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Protected Bike Lanes Coming to Washington Heights After CB 12 Vote

Protected bikeways are coming to Washington Heights. Image: DOT

Protected bikeways are coming to Washington Heights, including Edgecombe Avenue, above. Image: DOT [PDF]

Washington Heights will get protected bike lanes and major pedestrian upgrades after Manhattan Community Board 12 endorsed a DOT proposal last night.

Sections of 170th Street, 158th Street, and Edgecombe Avenue will get protected bike lanes, and pedestrian crossings will be improved on Edgecombe Avenue and at the complex intersection of 158th Street, Riverside Drive, and Edward Morgan Place [PDF]. The street redesigns will make for safer connections between the Hudson River Greenway and Highbridge Park, where the rehabilitated High Bridge will provide a car-free link between Manhattan and the Bronx.

Protected bikeways and pedestrian upgrades are planned for 170th Street, 158th Street, and Edgecombe Avenue. Map: DOT [PDF]

The plan encountered resistance earlier this month from CB 12 members who objected to the loss of approximately 20 parking spaces. DOT revised its plan to reduce parking losses to just eight spots, through offsets elsewhere in the neighborhood. The bike and pedestrian improvements in the plan remain intact.

While a couple of board members, including Jim Berlin, were still upset by any loss of parking, meeting attendees said opponents were outnumbered last night by approximately two dozen high school students from the George Washington Educational Campus, located in Fort George. The students, who participate in “I Challenge Myself,” a program that teaches youth in the Bronx and Manhattan about cycling, brought signs to show support for the plan, and one spoke to the board.

“Almost half the people there were young people, students from our program. It was really impressive, just how strongly they felt,” said Ana Reyes, a Washington Heights resident and executive director of I Challenge Myself. “I think that made a huge difference.”

While no official vote tally was available, Reyes said only a few board members voted against the proposal. The project is a welcome development for an area of Manhattan where the bike network is lacking.

“It’s a really good thing that DOT is putting protected infrastructure in Upper Manhattan, where so far the infrastructure doesn’t look like it does in the other parts of the city,” said Transportation Alternatives Manhattan organizer Tom DeVito.

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Construction Has Begun on the Pulaski Bridge Bikeway

People who walk and bike the Pulaski Bridge may have more space by summer's end.

People who walk and bike the Pulaski Bridge may have more space by summer’s end. Image: NYC DOT

DOT has started work on the much-anticipated Pulaski Bridge bikeway, which will more than double the space for people walking and biking on the bridge.

The Pulaski Bridge spans Newtown Creek, linking Greenpoint and Long Island City. Right now people who cross the bridge on foot and by bike are crammed into one eight-foot lane next to six lanes for motor vehicle traffic. DOT will convert one southbound auto lane to a two-way bike lane, to be separated from pedestrian and car traffic by concrete barriers.

Assembly Member Joe Lentol, a longtime proponent of allocating more space on the bridge to pedestrians and cyclists, released a statement yesterday afternoon:

I am happy to announce that construction has begun on the Pulaski Bridge dedicated bike lane. I have been advocating for this bike lane for nearly five years and I am thrilled that the project is underway. I am hopeful the project will be completed by the end of the summer, finally allowing pedestrians and cyclists to safely travel over the bridge.

Lentol posted a DOT construction announcement on his Facebook page.

DOT began planning the bikeway under former commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. The original construction timetable called for it to be completed in 2014, but red tape pushed it back a year.

The redesign is also expected to help calm traffic on deadly McGuinness Boulevard by slowing drivers as they enter Brooklyn from the bridge.

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DOT Has a New Plan for Bike Lanes on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge

Is the second try the charm for adding bike lanes to the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge? Image: DOT [PDF]

Is the second try the charm for adding bike lanes to the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge? Image: DOT [PDF]

DOT has a plan to add bike lanes to the J. J. Byrne Memorial Bridge, which carries Greenpoint Avenue across Newtown Creek between Brooklyn and Queens [PDF]. The agency has also mapped out new striped bike lanes and markings in Sunnyside and Long Island City [PDF], which would improve access to the bridge.

A similar DOT plan for the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge from 2010 would have changed the roadway from two car lanes in each direction to one, with buffered bike lanes on either side. DOT mothballed the bike lanes a year later after opposition from Brooklyn Community Board 1 and local trucking and industrial interests.

With two wide lanes in each direction, the bridge has remained a source of constant complaints about speeding. DOT says it has received requests for changes from Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and Assembly Member Joe Lentol.

Bike planning workshops DOT hosted with Queens Community Board 2 in 2012 identified the bridge as a missing link in the network. On the Brooklyn side, the crossing connects to bike lanes on Greenpoint Avenue, which currently terminate at Kingsland Avenue at the foot of the bridge. About 600 cyclists cross the bridge on weekends and weekdays, according to DOT counts from June 2014.

The current DOT project calls for adding striped, unprotected bike lanes on both the Queens and Brooklyn approaches, with two lanes of car traffic maintained in each direction. On the bridge’s center span, the bike lanes would gain four-foot buffers. Two lanes for Queens-bound car traffic would be retained, while Brooklyn-bound drivers would merge into one lane before returning to two lanes as the bridge touches down in Greenpoint.

On the Queens side, as reported by the LIC Post, DOT is planning the second phase of bike network expansion in Sunnyside and Long Island City. Like the first phase, it will mostly consist of painted bike lanes and sharrows, though there is a short two-way protected bike lane proposed for Borden Avenue.  

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Pulaski Bridge Bike Path Now Scheduled to Open by End of 2015

This time next year, cyclists and pedestrians will no longer share the same cramped path on the Pulaski Bridge. Image: DOT [PDF]

This time next year, cyclists and pedestrians will no longer share the same cramped path on the Pulaski Bridge. Last year, DOT said the project would be done by now. Image: DOT [PDF]

About a year behind schedule, a major project to improve walking and biking between Queens and Brooklyn is set to move forward in 2015.

The project, originally scheduled to be complete this year, will convert one southbound car lane on the Pulaski Bridge into a protected bike lane, giving more breathing room to pedestrians on what is now a shared-use path and calming traffic headed toward deadly McGuinness Boulevard in Brooklyn. Now that a construction contract has been signed and a design is in place [PDF], DOT told an audience in Long Island City last night that the new pathway will open in 2015, but maybe not until the end of the year.

In attendance was Assembly Member Joe Lentol, who urged DOT in late 2012 to study a protected bike lane on the Pulaski. “I’m here because I want to see this project through to its conclusion just like you do,” he told the audience. “I’m very excited seeing this started. We’d hoped that it would’ve been completed by now.”

When the project was first announced at the end of 2013, DOT staff said construction would take a few months and it would open by late 2014. And last month, Deputy Commissioner for Bridges Bob Collyer told the City Council that he anticipated the project would be complete in the spring. But now, with final approvals in hand, the latest word from DOT is that the contractor will start the job in April and wrap later in the year, no sooner than October. The contractor is required to finish work by the end of 2015.

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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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