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Posts from the "Clinton Hill" Category

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Cumbo Calls for Safer Atlantic Ave, and Trottenberg Promises Action

Photo: Ben Fried

City Council Member Laurie Cumbo with advocates from the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, Make Brooklyn Safer, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, New York League of Conservation Voters, and Transportation Alternatives. Photo: Ben Fried

Minutes after Council Member Laurie Cumbo and street safety advocates called for immediate action to reduce traffic violence on Atlantic Avenue, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the audience at a Vision Zero forum in Crown Heights last night that DOT intends to make Atlantic one of its early priorities for safety fixes.

Atlantic Avenue is one of the biggest and most dangerous streets in the city, running east-west across the length of Brooklyn. It routinely ranks near the top of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s list of the borough’s deadliest streets for pedestrians. From 2002 to 2013, more than 1,400 pedestrians and cyclists were injured on Atlantic.

At a press conference preceding last night’s Vision Zero town hall at Medgar Evers College, Cumbo stressed the need to act soon. “We can’t wait for another child to be the face of why we need Vision Zero,” she said. “So many of these accidents could be avoided with the right measures.”

As it happens, the city intends to tackle Atlantic Avenue soon. During the forum, Trottenberg said Atlantic would be one of the 50 street safety projects DOT takes on this year. Noting that Atlantic Avenue is a big, wide, heavily trafficked street, Trottenberg said, “That’s the kind of street that DOT views as a challenge, and we want to step up.” The city’s Vision Zero action plan calls for “arterial slow zones” on streets like Atlantic that see a disproportionate share of injuries and deaths.

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Brooklyn CB 3 Votes Against Saving Lives in Bed-Stuy and Clinton Hill

Heat map of crashes within the proposed Clinton Hill/Bed-Stuy Slow Zone from August 2011 through December 2013. Click to enlarge. Image: ##http://nyc.crashmapper.com/11/8/13/12/standard/collisions/2/17/40.685/-73.960##NYC Crashmapper##

Heat map of crashes within the proposed Clinton Hill/Bed-Stuy Slow Zone from August 2011 through December 2013. Click to enlarge. Image: NYC Crashmapper

On Monday, Brooklyn Community Board 3 voted against a Slow Zone in a crash-prone area that encompasses parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Clinton Hill. Opponents said slowing down drivers would cause gridlock, and the board doubted that slower speeds would reduce crashes, according to DNAinfo.

The proposed zone is bordered by Washington Avenue, Lafayette Avenue, Bedford Avenue, and Fulton Street. DOT data show the .2-square mile area has an average of 62.4 traffic injuries a year, and six severe injuries or fatalities per road mile. There are four schools inside the zone and eight pre-K or daycare centers. Scores of pedestrians and cyclists were injured by motorists within the proposed zone area between August 2011 and December 2013, according to NYPD data mined by NYC Crashmapper.

DOT only proposes Slow Zones where residents apply for them. DNAinfo reported that 14 local groups and officials endorsed the Clinton Hill/Bed-Stuy zone, which is one of five slated to be installed this year. The Community Board 2 transportation committee voted in favor of the Slow Zone last month, with a vote by the full board expected Wednesday.

After a 45-minute presentation from DOT, CB 3 members voted 27-4 against writing a letter of support.

[T]he department struggled on Monday to make its case for the plan with a presentation critics called confusing. They said it lacked specific details on how the plan would lead to a decrease in accidents.

“Was there a traffic study done?” asked board secretary Kimberly Hill. “Your presentation lacks the data necessary for us to feel comfortable and confident.”

“Classon Avenue is a traffic jam during the morning hours, and they blow their horns and blow their horns,” said Demetrice Mills, president of the Classon-FulGate Block Association, which rescinded its support for the zone. ”Making the speed limit even slower will make things even worse.”

First, if people are honking, they’re already going slower than 20 miles per hour. A 20 mph zone won’t make gridlock worse, but it will slow drivers on streets where they are currently able to drive at unsafe speeds.

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Park Avenue in Clinton Hill Awaits Fixes as Another Crash Caught on Camera

Last September, local elected officials joined the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership and students from Benjamin Banneker Academy on Brooklyn’s Park Avenue to clock speeding drivers. The Partnership released a report offering suggestions to city agencies about how to improve pedestrian safety on the dangerous avenue, which has a crash rate higher than three-quarters of Brooklyn streets. More than a year later, the city has yet to advance any significant changes.

In the meantime, the crashes continue. One hotspot is the intersection with Washington Avenue, which in the span of 20 days saw two drivers run red lights and crash into other vehicles, sending vehicles onto the sidewalk or through the crosswalk. Last month, a driver heading north on Washington Avenue ran a red light and struck another vehicle traveling west on Park Avenue. The westbound driver careened onto the sidewalk, and the car smashed through the front door of the Fresh Fanatic supermarket. The store captured the crash on its security camera.

Then last Tuesday at approximately 11:20 a.m., a northbound driver on Washington ran the same light, crashing into a westbound van driver before spinning through the crosswalk and into a bike-share station (above). Immediately after this crash, a third driver began driving the wrong way on the eastbound lanes of Park Avenue, crashing head-on into an SUV. FDNY says four people were transported to Woodhull Hospital after last week’s back-to-back crashes, including one person with serious but nonfatal injuries.

“We are puzzled that DOT isn’t taking the next logical step and prioritizing this project,” the Partnership said in a statement last week.  In addition to NYCHA’s Ingersoll and Whitman Houses, there are eight schools along this short stretch of Park Avenue. Community Board 2 unanimously supported the plan in June 2012 and a petition has gathered more than 1,000 signatures. The project is also supported by Council Member Letitia James, Assembly Member Joe Lentol, and Borough President Marty Markowitz.

“The traffic along Park Avenue has been consistently dangerous,” James said in a statement. “It is time DOT take action to address safety along the strip.”

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At Merryweather Vigil, Public Advocate-Elect Pledges to Push for Safe Streets

About 150 people gathered at Clermont and DeKalb Avenues last night to remember Lucian Merryweather, 9, who was killed on the sidewalk by a reckless driver. Photo: Stephanie Keith/DNAinfo

About 150 people gathered at a vigil last night for Lucian Merryweather, the nine year-old killed on the sidewalk by a reckless driver who jumped the curb at the intersection of Clermont and DeKalb Avenues in Brooklyn.

Speakers at last night’s vigil included Merryweather’s family and friends, Council Member Tish James, who was elected to the Public Advocate’s office yesterday, Assembly Member Walter T. Mosley, council member-elect Laurie Cumbo, and neighborhood residents, including actress Rosie Perez.

At the rally, James said that she has spoken to mayor-elect Bill de Blasio about the importance and immediacy of improving street safety. ”There was a lot of grief and anger,” James told Streetsblog today. “Clearly something has to be done.”

Merryweather was at least the tenth child age 13 and under to be killed by a New York City driver so far this year, according to data compiled by Streetsblog. Anthony Byrd, 59, the driver who killed Lucian Merryweather, faces felony assault and a number of other charges brought by Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes. He is scheduled to appear in Kings County Criminal Court on Friday.

James told Streetsblog that she spoke with DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly about Merryweather’s death, and is expecting the 88th Precinct to announce new traffic enforcement plans soon. James said she’d like to see stings using undercover officers for speeding, texting, and reckless driving on DeKalb, Lafayette, Washington, and Lafayette Avenues.

In August, the latest month for which data is available, the 88th Precinct issued six speeding tickets and did not issue any tickets for failure to yield to pedestrians [PDF]. The precinct’s next community council meeting will be held on November 19 at 7 p.m. at the French Speaking Baptist Church at 209 Clermont Avenue, a block from the site of the crash.

Community members interested in safer streets are also invited to a meeting this Saturday hosted by Make Lafayette Safer, organized by Hilda Cohen, who lives three blocks away from where Merryweather was killed. “I just wanted to give community members a way to see that they can become the people who make changes,” she said. “It’s one thing to be at the vigil and say something, and it’s another to get out there and do something.”

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Council Candidates at Fort Greene Forum Agree: Don’t Touch Parking

If you were hoping for inspiring leadership from the City Council on transportation issues after the next election, you may want to look somewhere other than District 35, which covers the neighborhoods just east of downtown Brooklyn. Two-thirds of households in the district are car-free, according to the 2000 Census. But while most candidates supported traffic calming improvements at a forum last night, they were unanimous in their opposition to removing on-street parking spaces, and many were reluctant to support policy changes that would cut down on driving in the district.

District 35 candidates, from left, Olanike Alabi, Laurie Cumbo, Ede Fox, Frank “Richard” Hurley, and Jelani Mashariki at last night’s forum. Photo: Stephen Miller

The seat, representing Downtown Brooklyn, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, and parts of Crown Heights and Downtown Brooklyn, is currently held by Letitia James, who is running for public advocate. Candidates Olanike Alabi, Laurie Cumbo, Ede Fox, Frank “Richard” Hurley, and Jelani Mashariki attended the forum, sponsored by the Brooklyn Movement Center, Coalition for the Improvement of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Fort Greene Strategic Neighborhood Action Partnership, the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, and Transportation Alternatives.

In response to a question from TA deputy director Noah Budnick about traffic calming and complete streets on Atlantic Avenue, Fox said that she supports street design that makes it easier to cross the major roadway and enforcement that cuts down on speeding, singling out dollar van drivers as particularly reckless in Prospect Heights. She also raised concerns about cycling, which she supports, saying that more cyclists need to follow the rules of the road. “We have some streets that are quite narrow. We have quite a lot of bicycle lanes on them, and I see some difficulty between bicyclists and drivers and walkers,” Fox said.

Hurley also supported pedestrian islands on Atlantic Avenue, while Alabi cited the need for more speed humps and curb extensions, praising the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council’s effort to secure a Slow Zone for its neighborhood.

The candidates had a variety of suggestions to improve bus and subway service. Fox urged the MTA to completely restore service that was cut in 2010, keep fares from rising, improve frequencies on the A and C trains, and roll out Bus Time (the program is scheduled to expand citywide by April). Fox supported bus rapid transit as an option to expand capacity. “Making new train lines is really not efficient,” she said. “BRT is something that can be done easily, quickly, and very cheaply.”

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Eyes on the Street: Checking Out Books at Putnam Plaza

The Uni, a portable library, visited the Putnam Plaza on Sunday as part of a FAB Friday event. Photo: FAB Alliance

When Putnam Plaza opened nearly two years ago in Clinton Hill, it was welcomed with a dance party. Last Friday, the dancing continued as the Fulton Area Business Alliance, the local business improvement district, held one of its FAB Friday events in the plaza. The space featured games, live music, and a portable library allowing people to sit and relax with a book. On Sunday evening, the BID hosted Soul Aerobics in the plaza. FAB Friday events are also scheduled this summer for Cuyler Gore Park and Fowler Square plaza in Fort Greene.

The event included hula-hooping, live music, and games. Photo: FAB Alliance

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“Park Avenue Is Broken, And It Can Be Fixed”

Left, Council Member Letitia James and Assembly Member Joseph Lentol speak in support of MARP's Park Avenue plan. Right, an 11th grade student from Benjamin Banneker Academy measures speeding. Photos: Stephen Miller

Council Member Letitia James and Assembly Member Joseph Lentol joined local residents on Park Avenue in Brooklyn yesterday to push DOT and other city agencies to implement recommendations from the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Partnership’s pedestrian safety plan. The plan calls for a set of pedestrian safety improvements and traffic enforcement measures to make Park Avenue less of a BQE service road and more of a neighborhood street.

“Government’s most primary responsibility is to protect its citizens,” Lentol said. “We definitely need traffic calming measures.” Lentol also called for an expansion of speed cameras in the city. “Speed kills,” he said. “We’ve got to slow these cars down.”

Over a two-hour period on a recent afternoon, MARP clocked 40 percent of drivers on Park Avenue speeding, with the fastest hitting 53 mph. When a student from Benjamin Banneker Academy broke out the speed gun yesterday afternoon, the first reading came back at 38 mph. New York City’s speed limit is 30 mph.

M. Blaise Backer, executive director of MARP, called on city agencies to begin design and implementation of the report’s recommendations. “Park Avenue is broken, and it can be fixed,” he said. “We have to get DOT’s attention.”

Council Member James echoed the sentiment. “We really need to get all of the entities involved to focus on this,” she said. James and Lentol were joined by representatives of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Transportation Alternatives at the event.

Community participation in formulating the plan has been significant. If you’d like to learn more about how MARP and its partners collaborated on the report, the Center for Architecture will host a panel Friday morning featuring architects, planners and community members.

Community members read the report and sign the petition asking DOT to implement the pedestrian safety plan's recommendations. Photos: Stephen Miller

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Park Avenue Plan Challenges Agencies to Improve Street for Pedestrians

In 1959, when the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway was under construction, Park Avenue in the Wallabout section of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill was converted from a neighborhood street to a service road that would run underneath the new elevated highway. Walking on the street hasn’t been the same since. With 160,000 cars roaring by overhead each day, two lanes in each direction on the surface, and more than 300 parking spaces in the median, the street is not what you would call pedestrian-friendly. It’s also dangerous, with a crash rate higher than three-quarters of Brooklyn streets.

"The Crossover," where the BQE and Park Avenue part ways, currently functions like a highway merge on surface streets (top). Under a new, community-backed proposal, this location would see major changes to curb speeding and make crossings safer (bottom). Image: MARP/Architecture for Humanity

More than 50 years after Robert Moses and the BQE changed Park Avenue, the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project Local Development Corporation (MARP) is pushing to enhance the street for walking and public activity, unveiling a slate of proposals to reduce speeding and improve pedestrian safety [PDF].

In 2009 and 2010, MARP hosted three community workshops as part of an effort to reuse spaces beneath the BQE. Based on community feedback at those events, the group decided to focus on traffic safety. In late 2010, Architecture for Humanity New York joined the project, working with MARP throughout 2011 to conduct research and host workshops. An advisory committee comprised of residents, community organizations and city agencies also helped guide the recommendations. Funding for the report was provided by the Brooklyn Community Foundation.

The recommendations are comprehensive and address everything from litter to traffic signal timing. In May, MARP went before Community Board 2′s transportation committee, which voted unanimously to support the proposals.

Intersections would receive significant upgrades. The plan calls for neckdowns and crosswalk markings on cross-streets along the median. Access points to parking underneath the BQE would be marked as pedestrian crossings, with raised crosswalks and stop signs. At North Portland, Clinton and Clermont Avenues, the report recommends closing auto access to parking under the BQE to improve safety for the higher number of pedestrians crossing Park Avenue at those intersections.

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CB 2 Committee Asks DOT to Study Lafayette Avenue Bike Lane

It only took Hilda Cohen and Ali Loxton ten weeks to collect 1,600 signatures supporting a traffic-calming redesign, including a bike lane, for Brooklyn’s Lafayette Avenue. Yesterday evening they took their petition to the transportation committee of Community Board 2 and made their case. The result: a 9-1 committee vote asking DOT to study Cohen and Loxton’s proposal.

Last October, two drivers traveling at high speeds crashed at the corner of Lafayette and Vanderbilt, jumping the curb. Photo: Fort Greene Patch

There’s still a long way to go before an official redesign moves forward, but Cohen and Loxton’s impressive organizing has revived the idea of redesigning Lafayette, and it’s a great case study in how to mobilize for safer streets.

Cohen and Loxton both live in Fort Greene and bike, walk and drive on Lafayette with their kids. They told the CB 2 committee last night that the street feels like it’s geared more toward fast-moving cars than people, with two eastbound traffic lanes and two parking lanes. The galvanizing moment for them came last October, when two drivers crashed at high speeds at the corner of Lafayette and Vanderbilt Avenue, jumping the curb outside a packed church.

The next week, they started gathering signatures supporting “traffic calming and a bike lane” on Lafayette. Their regular sign-up spot was the farmers market by Fort Greene Park. Since the weekend of the New York City marathon in early November, 1,500 people have signed the petition in writing and another 100 have signed it online.

“You would just say ‘Lafayette’ and people would want to talk to us,” said Loxton. “In the cold, they would stop.”

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Clinton Hill Celebrates Putnam Plaza With Dance Party

Last Monday, DOT workers laid down gravel and epoxy on top of the asphalt on a block of Putnam Avenue, transforming the area between Fulton Street and Grand Avenue from through street to public space. On Sunday, Clinton Hill came out to celebrate. The opening weekend block party was captured by local documentary maker Adele Pham, who distilled two minutes and 12 seconds of pure feel-good video.

“People can enjoy it now, and have been since about five minutes after the street was closed,” said Phillip Kellogg, the manager of the Fulton Area Business Alliance, which sponsored the plaza. Five minutes after the work crews left, he said, a skateboarder was trying out the new space. Immediately after tables and chairs were put out, locals brought out their chess sets. People escaped the heat of the laundromat and waited for their loads to finish out in the fresh air. “Everybody’s been giving it a thumbs up,” said Kellogg.

The plaza, still only a week old, has so far been the boon for business that the FAB hoped it would be. “Enhancing the pedestrian experience along Fulton makes it more appealing to walk on Fulton Street, to shop and come to our restaurants and get dinner or a drink,” said Kellogg. That theory was put to the test on Sunday and passed with flying colors, he added, convincing even the skeptical businesses that the plaza works, so far. “The deli sold a lot of soda and seltzer. The cafés were jam-packed, with lines out the door.”

Because Fulton cuts through the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill grids diagonally, said Kellogg, there are lots of underutilized triangular spaces created at three-way intersections. In addition to the Putnam plaza, which was built quickly with less permanent materials, FAB is also sponsoring the Fowler Square plaza, at the intersection of Fulton, Lafayette Avenue and South Elliott Place, which is going through the DOT’s formal plaza program and will be built with higher-quality materials. Right now, Fowler Square “is the kind of place where people just walk through on the way to somewhere else,” said Kellogg. “It’s really important that people realize that it’s theirs.”