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Posts from the "Gowanus" Category

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Hit-and-Run Drivers Killed Two People in NYC This Weekend

Drivers have killed at least five pedestrians and cyclists on Rockaway Boulevard since January 2013. Image: Google Maps

Drivers have killed at least five pedestrians and cyclists on Rockaway Boulevard since January 2013. Image: Google Maps

Hit-and-run drivers killed a pedestrian and a cyclist in Brooklyn and Queens this weekend.

Sunday night at around 9:30, a 40-year-old man riding a bike on Rockaway Boulevard near 90th Street was struck by the driver of a Mercedes van, according to reports. NYPD told the media the driver sideswiped the cyclist from behind and ran him over. The driver then stopped, exited the van to look at the victim, got back in and drove away, police said. As of this morning, NYPD had not released the victim’s name and the driver remained at large.

The cyclist was at least the fourth person killed by a driver while biking or walking in the 102nd Precinct this year, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog, and at least the fifth pedestrian or cyclist killed by a motorist on Rockaway Boulevard since January 2013. Yesterday’s crash occurred in the City Council district represented by Eric Ulrich.

On Saturday morning, the driver of a Nissan Altima hit Felipe Castro Palacios, 27, on Third Avenue near Seventh Street in Gowanus, outside the auto repair shop where he worked, according to reports. From the Daily News:

Palacios was repairing a Ford Expedition parked halfway on the sidewalk in front of Samba Transmission & Auto Repair on Third Ave. near Seventh St. in Gowanus when a black Nissan Altima slammed into him and two parked cars at about 7:30 a.m., cops said.

The mechanic was hurtled head-first into the back of a parked Dodge Venture minivan, blowing the back window out, witnesses said.

Police identified the car as a rental but had not located the driver as of Sunday. The crash that killed Felipe Castro Palacios occurred in the 78th Precinct, and in the council district represented by Brad Lander.

This weekend’s victims were at least the fourth and fifth hit-and-run fatalities of the year. Starting in July 2015, NYPD will be required to report to the City Council on hit-and-run crashes and investigations. Of 60 fatal hit-and-runs investigated in 2012, NYPD arrested just 15 drivers, according to Transportation Alternatives.

A bill to toughen penalties against drivers who flee the scene of serious crashes cleared the State Senate in 2012, but did not pass the Assembly.

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Eyes on the Street: Whole Foods Takes the Whole Bike Lane (and Sidewalk)

Who needs newly-built loading docks when you can take over the sidewalk and the bike lane? Photo: Brooklyn Spoke/Twitter

Whole Foods commandeers Third Avenue. Photo: Brooklyn Spoke/Twitter

The huge surface parking lot and inward-facing, suburban-style design were bad enough. Now the Gowanus Whole Foods Market is taking over the Third Avenue bike lane and sidewalk as a private loading zone.

Doug Gordon of Brooklyn Spoke snapped a photo of a Whole Foods forklift and piles of pallets using the Third Avenue buffered bike lane and sidewalk as a private loading zone earlier this week. One would expect a newly-built food market to be well-integrated with existing infrastructure, but since Whole Foods opened late last year, its loading activities have overflowed onto the street and sidewalk along Third Avenue.

“You can’t blame the drivers or the people manning the loading dock for this situation,” Gordon writes. “The design forces them to do this just to keep the store stocked.”

In its 2011 traffic study [PDF], Whole Foods said only that “truck loading docks would be located along Third Avenue” and that all truck loading activity would occur between midnight and 5 p.m. There was no mention of the amount of space needed or required to accommodate deliveries or whether that space would take over the sidewalk and street.

Community Board 6 voted in support of the project in June 2011. According to the board’s minutes, the interaction of loading zones with Third Avenue only came up as a concern briefly during the land use committee hearing on the proposal. As a condition for its approval, the board requested that Whole Foods conduct a traffic study one year after opening.

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Eyes on the Street: Bike Contraflow Over the Gowanus

Union Street looking west at Nevins. The contraflow bike lane is separated from eastbound car traffic by a dashed double-yellow line. Photo: Keith Williams

Reader Keith Williams, who blogs at The Weekly Nabe, recently got a few shots of the brand new contraflow bike lane in progress on Union Street. This project will add a sorely needed westbound bike connection across the Gowanus Canal — part of a route that jogs from Degraw, down to Union, then back up to Sackett [PDF].

The contraflow lane on Union is notable for a few reasons.

One, it came out of Council Member Brad Lander’s 2012 participatory budgeting process. In the end it wasn’t paid for with Lander’s discretionary funds (other projects got more votes), but because Lander put out the call for ideas, it got NYC DOT’s attention. So, chalk one up for community-based planning.

Two, I believe this is a first for NYC — a contraflow bike lane separated from opposing traffic with a dashed double-yellow stripe. Other contraflow lanes, like the one on Union Square North, have more separation from traffic, but there’s not always enough room for that. Bike lanes like the new one on Union work in other cities and promise to make the city’s bike design toolkit more flexible.

Adding more contraflow lanes could help fill in some missing links in the bike network. A few years ago, for instance, Brooklyn Community Board 2 member Mike Epstein proposed a short contraflow segment to help bridge gaps in the bike network at the confluence of Flatbush, Third Avenue, and Lafayette Avenue.

You can catch more photos of the Union Street project at the Weekly Nabe.

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Unhealthy “Foods”: Huge Whole Foods Parking Lot Will Discourage Walking

A Whole Foods slated for a site on Third Avenue in Brooklyn will include a 248-space surface parking lot. New research shows the surface lot will discourage local residents from walking to the supermarket. Image: #Crain's

The proposed Gowanus Whole Foods is moving forward after eight years of planning and debate, following a vote by the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals today. With it will come a 248-space surface parking lot: a semi-suburban design plunked down amidst some of Brooklyn’s most walkable neighborhoods.

According to new research by University of Pennsylvania planning professor Rachel Weinberger, whose work on parking minimums Streetsblog highlighted earlier today, putting those spaces in a surface lot will discourage people from walking to the grocery store.

Weinberger’s research, conducted with Donald Maley of the Parsons Transportation Group, compared how local shoppers reached six Philadelphia supermarkets [PDF]. Each store was located in a neighborhood with the fundamental components of walkability: rowhouses or apartment buildings that meet the sidewalk, a street grid without major arterial roads, no big box stores.

Three of the grocery stores, however, had large surface parking lots in front of the entrance, while the other three had a front door on the sidewalk and parking in structures above the store or in off-site structured garages.

Surveying residents living within a half-mile walk of each supermarket, Weinberger and Maley were able to show that residents near the groceries with surface parking lots tended to drive to the store, even though they had a lower car-ownership rate overall. “Controlling for distance, number of children, store loyalty, auto ownership and other factors, residents of study areas near auto-oriented supermarkets are more likely to drive, even though they are less likely to own automobiles, than their counterparts living near pedestrian-oriented markets,” the authors wrote.

Read more…

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City Promises $5M in Ped Safety Improvements at Mural Opening


The mother and grandfather of James Rice.

With weeping family members and the ghostly, smiling images of three boys watching over them, city officials and elected representatives joined 100 community members on a Brooklyn street corner Tuesday evening to pledge "Not one more death."

mural_sign.jpg 

State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Assembly member Joan Millman and representatives from the Department of Transportation, NYPD and the Brooklyn District Attorney's joined members of Transportation Alternatives and the Groundswell Community Mural Project for the emotional unveiling of the three-story tall painting at the northwest corner of Butler Street and Third Avenue in Gowanus, Brooklyn.


Created by a group of local teens in a summer-long collaboration with professional artists Christopher Cardinale and Nicole Schulman, the mural depicts fifth-graders Victor Flores and Juan Estrada and 4-year-old James Rice holding traffic signs designed to remind drivers motoring along dangerous Third Avenue that pedestrians, cyclists and drivers share New York City streets. The silhouette of a fourth figure, a girl, holds a stop sign that reads, "Not one more death."

Flores and Estrada were killed at Third Ave. and 9th St. in 2004. Four-year-old James Rice was run over by the driver of a Hummer just a block away from the site of the mural earlier this year. 

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Senator in Gridlocked Brooklyn District Has Doubts About Pricing

Montgomery.jpgFor a sense of the challenge that lays ahead for congestion pricing supporters, take a look at the mailer that Brooklyn Democratic State Senator Velmanette Montgomery sent to all of her constituents last week. Montgomery has a smart, engaged staff when it comes to transportation policy and she has often been helpful when it comes to Livable Streets issues.

Her 18th Senatorial District covers Bed-Stuy, Boerum Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, Gowanus and Sunset Park -- a swath of Brooklyn that is absolutely pummeled by regional through-traffic and epidemic asthma rates. Clearly, Montgomery's district stands to gain more than most from reductions in traffic congestion and improvements to mass transit and air quality.

Yet, in her mailing, Montgomery says Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan "is silent as to the benefits for the outer boroughs and for upper Manhattan." For that and other reasons she has "major reservations" about the proposal. Montgomery then presents a number of informational points and objections to the pricing plan while offering no suggestion of any benefits to her constituents. 

One of the arguments stands out. Montgomery writes, "The congestion pricing measure will not help asthma sufferers." That one appears to be pulled directly from pricing opponents' talking points and, by most reliable accounts, is not based in fact.

If the Senate Democrats matter in the coming debate then, clearly, congestion pricing supporters have some work to do.

If you get congestion pricing mailings and letters from your elected officials, please send them to Streetsblog. Find Montgomery's mailing, in full, after the jump...

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