Skip to content

Posts from the Downtown Brooklyn Category

5 Comments

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.

No Comments

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.

6 Comments

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.

33 Comments

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.”

Read more…

14 Comments

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.

Read more…

7 Comments

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.

7 Comments

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.

Read more…

14 Comments

Coalition Calls for Comprehensive Transpo Plan for Northwest Brooklyn

Choked by traffic, Downtown Brooklyn and its surrounding neighborhoods need a comprehensive agenda for transportation — and the current ad hoc approach from the city and state isn’t cutting it in the fast-growing area, says a coalition of community groups, elected officials, and advocates.

The report calls for the expansion of popular programs like 20 mph zones while asking the city to take bolder steps to redesign major streets.

Last week the coalition unveiled the “BK Gateway Transportation Vision” [PDF], covering a broad range of steps to curb traffic, improve surface transit, and make streets safer for walking and biking. The organizations that produced the report and rolled it out include the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, the Park Slope Civic Council, the Boerum Hill Association, and the office of Council Member Letitia James.

The heart of the plan calls for congestion pricing and residential parking permits, as well as an expansion of the PARK Smart program beyond Park Slope and 20 mph neighborhood slow zones beyond the one in Boerum Hill. Congestion pricing — by far the most transformative single proposal in the plan — and RPP — recently rejected by DOT for neighborhoods near the Barclays Center — need Albany’s say-so to advance, while NYC DOT could move forward with more PARK Smart areas and slow zones independently.

Other key coalition requests within the city’s control are street redesigns. The plan calls for protected bike lanes and Select Bus Service on Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues — two critical transportation corridors with terrible safety records — as well as extending the bus-only lanes on Fulton and Livingston Streets.

The plan also calls for a “pedestrian safety rapid response team” around the Barclays Center to handle overflow crowds. This and other arena issues are likely to be addressed as part of DOT’s study examining traffic and parking after the Barclays Center opened this fall.

Parking placards, which are used, abused, and counterfeited all over Downtown Brooklyn, are not mentioned in the report. When Streetsblog asked James if she supports placard reform, she said, “There should be areas where placards are not allowed at all. That includes my placard.”

Read more…

3 Comments

Council Members Use Downtown Brooklyn Parking Reform as Bargaining Chip

Parking reform for Downtown Brooklyn — which would take the mild but worthwhile step of cutting the district’s mandatory parking minimums in half — went before a City Council subcommittee on Monday. The fate of the proposal now comes down to council members Tish James and Steve Levin, who represent the area. The two representatives are talking tough and trying to get DCP to do more — but what they want has little to do with parking policy.

Tish James and Steve Levin want to use parking reform to address unrelated aspects of Downtown Brooklyn's 2004 rezoning. Photos: City Council

James and Levin want guarantees that repurposed parking garages or future development will include more income-restricted units, a new elementary school, or other community facilities that they say are lacking since more families moved to the neighborhood following a 2004 rezoning. The council members are basically using parking reform as leverage to extract unrelated amenities from the city.

“Council Member James and I would like to see these issues addressed sooner rather than later,” Levin said at Monday’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises hearing, “and see this as a particular opportunity to have that conversation.”

On the affordable housing front, one step that would also make an impact would be to eliminate parking mandates entirely. But neither James nor Levin are asking for the elimination of parking minimums. This despite the fact that James herself acknowledges that parking mandates increase the cost of housing.

The Navy Green development, in her district, received a waiver from the city’s existing parking rules, allowing it to keep costs down for tenants and increase the number of affordable units. DCP wants to eliminate all parking requirements for income-restricted developments like Navy Green, a proposal James supports.

At the same time, James is skeptical that market-rate housing consumers would benefit from the same type of reform. “I’m not naïve enough to think that savings will be passed along to buyers or renters,” she told Streetsblog. “Most developers are not in the business of benevolence.”

But the evidence does not suggest that developers will just pocket the savings from not having to build parking, said Simon McDonnell, a research affiliate at New York University’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. “If the market is operating, a reduction in developers’ input costs clearly gives them more leeway to offer lower prices,” he said, which could put market-rate units within the range of people who can’t afford luxury housing but don’t qualify for income restricted housing.

Read more…

2 Comments

Planning Commission OKs Paltry Parking Reform for Downtown Brooklyn

The New York City Department of City Planning announced yesterday that the City Planning Commission has approved a measure to reduce Downtown Brooklyn’s onerous parking minimums. But the commission, chaired by Amanda Burden, appears to have wasted an opportunity to improve on the timid reforms.

The City Planning Commission moved ahead with reducing -- but not eliminating -- the Downtown Brooklyn parking minimums that force developers to build entire floors of unwanted parking, like at 29 Flatbush.

The good news is that new developments in Downtown Brooklyn, one of the most transit-rich places in America, will no longer have to include four parking spaces for every 10 residential units, and the mandate for affordable housing to include parking will be eliminated. That should make it easier to supply much-needed housing and lessen the government-mandated incentive to own and drive a car.

The bad news is that the new rules still require two parking spaces for every 10 units of market-rate housing. Instead of letting builders supply parking based on demand or capping the supply of parking to curb traffic, DCP and the planning commission insist on guessing how many people will own cars and compelling developers to build that amount of parking. In DCP’s words, the amendment is an attempt to “match residential requirements to residents’ use.” But as one downtown Brooklyn developer told DCP officials at a June hearing, a 20 percent mandate still compels the construction of more parking than some developers believe residents will use.

At public hearings this summer, Borough President Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Community Board 2, and a parade of developers all asked for the lower parking minimums to apply retroactively, so that residential parking spots which currently sit empty can be repurposed as retail space, offices, or other uses. The zoning amendment that the planning department linked to in its Twitter announcement yesterday [PDF] does not apply the changes to existing buildings, however. Streetsblog has a request in with DCP to see if the planning commission decided to update the proposal and let developers repurpose their empty parking spaces after all before voting on the amendment.

UPDATE: DCP confirms that the amendment was revised to apply the lower parking minimums retroactively — a welcome improvement. A second revision would let developers site the mandated off-street parking up to half a mile from a new project, up from a quarter mile in the original amendment. This enhances a provision that allows developers to put the mandatory parking in public parking garages.

Read more…