Skip to content

Posts from the Cobble Hill Category

41 Comments

5 Highlights From Last Night’s Bike-Share vs. Parking Meeting

A dense network of stations is what makes bike-share work so well in these Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Last night’s Brooklyn Community Board 6 bike-share forum lacked the fireworks of previous meetings — no physical threats this time. While the tone was civil, the demands from the anti-bike-share crowd weren’t exactly reasonable.

So far, Citi Bike has proven incredibly popular in CB 6, with some stations getting as much as seven rides per dock each day. That’s a lot more activity than the average free car parking spot ever sees.

Opponents said they would be fine with the bike-share stations if they didn’t occupy curb space that previously served as free car storage. They suggested the docks be moved onto sidewalks and that the station density be cut in half. But sidewalks in Park Slope and Carroll Gardens don’t have room for bike-share stations, and reducing station density would ruin the usefulness of the bike-share system. Bike-share only works well when you don’t have to walk more than a couple of minutes to reach a station.

With the room at capacity, Council Member Brad Lander live streamed the meeting for people stuck outside. The entire one-hour, 45-minute video (which amazingly does not capture the entire meeting) is available on Lander’s Facebook page. Here are the highlights:

Read more…

20 Comments

Bike-Share Already Getting More Use Than Park Slope’s Free Parking Spots

Citi Bike is getting a lot of use in Park Slope. Image: Viktor Geller

Citi Bike use is high and rising in Park Slope. Image: Viktor Geller

The new bike-share stations in Brooklyn south of Atlantic Avenue are getting a lot more use than your average free on-street parking space, according to recent Citi Bike data compiled by Carroll Gardens resident Viktor Geller [PDF]. Geller addressed the report to Brooklyn Community Board 6, which is holding a hearing on Thursday in response to complaints about bike-share stations replacing curbside car parking.

Citi Bike and DOT publish usage data online each month. In the neighborhoods in CB 6, stations were just installed this summer, and Geller’s data shows usage is still on the rise.

Stations in some neighborhoods are used more intensely than others. In Park Slope, it’s typical for two or three bike-share trips to begin or end at each dock each day. In Red Hook, the average is lower — more like one bike-share “event” at each dock per day. But even so, since each car parking space is equivalent to about eight bike-share docks, that means about eight bike-share trips either begin or end each day in the space one car would occupy — and that’s in the area with the least amount of use.

Read more…

8 Comments

Citi Bike Expands South of Atlantic Avenue

A newly-installed Citi Bike station outside the Fifth Avenue Key Foods in Park Slope. Photo: @brooklynsja

A newly-installed Citi Bike station outside the Fifth Avenue Key Foods in Park Slope. Photo: @brooklynsja

Yesterday, Citi Bike began installing stations in the Brooklyn neighborhoods south of Atlantic Avenue and west of Prospect Park. A few stations are already operating, according to the Citi Bike station map, with a total of 73 set to go live in the area in the coming weeks.

All told there are 139 new bike-share stations coming online this year, with another batch in the pipeline for 2017.

The initial expansion map for this part of Brooklyn called for 20 stations per square mile, spreading them farther apart than the 23 per square mile in the initial Citi Bike service area. This was a problem, since longer walking distances between stations make the system less useful.

In May, DOT proposed 11 more station locations [PDF], bringing the station density in line with the rest of the system (but still short of the 28 per square mile recommended by the National Association of City Transportation Officials).

The eleven "infill" stations added by DOT after the initial station map was approved are marked in black. Image: DOT

The 11 black stations are “infill” added to the initial station map. Image: DOT

Here’s a look at a few more of the new stations that have gone in since yesterday:

Read more…

11 Comments

The Case for the “Amity Street Wiggle”

Cyclists doing the "Amity Wiggle" during a demonstration set up by community members on Tuesday. Photo: David Meyer

Cyclists doing the “Amity Wiggle” during a demonstration set up by volunteers on Tuesday. Photo: David Meyer

Ian Dutton has an idea to improve the eastbound bike route through Cobble Hill.

The street network has no good, officially-sanctioned bike connection from points west of Court Street onto the Dean Street bike lane. But hundreds of cyclists each day make their own route, taking Amity Street, then doing a short jog against traffic on Court Street to hit Dean. That maneuver — which Dutton calls the “Amity Wiggle” — is technically illegal, and there’s no infrastructure to formalize it.

Dutton wants to change that. His proposal, which Community Board 6’s transportation committee will consider recommending to DOT at its meeting next week, would put a buffered bike lane on Amity between Henry Street and Court Street [PDF]. A concrete island would route cyclists through the wiggle onto Dean Street — while giving pedestrians a shorter crossing and discouraging drivers from following the same path:

This design for the "Amity Wiggle" would codify and make safer a common maneuver for cyclists traveling east from Brooklyn's waterfront neighborhoods. Image: Ian Dutton

This design for the “Amity Wiggle” would codify and improve the safety of a common maneuver for cyclists traveling east from the waterfront through Cobble Hill. Image: Bahij Chancey

To prevent cyclists from conflicting with southbound drivers on Court Street, a sign would direct them to proceed when pedestrians have the signal to cross and cars are stopped at Dean Street.

“If you’re coming from Brooklyn Heights and you want to get over to points east, it makes total sense,” said Dutton. “And people already do it. You come down Henry Street til it ends, the bike lane ends, turn on Amity and then you make the wiggle across Court Street.”

Read more…

42 Comments

The Next Brooklyn Bike-Share Expansion Will Be the Thinnest Part of Citi Bike

cb6_bike-share

Citi Bike is coming to the neighborhoods west of Prospect Park, but the stations won’t be spaced conveniently close together. Map via NYC DOT. Click to enlarge.

DOT unveiled its latest Citi Bike expansion map last week, and the stations look significantly more spread out than stations in the rest of the system.

Spread-out stations are a problem for bike-share users because people have to walk farther to make trips, and that costs time. The National Association of City Transportation Officials recommends 28 stations per square mile — and the city’s contract with Citi Bike operator Motivate stipulates the same metric — but NYC DOT has been thinning out stations in its expansion zones. The city wants to cover the geographic area described in the bike-share contract, while Motivate doesn’t want to supply more than the 378 additional stations it’s required to. The result is a less effective system for everyone.

With 62 stations covering the 3.1 square miles of Brooklyn Community Board 6 — which includes Red Hook, Park Slope, and everything in between — the station density works out to 20 per square mile. As Citi Bike expands into Upper Manhattan, western Queens, and more of Brooklyn by 2017, these are the station densities New Yorkers can expect in the absence of a new strategy from DOT and/or Motivate.

DOT officials told the CB 6 committee that more stations can be added after the initial rollout. But it could be a long time before those gaps get filled in. When the current round of expansion wraps up in 2017, there will be a lot of ground to cover with infill stations plus huge pressure to keep expanding outward.

Ironically, the one thing Citi Bike had going for it consistently from the very beginning — a convenient network where a station was always a short walk away — is deteriorating just as everything else comes together. Citi Bike is finally on the rebound thanks to a thorough overhaul of its equipment and software. How long will the good times last if every expansion fails to deliver the convenience bike-share users have come to expect?

20 Comments

No Charges for Driver Who Killed 66 Year-Old Man on Atlantic Avenue

The victim had just left Key Food when he was struck outside the crosswalk by a driver going westbound on Atlantic, on the

The victim had just left Key Food when he was struck by a driver going east on Atlantic. Eastbound traffic is heading away from the camera. Photo: Google Maps

Update [Wednesday, August 12]: The victim has been identified as Muyassar Moustapha, 66.

A driver struck and killed a local store owner on Atlantic Avenue last night. NYPD says the pedestrian was at fault for crossing outside the crosswalk and against the light, and the driver faces no charges.

Police have not released the victim’s name pending family notification, but a friend told the Daily News that the 66-year-old man is one of the longtime owners of Oriental Pastry and Grocery on Atlantic Avenue. He had just left the Key Food on the northeast corner of Atlantic and Clinton and was crossing to the south side of the street when he was struck at 8:24 p.m.

“That car threw his body maybe 20 feet in the air. He hit him at full impact,” a witness told the Daily News. “The guy lost so much blood. There was nothing anyone could do.” Police say he was rushed to Brooklyn Hospital Center, where he died of his injuries.

“It appears the vehicle had the green light,” an NYPD spokesperson said, adding that the victim was “outside of the crosswalk” when he was struck by a 26-year-old driver in a Mercedes C300 on eastbound Atlantic. The driver does not currently face any charges, though the case remains under investigation by NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad.

NYPD did not provide more detail, such as whether the driver was speeding or distracted before he crashed into the pedestrian. “We’ll have to wait for the CIS team to come back with a full report,” the spokesperson said.

The intersection with Clinton Street received leading pedestrian intervals, which give walkers a head start on turning drivers, in 2001 [PDF]. Atlantic Avenue became the city’s first 25 mph “arterial slow zone” last year. In January, it was named a Vision Zero priority corridor.

DOT has installed traffic calming measures near the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, a few blocks west of yesterday’s crash site. Last year, Community Board 2 and the Atlantic Avenue Business Improvement District asked for additional fixes covering Clinton and other intersections between Flatbush Avenue and the BQE. The BID says Atlantic has received additional LPIs, but DOT has not added the requested curb extensions or shared-lane bicycle markings.

Read more…

6 Comments

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?

Read more…

15 Comments

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.”

Read more…

7 Comments

Brooklyn CB 2 Committee Supports PARK Smart for Atlantic, Court, and Smith

On-street parking reform for Atlantic Avenue, Court Street, and Smith Street in Brooklyn moved ahead last night with a 6-0-1 vote from Community Board 2’s transportation committee in favor of a new DOT PARK Smart zone. The proposal [PDF], prompted by a request from the owner of Sahadi’s, aims to curb traffic and increase on-street parking availability for retail shoppers by allowing meter rates to rise after the first 30 minutes.

DOT aims to curb traffic and increase parking turnover by discouraging drivers from parking on commercial streets for hours at a time. Blue lines indicate streets that will receive the PARK Smart reforms; orange lines show streets included in the study that will not be seeing any parking meter changes.

Presently, Atlantic Avenue west of Fourth Avenue and Court and Smith Streets between Atlantic Avenue and Sackett Street includes a mix of one- and two-hour limits, with rates at $1 per hour. Today, with limited enforcement of time limits, it’s common for some motorists to park all day on busy commercial streets — even as nearby garages sit mostly-empty — while retail customers circle for available spots.

“People are staying all day on both sides of Atlantic,” said DOT PARK Smart manager Manzell Blakeley. “People are really staying for four or five hours.”

The PARK Smart proposal would discourage long-term parking with a pricing structure that ramps up charges for longer stays. The area would receive a uniform two-hour limit, and rates would remain at 50 cents for the first half-hour. But the second half-hour would cost $1, the third would also cost $1, and the fourth would cost $1.50. A driver looking to skirt the rules and keep paying the low rate for long stays would have to feed the meter every 30 minutes.

Charlie Sahadi, who owns Sahadi’s food store on Atlantic Avenue, said that it can be difficult to know how customers get to the store, though he often hears complaints from customers who have to circle for parking. He mentioned the problem to State Senator Daniel Squadron, who connected him with DOT’s PARK Smart staff.

“If you’re in the retail business, you depend on customers coming in and buying stuff,” Sahadi said. “My aim is to get more foot traffic on the street.”

Sahadi thinks DOT’s progressive rate structure will make it easier for his customers find parking, and is glad that it can be tweaked in the future. “One of the beauties of PARK Smart is, it’s flexible,” he said. “It’s worth a shot.”

To come up with the new policy, DOT interviewed over 100 business owners and held an open house to get feedback. The agency also used time-lapse photos of the area’s streets — a new data-collection method for PARK Smart — to determine parking occupancy and duration rates.

Read more…

30 Comments

Eyes on the Street: A New Bike Corral and a Safer Intersection in Cobble Hill

A new bike corral was installed yesterday on Court Street in Brooklyn. Photo: Josef Szende/Atlantic Avenue BID

Yesterday, DOT crews installed a bike corral on Court Street near the intersection with Pacific Street, in a “no standing” zone that was often ignored. Like other bike corrals the city has recently installed, this one will improve safety for pedestrians by keeping the corner visible to turning drivers. It’s also going to improve customer access to nearby retailers, including the Trader Joe’s across Court Street.

The planting was done by Atlantic Avenue gardening shop Dig and was paid for by the Cobble Hill Association (the corral is one of several street safety improvements the CHA has called for). The Atlantic Avenue Business Improvement District will maintain the bike corral. Community Board 2’s transportation committee voted unanimously in support of the project in June.

The Cobble Hill Association advocated for the bike corral to help improve sightlines at the corner of Court and Pacific. Photo: Josef Szende/Atlantic Avenue BID