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Posts from the Prospect Heights Category

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Brooklyn Electeds to DOT: Put Safety First at Atlantic and Flatbush

For Valentine’s Day, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and council members Brad Lander and Stephen Levin asked DOT to “complete” Atlantic Avenue. Photo: David Meyer

About a dozen people braved the cold Saturday morning to call for pedestrian safety improvements at Brooklyn’s Times Plaza and along the whole Atlantic Avenue corridor.

Times Plaza is the triangular public space at the convergence of Atlantic, Flatbush, and Fourth avenues. At a public meeting last month, local residents were disappointed that the redesign proposed by Barclays Center developer Forest City Ratner, which is contractually obligated to fund the project, failed to address pedestrian safety concerns.

“It was clear at the meeting from the community turnout that what we really needed at this plaza was a safer place to cross,” Transportation Alternatives Brooklyn Committee Co-Chair Bahij Chancey said on Saturday.

Chancey and TA were joined by Borough President Eric Adams, council members Brad Lander and Stephen Levin, Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon, and representatives from Senator Velmanette Montgomery’s office and the Atlantic Avenue BID.

“How could you plan a plaza here before you make it safe?” Lander asked. “The intersection has to be safe before the plaza is made lovely. Lovely is good, safety is essential, so let’s start there.” DOT has said it plans to present pedestrian improvements for the intersection this spring.

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DOT Plans East-West Bike Connections in Crown Heights

DOT wants to install dedicated bike lanes on St. Johns Place and Sterling Place in Crown Heights. Image: DOT

DOT wants to install painted bike lanes on St. Johns Place and Sterling Place in Crown Heights [PDF]. Image: DOT

DOT presented plans for east-west bike lanes in Prospect Heights and Crown Heights to the Brooklyn CB 8 transportation committee earlier this week [PDF].

The proposal calls for painted lanes on St. Johns Place from Plaza Street East to Rogers Avenue and from New York Avenue to Ralph Avenue, with sharrows on the narrow one-way strip in between. St. Johns fluctuates between two-way and one-way traffic flow, and will have eastbound-only bike markings between Washington Avenue and Kingston Avenue. Signage will route westbound cyclists to Sterling Place one block north, where DOT plans to paint a lane from Kingston to Vanderbilt Avenue.

sterling

There are currently no markings to differentiate space on Sterling Place. Image: DOT

Speeding is a problem on these side streets, with 47 percent of drivers on the corridor traveling over the speed limit, according to DOT. Within the project limits, 47 people were severely injured in the five years from 2010 through 2014. On Sterling, which is 34 feet wide, there is currently no striping to differentiate lanes.

DOT also wants to prevent conflicts between turning drivers and pedestrians at the intersection of St. Johns and Utica Avenue, where seven pedestrians were severely injured between 2010 and 2014. Left turns from northbound Utica would be banned, while left turn lanes would be installed in both directions on St. Johns.

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More Arterial Carnage: Driver Seriously Injures Woman on Atlantic [Updated]

A driver hit a woman as she crossed the street at Atlantic Avenue and Washington Avenue today.

Update: A witness to this crash contacted Streetsblog. His account has been added to the post.

A motorist seriously injured a pedestrian on Atlantic Avenue at Washington Avenue in Brooklyn this morning.

A witness, who didn’t want his name published, told Streetsblog he was crossing Atlantic with several other pedestrians when the crash occurred. “There’s a silver Audi, and he’s waiting. And as we’re in the middle of the street, he just turns, and he starts — he just sped up. Pushed his foot down on the gas. Just barely missed me, and the lady next to me. The lady in front of us, about three or four feet ahead, she got hit. I couldn’t believe it.”

“As he’s approaching I’m thinking he would stop, ’cause he sees several pedestrians in the walkway,” the witness said. “But he just floored it. And there was a number of other people behind us, and a lady with a baby in front of that lady who got hit.”

“There was another guy, and he and I were of the same opinion,” he said. “This guy needed to be carted away in handcuffs, I thought.”

The witness said NYPD took his name and contact information, but only for insurance purposes. He said police on the scene did not ask him what he saw. “I was shocked, because they said they don’t take statements. ‘The insurance company will be contacting you, and they’ll be getting everyone’s side.'”

“She flew onto the windshield and was thrown onto the ground,” said a Streetsblog reader who came upon the scene after the crash and sent us these photos. “She was taken to the hospital on a stretcher.”

The crash occurred around 8:18 a.m., according to FDNY. The victim was taken to Kings County Hospital in serious condition. A Fire Department spokesperson said her injuries were not thought to be life-threatening when she was transported.

Photos of the car show damage to the windshield near the A pillar on the driver’s side. The victim was aided by several passersby.

As is usually the case with incidents that don’t immediately result in death, NYPD had no information on the crash.

“The driver got away with a mere ticket,” said our source. “Witnesses said the driver sped up and should be arrested.”

The victim was transported to the hospital in serious condition.

The victim was transported to the hospital in serious condition.

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Eyes on the Street: The 78th Precinct Gets Its Bike Corral

Photo: N. Wayne Bailey

Photo: N. Wayne Bailey

After a request from 78th Precinct commanding officer Captain Frank DiGiacomo, DOT has installed a four-rack bike corral in front of the precinct house on Bergen Street in Prospect Heights. N. Wayne Bailey, chair of the precinct’s community council, snapped photos of the new bike parking yesterday.

The 78th Precinct has established a reputation for supporting livable streets, from making a guerrilla protected bike lane permanent to targeting drivers who fail to yield and hosting monthly traffic safety meetings.

Despite the precinct’s groundbreaking moves, there is still lots of room for improvement. As the photo shows, the 7-8 engages in a behavior that’s all too common at precinct houses across the city: using sidewalks for parking. The precinct did clear its cars from two blocks but continues the practice along both Bergen Street and Sixth Avenue.

Getting officers to obey parking rules? Now that would be revolutionary.

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Eyes on the Street: The Evolution of the Bergen Street Protected Bike Lane

Photo: Gary Eckstein

Photo: Gary Eckstein

What began as an ad hoc fix for a bike lane chronically clogged by cars has become permanent after DOT installed a block-long barrier on the Bergen Street bike lane in front of the 78th Precinct in Prospect Heights.

It started more than two years ago when Ian Dutton moved some leftover ConEd cones a few feet into Bergen Street to cordon off the bike lane for cyclists:

Photo: Ian Dutton

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Eyes on the Street: Sidewalks for Pedestrians at the 78th Precinct

Photo: Wayne Bailey

This sidewalk used to be a parking lot for police. Photo: Wayne Bailey

Props to the 78th Precinct and commanding officer Michael Ameri for this one. Reader Wayne Bailey sends photos showing that the 78th is starting to get the sidewalk parking situation under control near the precinct house. Previously this block of Sixth Avenue was occupied by officers’ personal vehicles:

Image: Google Maps

The old situation. Image: Google Maps

It might seem like a small thing, but this is a big deal for walking conditions near the 78th, which is right next to a subway station and retail blocks on Sixth Avenue, Bergen Street, and Flatbush Avenue.

Here’s what the sidewalk right in front of the precinct used to look like, with “combat parking” — vehicles perpendicular to the street, backed over the curb:

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Imagining a New Atlantic Avenue for de Blasio’s New York

atlantic_parking

With the dangerous, highway-like conditions on Atlantic Avenue, much of the surrounding area is under-developed. A chain link fence surrounds this parking lot near Franklin Avenue.

Atlantic Avenue is one of New York’s most prominent streets, and in most respects, it is completely broken.

Stretching more than ten miles, Atlantic cuts through several neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens while functioning mainly as an urban highway for private motorists and truckers making their way east, toward the Van Wyck and Long Island, or west, to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

It is plagued with constant, speeding traffic. The avenue’s wide, highway-like conditions induce drivers to floor it, and as a result Atlantic is one of the most dangerous streets in New York City. When Council Member Steve Levin took a speed gun out to Atlantic, he found 88 percent of drivers were going more than 10 miles per hour over the limit. From 2008 to 2012, 25 people were killed on the 7.6-mile stretch of Atlantic between Furman Street in Brooklyn Heights and 76th Street in Woodhaven.

When the city announced that Atlantic would become the first street in the “arterial slow zone” program, with a 25 mph speed limit and re-timed traffic signals, it was welcome news. Atlantic is the kind of monster that has to be tamed if the de Blasio administration is going to achieve its Vision Zero street safety goals, and the new speed limit is a good first step.

In the long-run, though, Atlantic Avenue and the many other city streets like it will need much more comprehensive changes to not only eliminate traffic deaths, but also accommodate the economic growth and housing construction goals that City Hall is after.

Today, much of Atlantic Avenue is an eyesore, especially along the stretch east of Flatbush Avenue. It’s basically an unsightly speedway, and land values along the eastern portion of Atlantic have historically been depressed. Empty lots sit beside carwashes and parking lots. Grassy weeds poke up through a decrepit median. Some portions fall under the shadow of elevated train tracks — the Atlantic Branch of the Long Island Rail Road, which otherwise runs below ground.

Does it have to be this way? Can’t we imagine an Atlantic Avenue that is an asset to the neighborhoods which surround it, rather than a challenge to work around?

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Atlantic Yards Could Become Much Less Car-Centric

Off-street parking for the Atlantic Yards project, which sits near one of the world’s great confluences of transit lines, was once projected to include space for as many as 3,670 cars. Now the number of parking spots could get chopped down to 2,876 or, in one scenario, a significantly less car-centric 1,200, according to a new review prepared for the state body overseeing the development.

Fewer parking spaces at Atlantic Yards means less traffic on Flatbush Avenue. Photo: Chris Hamby/Flickr

Fewer parking spaces at Atlantic Yards means less traffic on Flatbush Avenue. Photo: Chris Hamby/Flickr

The new environmental study, first covered by Atlantic Yards Report, is being prepared after a court ordered the state agency, Empire State Development, to examine the impacts of the project’s delayed construction timeline. The full Atlantic Yards proposal calls for approximately 6,430 residential units, about 180 hotel rooms, and nearly 600,000 square feet of retail and commercial space by 2035.

The study by consultants AKRF and Philip Habib & Associates offers two parking estimates. The first would entail 2,896 spaces in five garages. The second, labeled the “reduced parking alternative,” would create 1,200 spaces in three garages. Both numbers are significantly lower than the 3,670 spaces proposed in the project’s original environmental impact statement from 2006.

With less parking, the finished project would generate less traffic. There would be fewer curb cuts for garages, creating a safer, more cohesive pedestrian environment. Another potential benefit: Reducing the amount of parking could make the project easier to finance and lead to quicker housing construction.

Why the change? One factor is that the city’s environmental review guidelines are different than they were eight years ago. The guidelines now anticipate that car trips to the commercial uses at the site will increase at a slower pace than previously assumed, which accounts in large part for the drop from 3,670 spaces to 2,896.

To arrive at the option with 1,200 spaces, the report looks west, to recent parking reforms in Downtown Brooklyn. Despite the area’s rock-bottom car ownership rates, developers there were required to overbuild off-street parking. Facing a glut, the city halved residential parking requirements in 2012.

So instead of blindly using the city’s decades-old outer-borough parking requirements, the document offers a “reduced parking alternative” that applies the Downtown Brooklyn parking ratios to the Atlantic Yards project.

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Cumbo Calls for Safer Atlantic Ave, and Trottenberg Promises Action

Photo: Ben Fried

City Council Member Laurie Cumbo with advocates from the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, Make Brooklyn Safer, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, New York League of Conservation Voters, and Transportation Alternatives. Photo: Ben Fried

Minutes after Council Member Laurie Cumbo and street safety advocates called for immediate action to reduce traffic violence on Atlantic Avenue, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the audience at a Vision Zero forum in Crown Heights last night that DOT intends to make Atlantic one of its early priorities for safety fixes.

Atlantic Avenue is one of the biggest and most dangerous streets in the city, running east-west across the length of Brooklyn. It routinely ranks near the top of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s list of the borough’s deadliest streets for pedestrians. From 2002 to 2013, more than 1,400 pedestrians and cyclists were injured on Atlantic.

At a press conference preceding last night’s Vision Zero town hall at Medgar Evers College, Cumbo stressed the need to act soon. “We can’t wait for another child to be the face of why we need Vision Zero,” she said. “So many of these accidents could be avoided with the right measures.”

As it happens, the city intends to tackle Atlantic Avenue soon. During the forum, Trottenberg said Atlantic would be one of the 50 street safety projects DOT takes on this year. Noting that Atlantic Avenue is a big, wide, heavily trafficked street, Trottenberg said, “That’s the kind of street that DOT views as a challenge, and we want to step up.” The city’s Vision Zero action plan calls for “arterial slow zones” on streets like Atlantic that see a disproportionate share of injuries and deaths.

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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.”

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