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Pulaski Bridge Bikeway Likely Delayed Until Next Year

The plan will add Image: DOT

The Pulaski Bridge project will give more space to pedestrians and cyclists while calming Brooklyn-bound traffic. Image: DOT

One of the most anticipated livable streets projects of 2014 probably won’t get built until next year.

NYC DOT’s plan to convert a traffic lane on the Pulaski Bridge to a two-way protected bike path, which would relieve crowding on the bridge’s narrow bike-ped path and calm traffic heading toward McGuinness Boulevard in Brooklyn, is still in the review phase, according to DOT. The office of Assembly Member Joe Lentol, who has championed the project, says it is not likely to be installed before the end of this year.

The design for the bikeway was revealed last fall, following many months of agitation by elected officials and advocates. At the time, construction was expected to wrap up in 2014. That now looks unlikely.

“The final bid from the contractor is under review by the Comptroller’s office. By the beginning of November, DOT will begin internal pre-construction meetings,” said Lentol spokesperson Edward Baker in an email. “By the time that process is done they will be headed toward winter and the holiday [construction] embargo. Does not look like work is going to begin this calendar year.”

DOT said a revised timetable will be announced after contractor gets the go-ahead from the city. “The procurement of the construction contract that includes the Pulaski Bridge bikeway modifications is underway,” said an agency spokesperson. “Upon registration and issuance of the Notice to Proceed to the contractor, a meeting will be scheduled with local stakeholders to update on the anticipated construction schedule.”

Baker said more details could emerge by the end of this month.

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NYPD Lied About 2009 Chase That Killed Brooklyn Pedestrian Violetta Krzyzak

The aftermath of the police chase that killed Violetta Krzyzak, which NYPD said didn’t happen. Photo: Graham T. Beck

Aftermath of the police chase that killed Violetta Krzyzak, which NYPD said didn’t happen. Photo: Graham T. Beck

Court documents indicate police were driving in pursuit of a man when he struck and killed a Greenpoint pedestrian five years ago, contrary to NYPD denials and confirming statements from witnesses who told Streetsblog the crash occurred during a high-speed chase.

Jose Maldonado was driving a stolen minivan when he passed an unmarked police car near the intersection of Graham Avenue and Jackson Street on the afternoon of April 27, 2009, according to a recent ruling from the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court. As Officer Steven Truglio approached the van on foot, Maldonado drove off. Police sped after Maldonado as he ran red lights and went against traffic on one-way streets.

“It is undisputed that defendant consistently drove well above the 30 miles per hour speed limit and violated numerous traffic rules as he attempted to evade capture by the police,” court documents say. “The police followed with lights and sirens activated as defendant drove towards Manhattan Avenue, a major thoroughfare and commercial hub.”

Maldonado drove north on Manhattan Avenue, swerving head-on toward southbound traffic as he passed other drivers. He “did not even apply his brakes” as a pedestrian dove out of his path at Milton Street, and continued running lights and driving in the wrong lane as he approached Manhattan Avenue at India Street, where he hit Violetta Krzyzak.

Her body flew into the air upon impact and landed over 165 feet, or almost one block, away from the point of collision. A witness who saw the moment of impact estimated that defendant was driving at 70 m.p.h., while another bystander thought his speed was closer to 80 m.p.h.

Maldonado “did not brake” after striking Krzyzak. He crashed into parked vehicles five blocks away, at Manhattan Avenue and Dupont Street, and was finally tackled by witnesses when he tried to flee on foot.

Krzyzak, 37, died at the scene. She was married and had a 20-year-old daughter, according to the Greenpoint Gazette.

Graham T. Beck, who came upon the scene the after the crash, wrote a series of stories for Streetsblog with quotes from multiple witnesses who saw the white minivan being chased by police. But weeks later at a community council meeting, Deputy Inspector Dennis Fulton, then the commanding officer of the 94th Precinct, said there was no pursuit.

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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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McGuinness Boulevard Is NYC’s Third 25 MPH Arterial Slow Zone

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg speaks at today's arterial slow zone announcement on McGuinness Boulevard. Photo: Jon Orcutt/Twitter

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg speaks at today’s arterial slow zone announcement on McGuinness Boulevard. Photo: Jon Orcutt/Twitter

Ask a Greenpoint resident to name the neighborhood’s most dangerous street, and they’ll likely point to McGuinness Boulevard, an infamous speedway that splits the neighborhood in half. Today, it became the city’s third “arterial slow zone” to receive a 25 mph speed limit, retimed traffic signals to discourage speeding, and focused enforcement.

The arterial slow zone will be installed by the end of next month along 1.1 miles of McGuinness between Freeman and Bayard Streets. Seven pedestrians and one cyclist died on this stretch of road between 1995 and 2007, according to CrashStat. DOT says that from 2008 to 2013, four other people were killed on McGuinness — three pedestrians and one cyclist, but no motorists — including Neil ChamberlainNicole Detweiler and Solange Raulston. Arterial streets like McGuinness comprise only 15 percent of New York’s roadways but account for 60 percent of its pedestrian fatalities, according to DOT.

A survey two years ago by Transportation Alternatives, Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, Community Board 1, and area residents found that two-thirds of McGuinness drivers were speeding above 30 mph, with 36 percent traveling above 35 mph. Truck drivers were clocked going as fast as 47 mph.

The 94th Precinct, which covers McGuinness, has issued nearly double the number of speeding tickets in the first three months of this year compared to the same period last year. The precinct, which ticketed people for jaywalking on McGuinness last month in the wake of a pedestrian death, has issued slightly more than two speeding tickets daily so far this year. McGuinness is not among the locations where speed cams are known to have been used under the limited automated speed enforcement program allowed by Albany. In January, Council Member Steve Levin asked DOT to install cameras on McGuinness near PS 34.

Neighborhood residents and elected officials have been working for years to slow down drivers and save lives on McGuinness, yielding incremental changes.

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Cuomo Announces $67M for Bike/Ped Projects, Including Pulaski Bridge

Image: NYC DOT

[Editor's note: Streetsblog will not be publishing Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.]

Via the Tri-State Transportation Campaign: Earlier this week Governor Andrew Cuomo announced $67 million in funding for walking and biking infrastructure statewide, after advocates had pressed the state to follow through on the recently passed complete streets law with actual resources. These are federal funds that will be distributed by the state DOT.

One of the local projects that will receive funding is the protected two-way bike lane on the Pulaski Bridge, which will double the amount of space for walking and biking on this increasingly well-used connection between Queens and Brooklyn. The state contribution is $2.5 million, with the remaining $625,000 provided by the city.

NYC DOT revealed the design for the bikeway in December, and Assembly Member Joe Lentol, who has fought for the project since 2012, sent out a press release today with the news that Brooklyn Community Board 1 voted in favor of the plan earlier this week. Lentol says work on the project should begin once the weather warms up and construction season resumes. Here’s his full release:

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Levin to DOT: Deadly McGuinness Blvd Needs Traffic Calming, Speed Cams

McGuinness Boulevard at Nassau Avenue, where Nicole Detweiler died a week ago and Solange Raulston died in 2009. Photo: Google Maps

McGuinness Boulevard at Nassau Avenue, where Nicole Detweiler was killed a week ago and where Solange Raulston was killed in 2009. Photo: Google Maps

A week after Nicole Detweiler was killed while walking on McGuinness Boulevard — at least the third person to be struck and killed on the street in the last five years — Council Member Steve Levin sent a letter to incoming Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg asking her to prioritize traffic calming and and speed cameras on the busy multi-lane road cutting through Greenpoint [PDF]:

Speed cameras from the recently approved pilot program should be installed at PS 34, which is just off of McGuinness Boulevard, and would reduce speeds and increase safety. I also request the implementation of a neighborhood slow zone in the area surrounding PS 34, left-hand turn signals, countdown clocks at crosswalks, and other traffic calming elements.

Council Member Steve Levin. Photo: NYC Council

Council Member Steve Levin. Photo: NYC Council

A state law passed last year allows the city to install up to 20 speed cameras within school zones, which extend a quarter-mile from public and private schools. The city began operating speed cameras last September, issuing drivers $50 tickets for speeding at least 10 mph above the limit during school hours. The cameras are movable, so the city can deploy them in any eligible area where speeding is a problem. Because Albany allowed only 20 cameras, the locations are not disclosed in an effort to maximize the deterrent effect.

An analysis by WNYC last year showed that school zones cover two-thirds of city streets, including 82 percent of all streets in Brooklyn. In addition to PS 34, cited by Levin, other nearby schools include PS 31, PS 110, JHS 126, Brooklyn Automotive High School, Believe Southside Charter School, Believe Northside Charter School and Frances Perkins Academy.

WNYC’s school zone map indicates a nearly mile-long stretch of McGuinness Boulevard, from Greenpoint Avenue to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, is included within a school zone and thus qualifies for speed cameras.

Levin’s letter comes in response to the death of Detweiler, 28, who was hit by a BMW driver and a truck driver at the intersection of McGuinness and Nassau Avenue. The truck driver, 35-year-old Roberto Amador, was arrested for driving with a suspended license. Amador had been arrested just one week earlier for driving with a suspended license on the Upper West Side, according to DNAinfo.

The death rate on McGuinness Boulevard is horrific. In December 2009, cyclist Solange Raulston, 33, was struck and killed by the driver of a flatbed truck at McGuinness and Nassau Avenue, the same intersection where Detweiler was killed. In April 2010, 28-year-old Williamsburg resident Neil Chamberlain was killed by a hit-and-run driver as he walked near the intersection of McGuinness and Calyer Street.

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Next Year, Peds and Cyclists Won’t Have to Fight for Scraps on Pulaski Bridge

One southbound lane of the Pulaski Bridge would be converted to a two-way bikeway under the plan. Image: DOT

A southbound lane of the Pulaski Bridge will be converted to a two-way bikeway in NYC DOT’s plan. Image: NYC DOT

By this time next year, people walking and biking across the Pulaski Bridge between Brooklyn and Queens won’t have to share a single narrow path. With a new, two-way protected bike lane spanning the bridge, cyclists will have a safe route and pedestrians will have the existing 8.5-foot wide pathway exclusively for walking. No more fighting over scraps of street space.

The only remaining milestones are final approval from state DOT, followed by NYC DOT moving ahead with a contract for construction — though the agency isn’t sure it will finish the project in time to help people looking for alternatives to the G train during a scheduled closure next summer.

The news came at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Brooklyn Community Board 1 transportation committee, which voted unanimously to support the project [PDF]. DOT also presented the plan at the transportation committee of Queens CB 2, which is waiting for more design details before taking a vote but expressed support for the project earlier in the planning process.

The need for more space for walking and biking is clear: In 2009, DOT added new striping for pedestrians and cyclists to the already-busy sidepath. Since then, the number of cyclists crossing the span has more than doubled, while the number of pedestrians has increased 47 percent, according to DOT counts.

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On the Queens side, the bikeway entrance to the bridge will be carved out of this car ramp and the planted traffic island.

The path will run on the west side of the bridge, replacing one of three southbound car travel lanes over Newtown Creek. Existing peak-hour traffic volumes on the bridge can easily be accommodated in two lanes, DOT’s Hayes Lord said, and the new two-lane configuration, matching the number of lanes on speed-plagued McGuinness Boulevard, will reduce merging and speeding by drivers as they drive into Brooklyn.

On the Queens side, the new bike path will curve alongside the existing walkway, which hugs a one-lane ramp that drivers use to access the bridge. To make room for the new bike path on the existing ramp, DOT will trim back the size of a Greenstreets traffic island at the bridge entrance. Drivers using the ramp will merge with southbound traffic from 11th Street entering the bridge, instead of continuing in the same lane as they do today.

Earlier this week, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer called for safety improvements in this area, near the intersection of the Pulaski Bridge, 49th Avenue, and 11th Street.

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Lentol: DOT Will Finalize Design for Pulaski Protected Bike Lane This Year

DOT is drawing up plans for a dedicated bike lane on the Pulaski Bridge, according to the office of Assembly Member Joe Lentol, and should have a final design ready before the end of the year

The current layout of this Queens-Brooklyn link squeezes pedestrians and cyclists onto a narrow shared path, while motorists speed along on six lanes for auto traffic. A year ago, Lentol asked DOT to consider adding a two-way protected bike lane, and has since worked with Transportation Alternatives staff and volunteers to build support for the project. After the proposal cleared a traffic analysis, DOT conducted an engineering study, presumably focusing on how to protect cyclists from car traffic and make it safe to bike across the bridge’s wide expansion joints.

Today Lentol announced the final design will be presented to Community Board 1 in Brooklyn and CB 2 in Queens before the year is out. ”The bike lane construction slated to begin in late spring or early summer of 2014 will allow for cyclists and pedestrians to be enjoying a safer journey over the bridge sooner rather than later,” Lentol said in a press release.

“We have been working on obtaining a dedicated bike lane on the Pulaski Bridge for over a year now and I am happy to say it is finally coming to fruition,” Assemblyman Lentol added. “The safety of bike riders and pedestrians on the bridge has always been of my utmost concern.”

“I applaud Commissioner Sadik-Khan for her vision in creating a more pedestrian and cyclist friendly transportation infrastructure for New York City,” Lentol concluded.

We’ve asked DOT to confirm the project timeline, and will update here when we hear back.

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Pulaski Bridge: Six Lanes for Cars, One Cramped Path for Peds and Bikes

The Pulaski Bridge is a vital link between Queens and Brooklyn. Since it was built 60 years ago, pedestrians and cyclists have been relegated to a narrow path. The shared path was good enough for some time, but when Greenpoint and Long Island City started growing rapidly a few years ago, that ceased to be the case. With more people walking and bicycling between boroughs, the path has become cramped, uncomfortable, and now — at times — even dangerous.

Currently, NYC DOT is studying the possibility of putting a two-way bike path on the south-bound side of the roadway, which would open up the current path for people walking. It presents a few tricky design obstacles, but a plan to make it happen is reportedly nearing completion and will soon be presented to the local community boards.

Rush hour is when you see the worst crowding. On a recent commute home, I took 15 minutes of footage for this Streetfilms Shortie. As you can see, the path is full of people going both directions — runners, bicyclists, walkers, subway commuters and even quite a few rollerbladers. This isn’t the worst of it — I’ve seen the path much more congested.

While observing the ped/bike interaction (and in most cases it is extremely gentle and cordial — in all my years I’ve never seen more than a few words exchanged between users), make sure to also take note: there is no traffic congestion on the roadway. I’d say the numbers of cars that pass over the Pulaski barely justify two lanes in each direction. Three lanes is overkill. Repurposing one car lane for bicycling will not hinder car traffic and should even help calm drivers as they transition to McGuinness Boulevard in Greenpoint, which has a terrible safety record.

Just in case the community boards need a reminder of why this project should move forward, I thought it was prudent to grab this footage.

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Pulaski Bridge Bike Lane OK’d by DOT Traffic Study; Engineering Review Next

A protected bike lane on the Pulaski Bridge — calming traffic heading to McGuinness Boulevard and providing much more breathing room than the bridge’s narrow bike/ped path alone — has cleared a significant planning hurdle. In a letter to Assembly Member Joe Lentol [PDF], DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said that the proposal meets traffic analysis requirements, and that an engineering study and recommendations will be made by the end of the year:

DOT says an engineering study is underway for a protected bike lane on the Pulaski Bridge, and the agency will make recommendations by the end of the year. Photo: *Bitch Cakes*/Flickr

Since December, we have analyzed traffic data and we are confident that one Brooklyn-bound lane can be removed from the Pulaski Bridge without an adverse effect on traffic flow… However, there are some engineering questions remaining about how to properly design and install such a bicycle path on the bridge. To resolve these questions, we are initiating an engineering study with a structural engineering consultant.

The most likely engineering concerns are related to the bridge’s wide joint gaps, which could ensnare narrow bike tires, and how to maintain an adequate physical barrier between bicycles and motor vehicles on the drawbridge section of the span. DOT expects to wrap up the study and recommendations later this year, according to Sadik-Khan’s letter.

While this update puts the study schedule behind the March deadline that Lentol had cited at the beginning of the year, it’s a good sign of progress.

In the meantime, advocates continue to build support for the bike lane. The Transportation Alternatives Queens volunteer committee, which has a petition supporting the lane with 300 signatures, will be gathering more signatures on the Queens side of the bridge path on Saturday, May 11, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.

The bridge path would complement a separate proposal to bring bike lanes to 11th Street in Long Island City, connecting north to Queens Plaza and the Queensboro Bridge. ”DOT and CB 2 have already agreed to this,” TA volunteer Steve Scofield told Streetsblog via e-mail. “We’re expecting their exact proposal and an implementation date in a matter of weeks.”