Skip to content

Posts from the "Fort Greene" Category

7 Comments

Charles Hynes Brings Rare Felony Charge in Vehicular Killing of 9-Year-Old

Two motorists were charged for killing pedestrians in the Bronx and Brooklyn this weekend. The alleged driver in the Wakefield crash was charged with murder, and there’s a solid chance that if convicted he will face significant jail time. And though the outcome of the case is far from certain, District Attorney Charles Hynes brought a rare felony charge against the man who allegedly drove onto a sidewalk and struck a 9-year-old boy in Fort Greene.

Anthony Byrd was charged with a class D felony for the death of 9-year-old Lucian Merryweather. Potential sentences range from seven years in jail to probation. Photo: Daily News

Reports in the Times, the News and the Post say that on Saturday afternoon, Anthony Byrd, 59, hit two cars and a building after swerving to avoid two people in a crosswalk at DeKalb and Clermont Avenues. He then reportedly made a U-turn and drove the wrong way on DeKalb, struck a 28-year-old woman in a crosswalk, hit a parked vehicle, and drove onto the sidewalk a second time, striking Lucian Merryweather, his 5-year-old brother, and their mother, who were standing at the northeast corner of the intersection.

Lucian was pinned under the SUV and died at the scene. His brother was hospitalized in stable condition. The boys’ mother was not admitted to a hospital, reports said.

According to court records, Byrd was charged with assault, criminally negligent homicide, first and second degree reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, and a number of traffic infractions, including driving against traffic on a one-way street.

It is rare for NYC prosecutors to file felony charges against a sober driver who remains at the scene of a crash, but it does happen — at least in Brooklyn. In 2010, Hynes charged Michael Oxley with homicide for the killing of cyclist Jake McDonaugh on Flatbush Avenue. In 2007, Alfred Taylor was charged with homicide for the death of a cyclist in Bedford Stuyvesant.

More unusual is that Hynes brought an assault charge in this case. Assault is a class D felony, punishable by up to seven years, but which can also result in no jail time or probation. Relatively speaking, the more common top charge would be criminally negligent homicide — a class E felony, the least severe felony category, which carries a maximum penalty of four years in jail, and a minimum of no jail time or probation.

The rationale for bringing charges against a sober driver who remains at the scene is not usually defined, but there could be a link between serious charges and more brazen forms of recklessness. The Michael Oxley case hinged on the defendant running a red light. Saturday’s incident was a particularly chaotic and devastating crash, even by NYC standards, and allegedly involved wrong-way driving. Byrd is also a registered sex offender.

Read more…

34 Comments

Here’s What’s Next for the Flushing Ave Segment of the Brooklyn Greenway

Image: NYC DOT/DDC/Parsons

The next phase of Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway construction on Flushing Avenue will build a raised two-way bikeway and planted buffers alongside the Brooklyn Navy Yard, creating a safer, more appealing environment on what has already become a much-used bike route. Here’s a look at the recently unveiled design from NYC DOT, the Department of Design and Construction, and project consultant Parsons.

As the city builds out the permanent greenway, reconstructing Flushing Avenue is one of the most important capital projects – a mile-long link connecting the Manhattan Bridge approach, DUMBO, and Farragut Houses to Williamsburg Street West, Kent Avenue, and Williamsburg/Greenpoint. The major upgrade entails converting the existing westbound curbside bike lane into a two-way bikeway at sidewalk grade, separated from motor traffic by a three-foot, planted cobblestone buffer. Another planting strip will separate the bikeway from the pedestrian path. For pedestrians, adding this bikeway will narrow crossing distances substantially — about 20 percent.

The Flushing Avenue greenway segment will add an eight-foot-wide, two-way bikeway at sidewalk grade and shorten crossing distances for pedestrians by about 20 percent. Image: NYC DOT/DDC/Parsons

Read more…

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…

28 Comments

Scenes From Last Night’s Bike-Share Forum in Fort Greene

Last night, Council Member Tish James held a public forum after receiving complaints about bike-share stations in her district, covering Fort Greene and Clinton Hill. The event, held inside Sacred Heart Church on Clermont Avenue, attracted an audience of about 100, with a small majority there to show support for bike-share. For two hours, residents expressed support or vented frustration at the microphone, with James and NYC DOT Policy Director Jon Orcutt stepping in to provide information.

At the start of the meeting, James said she was saddened to see that bike-share stations had been defaced with posters. “You don’t have the right to deface public property,” she said.

Although the flyers glued onto stations focused heavily on corporate sponsorship and historic preservation, James dismissed this argument from the start. “Tonight’s meeting is not about corporate branding. Not going there,” she said. “Tonight’s meeting is not about, ‘Should this be in a landmarked district?’” Despite her ground rules, the issue came up repeatedly from audience members.

The issue that commanded the most discussion last night, however, was on-street parking.

First, some facts: There are 6,800 on-street parking spots in the area bounded by Classon Avenue, Fulton Street, Flatbush Avenue and Flushing Avenue. In that zone, 22 bike-share stations were installed, adding 600 public bike docks. Two-thirds of the stations are on the sidewalk, after community meetings revealed a preference for that type of installation. Stations that were installed in the roadbed took 35 parking spaces, Orcutt told the audience – one half of one percent of the total number of spaces in the neighborhood.

Read more…

15 Comments

Last-Minute Venue Change for Fort Greene/Clinton Hill Bike-Share Meeting

This just in: Council Member Tish James has moved the location of tonight’s neighborhood forum about bike-share. The meeting starts at 6:30 and the new location is: Sacred Heart Church, 30 Clermont Avenue between Flushing and Park.

11 Comments

Bike-Share Works Just Fine in Historic London, Boston, and DC Neighborhoods

Sumner Place in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has homes dating to the 19th century, luxury SUVs built in the early 21st century — and a bike-share station sponsored by a multi-national bank. Photo: Google Maps

While polls have shown that upwards of 70 percent of New Yorkers support bike-share and DOT engaged in a multi-year public process for station siting, a vocal minority in Fort Greene is objecting to public bike stations in the landmarked district. At least one extremist has gone so far as to tar newly-installed stations with wheatpaste posters decrying the Citibank-sponsored kiosks. In response to the neighborhood chatter, Council Member Tish James has scheduled a community meeting about bike-share for tonight.

The historic preservation arguments simply fail to hold any water. The Landmarks Preservation Commission has signed off on the stations. Take a stroll in Boston or Washington, and you’ll see that other cities have managed to introduce bike-share stations on historic residential streets without harming their architectural legacy. And a quick glance at historic Fort Greene will reveal that its residential streets and sidewalks already have commercial activity in the form of bus shelter advertisements, newspaper boxes, and ice cream trucks.

One of the arguments against the bike-share stations is that sponsorship from a multi-national corporation like Citi has no place in historic neighborhoods. This, of course, conveniently overlooks the Coca-Cola logo on a Fort Greene storefront or the brightly-colored cars with BMW and Volvo logos parked throughout the neighborhood, which have failed to attract the ire of the anti-bike crowd.

It also doesn’t account for Boston, a city full of historic neighborhoods where the Hubway system is sponsored by footwear manufacturer New Balance, and London, where the bike-share system is named for another financial giant, Barclays Capital.

In fact, some of London’s most historic neighborhoods, including pricey West End districts like Mayfair, Kensington, and Chelsea, have Barclays-sponsored bike-share stations on residential streets. When the stations were first installed in 2010, neighbors raised an array of bizarre objections, from bird droppings to human rights violations — and yes, historic preservation.

But as the system has rolled out and proven to be a big success, the objections have waned. As the later phases of the system have come online, elected officials who had accommodated the initial complaints by slowing implementation have been less likely to give serious attention to the dwindling NIMBYs. “The administration was considerably less sympathetic to concerns that were purely subjective and hampered the roll out in phase one,” London bike blogger Danny Williams told Streetsblog.

Read more…

37 Comments

Speak Up If You Think Bike-Share Belongs in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill

Remember the Fort Greene residents who complained last year that bike-share stations don’t belong in their historic, landmarked neighborhood — even though you can find cobalt-blue Volvos and banana-yellow, late-model Beemers taking up the curb on those same blocks?

Seen in Fort Greene: colorful products made by massive global corporations, stored by private owners on the public right of way.

Well, they apparently haven’t been convinced that public bikes belong on the street as much as private cars. Someone even felt entitled enough to deface Citi Bike stations with bike-share-hating flyers. Another small fraction of curb space could become useful to the car-free majority of residents — perish the thought!

The anti-bike-share crowd has been lobbying Council Member Tish James to remove stations in the neighborhood, and James is holding a public forum about bike-share on Wednesday evening. Whether you plan to use bike-share yourself or you just want to see the system succeed, if you live in Fort Greene or Clinton Hill this is an important one to turn out for. Otherwise, this is the message that’s going to come through the loudest:

The bike-share forum is happening Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Benjamin Banneker Academy, 71-77 Clinton Avenue.

31 Comments

Citi Bike Stations Spotted in Fort Greene [Updated]

The brains and guts of the 33-dock bike-share station at Myrtle and Clinton. Photo: Joanna Oltman Smith

After the first Citi Bike stations were installed in Bed Stuy and Clinton Hill over the weekend, NYC DOT Policy Director Jon Orcutt told Transportation Nation that bike-share implementation will “be moving through the Brooklyn area and then into Manhattan over the next few weeks.” And it looks like stations have now been installed at least as far west as Adelphi Street and as far north as Flushing Avenue.

Reader Joanna Oltman Smith sent in the above photo of a 33-dock station going in on Clinton Avenue by Myrtle Avenue. And I passed this 23-dock station on Flushing between Adelphi and Carlton Avenue on the way into work this morning:

Read more…

4 Comments

Brooklyn CB 2 Committee Unanimously Supports Permanent Fowler Plaza

Last night Brooklyn Community Board 2′s transportation committee voted 7-0, with one abstention, to support the conversion of Fowler Square Plaza in Fort Greene from a temporary public space to a permanent feature of the neighborhood. The committee vote followed a DOT presentation showing that Fowler Square Plaza has had a minimal impact on traffic and is overwhelmingly popular with businesses, plaza users, and nearby residents.

CB 2's transportation committee wants Fowler Square Plaza in Fort Greene to be made permanent. Photo: Stephen Miller

For its report, DOT surveyed 360 plaza users and 100 residents who live within one block of the plaza. The agency found that 64 percent of plaza users visit the space at least once a week, and 63 percent come from Fort Greene and adjacent neighborhoods. Both users and nearby residents overwhelmingly support the plaza:

  • 83 percent said the plaza has made overall quality of life better. Only 1 percent said it’s worse, while 5 percent say it’s the same, and 11 percent are unsure.
  • 76 percent said the plaza has improved pedestrian safety and 81 percent said it has improved the area’s aesthetics.
  • 97 percent said the plaza is positive addition to neighborhood. This includes 99 percent of people surveyed in the plaza and 92 percent of residents surveyed door-to-door.
  • Of the adjacent businesses, 26 are in favor of a permanent plaza, with only one against (Mullane’s Bar) and two (Gourmet Deli and Fresh Garden) not taking a position.

DOT also studied traffic impacts between October 4 and 22, including days with events at the Barclays Center, as well as SAT and PSAT testing days at Brooklyn Technical High School. The amount of traffic diverted because of the plaza has been minimal. “We’re only talking about adding one to two cars maximum per minute onto South Portland,” explained DOT’s Emily Weidenhof, referring to a parallel street.

Read more…

4 Comments

Tonight: Permanent Fort Greene Plaza Up for a Vote at Brooklyn CB 2

It didn't take long for Fowler Square plaza to disprove the prophecy that it would "split the neighborhood apart." Photo: @LincolnRestler

A reminder for readers who live in and around Fort Greene: The Brooklyn Community Board 2 transportation committee is taking up the matter of Fowler Square plaza tonight, and if you head over to 180 Remsen Street to weigh in, you can help this new public space become a permanent neighborhood fixture.

NYC DOT installed the plaza with temporary materials this spring and began evaluating its impact on traffic and street life. The agency will present the results of that study this evening before the committee vote.

If you’ve walked by the temporary plaza at the triangle where Fulton Street and South Elliott Place meet, you’ve probably seen that it’s quickly become a very well-used gathering place. The businesses around the plaza either appreciate it as a neighborhood amenity, or simply don’t mind the change to the street grid. Still, it’s hardly a given that the upgrade to a permanent plaza will sail through the CB 2 committee.

For whatever reason, this plaza project has brought out some especially outlandish NIMBY behavior from a small band of opponents. One early planning workshop was disrupted by a plaza antagonist who argued, “This is a city, not the country.” Anonymous flyers were distributed before the plaza opened, predicting it would “split the neighborhood apart.”

So you can bet the CB 2 committee will be hearing it from them tonight. If you’d like the committee to hear from you, too, the meeting gets started at 6:00 p.m. at St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street.