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Posts from the Downtown Brooklyn Category

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Jay Street Redesign Clears CB 2, With Some Design Details Left for Later

Image: DOT

Brooklyn Community Board 2 endorsed most of DOT’s plan for curbside protected bike lanes on Jay Street between Fulton Mall and Tillary Street at its monthly meeting last night. Two key design decisions at each end of the project have yet to be finalized, however, and will be presented to the transportation committee in May.

Chaotic Jay Street is a key link to the Manhattan Bridge, and cyclists account for 34 percent of vehicles on the street during peak hours. The DOT plan calls for curbside, parking protected bike lanes, though at seven feet wide, the lanes will be narrower than bikeway design guidelines recommend.

When DOT presented the plan to CB 2’s transportation committee last month, the committee declined to endorse a new crosswalk at the off-ramp from the Manhattan Bridge just north of Nassau Street, where a fence currently blocks pedestrians from crossing. Before taking a position, committee members wanted to know how DOT intends to control traffic coming off the bridge.

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Who Rules the Roost on Jay Street? Placard Abusers, That’s Who

jay_street

Most of Jay Street is a “no standing zone” where placard holders both real and fake park without consequence. Photo: David Meyer

Jay Street in downtown Brooklyn is one of the most important segments in the city’s bike network, the key passage to and from the Manhattan Bridge. It’s also a huge impediment to biking in the city — the street is rife with double-parking, illegal U-turns, and the unnerving threat of a car door suddenly opening and throwing you into the path of a passing bus. An upcoming redesign of Jay Street should improve the situation, but it too will be hampered by the culture of parking placard abuse that pervades downtown Brooklyn streets.

The chaos on Jay Street emanates from placard holders and fake placard holders who park all over the place. Even legit placards aren’t a valid license to park in bus stops or crosswalks, but NYPD doesn’t enforce the rules. Soon after the 84th Precinct cracked down on Jay Street placard abuse in 2014, the commanding officer was reassigned.

Advocates campaigned long and hard to get the city to redesign Jay Street, and this summer, DOT plans to flip the bike lane with the parking lane to provide some physical protection. It should be a less stressful experience, but there’s a catch: The proposed bike lane is a sub-standard width on a street that typically already sees 2,400 cyclists in the peak 12-hour period. The National Association of City Transportation Officials advises that protected lanes should be at least five feet wide with a three-foot buffer from parked cars to keep cyclists clear of the door zone, but the Jay Street design calls for five-foot lanes with two-foot buffers.

The bike lane could be wider if it weren’t for all the placard parking on Jay Street. Take out the parking, and there’s a lot more room to work with. If the city was willing to make placard holders park a little further from their destinations — like in one of the many nearby garages with a glut of parking, thanks to downtown Brooklyn’s parking requirements — the options for good street design open up.

So who is parking on Jay Street? Whose entitlement to convenient personal parking trumps street safety and good bus service for everyone? I made a few trips in the past week to document the placard abuse up close.

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Jay Street Protected Bike Lane Plan Clears Brooklyn CB 2 Committee

Image: DOT

Image: DOT

Last night, DOT presented its proposal for a protected bike lane on Jay Street in downtown Brooklyn to the Community Board 2 transportation committee [PDF].

Jay Street is the main approach for the Brooklyn side of the Manhattan Bridge bike path. During a 12-hour weekday period, DOT counted 2,400 cyclists on Jay Street, with bikes accounting for 34 percent of vehicles during rush hour.

The project will replace painted lanes between Sands Street and Fulton Street with curbside parking-protected bike lanes. The new design will save cyclists from having to dodge between double-parked cars and moving traffic. It’s going to be a tight squeeze, though: The proposed five-foot bike lanes and two-foot painted buffer are narrower than typical protected bike lanes in the city. Buffers are usually three feet wide so cyclists don’t ride where they might get doored. Bus drivers will merge across the bike lane to access bus stops.

Many design details are still in development, including the Smith Street segment between Fulton Mall and Schermerhorn Street, the intersection with Tillary Street, and the area around the Manhattan Bridge. DOT Bicycle Program Director Hayes Lord said the department will come back to CB 2 at a later date, likely in May, to review the final details of the proposal.

Just past Nassau Street, where northbound cyclists must cross the path of drivers exiting the Manhattan Bridge, DOT wants to create a marked pedestrian/bike crossing that could be signalized, but the traffic control plan has not been finalized. Where Jay Street approaches Sands Street, DOT will create a new access point for cyclists through the fence that separates the bike lane from the bridge, so people on bikes can steer clear of right-turning motorists.

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Sneak Preview: The Jay Street Protected Bike Lane

DOT will present its proposal for protected bike lanes on Jay and Smith Streets in downtown Brooklyn to tonight's CB 2 transportation committee meeting. Image: DOT

Image: DOT

Tonight, DOT will present plans for a protected bike lane on Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn to the Brooklyn Community Board 2 transportation committee. DOT shared this rendering of the redesign with Streetsblog this afternoon.

Jay Street is an essential connection for bike commuters traveling over the Manhattan Bridge, but it’s chaos during rush hour, when cyclists must weave around a slalom course of double-parked vehicles and car and bus traffic.

Sean Quinn, DOT’s senior director for bicycle and pedestrian programs, told Streetsblog that the redesign has taken on greater urgency as the number of people biking on Jay Street has increased. DOT counts show 2,400 cyclists on the corridor in a 12-hour period. During rush hour, bikes make up 34 percent of the vehicles on Jay Street.

Once this project and its Manhattan counterpart on Chrystie Street are implemented, there will be four miles of continuous protected bike infrastructure from Midtown Manhattan to Downtown Brooklyn.

The DOT plan calls for parking-protected bike lanes on both sides of Jay Street between Sands Street and Fulton Street. For the most part, there will be five-foot bike lanes by the curb protected from motor vehicle traffic by parked cars with a two-foot painted buffer. The bikeways are narrower than typical protected bike lanes in NYC, which usually have at least a three-foot buffer and six-foot bike lane. South of Fulton, where Jay Street becomes Smith Street, there will be less protection, though we don’t have the specifics on that section yet.

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Eric Adams Proposes Downtown Brooklyn Car-Share Fleet for City Agencies

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is open to clearing Borough Hall Plaza of parked cars, and he also wants City Hall to study a car-share system for government agencies in Downtown Brooklyn.

We reported last November that Adams and his staff resumed using the plaza as a parking lot after an $11 million rehab, following the lead of his predecessor, shameless space hog Marty Markowitz.

In a recent letter to Mayor de Blasio, Adams said he is considering an internal survey to determine how Borough Hall employees get to work and looking at using off-site garages instead of the plaza.

He also suggested that city agencies with offices in Downtown Brooklyn may be able to consolidate their fleets. Adams wants to the city to investigate a “municipal car share system” to consolidate the vehicles of the half-dozen or so agencies located downtown. The Department of Buildings, the Department of Education, and DOT are among the agencies with offices in the area.

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Reimagining Jay Street With Shared Space and Protected Bike Lanes

A two-way, center-running bikeway and a bus lane would be added to Jay Street south of Tillary Street under a concept suggested by Transportation Alternatives. Image: Street Plans Collaborative for Transportation Alternatives

A two-way, center-running bikeway and a bus lane would be added to Jay Street south of Tillary Street under a concept suggested by Transportation Alternatives. Image: Street Plans Collaborative for Transportation Alternatives

Jay Street is one of the major north-south spines of Downtown Brooklyn. The street is full of pedestrians near MetroTech, cyclists going to and from the Manhattan Bridge, and buses connecting to nearby subways, but it’s not designed to serve anyone particularly well — except, perhaps, people with parking placards. Double-parked cars constantly obstruct bike lanes and buses. Pedestrians deal with dangerous intersections. Everyone is frustrated.

In March, Transportation Alternatives hosted a workshop with Council Member Stephen Levin and Community Board 2 to solicit ideas on how to improve Jay Street. Now, TA is out with the results of the project, including a redesign that features shared space and dedicated lanes for buses and cyclists [PDF].

Some of the changes can be implemented relatively quickly — like adding lighting beneath the Manhattan Bridge and giving pedestrians a head-start on crossing the street before drivers get a green light. Cracking down on illegal placard parking is a matter of will and could happen overnight if the authorities decide that it matters.

Other ideas would involve more substantial physical changes to the street. The report recommends upgrading the bike lane between York and Prospect Streets to a two-way protected bikeway to allow for better connections to DUMBO. The bikeway could then be extended along the west side of Jay Street between the Manhattan Bridge and Tillary Street. The complex intersection at Tillary would receive wider pedestrian medians, neckdowns, and signal changes that give cyclists time to cross the intersection when it isn’t filled with cars.

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DOT Studying Shared Space for Three Blocks Next to Willoughby Plaza

Three blocks, one on Willoughby Street and two on Pearl Street, could become shared space. Photo: Google Earth

DOT is looking to calm traffic on these three blocks by blurring the lines between sidewalk and roadway. Photo: Google Earth

Three narrow blocks near Willoughby Plaza in Downtown Brooklyn could become “shared space” streets under a DOT plan to blur the lines between sidewalks and car lanes. The concept has been under discussion for years as a way to slow motorists and give pedestrians more breathing room, and the city is now studying this concept in earnest. There are some funds allocated for construction, and DOT is planning to get feedback on potential designs at a public meeting next month.

“This is a different type of space,” said Laurel Brown of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “It’s not exactly a plaza where you don’t expect to see cars. It’s not exactly a street where you don’t expect to see people.”

The project would build on the success of Willoughby Plaza, which reclaimed an adjacent block from cars in 2006 and became the city’s first pedestrian plaza project to be cast in concrete early last year. Two of the proposed shared space blocks are on Pearl Street, running north of Fulton Mall until the street dead-ends at the Brooklyn Renaissance Plaza office tower. The other block is on Willoughby Street between Pearl and Jay Streets, immediately east of the plaza. In addition to people walking between Jay Street and Borough Hall, the streets are used primarily for loading and drop-offs, not through traffic. They are also full of parked cars, many using placards.

“We’re looking at some potential designs that will recognize the unique uses there, as opposed to putting down a typical New York City street,” said Chris Hrones, DOT’s Downtown Brooklyn Transportation Coordinator, at a meeting of Community Board 2’s transportation committee last night. “We’re exploring some unconventional design approaches.”

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Sooner or Later, the Brooklyn-Queens Waterfront Needs Better Transit

New condos in Long Island City are part of the first wave of changes sweeping the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront. Photo: Joe Mabel/Wikimedia Commons

The Brooklyn and Queens waterfront is in the midst of a grand transformation that’s only just begun. Newly built Brooklyn Bridge Park is already firmly established as one of the city’s most stunning public spaces. The Brooklyn Navy Yard now hosts glitzy fashion shows by international designers like Alexander Wang and Dior. Long Island City’s waterfront is a wall of glassy new condos. Many more changes are coming.

As this transformation takes place, new travel patterns are emerging, and for the better part of the last ten years, planners have floated the prospect of a new transit line along the waterfront to accommodate residential development and job growth. Most recently, architecture critic Michael Kimmelman suggested in the New York Times that the city build a streetcar along the waterfront, prompting Alicia Glen, the city’s deputy mayor for economic development, to Tweet: “Love big ideas.”

Others were critical, noting that a streetcar represents a huge investment that could be better spent on other transportation priorities: using buses to connect residents with the subway, or beefing up service on the city’s busiest bus routes. Writing for Next City, Stephen Smith noted: “You cannot effectively connect waterfront neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens to both each other and the subway.” Smith also pointed out that the waterfront neighborhoods, for all their development, have relatively low population and job densities.

To plan for the future of the waterfront, however, we have to give some thought to transit. I agree that the cost of a light rail line is unnecessary (and streetcars make little sense regardless of the expense), but the city will need to forge stronger transportation links to meet the area’s full potential. The rationale for transit improvements is about the waterfront’s ultimate potential for new housing and jobs, rather than the existing conditions.

The city should begin by strengthening bicycle connections and by improving bus service with the goal of a one-seat ride from Astoria to Downtown Brooklyn. Both modes could certainly connect new residents and workers with the subway: The F train at Jay Street and the 7 train at Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue are both within reach.

But a subway connection is not the main point. A successful vision for the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront is necessarily oriented away from Manhattan and instead looks to stitch the waterfront communities together. Otherwise, new residential developments will be effectively cut off from each other and from new job centers in DUMBO, the Navy Yard, Williamsburg, and Long Island City.

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Eyes on the Street: Illegal Parking Crackdown Coming to Jay Street

Photo: Eric McClure

Photo: Eric McClure

Reader Eric McClure spotted these flyers today on cars “up and down Jay Street between Johnson and Willoughby,” in the 84th Precinct. This comes a few weeks after attendees at a public workshop identified illegal parking as a major safety hazard and a major source of dysfunction on Jay Street, where pedestrians, cyclists, buses, and private motorists all mix near the Manhattan Bridge approach.

“Looks like the 84 is getting ready to start writing some tickets,” McClure writes. “Big props to [CO] Capt. [Maximo] Tolentino.”

Judging by the flyer, excuses on the dashboard aren’t going to fly.

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Fixing Jay Street Starts With Cracking Down on Illegal Parking

Jay Street, the north-south route often overshadowed by nearby car-clogged Adams Street and Flatbush Avenue, is a major artery in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn, flush with pedestrians going to and from the subway and cyclists heading to the Manhattan Bridge. It’s also overrun with illegally-parked drivers, creating an obstacle course for anyone trying to navigate the street.

In addition to longer-term design changes, improving Jay Street could start with better enforcement against illegal parking in bus stops and bike lanes. Photo: Street Plans Collaborative

Improving Jay Street could start with more enforcement against illegal parking in bus stops and bike lanes. Photo: Street Plans Collaborative

After years of advocacy by its Brooklyn activist committee, Transportation Alternatives hosted a presentation [PDF] and forum last night to solicit ideas on how to improve the street through short-term action and long-term design fixes. The event attracted nearly 100 people and included representatives from DOT and NYPD. It was co-sponsored by a suite of local groups and officials, including the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, DUMBO BID, Forest City Ratner Companies, Community Board 2 and Council Member Stephen Levin.

“It’s been so long since it was really re-imagined. It’s outdated,” said Levin, who added that he was recently looking for a cause to champion during his second term. “Jay Street was the thoroughfare that jumped out to me as the street most in need of improvement.”

Forum leaders said cracking down on illegal parking emerged as a top issue in the five break-out groups. “The whole parking issue is really the crux of the problems on Jay Street,” said event organizer Eric McClure. The problem isn’t related to lack of available spaces nearby: The city halved off-street parking requirements in the area in part because there’s already a glut of available off-street spaces.

Dante Orsini, 67, lives in the Concord Village co-op, which sits between Jay and Adams Streets at Tillary Street and notified its residents about last night’s meeting. Orsini usually walks or drives along Jay Street and agreed that it needs fixes, especially south of Tillary. Double parking was his top complaint, he said before the meeting.

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