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Families for Safe Streets and DOT Cut the Ribbon on Myrtle-Wyckoff Plaza

DOT's new pedestrian plaza at the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub will save lives. Photo: David Meyer

The new pedestrian plaza at the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub will save lives. Photos: David Meyer

Members of Families for Safe Streets and DOT officials celebrated the completion of a new pedestrian plaza at the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub this morning. The plaza, on the block of Wyckoff Avenue between Myrtle and Gates, is the centerpiece of a major safety project that will reduce conflicts between drivers and pedestrians at an intersection where three people were killed by motorists since 2009.

The installation of the plaza marks the culmination of a multi-year effort to fix the six-way Myrtle-Wyckoff intersection, which is the access point for two subway lines and six bus routes. Before the plaza, pedestrians, who outnumber motorists 3 to 1 during peak hours, were squeezed onto the margins. Now people can walk freely between the subway and the bus.

Members of Families for Safe Street and DOT staff cut the ribbon on the new plaza. Photo: David Meyer

Judy Kottick, third from left, cuts the ribbon on the new plaza.

The plaza also greatly simplifies complex turning movements that had jeopardized people’s lives. After an MTA bus driver killed 23-year-old Ella Bandes in 2013, DOT made some adjustments to eliminate some turning movements, but the changes were not enough to prevent another turning MTA bus driver from killing Edgar Torres the following year.

About 200 people attended a January 2014 vigil in memory of Bandes. Soon after, her parents, Judy Kottick and Ken Bandes, joined other people who had lost loved ones to traffic crashes to form Families for Safe Streets.

“Myrtle-Wyckoff has gone from being the fifth deadliest intersection in New York City to being the launching site of Families for Safe Streets, creating a pedestrian plaza that protects citizens and encourages a sense of community, and honors the people who had to lose their lives in order for this to happen,” said Kottick at today’s ceremony. “In their honor, Myrtle-Wyckoff can now be a beacon for street safety.”

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CB 1 Endorses Metropolitan Bridge Bike Lane After Two Years of Delays

CB 1 members cited this "extremely dangerous" left turn (red arrow) as justification for tabling DOT's proposal for bike lanes on the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge last month. Image: DOT

CB 1 members cited this “extremely dangerous” left turn as justification for tabling DOT’s proposal for bike lanes on the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge last month. Image: DOT

Brooklyn Community Board 1 unanimously endorsed DOT’s bike lane plan for the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge. It took a while to reach this point — the board repeatedly delayed an endorsement for more than two years.

The project will add painted bike lanes in both directions over the bridge, which connects Bushwick and Ridgewood [PDF].

DOT has revised the design multiple times since first presenting to the board in June 2014. Most recently, CB 1 voted 18 to 8 last month to table the project, demanding that DOT do something about a supposed “left turn of death” from westbound Metropolitan Avenue onto Varick Avenue. The intersection doesn’t have a record of high injury rates, however. In the past three years, two cyclists have been injured at the location (it’s not clear if left turns were involved), and no one has been killed there according to Vision Zero View, which contains crash data going back to 2009.

Transportation committee chair Vincent Gangone said last night that he was recommending the plan because DOT had committed to exploring banning the left turn. Gangone explained that he, CB 1 Chair Dealice Fuller, and District Manager Gerald Esposito had met with DOT officials. He then read the text of a letter from the agency promising to return to the transportation committee in November or December once it has fully studied the potential impacts of the proposed left turn ban.

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CB 1 Stalls Bike Lane Because of “Left Turn of Death” Where No One Has Died

Since at least 2009, no one has died at the intersection of Varick and Metropolitan, according to city data. Image: Brooklyn CB 1

Brooklyn CB1 leadership sent a packet to all its members opposing a bike lane, and this was the cover page.

The leadership at Brooklyn Community Board 1 is pulling out all the stops to delay or block DOT’s plan for safer bike infrastructure on the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge.

After a meeting last month, CB 1 leadership sent a packet to all board members arguing that the project should not move forward until DOT makes changes at the intersection of Metropolitan Avenue and Varick Avenue [PDF].

DOT first presented the Metropolitan Avenue bike lane project to the CB 1 transportation committee more than two years ago — in June 2014 — and since then the plan has undergone multiple revisions [PDF].

Last month, the board voted to table the project. In an unsigned email statement to Streetsblog after the meeting, CB 1 said DOT’s project “failed to address” the “extremely dangerous” left turn from westbound Metropolitan Avenue onto Varick Avenue, just east of the bridge. The cover page of the packet that CB 1 sent around calls it the “left turn of death.”

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Brooklyn CB 1 Wants to Delay Metropolitan Ave Bridge Bike Lane Some More

CB 1 members cited this "extremely dangerous" left turn (red arrow) as justification for tabling DOT's proposal for bike lanes on the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge. Image: DOT

CB 1 members cited this “extremely dangerous” left turn (red arrow) as justification for tabling DOT’s plan for bike lanes on the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge. Image: DOT

On Wednesday night, Brooklyn Community Board 1 voted 18 to 8 against a DOT plan to add a bike lane connecting Bushwick and Ridgewood via the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge. Technically, the board voted against making a recommendation on the project, but after two years of deliberation already, the decision to withhold an endorsement is tantamount to opposition.

The Metropolitan Avenue Bridge is an important connection between the Williamsburg Bridge and points east, used by hundreds of cyclists each day. It’s also treacherous: Two cyclists were killed on the bridge between 2009 and 2013, according to DOT. More than half of peak-hour drivers on the bridge travel above the speed limit.

DOT’s plan would remove one westbound car lane to make room for painted bike lanes. It has been in the works since 2012. Under the plan, the buffered eastbound bike lane would extend all the way to Onderdonk Avenue, while the westbound lane would give way to sharrows on the bridge [PDF].

Despite the years of back-and-forth on the minute details of the project, the board continues to withhold its support. In an unsigned email statement to Streetsblog, CB 1 said DOT’s project “failed to address” the “extremely dangerous” left turn from westbound Metropolitan Avenue onto Varick Avenue, just east of the bridge.

The motion to table the project was made by transportation chair Vincent Gangone during his committee report, according to board member Ryan Kuonen, who said board members in favor the project were “very upset” by the move.

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A Closer Look at How the L Train Shutdown Will Disrupt Transit Trips

This diagram shows the alternate routes commuters would have to take to travel between L Train stops. Image: BRT Planning International

Without L train service in Manhattan, trips that used to be a one-seat ride between these origins (y-axis) and destinations (x-axis) will involve multiple transfers and/or long walks. Image: BRT Planning International

The 18-month shutdown of the L train between North Brooklyn and Eighth Avenue may be three years away, but officials still have to move quickly to help hundreds of thousands of L passengers get where they need to go. So far, city officials and the MTA have yet to provide much in the way of specifics.

To get a better sense of how transit service should adapt for the L shutdown, Annie Weinstock and Walter Hook of BRT Planning International analyzed how the loss of the L train west of Bedford Avenue would affect trip times if no measures are taken. Trips between Brooklyn and Manhattan that are currently a one-seat ride will become far more convoluted and inconvenient, as you can see in the top matrix.

Translated into time lost, the effect is most severe for L train riders who cannot conveniently connect to other subway lines at Myrtle/Wyckoff or Broadway Junction. You can see in the matrix below (which includes travel times between a sample of L train stations and other stations) that people by the Brooklyn stops west of Myrtle/Wyckoff are most affected.

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Myrtle-Wyckoff Plaza Gets Near-Unanimous Approval From Queens CB 5

The city held a successful one-day plaza at the location in April. Photo: David Meyer

A one-day trial plaza on Wyckoff Avenue in April went off without a hitch. Photo: David Meyer

With 29 votes in favor, none against, and one abstention, Queens Community Board 5 overwhelmingly endorsed DOT’s safety plan for the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub last night. The project would significantly reduce potential conflicts between turning drivers and pedestrians, mainly by creating a car-free plaza on Wyckoff Avenue between Gates and Myrtle [PDF].

Pedestrians outnumber motorists at the six-legged Myrtle-Wyckoff intersection, located at the junction of two subway lines and six bus routes, three to one, according to DOT. But it’s not safe — three people have been killed while walking there since 2009.

While the city implemented minor changes in recent years, the new turn restrictions weren’t enough. A turning bus driver struck and killed Edgar Torres in 2014 after the changes were made.

The car-free block will further simplify turning movements and give pedestrians a safer path between the Myrtle-Wyckoff subway station and the Ridgewood Bus Terminal on Palmetto Street.

In 2013, Judy Kottick lost her daughter, Ella Bandes, when a turning bus driver struck and killed her at the intersection. “It was very gratifying that Community Board 5 really considered the redesign and gave us their support,” said Kottick, who attended last night. Not one person spoke against the project during the meeting’s public comment section, she said.

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Myrtle-Wyckoff Plaza Gets Support From Queens CB 5 Transpo Committee

Reconfiguring this dangerous intersection with a car-free plaza will simplify vehicle movements and reduce the potential for turning drivers to hit pedestrians. Image: DOT

Reconfiguring this dangerous intersection with a car-free plaza will simplify vehicle movements and reduce the potential for turning drivers to hit pedestrians. Image: DOT

Last night, the Queens Community Board 5 transportation committee endorsed DOT’s safety plan for the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub on the border between Brooklyn and Queens, including the creation of a one-block pedestrian plaza on Wyckoff Avenue between Gates and Myrtle [PDF].

The project straddles two community board districts and was voted down by Brooklyn CB 4 last week. DOT can proceed without a vote from CB 4, however, if the agency chooses. Council Member Antonio Reynoso has said he supports the project and wants the city to take action.

The stakes for public safety are high. Three pedestrians were struck and killed at the intersection between 2009 and 2014, including Edgar Torres, who was hit while he had the right of way despite an initial round of changes to simplify vehicle movements at the site. The current project would do much more to prevent pedestrians from being struck by turning motorists.

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Antonio Reynoso: DOT Should Forge Ahead With Myrtle-Wyckoff Plaza

A one-day trial of the Myrtle-Wyckoff plaza worked wonderfully. Council Member Antonio Reynoso wants it to be permanent. Photo: David Meyer

Council Member Antonio Reynoso wants DOT to move forward with its safety plan at the busy Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub, with or without the endorsement of the local community board.

Photo: NYC Council

Photo: NYC Council

Last Wednesday, Brooklyn Community 4 voted against DOT’s plan, which would dramatically reduce potential conflicts between drivers and pedestrians and create a car-free plaza on one block of Wyckoff Avenue between Myrtle and Gates [PDF]. The transportation committee of Queens Community Board 5, which serves the north side of the future plaza, will vote on the project this evening.

Since 2009, three pedestrians have been killed by turning drivers at the location. Minor changes implemented after Ella Bandes was struck and killed by a turning bus driver in 2013 failed to prevent the 2014 death of Edgar Torres, who was also struck by an MTA bus driver while he had the right of way.

Reynoso commended DOT’s plan, which he called “amazing,” on a phone call yesterday.

“I’ve been asking ever since I’ve been an elected official that we figure out a way to deal with this Myrtle-Wyckoff intersection and how dangerous it is,” he said. “The changes we made were progress but they didn’t stop one more person from dying.”

The community board voted against the project because it would reroute buses, according to CB 4 District Manager Nadine Whitted. But the safety improvements at the six-legged intersection won’t be possible without adjusting the routes of the B26 and Q55.

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Brooklyn CB 4 Not Sold on Myrtle-Wyckoff Safety Overhaul Despite Lives Lost

The city held a successful one-day plaza at the location in April. Photo: David Meyer

A successful one-day plaza in April also wasn’t enough to convince the community board that the streets around the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub need to change. Photo: David Meyer

Three people have been killed by turning drivers at the crowded Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub since 2009, and the local community board still won’t vote for a city plan to improve pedestrian safety at the complex six-legged intersection.

Last Wednesday, Brooklyn Community Board 4 declined to endorse DOT’s plan to simplify the intersection and create a car-free plaza on one block of Wyckoff Avenue between Myrtle and Gates [PDF]. Since the project straddles the Brooklyn-Queens border, DOT will also seek a vote from Queens Community Board 5’s transportation committee tomorrow evening.

People outnumber vehicles three-to-one at the Myrtle-Wyckoff intersection, which is located at the convergence of two subway lines and six bus routes. The current configuration leads to too many conflicts between drivers and pedestrians: Three pedestrians were killed there between 2009 and 2014.

Two and a half years ago, hundreds of people gathered at the intersection to remember Ella Bandes, who was struck and killed by a bus driver in 2013, and call for safety improvements. Minor changes afterward were not enough to prevent the death of Edgar Torres, who had the right of way when he was struck and killed by a turning MTA bus driver in 2014.

Making a block of Wyckoff car-free would do what previous adjustments could not: give pedestrians safe passage between the train and the Ridgewood Bus Terminal on Palmetto Street. Turning movements would be dramatically simplified, reducing potential conflicts.

CB 4 District Manager Nadine Whitted could not provide a vote tally from Wednesday’s meeting but said only two board members sided in favor of the project. Whitted did not explain why the board rejected the project other than to say members did not like the “bus reroutes,” by which she was presumably referring to the B26, which currently utilizes the block of Wyckoff that would be pedestrianized.

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Truck Driver Kills Cyclist Leah Sylvain in Bushwick — Victim-Blaming Ensues

Joseph Cherry struck and killed 27-year-old Leah Sylvain while she biked up the Evergreen Avenue bike lane early this morning. Photo: Google Maps

Joseph Cherry struck and killed Leah Sylvain on Evergreen Avenue early this morning. Photo: Google Maps

A fuel truck driver struck and killed Leah Sylvain, 27, as she was biking on Evergreen Avenue in Bushwick this morning.

Sylvain was traveling north in the bike lane when Joseph Cherry, also traveling north, turned his truck to the left across her path, fatally injuring her. Sylvain was lying on the road with head trauma when police and EMS arrived at 6:46 a.m. She was pronounced dead at Woodhull Hospital.

Cherry, 52, was charged with misdemeanor careless driving, two moving violations for failure to yield, and another unspecified violation, according to NYPD.

While Sylvain clearly had the right of way and Cherry broke the law by failing to yield, CBS New York‘s Ilana Gold reported that Sylvain “slammed into” the truck, citing police investigators. Gold’s video segment said Sylvain was riding on the sidewalk, which subsequent NYPD reports corrected, and that witnesses said she was “distracted on her cell phone.” The video has since been taken down, and the references to sidewalk riding and the cell phone have been removed from the online text of the CBS story.

Sylvain is at least the fifth cyclist killed by a New York City driver in 2016 — and the fourth in Brooklyn.

If you’d like to voice your concerns about street safety in the area to Deputy Inspector Maximo Tolentino, the commanding officer of the 83rd Precinct, the precinct community council meets on the third Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. at the precinct house, located at 480 Knickerbocker Ave.

This morning’s crash occurred in the City Council district represented by Antonio Reynoso.