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Posts from the "Brooklyn Heights" Category

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Imagining a New Atlantic Avenue for de Blasio’s New York

atlantic_parking

With the dangerous, highway-like conditions on Atlantic Avenue, much of the surrounding area is under-developed. A chain link fence surrounds this parking lot near Franklin Avenue.

Atlantic Avenue is one of New York’s most prominent streets, and in most respects, it is completely broken.

Stretching more than ten miles, Atlantic cuts through several neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens while functioning mainly as an urban highway for private motorists and truckers making their way east, toward the Van Wyck and Long Island, or west, to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

It is plagued with constant, speeding traffic. The avenue’s wide, highway-like conditions induce drivers to floor it, and as a result Atlantic is one of the most dangerous streets in New York City. When Council Member Steve Levin took a speed gun out to Atlantic, he found 88 percent of drivers were going more than 10 miles per hour over the limit. From 2008 to 2012, 25 people were killed on the 7.6-mile stretch of Atlantic between Furman Street in Brooklyn Heights and 76th Street in Woodhaven.

When the city announced that Atlantic would become the first street in the “arterial slow zone” program, with a 25 mph speed limit and re-timed traffic signals, it was welcome news. Atlantic is the kind of monster that has to be tamed if the de Blasio administration is going to achieve its Vision Zero street safety goals, and the new speed limit is a good first step.

In the long-run, though, Atlantic Avenue and the many other city streets like it will need much more comprehensive changes to not only eliminate traffic deaths, but also accommodate the economic growth and housing construction goals that City Hall is after.

Today, much of Atlantic Avenue is an eyesore, especially along the stretch east of Flatbush Avenue. It’s basically an unsightly speedway, and land values along the eastern portion of Atlantic have historically been depressed. Empty lots sit beside carwashes and parking lots. Grassy weeds poke up through a decrepit median. Some portions fall under the shadow of elevated train tracks — the Atlantic Branch of the Long Island Rail Road, which otherwise runs below ground.

Does it have to be this way? Can’t we imagine an Atlantic Avenue that is an asset to the neighborhoods which surround it, rather than a challenge to work around?

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Local BID and CB 2 Ask DOT for More Safety Upgrades on Atlantic Avenue

If DOT follows through on local requests, Atlantic Avenue, here at Hoyt Street, could get some pedestrian safety upgrades. Photo: Google Maps

If DOT follows through on local requests, Atlantic Avenue, here at Hoyt Street, could get some pedestrian safety upgrades. Photo: Google Maps

Last week, Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn became the city’s first “arterial slow zone” with a 25 mph speed limit. Now, a business improvement district on the avenue’s western end is asking for pedestrian safety upgrades, and Community Board 2′s transportation committee has signed on.

“Pedestrian improvements are customer improvements,” said Atlantic Avenue BID Executive Director Josef Szende. “[Shoppers] on Atlantic Avenue are all pedestrians, at least at some point in their journey.”

The BID is asking DOT to study the following safety improvements [PDF]:

  • Leading pedestrian intervals at all eleven intersections within the BID area. (LPIs have already been installed at Clinton, Third and Fourth Avenues.)
  • Bus bulb-outs at corners to speed loading time for bus riders and shorten crossing distances for pedestrians.
  • Shared-lane markings for cyclists along Atlantic Avenue.

Community board staff refused to talk about Tuesday’s unanimous vote supporting the BID’s request, but a board member characterized the committee’s discussion as involving very little debate. Szende said the committee was skeptical of the need for shared-lane markings, since there are parallel bike lanes on Dean, Bergen and Schermerhorn Streets, but did not ask the BID to remove sharrows from its letter to DOT.

The committee did request that the BID also ask DOT about improvements to Times Plaza, the triangle between Fourth, Atlantic, and Flatbush Avenues. ”It’s kind of a drab triangle right now. It’s just asphalt. There’s no lighting, there’s no wayfinding,” Szende said. ”We’re asking DOT to take an honest look at these things, to consider them, and come back to us with whatever they think is feasible.”

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Curb-Jumping Drivers Kill Women in Manhattan and Brooklyn; No Charges

Luck, not law enforcement, is practically all that protects NYC pedestrians from reckless drivers. Photo: Post

Two pedestrians have been killed by curb-jumping drivers since Friday in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

On Friday evening at approximately 5:40, Martha Atwater was struck by the driver of a Honda truck after she stepped out of Bagel Cafe at the corner of Clinton Street and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn Heights. The unidentified motorist was traveling north on Clinton Street when he “lost control” of the vehicle, mounted the sidewalk, and pinned Atwater against the building, according to reports. From the Post:

“She just came in to buy cookies. She looked happy, she was smiling,” said the cafe manager, Alauddin Shipun.

“She walked out. I heard a big bang and she was gone. Someone was trying to lift her head up and asking her, ‘Are you OK? Are you OK?’”

The 53-year-old driver may have lost consciousness because of diabetes, a police source said.

He remained at the scene and has not been charged.

An ABC report says Atwater was conscious while pinned underneath the vehicle, and that a UPS man called her family from her cell phone. She was pronounced dead at Long Island College Hospital.

Atwater, 48, was an Emmy-winning writer and producer of children’s television shows. She was married and had two young daughters. ”The problem I have now is that I have two children,” said her husband, Tom Wallack. “One is 12 and the other is 16. They need support.”

Sunday morning at around 1:50 a collision between a cab driver and another motorist sent the cab onto the curb on Third Avenue at E. 27th Street in Kips Bay, fatally striking a woman as she stood on the sidewalk. From the Post:

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Eyes on the Street: Summer Space Revisited

Photo: Jeff Prant

Jeff Prant sent in this photo from last Sunday’s Summer Space, which just wrapped another season, on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights.

Click here for Jeff’s photos from the first day of the inaugural Summer Space, back in the summer of 2008.

Were we ever so young?

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Two-Car Crash Sends Vehicle Into Brooklyn Heights Pizza Parlor

A car crash this morning ended with one vehicle in the doorway of Brooklyn Heights restaurant Fatoosh. Photo: News 12

A two-car traffic crash on Hicks Street in Brooklyn Heights this morning ended with one of the vehicles plowing into the front door of Middle Eastern restaurant/pizza joint Fatoosh, as first reported by News 12.

Hicks is a one-way street with one traffic lane and one parking lane. Luckily, the restaurant was closed and no pedestrians were struck, according to a spokesperson for the Fire Department. The driver of the car that mounted the sidewalk suffered minor injuries, said the FDNY, and the other motorist did not sustain injuries. No structural damage was done to the building.

The NYPD press office did not have information about the circumstances of the crash, since no one was seriously injured.

This crash occurred in the 84th Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector Mark DiPaolo, the commanding officer, head to the next precinct community council meeting. The 84th Precinct council meetings happen at 7 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month, at various locations. Call the precinct at 718-875-6811 for information.

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On Path to Brooklyn Bridge Park, DOT Plans Safer Way Across BQE On-Ramp

A redesign of this Atlantic Avenue on-ramp to the BQE should make walking to Brooklyn Bridge Park easier and safer. Image: Google Maps

Just one of the many problems with running an interstate highway through the heart of an urban area is what to do with the on-ramps and off-ramps. Motorists accustomed to freeway speeds, or eager to reach them, can drive more aggressively than normal and without as much regard for pedestrians and cyclists. At one on-ramp to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, where increasing numbers of people are crossing to reach the new Brooklyn Bridge Park, DOT hopes to make things safer with a new intersection design and an end to right turns on red [PDF].

DOT proposes putting a new traffic island in the middle of the Atlantic Avenue/BQE on-ramp. The island cuts the crossing distance for pedestrians, previously 80 feet, into two pieces, creating a safer path for those headed to the park.

The redesign shortens crossing distances for pedestrians and prevents illegal turns across their right-of-way. Image: NYC DOT

Extending back from the island will be a line of bollards and striping to more clearly divide the right turn lane from the through lane: no more right turns from the left lane. The drivers waiting in the right turn lane will also have to wait for a proper green light to turn onto the highway. The intersection had been one of the few in the city where right turns on red were allowed, though only during the morning rush.

Last year, DOT reduced the right-turn-on-red hours at the on-ramp, but neighborhood leaders including City Council Member Brad Lander and State Senator Dan Squadron continued to push for additional safety upgrades.

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DOT Plan: No More Fighting Over Scraps at South End of Brooklyn Bridge Park

At the southern end of Brooklyn Bridge Park, DOT will calm traffic and create space on the street to take cyclists off the sidewalk. Click for a larger version. Image: NYC DOT

Last week we covered DOT’s proposed safety improvements for the north side of Brooklyn Bridge Park, where sidewalk extensions, bike lanes, and planted medians will all be used to help pedestrians and cyclists safely reach the waterfront. DOT is also turning its attention to improving access to the southern entrance to the park, presenting a plan to Community Board 6 tomorrow evening [PDF]. The proposal reclaims some significant tracts of asphalt, giving pedestrians and cyclists more room on a critical segment of the evolving Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway.

The southern access point to Brooklyn Bridge Park, where Atlantic Avenue meets Pier 6, is if anything less hospitable than the northern one. Atlantic Avenue is a notorious speedway — on a stretch further east, cars were recently clocked at an average of 38 miles per hour — and pedestrians who use it to reach the park must cross BQE ramps. Atlantic comes to an end at the park in the form of a 90-foot-wide asphalt rectangle, where pedestrians and cyclists approaching on the south side squeeze onto a sidewalk only four feet wide.

The most prominent item in DOT’s menu of improvements for park access will re-allocate a chunk of that space to pedestrians and cyclists, carving out a plaza and two-way bike lane from all the extraneous pavement. On the sidewalk side of the bike lane, a ten-foot buffer will ensure that truck drivers leaving the adjacent Port Authority facility can see cyclists.

The proposal extends the two-way bike lane treatment south onto Columbia Street, clearly separating cycling space from walking space — no more fighting over sidewalk scraps. The plan calls for separating the bikeway from traffic with Jersey barriers. The room for this expansion of bike-ped space comes from removing a southbound traffic lane and narrowing the others, which should have a traffic-calming effect. A new pedestrian island will also make it easier to cross Atlantic at Columbia.

The DOT plan also includes a signal retiming and possible red light enforcement camera at the northbound BQE on-ramp on Atlantic.

DOT will present the plan to the CB6 transportation committee tomorrow at Long Island College Hospital at 6:30 p.m.

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DOT Unveils Livable Streets Makeover for Approach to Brooklyn Bridge Park

The Old Fulton Street redesign imposes some order, reclaims space for pedestrians, and fortifies bike routes. Image: NYC DOT

Last week NYC DOT presented plans for expanded pedestrian areas and upgraded bike markings on Old Fulton Street, which serves as the primary gateway to the recently opened Pier 1 of Brooklyn Bridge Park. The plan [PDF] calls for a new pedestrian plaza, treatments to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists crossing highway exits, and a concrete median intended to prevent illegal parking and bus drop-offs in the middle of Old Fulton Street. The transportation committee of Brooklyn Community Board 2 approved the plan in a 7-2 vote with one abstention.

Old Fulton Street is seeing a lot more use since the opening of Pier 1 last year, and it should only attract more people as the park adds new sections. The street also leads right to Fulton Ferry Landing, one of the stops along the route of the city’s new East River ferry service. But Old Fulton Street currently meets the park and the ferry landing with big open expanses of asphalt, leading to something of a free-for-all among drivers and buses making drop-offs at the park.

The redesign aims to impose some order, give priority to pedestrians, and prevent buses from unloading passengers and making U-turns at the end of Old Fulton Street. Tour buses will be encouraged to load and unload on Furman Street, out of the way of the main walking and biking routes to the park.

The full project includes a number of features to make walking and biking to the park safer and more convenient:

  • Sidewalk extensions, planted medians, and crosswalks where Old Fulton Street crosses entrances and exits to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway
  • Additions to the bike network: Sharrows on Old Fulton will be upgraded to striped lanes, and a short stretch of Front Street will get new markings, enhancing the connection between DUMBO and the route of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway
  • A neckdown where York Street empties onto Front Street will narrow the crossing distance from 71 feet to 25 feet

As part of the reconfiguration, the B25 will be re-routed to avoid performing a U-turn on Old Fulton on weekends, most likely by following the same circuit it takes on weekdays. More details from the DOT presentation after the jump.

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Henry St. Placard Abuser Fends Off NYPD By Mixing Church and State

Is the operator of this car on official Parks Department business or praying? And why does either activity excuse parking in the bike lane? Photo: Peter Kaufman

At this point, it’s hardly news that the length of the Henry Street bike lane was filled with parked cars yesterday (see here and here). Being a Sunday, it was par for the course, though still infuriating, that churchgoers were taking advantage of an informal agreement with the police to snatch that lane away from cyclists and give it to parkers during services. Can it get more outrageous than the status quo? Yes it can.

Ink Lake blogger Peter Kaufman snapped a few pics that nicely capture the multiple layers of exemptions and perks that NYC’s entitled motoring class employs at the curbside. A white SUV was parked in the bike lane. On the side and rear windows was printed “City of New York Parks & Recreation, Construction Division, Official Use Only.” On the front dashboard sat a homemade placard: “Attending Liturgy: Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral.”

From the driver’s perspective, this was probably a sensible belt-and-suspenders approach. If the police officer wouldn’t give the driver a pass for being a fellow city employee, being at church should put him over the top.

From the perspective of common sense and the law, of course, the doubled-up exemption shows just how absurd the system has become. The city had better hope that its employees aren’t attending mass as official business, or this could pretty quickly turn into a matter for the ACLU and not just transportation advocates. And whether it’s waiving the rules for city employees or worshippers, the NYPD doesn’t have the authority to change the rules for groups it favors and put cyclists’ safety at risk in the process.

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Illegal Parking in Brooklyn Heights: Scenes From the Placard Orgy

Spotted outside Our Lady of Lebanon on Henry Street on a recent Sunday.

Spotted outside Our Lady of Lebanon on Henry Street on a recent Sunday.

A few weeks ago we ran an update on the Henry Street bike lane in Brooklyn Heights, where members of the First Presbyterian Church illegally park on Sundays and police look the other way. The era of NYPD-sanctioned bike lane blocking had supposedly come to an end this summer, right before primary day, when local Assembly member Joan Millman said she’d told the 84th Precinct to start enforcing the law. But afterward, the lane-blocking resumed, and Millman explained to Community Board 2 that she’d brokered a “compromise” that allowed churchgoers to keep on parking in the bike lane during services.

One reader went to check up on the situation and found that the bike lane-blocking churchgoers not only get a free pass from law enforcement — they’re all part of the same fraternity. Here’s his tour of Henry Street on a recent Sunday, starting at First Presbyterian:

Most cars (there were 15 in the bike lane) had bogus “Church Business” placards on their dashboard, though one had a DOT Agency Business Permit, and one parked in the No Parking Anytime zone had a District Attorney placard! Calls to 311 were made, but according to the 311 web site, the cops showed up hours after church service was over. In fact, the only police activity I saw was two NYPD Highway Patrol employees illegally park their cruiser in a “No Standing Anytime” zone for an hour while they grabbed lunch at a nearby diner.

It seems that the siren call of parking sin has spread elsewhere in Brooklyn Heights. Further down Henry Street, at the corner of Remsen Street, the Catholics are taking a cue from the Presbyterians, and are one-upping their brethren! Members of Our Lady of Lebanon were observed parking upwards of 15 cars simultaneously in the bike lane and on the sidewalk, as well as several in front of the Church in a No Parking Anytime zone. All sported bogus Church placards, sacred offerings to the saints of traffic.

While investigating the situation, I came across a Traffic Enforcement Agent giving a ticket to a commercial van parked at a hydrant at Henry Street and Montague Street. The owner of the van yelled out of a nearby window, unsuccessfully pleading with the TEA not to ticket him. I called the TEA over and asked him if he was going to ticket the drivers parked in the bike lane too. He responded that he could not, saying that his bosses said the church members could park there during services. I asked who, specifically, this order came from — the response was “Brooklyn North.” [Editor's note: Brooklyn North encompasses several precincts. The commanding officer is Chief Gerald Nelson.]

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