howard Avenue, existing car lanes will be narrowed to make room for five-foot, painted bike lanes on each side of the four-lane road.

For the half-mile in between, which runs from Forest Avenue to Broadway near the Staten Island Zoo, DOT is proposing a road diet. The street will be converted from four lanes in each direction to two, with a striped center median and turn lane. Painted bike lanes will be added in both directions.

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Gale Brewer Reappoints Safe Streets Foes to Manhattan Community Boards

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer has reappointed a slate of community board members with a long history of opposing safer streets and better transit.

Brewer announced her 2015 board appointments on Monday. Among those granted another two-year term was Community Board 7’s Dan Zweig. Zweig was recommended by Council Member Helen Rosenthal and reappointed by Brewer despite protests by neighborhood residents and traffic violence victims all-too-familiar with his hostility toward projects that would save lives and reduce injuries on Upper West Side streets. Zweig’s reappointment will complicate efforts to install a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue, which Rosenthal has said she supports.

Gale Brewer tells traffic violence victims how nasty they are for urging her to remove street safety obstructionists from community boards. Photo: Stephen Miller

Gale Brewer told street safety advocates they were “nasty” for urging her to remove obstructionists from Manhattan community boards. Photo: Stephen Miller

Community board votes are supposed to be advisory, but in practice, if a board opposes a street redesign, nine times out of ten DOT will water it down to the board’s satisfaction or withdraw the project altogether. Board member objections usually center on perceived impediments to driving and parking.

Hostile community boards are a huge obstacle to Vision Zero. Yet Brewer said last year she would not remove board members who oppose transit and street safety improvements. Through two rounds of appointments she has stayed true to her word.

Led by chair Henrietta Lyle, Harlem’s CB 10 has held up bus lanes on 125th Street and delayed safety fixes on streets including Morningside Avenue and Lenox Avenue. Lyle has dismissed census data showing that most Harlem households are car-free, and complained to Streetsblog that “empty” bus lanes on 125h Street slow her cab rides to the subway. Lyle was nominated this year by Council Member Inez Dickens and reappointed by Brewer. Brewer also reappointed CB 10’s Barbara Nelson, who opposes road diets and almost single-handedly stalled a plaza proposed by Harlem neighborhood groups.

Ted Kovaleff marshaled a CB 9 transportation committee vote against a road diet for Riverside Drive and pedestrian islands for W. 120th Street. The decision was based in part on Kovaleff’s belief that Riverside should remain conducive to speeding because traffic congestion used to interfere with his weekend car trips to Vermont. Brewer reappointed Kovaleff to CB 9.

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Queens BP Melinda Katz Prioritizes Parking Over Affordable Housing

Few things set off alarm bells for car-owning New Yorkers more than the thought of having less parking. So when the Department of City Planning proposed a minor reduction in parking requirements, the community board chairs of Queens got a case of road rage, with Borough President Melinda Katz at the wheel.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz thinks parking mandates are more important than Photo: MelindaKatz/Twitter

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. Photo: MelindaKatz/Twitter

Here’s the problem: The city requires parking for most new development — a mandate that jacks up the cost of housing, even if residents don’t own cars. Senior citizens and low-income households, especially near transit, are less likely than other New Yorkers to own cars, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

As part of a package of reforms, DCP has proposed removing parking requirements for new senior and affordable housing developments within a half-mile of the subway, and to reduce or simplify them elsewhere.

This is a small step in the right direction, unless you’re a car-owning Queens community board chair. The crowd at Monday’s borough board meeting was apoplectic over the idea of eliminating some government parking mandates, reports the Queens Chronicle:

“Where are they going to go? This is crazy,” Community Board 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri Jr. said…

“I can’t think of any development in this borough where parking wasn’t an issue to some degree,” said Betty Braton, chairwoman of CB 10.

Joseph Hennessy, chairman of CB 6, added that many senior citizens still own cars and don’t get around using public transportation…

Dolores Orr — chairwoman of CB 14, which represents the Rockaways — said the agency was not looking at the “quality of public transportation” in the areas where it seeks to loosen the requirements…

Arcuri added that parking is already hard to find, a point echoed by several other board members.

“I can’t see anywhere in this borough where people would be supportive of downsizing parking requirements,” Braton said, according to the Forum.

They were joined in their opposition by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who heads the borough board and appoints community board members. She issued a statement after the meeting:

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Two Community Boards Sign Off on Greenpoint Avenue Bridge Bike Lanes

New bike lanes on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge (solid blue arrows) have received support from two community boards. Tweaks to Greenpoint Avenue in Brooklyn are also moving ahead, but bike routes in Queens CB 2 are on hold as  Map: DOT

New bike lanes on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge (solid blue arrows) have received support from two community boards, but the intersection of Greenpoint and Borden Avenues (purple dot) remains in question. Map: DOT [PDF]

Four years ago, DOT shelved a plan that would have added bike lanes to the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, also known as the J.J. Byrne Bridge, after a year of outcry from area businesses and residents. Now, a modified plan has cleared two community boards little more than a month after it was first proposed.

Unlike the previous plan, which put both eastbound and westbound traffic on a road diet, slimming the bridge from two lanes in each direction to one, the new proposal has one Brooklyn-bound car lane and two Queens-bound car lanes [PDF]. Cyclists will have six-foot bike lanes on either side, with four-foot buffers. As in the previous plan, the bike lanes will not be protected from car traffic.

DOT is also proposing adjustments to the Greenpoint Avenue bike lane from McGuinness Boulevard to Kingsland Avenue, where it connects with the J.J. Byrne Bridge. Some blocks will be converted to sharrows, while others will be upgraded to curbside buffered bike lanes that are wider than the current, faded markings, and will be painted green for improved visibility [PDF].

Resolutions supporting both the bridge bike lanes and the Greenpoint Avenue tweaks received overwhelming support from Brooklyn Community Board 1 at its general board meeting on Tuesday evening, according to Transportation Alternatives Brooklyn committee co-chair Becca Kaplan, who was there.

On the other side of the bridge, Queens CB 2 also voted overwhelmingly for the bridge bike lanes at its general board meeting on April 1, according to former CB 2 member Emilia Crotty.

While it’s given a thumbs-up to bike lanes on the bridge, CB 2 has yet to take action on DOT’s second phase of bike routes planned for Sunnyside and Long Island City [PDF].

The proposal, which calls for shared lane markings on Greenpoint Avenue leading northeast from the bridge, includes the intersection of Greenpoint and Borden Avenues, which has long been of concern to local residents.

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Harlem Bus Lane Foes: Good Streets for Bus Riders “Trampling Our Liberties”

Photo: NYC DOT/MTA [PDF]

Camera-enforced bus lanes have trampled on the freedom to double-park on 125th Street. Photo: NYC DOT/MTA [PDF]

Community board meetings in central Harlem have officially gone off the deep end.

A DOT plan to extend bus lanes and add turn restrictions on 125th Street was shouted down last night by the same hecklers who have filibustered street safety improvements at Community Board 10 for years. Noticeably absent from last night’s meeting: People who ride the bus on 125th Street.

Bus lanes on 125th Street have already sped up bus trips east of Lenox Avenue. Extending them west to Morningside Avenue would spare tens of thousands of bus riders from getting stuck in traffic. Council Member Mark Levine, who represents the western end of 125th, is a big backer of the bus lanes, while Council Member Inez Dickens, who represents the middle section of the street and is closely tied to CB 10, is not.

Last night’s ridiculousness crescendoed when onetime City Council candidate and regular community board attendee Julius Tajiddin channeled Patrick Henry to make his case against dedicating street space to bus riders. “Your progress is trampling on our liberties,” he said. “Give us freedom!” The three-quarters of Harlem households who don’t own cars probably have a different take on “freedom” than Tajiddin.

CB 10 chair Henrietta Lyle nodded in agreement. “It’s a lack of respect… It’s almost like the project is going to go with or without our approval,” she said earlier in the meeting. “It doesn’t take into consideration the cars, the trucks, the tour vans on 125th Street.”

DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione said that while DOT intends to expand bus lanes this summer, it is willing to make tweaks in response to CB 10’s concerns. For example, she said, the agency had already removed proposed left turn bans at St. Nicholas Avenue, and is willing to toss out additional turn restrictions if CB 10 makes even an informal request.

MTA officials had less patience for last night’s nonsense. “Freedom is the ability to get across 125th Street 33 percent faster on a bus,” said Evan Bialostozky, senior transportation planner at MTA New York City Transit.

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Expecting DOT Street Safety Projects to Deliver More Than the Minimum

Spring Street in Soho is getting striped bike lanes -- but street safety won't come at the expense of on-street parking. Image: DOT [PDF]

Spring Street in Soho is getting striped bike lanes and sharrows, which doesn’t prioritize safety above the preservation of on-street car parking. Image: DOT [PDF]

A DOT plan to add painted bike lanes and sharrows to Spring Street [PDF] doesn’t go far enough to prioritize walking and biking, says Community Board 2 transportation vice-chair Maury Schott.

Last Thursday, DOT presented the proposal to the CB 2 transportation committee. Two-thirds of the audience supported the plan, meeting attendees said, and neighborhood NIMBY ringleader Sean Sweeney was a no-show. In the end, the plan received a unanimous 10-0 vote.

The lack of opposition, however, may be a sign of DOT timidity more than anything else. “The proposal by DOT was, to say the least, minimally intrusive,” Schott told Streetsblog. “It was as much as you could hope to do without making the commitment to remove parking on at least one side of the street.”

Although DOT has been on a roll this year with proposals for road diets and protected bike lanes, the agency’s designs usually don’t subtract much parking. Avoiding the removal of car storage may head off small-scale political fights, but it also limits the impact of the city’s street safety projects.

Schott said he wants to see DOT prioritize safe walking and biking over on-street parking, rather than the other way around. In Lower Manhattan, where about 80 percent of households are car-free, the politics should be especially favorable for major changes. Many people at last week’s meeting, Schott said, were also frustrated by “half-measures” from the agency.

“So far, many people feel that Vision Zero is a lot more talk than it is action,” Schott said. “The whole rhetoric of Vision Zero is that New York is a pedestrian-friendly or a pedestrian-dominated city. If you want to say that, then the first thing you have to realistically do is say that supporting the private ownership of private automobiles should not be a priority in any way.”

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DOT Safety Plan for Corona’s 111th Street Faces Uphill Battle at Queens CB 4

This road diet and protected bike lane is too much for Queens CB 4 to handle. Image: DOT [PDF]

This road diet and protected bike lane, which will improve connections between Corona residents and Flushing Meadows Corona Park, doesn’t have enough car lanes for some Queens CB 4 members. Image: DOT [PDF]

A dangerous street that Corona residents have to cross to get to Flushing Meadows Corona Park is in line for a serious traffic-calming plan, complete with a two-way protected bike lane [PDF], but local community board members are balking at the proposal.

Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the largest park in Queens, is ringed by highways that cut off access from the neighborhoods around it. The one exception is 111th Street on the west side of the park. But instead of functioning as a welcoming entrance to the park, 111th Street is designed like a surface highway, with three southbound car lanes divided from two northbound lanes by a planted median. Residents have to walk up to 1,300 feet, or five blocks, before finding a marked crosswalk, and 84 percent of cyclists ride on the sidewalk, according to DOT.

Last year, Make the Road New York, Immigrant Movement International, the Queens Museum, and Transportation Alternatives organized for better walking and biking access to the park. Council Member Julissa Ferreras signed on, asking DOT last fall to install bike lanes throughout her district, including on 111th Street [PDF].

The DOT proposal delivers: It would calm the street by narrowing it to one lane of car traffic in each direction. The edge of the street along the park would receive a two-way parking-protected bikeway with pedestrian islands. Moving lanes would be replaced by parking along the median on the southbound side. At intersections, median extensions would shorten crossing distances for pedestrians, which currently stretch up to 94 feet.

This seems to be too much for some key members of Queens Community Board 4.

DOT presented its plan to three members of CB 4 at a special meeting of its transportation committee last Tuesday. “It was definitely a heated, emotional meeting,” said Amy Richards, who coordinates the Partnership for a Healthier Queens program at Make the Road New York. The board members were very “change-averse,” Richards said. “The meeting was tricky.”

“It’s a tough call,” CB 4 District Manager Christian Cassagnol said of the plan. “We told them to go back to the drawing board and change a couple of the small issues we were questioning.” DOT says it used the feedback to draft minor changes the original plan, which Cassagnol received this morning.

Board members last week were actually looking for major changes to the DOT plan. The big complaint from transportation committee members was “not enough traffic lanes, basically,” Cassagnol said. “That seems to be the main thing.”

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Bus Lanes Coming to 125th Street in West Harlem This Summer

bus_125

West of Lenox Avenue, there are no bus lanes on 125th Street. DOT plans to change that this summer. Photo: josepha/Flickr

Bus riders may not be stuck in crosstown traffic on 125th Street much longer. DOT plans to extend bus lanes from Lenox Avenue to Morningside Avenue this summer [PDF].

The news came last night at a meeting of the Community Board 9 transportation committee. “As far as CB 9 is concerned,” said board chair Rev. Georgette Morgan-Thomas, “I didn’t hear anything that made me think that we should not support the plan.”

Bus lanes on 125th have been held in check by years of political wrangling. But Council Member Mark Levine campaigned on moving forward with them, and his election in 2013 was a breakthrough for the project.

“I think we have great local support and a great need,” Levine said last night, adding that buses “crawl” once the bus lane disappears in West Harlem. “It’s just a great win for people in the community.”

On the section of 125th Street that already has camera-enforced bus lanes and off-board fare collection, the changes have worked wonders for bus riders. The M60 is now 32 to 34 percent faster between Lenox and Second Avenue. Local buses have also sped up between 7 and 20 percent in the bus lanes.

Meanwhile, local buses in West Harlem, which doesn’t yet have bus lanes, have actually slowed slightly between Lenox and Amsterdam Avenues, said Robert Thompson, the MTA’s manager of long-range bus service planning.

While they’ve sped up buses, the new bus lanes haven’t affected car traffic. GPS data from taxis show that eastbound driving trips on 125th are generally faster, while westbound trips have either slowed slightly or not seen any change, according to DOT.

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Queens Boulevard Safety Plan Has First Encounter With a Community Board

Queens Community Board 2 transportation committee chair Joseph Conley, left, looks at DOT's plan for Queens Boulevard in Woodside. Photo: Stephen Miller

Queens Community Board 2 transportation committee chair Joseph Conley, left, looks at DOT’s plan for Queens Boulevard in Woodside. Photo: Stephen Miller

Skepticism from the Community Board 2 transportation committee toward DOT’s proposed changes for Queens Boulevard wore off over the course of a meeting last night, as board members learned more about the project for 1.3 miles of safety improvements [PDF]. DOT will return to the committee again after tweaking the plan, which appears to be on track to receive CB 2’s backing by June, in time to put changes on the ground this summer.

The meeting got off to an inauspicious start. “The headline that’s gone out is that the community has spoken,” said committee chair Joseph Conley. The more than 100 people at a January workshop DOT hosted about Queens Boulevard, he added, shouldn’t overrule his nine-person committee. “We wanted to make sure that it came to the community board.”

But as DOT presented the proposal and answered questions last night, the heat subsided. “Queens Boulevard doesn’t lend itself to what’s happening for people that live here and work here,” Conley said later. “It’s more of a transportation corridor than anything else.”

The Queens Boulevard redesign will proceed in two phases — first with temporary materials and later with concrete. Image: NYC DOT

The most high-profile component of the project is protected bike lanes running along the Queens Boulevard service roads. A member of the public urged DOT to install more substantial protection than plastic posts, but Conley had a different view. “There’s just some roads where bicycle lanes don’t belong,” he said. “Maybe Queens Boulevard is one of those places where bicycle lanes don’t belong.”

DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo replied that the jumbled street grid in Woodside doesn’t offer alternative bike routes. “Cyclists are choosing Queens Boulevard whether or not we put a bike lane,” he said, “so what we’re trying to do is make that activity as safe and comfortable as possible.”

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