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Posts from the "Downtown Brooklyn" Category

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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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Monday: Reimagine the Mess That Is Jay Street

reimagine_jay_street

It’s filled with double-parked cars. On just about every block, drivers stand illegally in bus stops, block the bike lane, and make illegal U-turns. If you’ve ever walked to jury duty in Brooklyn or biked over the Manhattan Bridge, you know Jay Street is chaos incarnate.

What can be done? Well, here’s a chance to make some change happen. Transportation Alternatives, Council Member Stephen Levin, and Brooklyn Community Board 2 are putting on a workshop to build some momentum to overhaul Jay Street. Bring your ideas over to 1 Metrotech on Monday at 6:30. RSVP here.

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Cyclist Struck in the Bronx Today Is Second Fatality in Past Two Weeks

A cyclist was struck and killed by a driver this morning in the Bronx, and EV Grieve reports that a restaurant worker who was hit by a motorist last week while biking in Brooklyn died from his injuries.

Cesar, identified as the cyclist fatally struck by a motorist in Downtown Brooklyn on October 20, had a wife and three kids, according to EV Grieve. No charges were filed.

Today’s crash occurred in Claremont. NYPD and published reports say Walter Ayala, 36, was traveling west on St. Paul’s Place when he was struck by the driver of a Toyota headed north on Third Avenue. Ayala died at the scene.

NYPD told Streetsblog it appears Ayala ran a red light and the motorist had the right of way. NYPD didn’t specify how the agency determined who had the right of way, and provided no information about driver speed. A spokesperson said no summonses were issued and the investigation is ongoing.

Walter Ayala was killed in the 42nd Precinct, in the City Council district represented by termed-out Helen Foster.

In the earlier crash, a cyclist identified as Cesar was biking home from his job at Stromboli Pizza in the East Village sometime on the night of October 20 when according to DNAinfo the driver of a GMC truck hit him at the corner of Smith and Schermerhorn Streets in Downtown Brooklyn.

DNAinfo reported the next day that the cyclist was making a left turn from Smith to Schermerhorn when he was struck by the northbound driver, and that he was hospitalized in serious but stable condition.

Via Gothamist, EV Grieve wrote today that the cyclist, who was identified by a reader, died as a result of the crash:

“Apparently he was on a bicycle going home to Brooklyn after work and was hit by a truck and died from his injuries in the hospital after being in a coma for a few days,” Aizaz says.

He leaves behind a wife and three children.

Says Aizaz, “Cesar had a lot of charm and a very positive attitude about everything we ever chatted about.”

Stromboli Pizza is taking donations for the family.

No other details were reported pertaining to what caused this crash. The DNAinfo story from October 21 said the motorist “was not expected to be charged.”

The crash that killed Cesar occurred in the 84th Precinct, in the council district represented by Steve Levin.

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Feds Reject All Three NYC Applications for Latest Round of TIGER Grants

Without a TIGER grant, New Yorkers will have to wait a little longer for the next phase of the Bronx River Greenway (in red). Map: Bronx River Alliance

This morning, U.S. DOT announced the winners in the latest round of its highly-competitive TIGER grant program. While upstate New York won grants for two projects — a highway teardown in Rochester and a complete streets project in Olean — New York City missed out, with applications for ferry improvements, a greenway connection in the Bronx, and the redesign of a busy intersection in Downtown Brooklyn failing to make the cut.

DOT had applied for funding to implement the Brooklyn Bridge Gateway project, a long-anticipated reconstruction of the intersection of Tillary Street and Adams Street that would dramatically improve cyclist and pedestrian access to the Brooklyn Bridge. DOT, which had unsuccessfully submitted the partially-funded project for earlier rounds of TIGER funding before trying again this year, told Streetsblog it was looking at other federal funding sources to fill the gap.

The Parks Department applied for $27.5 million from TIGER to match $10 million in city funds for the completion a section of the Bronx River Greenway between Starlight Park and Concrete Plant Park. The Bronx project includes three bridges — two over the Bronx River and one over the adjacent Amtrak corridor. The project, delayed by negotiations over the Amtrak bridge, saw state funds dedicated to its construction expire in 2009.

A third application, from EDC, would have been dedicated to ferry infrastructure. Streetsblog has inquired with Parks and EDC to see how they plan to fund their projects without TIGER; we’ll let you know if we hear anything back.

New York City has previously won TIGER grants for Hunts Point freight rail infrastructure, Moynihan Station, the city’s Sheridan Expressway study, and the redesign of Fordham Plaza.

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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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DOT Proposes Striping Adjustments for Manhattan Bridge Bike Approach

For now, this is as good as it's going to get for cyclists who approach the Manhattan Bridge via Jay Street. Image: DOT

To make biking between Brooklyn and Manhattan safer and more appealing, one thing that needs to be addressed is access to the Manhattan Bridge from downtown Brooklyn. With the high volume of traffic between the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, and local streets, the area can be both dangerous and confusing, especially if you haven’t biked these streets before.

A new proposal from DOT [PDF] to improve bike access along Jay Street and connecting streets will offer minor improvements. The incremental steps received a unanimous 7-0 vote, with one abstention, from Brooklyn Community Board 2′s transportation committee last Tuesday evening.

Tillary Street, on the block between Adams and Jay Streets, saw 15 severe injuries (eight of which were pedestrians or cyclists), as well as one pedestrian fatality, from 2006 to 2010 — a higher injury rate than 90 percent of Brooklyn streets. That earned it a ”high crash corridor” designation from DOT.

Although the long-term plan [PDF] for this block involves a two-way protected bike path on the north side of the street, similar to the existing configuration on Adams Street between the Brooklyn Bridge entrance and Cadman Plaza West, the proposal that received a supportive vote on Tuesday is less ambitious. It would stripe a five-foot wide bike lane on eastbound Tillary Street to complement the existing westbound striped lane. General travel lanes would be narrowed, but the eastbound side of the street would retain three moving lanes plus a left-turn lane.

On Jay Street itself, the existing southbound striped bike lane would be joined by a northbound counterpart, matching the configuration on Jay Street south of Tillary. This section of Jay Street currently has a lot of double-parking, and some bike advocates are concerned that the new bike lane would simply be occupied with parked cars. According to reader Ian Dutton, at Tuesday’s meeting committee chair Hemalee Patel noted that many of the cars parked on Jay Street use government placards, and that the existing parking set-up was not serving community needs. DOT staff said they would examine the curb regulations on Jay Street.

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Eyes on the Street: Road Collapse Closes Tillary Street Protected Bike Lane

The two-way protected bike lane on Tillary Street in Downtown Brooklyn is blocked. Photo: Trammell Hudson on Flickr

Tillary Street between Adams Street and Cadman Plaza East is a critical connection for cyclists from Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill and Red Hook to the Brooklyn Bridge, with a protected bike lane separating them from drivers on the extra-wide street.

While the two-way lane has long been a favorite of illegal parkers, for the past week or two it’s been blocked by construction barriers, according to reader Trammell Hudson, who sent in this photo. As a result, cyclists are shunted into a lane of general traffic, and the sudden closure forces some cyclists to ride against traffic approaching the dangerous intersection with Adams Street.

A section of the street collapsed in recent weeks, and while DOT has done some work on the site, more work is needed, according to Gene Corcoran of the U.S. District Court, which is located on this block of Tillary Street. Streetsblog has an inquiry in with DOT to learn more. We’ll let you know if we hear anything.

Update: According to DOT, as of this morning there’s now a bike detour here that separates cyclists from car traffic. The detour will be in effect until DOT and DEP fix the depression in the road.

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At Pioneering Ped Plaza, Paint and Planters Are Now Curbs and Concrete

All smiles at today's ribbon-cutting for Willoughby Plaza in Downtown Brooklyn. Photo: Stephen Miller

NYC DOT’s plaza program hit a milestone today, when officials cut the ribbon on a block of Willoughby Street reclaimed from car traffic between Pearl and Adams Streets in Downtown Brooklyn. What used to be, essentially, a private parking lot for government placard holders, is now the first plaza program project to make the transition from temporary materials to permanent construction.

The 14,000 square-foot plaza, set in motion in 2006 with a street reclamation by Iris Weinshall’s DOT, was folded into DOT’s Plaza Program after Janette Sadik-Khan took charge of the agency. It then entered the capital project pipeline for the Department of Design and Construction, which raised the plaza to the same grade as the sidewalk and worked with DEP to replace water mains.

The project cost $2 million, paid for by federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds. Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez was on hand for today’s ribbon-cutting, along with Sadik-Khan, DDC Commissioner David Burney, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Tucker Reed, Jeff Kay of Muss Development, and Borough President Marty Markowitz.

“It’s a pleasure when the commissioner and I can be on the same side of a project,” Markowitz said, before launching into a gregarious bit inviting the single people of Brooklyn to make the plaza their new meeting spot.

The overall theme this morning was not match-making, but retail sales. Sadik-Khan cited research showing that plazas help improve retail sales, adding that DOT expects to release a complete study of those effects this summer.

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