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Posts from the "Brownsville" Category

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Slow Zone, Next Round of Bike Routes on Tap for Brownsville, East New York

Caption. Image: DOT

Blue lines show where new bike lanes and shared lane markings will be installed in East New York and Brownsville. Orange lines show existing shared lane markings, while red lines show existing bike lanes. Image: DOT

The fledgling bike lane network in Brownsville and East New York will continue to grow. The second of three rounds of painted on-street bike lanes — mapped out in a planning process initiated by neighborhood residents — is set to be installed by the end of the year, pending the support of Community Boards 5 and 16 later this month.

The neighborhood, which already has a 25 mph arterial slow zone along Atlantic Avenue, is also set to receive its first 20 mph neighborhood Slow Zone this summer [PDF]. Both community boards joined the Brownsville Partnership, an initiative of the non-profit Community Solutions, in applying for the Slow Zone. The project is bounded by Sutter, Rockaway, Livonia, and Pennsylvania Avenues and averages nearly 72 traffic injuries annually, according to DOT. There are two NYCHA complexes and four schools within its borders.

The bike lane plan [PDF] adds 14.5 miles of striped bike lanes and shared lane markings to a meshwork of north-south and east-west streets, including Pitkin, Blake, and Dumont Avenues, and Hinsdale Street, Snediker Avenue, Thomas Boyland Street, and Saratoga Avenue. While it contains no protected lanes, the plan would create a denser and better connected neighborhood grid of streets with space marked for biking.

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Eyes on the Street: Brownsville Celebrates Its New Bike Lanes

Getting ready for this morning's bike ride at Brownsville Bike Shop. Photo: Brownsville Partnership

They may be just paint, but bike lanes and sharrows on New Lots Avenue, Pitkin Avenue, Mother Gaston Boulevard, Hendrix Street, and Schenck Avenue are the first step toward implementing a community-based plan for better bicycling in Brownsville. This morning, about 35 people took part in a celebratory ride of the neighborhood’s first bike lanes organized by the Brownsville Partnership.

Before this morning's bike ride on Mother Gaston Boulevard. Photo: Brownsville Partnership

In 2011, Bettie Kollock-Wallace, who now serves as chair of Community Board 16, wanted safer routes for bike rides she led with Brownsville seniors to Prospect Park. She worked with a  range of groups — including the Brownsville Partnership, Transportation Alternatives, Brookdale Hospital, the Brooklyn District Public Health Office, Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, and the Pitkin Avenue BID — to make it happen.

Within a year, DOT hosted public meetings asking residents to map out bike routes, and presented a plan to the community board. In February, the board voted to support the plan. “This is the best example of a true collaboration that I have seen in my years of community health work,” Brownsville Partnership’s Nupur Chaudhury said in a statement.

This morning’s ride began at the Brownsville Bike Shop on Mother Gaston Boulevard and ended at the Tilden Senior Center. DOT is also installing more than 600 bike racks in the neighborhood, and more bike-related events will be happening at the Brownsville Recreation Center this summer.

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Brownsville Will Get Bike Lanes After Supportive Vote from CB 16

Brownsville is set to have extra asphalt converted to bike lanes after Community Board 16's supportive vote last night. Photosim: NYC DOT

Good news out of Brooklyn last night: After a community-driven process that started in 2011, Community Board 16 voted to support painted bike lanes and sharrows on 15 miles of Brownsville streets.

The proposal calls for bike lanes on New Lots Avenue, Pitkin Avenue, Mother Gaston Boulevard, and a north/south pair on Hendrix Street and Schenck Avenue. DOT is also in the process of installing more than 600 bike racks in the neighborhood and community partners are hosting bike rides and helmet fittings.

The effort to bring bike lanes to Brownsville was started by Bettie Kollock-Wallace, who now serves as CB 16′s chair. Kollock-Wallace began working with the Brownsville Partnership and the Brooklyn District Public Health Office, which reached out to community members, Transportation Alternatives, and DOT to formulate a plan for bike lanes.

Community Board 5, covering East New York, is expected to vote on the plan soon. Its transportation committee supported an earlier, less comprehensive version of the plan in November. The lanes are slated for installation this spring, according to the Brownsville Partnership.

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Brooklyn CB 16 Committee Votes to Bring Bike Lanes to Brownsville

The beginnings of the neighborhood bike network for Brownsville and East New York would repurpose extra asphalt for painted bike lanes on Pitkin Avenue and four other streets. Photosim: NYC DOT

The transportation committee of Brooklyn Community Board 16 last night voted in favor of a plan to stripe Brownsville’s first bike lanes, reports Nupur Chaudhury of the local non-profit Brownsville Partnership.

The plan presented by NYC DOT would stripe four bike routes in Brownsville and East New York: on New Lots Avenue, Pitkin Avenue, Mother Gaston Boulevard, and the north/south pair of Hendrix Street and Schenck Avenue. The New Lots and Hendrix/Schenck routes were originally slated for a future round of striping, but DOT was able to bump up the installation schedule to 2013, according to Chaudhury. “It means there’s two east/west routes and a north/south route in both East New York and Brownsville,” she said.

These bike lanes aren’t top-of-the-line infrastructure — they’ll provide stripes and, in some places, just sharrows, not physical protection — but they’re a milestone for two eastern Brooklyn neighborhoods that currently lack any on-street bike routes to speak of. The sight of bike infrastructure is still new enough here that when DOT began putting in the area’s first bike racks (they’ve installed 200 in the CB 16 district since the summer of 2011), Chaudhury heard some residents express confusion about what they were for. With the beginnings of a neighborhood bicycle network in place, getting around Brownsville and East New York by bike won’t seem so unusual.

The Brownsville Partnership is one of several neighborhood organizations, along with the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation and the Pitkin Avenue BID, that have joined with DOT and the Department of Health to make local streets more bike-friendly. The community workshops and events they put on starting in 2011 led to this point and will provide the basis for more improvements to come.

Next up: The proposal goes before CB 16′s full board meeting on January 22. DOT will also be going back to CB 5 with the current plan, which includes more routes than the version approved by the board’s transportation committee last fall. Chaudhury says installation this spring and summer is looking likely.

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East New York and Brownsville on the Cusp of Getting New Bike Lanes

A snafu at last night's Brooklyn Community Board 5 meeting delayed a vote for bike lanes on Pitkin Avenue until next month. Image: NYC DOT

After more than a year of collaboration between residents, community groups, DOT, and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the first project in a new round bike lanes for Brownsville and East New York is almost in the books and ready to be installed next year. The proposal is for simple lines on the pavement — not protected bike lanes — but, along with a road diet on Pennsylvania Avenue, it would bring safer conditions to parts of eastern Brooklyn that currently have next to no bike infrastructure.

At Community Board 5′s transportation committee meeting Tuesday evening, DOT presented the proposal to bring a combination of painted bicycle lanes and sharrows to more than two miles of Pitkin Avenue. East of Pennsylvania Avenue to Fountain Avenue, DOT is proposing dedicated lanes, while the narrower road west of Pennsylvania Avenue will have shared lanes to Legion Street.

Although an exact implementation schedule has not been set, DOT will soon be developing its work program for 2013, and the Pitkin Avenue bike lanes can be included, likely in the spring, according to DOT staff at the meeting.

“We’re excited,” CB 5 District Manager Walter Campbell said after DOT’s presentation. “I think it’s terrific that we can get more people to ride their bikes,” adding, “Pitkin Avenue is a great place to start.”

The other bike route identified by DOT and local residents based on community workshops this summer is Mother Gaston Boulevard, home to the neighborhood’s only bike shop, Brownsville Bikes. DOT has not yet presented formal designs for a bike lane on Mother Gaston, which will come in future phases.

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Envisioning a Neighborhood Bike Plan for East New York and Brownsville

After local residents and community organizations began organizing to bring bike lanes to East New York and Brownsville last year, NYC DOT is developing a plan to stripe the first bike routes directly through these neighborhoods, and more could be on the way.

Mapping out the next phase of East New York bike routes. Photo: Ben Fried

The process underway in eastern Brooklyn offers an intriguing glimpse at how the city can develop neighborhood-scale bike plans — especially promising for areas with high rates of chronic disease, where safer biking and walking can encourage more physical activity.

About 20 people gathered at the YMCA on Jamaica Avenue yesterday evening to discuss what’s holding East New York residents back from biking more, and to share ideas with DOT and the Department of Health about how to improve local cycling conditions. They heard from DOT about two bike routes that are in the works and hashed out where they think more bike lanes should go.

The Department of Health is taking an active role in East New York because residents have higher-than-average incidences of chronic diseases like diabetes. According to department surveys, local residents report lower than average levels of physical activity, and DOH has identified street design as a major factor. Currently there are no bike lanes in the neighborhood, and many street crossings pose a challenge for pedestrians.

Working with local organizations like the Brownsville Partnership, the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, and the Pitkin Avenue BID, DOH and DOT put on a group ride around the neighborhood last October and distributed surveys to find out how local residents want to improve local biking conditions.

As a result of those surveys, DOT identified two routes to serve as the backbone of the neighborhood bike network: a north-south route on Mother Gaston Boulevard and an east-west route on Pitkin Avenue. Both would consist of painted bike lanes between the parking lane and traffic lane where the streets are sufficiently wide, and sharrows where the streets are narrower. DOT has also mapped out locations for bike racks, which are currently very scarce in the neighborhood. The tentative plan is to show the bike routes to Community Board 16 this fall in preparation for spring 2013 implementation.

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Brownsville Residents Push For Neighborhood’s First Bike Lanes

Last month, the Brownsville Partnership and the local office of the Department of Health took DOT on a group ride of Brownsville to observe cycling conditions. Image: Community Solutions via Facebook

Brownsville wants safer streets for biking.

Currently there isn’t a single bike lane inside this eastern Brooklyn neighborhood, though two bike lanes run along the edges of Brownsville on East New York Avenue and Rockaway Parkway. Neighborhood activists, including the business community, senior citizens and public health advocates, are now organizing to convince the city to install both north-south and east-west routes through the area.

The push for bike lanes originated from Bettie Kollock-Wallace, the first vice president of Brooklyn Community Board 16. “My philosophy is the more active you are the younger you get,” she told Streetsblog.

Last summer, the 72-year-old Kollock-Wallace was leading Brownsville seniors on group rides in Prospect Park. Without a strong network of bike lanes, however, she found it difficult to get there, especially with inexperienced cyclists trailing behind her. “If we had the bike lane you could easily follow the route,” said Kollock-Wallace. “You could be safe.” She identified Mother Gaston Boulevard as the preferable location for a lane connecting to the existing bike network.

Three weeks ago, the Department of Transportation came out to Brownsville for a group ride co-hosted by the Brownsville Partnership, an initiative of the non-profit Community Solutions, and the Brooklyn District Public Health Office, a local arm of the NYC Department of Health. Scouting an eight-mile loop of the area, they discussed street conditions and obstacles to safe cycling. A spokesperson for DOT said the department is in the process of identifying bike routes that could be implemented in the future.

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Crucial Details Missing in NYPD Account of Crash That Killed Theauther Love

Eastern Parkway where it intersects Bergen Street in Brownsville. Image: Google Street View

On Friday morning, a traffic enforcement agent driving a marked NYPD vehicle struck and killed the Reverend Theauther Love, 87, as he was walking across Eastern Parkway in Brownsville. Police failed to notify the victim’s family this weekend, according to friends and relatives. But NYPD did issue their standard exculpatory response when the driver in a fatal crash is sober and stays at the scene — “no criminality is suspected” — even though they have yet to disclose details like the driver’s speed and who had the right of way at the time of the collision.

Theauther Love. Photo: New York Post

Love, a WWII vet, walked several miles a day in the neighborhood. His widow, Annie Love, told the Post that he was struck during his regular morning walk after taking out the trash. His son Andrew is calling for police to investigate whether the driver was speeding at the time.

NYPD’s public information office told Streetsblog this morning that the TEA was driving westbound on Eastern Parkway between Bergen and Dean when he struck Love, who was walking north to south across Eastern Parkway. No charges are pending against the driver. The police spokesman had no further information about the collision, other than that the investigation is open.

The police’s preliminary finding of “no criminality” clearly covers only a narrow range of driver culpability — he didn’t intentionally run down the victim, he wasn’t intoxicated, and he stayed at the scene. But this glosses over a range of other possible factors that may have contributed to the crash that killed Theauther Love. Was the driver careless or reckless behind the wheel? Was he speeding, texting, or running a light? We don’t know. Perhaps the investigation will clear up those questions, but judging from the overall pattern of police withholding information about specific traffic crashes, NYPD won’t disclose the answers willingly.

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NYCHA Chairman: Parking Minimums “Working Against Us”

A plan put together by the organization Community Solutions, which is working in Brownsville to prevent homelessness before it starts, would remap streets through superblocks and use infill development to revitalize an area dominated by public housing. Existing surface parking lots would be turned into housing, retail, schools and green space.

Leaders in New York City’s public housing community are interested in transforming city-owned superblocks into mixed-use, mixed-income communities that engage with the pedestrian realm. There are of course many obstacles to this kind of ambitious project, but only one was identified specifically in a Municipal Art Society panel on the topic last Friday: the city’s own parking requirements.

Developing existing NYCHA land could bring a wide variety of benefits to both public housing residents and the surrounding communities, said John Rhea, the chairman of NYCHA, and his fellow panel members. On the one hand, he explained, the housing authority has a $6 billion backlog of necessary maintenance exacerbated by declining federal funding. On the other, New York City’s relative success with public housing stems from its commitment to serving both low- and middle-income households. Infill development, said Rhea, means “we can do a lot more to ensure that the income diversity is stronger.”

Infill development also would allow the city to undo some of the design drawbacks of the tower-in-a-park style housing project, common in many parts of the city. A plan put forward by Rosanne Haggerty, the president of the homelessness prevention organization Community Solutions, for four adjacent housing projects in Brownsville would build between 700 and 1,000 units without displacing a single resident, she said. Her organization’s design would break up the existing superblock by restoring the original streets back through the housing project and put new buildings facing the sidewalk, recreating the traditional pedestrian environment. “Those blocks can reknit into the surrounding street grid,” said Haggerty. Surface parking lots would be replaced with new housing, retail, schools and green space under Haggerty’s plan.

Standing in the way of this kind of revitalization, however, are the city’s antiquated parking requirements. “With a certain density of housing, you have to build a certain amount of parking,” said Rhea. “Certain zoning rules may need to be reconsidered.” Currently, parking minimums are in place for public and publicly-assisted housing built anywhere in the city, even in the Manhattan core where market-rate development is subject to parking maximums. Rhea said that he’s in the middle of conversations with the Department of City Planning about whether their rules are “working against us instead of supporting us.”

NYCHA is able to pursue some infill projects despite DCP’s parking requirements, but Rhea said it’s difficult. According to a 2005 report commissioned by the city, NYCHA has abandoned recent attempts to build out some of its sites due to parking minimums. At the St. Nicholas Houses, said Rhea, the authority was able to build a new school with the Harlem Children’s Zone on top of a former parking lot because a remapping of 129th Street — the first remapping of a street through a public housing superblock in the city’s history — provided enough new on-street spaces to compensate for the lost lot.

George McCarthy, the director of the Ford Foundation’s Metropolitan Opportunity portfolio, said that he works in nine regions trying to connect public housing residents to good transit. “It really begs the question about parking,” he said, given that New York City’s public housing generally already has such good transit access. He called for eliminating the requirements and allowing NYCHA to build parking only as needed. “Why do we continue to permit ourselves to build institutions that hamper our ability to provide enough housing?” McCarthy asked.

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Weiner Imagines Paying for His Traffic Plan With a Gas Tax Raise

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Though reporters weren't invited, Streetsblog managed to get a stringer into this morning's On-and-Off-the-Record transportation policy talk with Congressman Anthony Weiner at Commerce Bank in Midtown.

During the hour-long Q&A hosted by Edward Isaac-Dovere of City Hall News, Weiner hit on familiar themes:

  • Something needs to be done about traffic but the mayor's plan is too costly.
  • Though low and middle income New Yorkers overwhelmingly travel into Manhattan via transit, Weiner pounded away at the idea that congestion pricing is unfair to the city's middle class and would hit city residents harder than suburban commuters.
  • Rather than imposing a fee to drive into Manhattan's Central Business District, he would opt for improved transit and ferry service, higher truck tolls and better enforcement of blocking-the-box regulations.
  • He says that he would pay for these improvements with a federal gas tax increase.

While Weiner believes, "The Mayor got the solution wrong," he praised Bloomberg for being "innovative" and appeared to back off a bit from total opposition to pricing.

"There is a version of congestion pricing that will work," Weiner said. "My plan has 'congestion pricing' by increasing tolls and increasing parking fees." Unfortunately, this is probably not a version of congestion pricing for which the federal government will grant $354.5 million in start-up funds.

About 75 people showed up to the breakfast event including Queens Civic Congress president Corey Bearak, Northern Manhattan Council member Robert Jackson, the Durst Organization's Jordan Barowitz and an assortment of advocacy people from Transportation Alternatives, Tri-State Transportation Campaign and the newly-formed SWIM Coalition.

The event started with "on-the-record" questions from Isaac-Dovere and "off-the-record" questions from audience members. Here, in reporter's notebook format, are a bunch of Weiner's responses to both sets of questions:

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