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Posts from the Crown Heights Category

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Eyes on the Street: Eastern Parkway Gets Removable Rubber Ped Islands

Photo: Zeke Mermell

The rubber pedestrian island at Eastern Parkway and Kingston Avenue, where the city ripped out a concrete island earlier this year. Photo: Zeke Mermell

DOT has installed “removable rubber pedestrian islands” at two intersections on Eastern Parkway, two months after Mayor de Blasio authorized the removal of concrete pedestrian islands to ostensibly make room for the West Indian Day Parade.

The concrete islands were only in place for about eight months. They were installed last December at Kingston Avenue and Brooklyn Avenue in response to an extensive public process for a Safe Routes to School project, but they were removed mere days before the parade without any public notification.

After the concrete islands were torn up, de Blasio said the city would find a “long-term solution” that would not require parade floats, which come down the boulevard just once each year, to “navigate the very tight space.”

Yesterday, DOT began installing removable rubber islands in place of the concrete ones. The new islands are made of modular components and roughly match the dimensions of the ones they replaced, but they cannot anchor the heavy-duty bell bollards that provide a line of defense in the event a motorist drives into the refuge. This is the first such “removable rubber pedestrian refuge island” in the city, according to DOT.

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De Blasio: Eastern Parkway Pedestrian Islands Posed Parade Safety Hazard

Mayor de Blasio speaking at yesterday's press conference. Photo: Flickr/NYC Mayor's Office

Mayor de Blasio said the city didn’t realize pedestrian islands on Eastern Parkway would interfere with an annual parade, so he had them torn up. Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office/Flickr

Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference yesterday that pedestrian islands on Eastern Parkway were removed because unnamed elected officials wanted to make room for West Indian Day Parade floats, which would have otherwise posed a risk to the public. The mayor indicated the median islands would not have been installed had the city realized they would interfere with the parade, which is held once a year.

The concrete islands at Eastern Parkway and Kingston and Brooklyn avenues were installed last December as part of a Safe Routes to School project 10 years in the making. The segment of Eastern Parkway where the islands were is a Vision Zero priority corridor with five priority intersections, including Kingston Avenue, where seven people were severely injured in traffic crashes from 2009 to 2013. Four pedestrians were killed on that section of the parkway during that time period.

Last Sunday the Post reported the islands would be removed at the request of parade organizers. On Tuesday the city ripped them up.

Yesterday the mayor’s office told Streetsblog removing the islands was “an NYPD directive.” NYPD referred us to DOT.

Ultimately, though, it was the mayor who authorized removing pedestrian infrastructure from one of Brooklyn’s most dangerous streets with no public process. At Wednesday’s presser on new J’Ouvert security measures, de Blasio said he was prompted by requests from elected officials, whom he did not name.

Here are de Blasio’s remarks, from a press conference transcript:

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De Blasio’s Office Ducks Responsibility for Erasing Eastern Pkwy Ped Islands

Pedestrian islands on Eastern Parkway barely lasted nine months before DOT ripped them up, and no one in the de Blasio administration will say why. Photo: David Meyer

Pedestrian islands on Eastern Parkway barely lasted nine months before DOT ripped them up, and no one in the de Blasio administration will say why. Photo: David Meyer

DOT removed pedestrian islands on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights yesterday, undoing years of street safety advocacy work on the part of local residents and community board members with no public process, and no one in the de Blasio administration is taking responsibility.

Earlier this week, the Post reported that organizers of the West Indian Day Parade requested that concrete medians at Kingston and Brooklyn avenues be destroyed so floats and trucks “can navigate the roadway” for the event, which is held once a year. It’s not clear how the islands, which were installed in 2015, would impact the parade, since identical street treatments have been in place for years elsewhere along the route.

We asked City Hall if the order to remove the islands originated with the mayor’s office. “This was an NYPD directive, not City Hall’s,” de Blasio spokesperson Austin Finan told us via email.

NYPD referred us to DOT. When we called DOT for comment, the person who answered the phone said all agency press reps were away from their desks. DOT got back to us, but only to ask which NYPD staffer referred us to DOT.

Brooklyn Community Board 8, which endorsed the project that included the islands, was not notified that they would be removed, according to Rob Witherwax, a longtime street safety advocate who serves on the board’s transportation committee. Witherwax said he learned about the changes on Streetsblog.

DOT rarely undertakes street safety projects without the approval of the local community board, but the agency does not always consult boards before removing bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

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DOT, NYPD Remove New Eastern Parkway Ped Islands for Once-a-Year Parade

island_museum

The city is removing two pedestrian islands from Eastern Parkway to accommodate the West Indian Day Parade, but the parade has passed three other islands for years, including this one by the Brooklyn Museum. Image: Google Earth

DOT and NYPD are destroying two concrete pedestrian islands the city installed less than a year ago on Eastern Parkway at the request of organizers of next weekend’s West Indian Day Parade, the Post reports.

Instead of making the parade accommodate permanent pedestrian infrastructure, the city is undoing safety measures that protect people 365 days out of the year to accommodate an event on a single day.

The medians — at the intersections of Kingston and Brooklyn Avenues — were installed in December as part of a Safe Routes to Schools plan for Arista Prep Academy and Nursery School and the Oholei Torah yeshiva that was in the works for 10 years [PDF]. The intersection of Kingston and Eastern Parkway is also a Vision Zero priority intersection where seven people were severely injured from 2009 and 2013.

The West Indian Day Parade draws more than a million people to Eastern Parkway every Labor Day. DOT must have been aware of the parade when planning the project.

It’s not clear why the parade is incompatible with the islands, especially since the route has already passed by three concrete pedestrian islands west of Washington Avenue for years. Those islands will not be removed. Parade officials were nevertheless able to convince the city to remove the two new concrete islands.

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Assembly Member Nick Perry Tried to Weaken Bus Lanes All Over NYC

Riders board the B46 SBS at the bus stop where the route connects to the 3 and 4 trains. Photo: David Meyer

Perry bill’s aimed to weaken bus lane enforcement on Brooklyn’s busiest bus route — the B46, where Select Bus Service debuted last week — as well as bus lanes throughout the city. Photo: David Meyer

Upset at the prospect of camera-enforced bus lanes on Utica Avenue, which carries more bus passengers than all but a few other streets in New York, Assembly Member N. Nick Perry introduced a bill in Albany this session that would have rendered every bus lane in the city next to useless during midday hours. The bill picked up a sponsor in the State Senate majority — Brooklyn Republican Marty Golden, who later withdrew the bill, preventing a vote.

Assembly Member N. Nick Perry

Assembly Member N. Nick Perry

New York has the nation’s slowest buses, but NYC DOT and the MTA have started to tackle the problem in recent years by rolling out Select Bus Service routes that feature dedicated bus lanes. With less car congestion and double parking blocking the right of way, the lanes make bus travel faster and more reliable. Together with improvements like off-board fare collection, bus lanes have improved travel times for passengers in the range of 15 to 30 percent.

The newest camera-enforced bus lane is on Utica Avenue in Perry’s East Flatbush district. Brooklyn’s busiest bus route, the B46, runs on Utica and carries 44,000 passengers each weekday. SBS launched there last week, making the B46 the tenth SBS route with bus lanes or bus-only segments. Several older bus lane segments on major avenues are also eligible for camera enforcement.

All of these bus lanes could have been compromised by Perry’s bill, introduced in April, to let drivers travel in bus lanes between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. if they stay at least 250 feet away from buses. Text accompanying the bill argued that “bus lane violations serve as a trap for tickets and summons by the police.”

In practice, the bill would render bus lanes unenforceable during the middle of the day, when ridership remains high and service is frequent on busy bus routes. On the B46, for instance, buses run every 5-6 minutes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Golden introduced a companion bill in the State Senate in May but then withdrew it from consideration the following month.

Perry claimed his bill would make bus lanes “more efficient.” “If [drivers] see a bus approaching behind them, they should safely exit the bus lane,” he said. “But when there are no buses using the bus lane, we should not waste [road space].

But that scenario highlights why the bill would not work for either cars or buses — the constant merging by drivers in and out of the bus lane would slow down both motorists and bus passengers.

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Relief for Riders on Brooklyn’s Busiest Bus Route as B46 SBS Debuts

B46_SBS

Riders boarding the B46 SBS at the connection from the 3 and 4 trains no longer have to wait for everyone to dip a Metrocard. Photo: David Meyer

The B46 on Utica Avenue is Brooklyn’s busiest bus route, with more than 44,000 trips each weekday. Like other high-volume NYC bus routes, the B46 has also been susceptible to paralyzing traffic congestion and a boarding process that takes ages, as each passenger dips a Metrocard at the front of the bus. But B46 riders got some relief from slow, unreliable service this weekend with the launch of Select Bus Service.

With camera-enforced bus lanes, off-board fare collection, fewer stops, and priority for buses at traffic signals, NYC DOT and the MTA implemented a suite of improvements similar to the nearby B44, where travel times improved 15-30 percent after the debut of SBS.

Dedicated bus lanes were implemented on Utica Avenue in 2014 and 2015. Image: DOT

Bus lanes were implemented on Utica Avenue in 2014 and 2015, but camera enforcement didn’t begin until this month. Image: DOT

Where it runs through East Flatbush, the B46 serves some of the densest neighborhoods in the city outside of convenient walking access to the subway. (Last year, Mayor de Blasio suggested extending the subway from Eastern Parkway down Utica Avenue.)

DOT implemented bus lanes and transit signal priority on Utica in 2014 and 2015. On Sunday, off-board payment, bus stop consolidation, and camera enforcement of the bus lanes took effect, though drivers who violate the bus lanes will receive warnings instead of fines for the first 60 days. Bus bulbs — which enable passengers to board without the bus driver pulling in and out of traffic — will be installed next year.

On the evening commute yesterday, Elizabeth Bruno, who takes the B46 one stop between her home and the Utica Avenue subway station on Eastern Parkway, said she has noticed improvements even though riders are still adjusting to the service. “Because it’s new, I think, it takes a little while for people to get accustomed to, but once they get accustomed to [it], I think it will be fine,” Bruno said. “The Select is moving really faster because you don’t stop at every stop.”

“With the Select, it has gotten a little better,” said Yvette Glover, who rides the B46 every day from Eastern Parkway to Broadway and Myrtle. “I believe it’s a good thing.”

The B46 SBS runs from DeKalb Avenue to Kings Plaza, replacing the old B46 Limited that ran the length of the route but made express stops between DeKalb Avenue and Avenue H. The local B46, which previously stopped at DeKalb Avenue, will now make local stops from Kings Plaza all the way to the Williamsburg terminus.

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The Campaign for a Better Street Safety Conversation in PLG/Crown Heights

PLG_slow

Participants at last night’s #SlowDownPLG workshop shared their ideas about neighborhood streets on giant aerial maps. Photo: David Meyer

Last night, Transportation Alternatives’ Brooklyn Activist Committee and the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association hosted a #SlowDownPLG workshop for neighborhood residents to share ideas about walking and biking safety in the neighborhood. Around 35 people attended and worked in small groups to address concerns on five streets: Ocean Avenue, Flatbush Avenue, Rogers Avenue, Nostrand Avenue, and Empire Boulevard.

Excessive speeding and a lack of effective bike infrastructure were among people’s top concerns. Daniel Kristjansson, a TA volunteer who also serves on the CB 9 transportation committee, shared a TA-initiated study that showed 80 percent of all drivers on Rogers Avenue speed, with the worst offenders going more than twice the 25 mph limit. Rogers, like many streets in the neighborhood, is also plagued by double-parking and drivers blowing through red lights.

The one north-south bike lane in the neighborhood is on Bedford Avenue, but cyclists last night said they avoid Bedford because of speeding motorists, poor lighting, and the steep incline.

Within Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Nostrand, Flatbush, and Franklin avenues are all priority corridors in DOT’s Vision Zero borough action plan, meaning they are especially dangerous. Fatal crashes in both Prospect Lefferts Gardens and Crown Heights are all too common, but Community Board 9 has been in disarray, and DOT hasn’t done much to improve street design in the area.

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Gwendolyn Booker, Killed by School Bus Driver on Atlantic Avenue Sidewalk

Atlantic Avenue location where a school bus driver fatally struck Gwendolyn Booker on the sidewalk last Friday. Image: Google Maps

Atlantic Avenue location where a school bus driver fatally struck Gwendolyn Booker on the sidewalk last Friday. Booker was at least the fifth pedestrian or cyclist killed on Atlantic since last August. Image: Google Maps

Another pedestrian was killed on Atlantic Avenue when a motorist struck a woman on the sidewalk.

Gwendolyn Booker, 50, was walking on Atlantic near Schenectady Avenue last Friday at around 6:30 p.m. when a school bus driver mounted the curb, according to NYPD and published accounts.

Motorists have killed at least four people on Brooklyn sidewalks in the last seven months. DA Ken Thompson charged none of those drivers for taking a life.

Motorists have killed at least four people on Brooklyn sidewalks in the last seven months. DA Ken Thompson charged none of those drivers for taking a life.

From Gothamist:

The bus struck two light poles, a gas station, and smashed into several parked cars, in addition to striking the victim.

Multiple news outlets reported that, according to unidentified police sources, a second motorist cut off the school bus driver, “causing” him or her to leave the roadway. Many reports used similar or identical language to describe the crash. None of those outlets — the Post, WCBS, WPIX, the Daily News, or WABC — apparently questioned their NYPD sources as to why steering onto the sidewalk was justifiable, how fast the bus driver was traveling at the time of the crash, or if the driver was distracted. Instead, the bus driver has been absolved in nearly all the press accounts because of a second motorist who hasn’t been located or publicly identified.

The NYPD public information office had no other details about the incident. The bus driver’s name was not released by police, and no charges had been filed as of Monday afternoon.

Booker was at least the fifth pedestrian or cyclist killed by a driver on Atlantic Avenue since last August, and the fourth Brooklyn pedestrian fatally struck on a sidewalk since last July, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. District Attorney Ken Thompson charged none of the drivers in any of those crashes for taking a life.

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DOT Plans East-West Bike Connections in Crown Heights

DOT wants to install dedicated bike lanes on St. Johns Place and Sterling Place in Crown Heights. Image: DOT

DOT wants to install painted bike lanes on St. Johns Place and Sterling Place in Crown Heights [PDF]. Image: DOT

DOT presented plans for east-west bike lanes in Prospect Heights and Crown Heights to the Brooklyn CB 8 transportation committee earlier this week [PDF].

The proposal calls for painted lanes on St. Johns Place from Plaza Street East to Rogers Avenue and from New York Avenue to Ralph Avenue, with sharrows on the narrow one-way strip in between. St. Johns fluctuates between two-way and one-way traffic flow, and will have eastbound-only bike markings between Washington Avenue and Kingston Avenue. Signage will route westbound cyclists to Sterling Place one block north, where DOT plans to paint a lane from Kingston to Vanderbilt Avenue.

sterling

There are currently no markings to differentiate space on Sterling Place. Image: DOT

Speeding is a problem on these side streets, with 47 percent of drivers on the corridor traveling over the speed limit, according to DOT. Within the project limits, 47 people were severely injured in the five years from 2010 through 2014. On Sterling, which is 34 feet wide, there is currently no striping to differentiate lanes.

DOT also wants to prevent conflicts between turning drivers and pedestrians at the intersection of St. Johns and Utica Avenue, where seven pedestrians were severely injured between 2010 and 2014. Left turns from northbound Utica would be banned, while left turn lanes would be installed in both directions on St. Johns.

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Empire Blvd Safety Fixes Run Up Against Parking and Gentrification Politics

A federally-funded redesign and reconstruction of two dangerous Empire Boulevard intersections is in jeopardy, running up against a combination of parking politics and gentrification fears.

DOT has plans to replace a small slip lane that feeds into Empire Boulevard with a pedestrian plaza, but local anger over gentrification could prevent the project from coming to fruition. Image: DOT/DDC/RBA Group

A plan to convert a small slip lane into sidewalk space is being met with resistance at Community Board 9. Image: DOT/DDC/RBA Group

The plan would add sidewalk space by simplifying two complex intersections where several streets converge [PDF]. On the western end of Empire, a slip lane would be closed at the intersection of Washington Avenue and Franklin Avenue. To the east, pedestrian space would be claimed at the even more complicated tangle of streets where Empire meets Utica Avenue, East New York Avenue, and Remsen Avenue.

Empire Boulevard is one of the most dangerous streets in Brooklyn. At these two intersections alone, there were 490 injuries between 2009 and 2013. Removing slip lanes at both locations will eliminate shortcuts where drivers can cut quickly across pedestrians’ paths, without fundamentally changing how traffic flows.

At Wednesday’s CB 9 Transportation Committee meeting, neighborhood residents and community board members joined around 10 representatives from DOT, the Department of Design and Construction, and the RBA Group to discuss the proposal, which the committee approved in a unanimous 4-0 vote in September. Chair Tim Thomas said he invited city officials to come back and make the case after the proposal drew criticism at a meeting of the full community board in November.

Supporters of the proposal presented a petition with nearly 300 signatures Wednesday night. Daniel Kristjansson, who sits on the committee, said in an email to Streetsblog that the project is a small but necessary step to make Empire Boulevard safer. “Empire Boulevard is deadly, and even with these changes it will still kill and subject many more to a lifetime of pain and disability,” he said. “But these improvements will make a noticeable dent in the casualty figures.”

The project has become swept up in the debate over the rezoning of Empire Boulevard, a flashpoint in predominantly black neighborhoods experiencing a rapid influx of more affluent, white residents. “I’ve been living on Washington Avenue all my life and living there has been a great pleasure — until recently, when these changes [have] taken place,” one resident, Felice Robertson, told the committee.

Other complaints were typical of street redesigns anywhere in the city. Robertson also said the neighborhood is “in dire need of parking spaces.” Another resident suggested that instead of pedestrianizing a block of Franklin the city should install a neckdown, which could be done “without taking away 15 parking spaces, which is a critical part of what this community still needs.” (The project would only remove seven spaces.)

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