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Posts from the "Prospect Heights" Category

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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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Motorists Take the Lives of Human Rights Worker and Senior in Brooklyn

A senior was killed by a motorist in Bensonhurst this weekend, and a Prospect Heights pedestrian who was struck by an alleged drunk driver earlier this month has died from her injuries.

Roxana Gomez

On July 5 at around 12:25 a.m., Roxana Gomez was walking at Flatbush Avenue and St. Marks Avenue when she was hit by a BMW sedan driven by Eric Nesmith, according to witness accounts and the Post. The Post said Nesmith hit Gomez “a split second after the car in front of him swerved around her.”

Gomez suffered massive head injuries, and was administered CPR by an emergency room nurse who lives near the scene. She died on July 10.

Gomez, 27, was a Columbia grad student who worked for the human rights org MADRE.

Nesmith, 25, of Newark, was charged with DWI, according to the Post and online court records. The Post reported that Nesmith ”admitted to cops he had consumed up to six Coronas at a family gathering” before the crash. His BAC was .126, the Post said.

As of now, Nesmith has not been charged for Gomez’s death. A spokesperson for the office of District Attorney Charles Hynes said charges against him could be upgraded this week.

On Saturday at approximately 9:05 p.m., 79-year-old King Fong was struck by a motorist at Bay Parkway near 72nd Street. From the Post:

A 79-year-old woman talking on her cellphone and crossing against the light was fatally struck by a car just one block from her Bensonhurst home, police sources said today.

The driver remained at the scene, and detectives said no criminality was suspected.

When a pedestrian or cyclist is killed by a sober motorist who stays at the scene, NYPD tends to leak only those details that point to the blame-worthiness of the victim. As usual, the Post repeats this information without question, and makes no mention of other possible contributing factors, such as how fast the driver was traveling at the time of the collision.

Older pedestrians suffer disproportionately from traffic violence in NYC, and according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog, Fong was at least the third pedestrian age 60 or older to die in traffic in the 62nd Precinct since last December. You won’t find those details reported in the Post either.

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Pedestrian Seriously Injured by Motorist in Prospect Heights Last Night

Photo: Zach Fried

A pedestrian was seriously injured by a motorist in Prospect Heights early this morning, according to witnesses and FDNY.

At around 12:25 a.m., the driver of a BMW sedan struck a woman at Flatbush Avenue at St. Marks Avenue. The crash happened near the home of Zach Fried and his fiancée, an emergency room nurse who administered CPR to the victim.

The victim sustained massive head injuries, according to Fried. An FDNY spokesperson told Streetsblog she was transported to Kings County Hospital in cardiac arrest.

Fried said FDNY responders indicated that the driver was speeding, and that NYPD told his fiancée the driver was arrested for DWI. The NYPD public information office had no record of the crash. This is typical for crashes in which no one is pronounced dead at the scene.

This crash occurred in the 78th Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 78th Precinct council meetings happen on the last Tuesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. at the precinct, 65 Sixth Avenue. Call 718-636-6410 for information.

The intersection where this crash occurred is on the border of City Council districts represented by Steve Levin and Tish James. Contact Levin and James to encourage them to take action to improve street safety in their districts and citywide.

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Eyes on the Street: Reason Number 6,734,090,855 NYC Needs Speed Cams

Turn up the volume and listen for the sociopathic pacesetter about halfway through this clip. This is southbound Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights, recorded with my bike-mounted camera at the intersection with Dean Street at about 9:40 p.m. last night.

Vanderbilt has become much more walkable and bikeable since DOT implemented a road diet about five years ago, converting a motor vehicle lane into pedestrian medians and painted bike lanes. By and large, car traffic is calmer. But there are still some maniacs who don’t get the engineering cues, and if they have enough space in front of them to open up the throttle, they’ll treat this crowded city street like a racetrack.

This is behavior that kills, but police aren’t ticketing the drivers who do it. That’s why NYC needs automated enforcement.

A proposal that would allow the city to set up speed enforcement cameras for the first time is alive in Albany, and we’ll have an update about it later this afternoon.

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Eyes on the Street: Scenes From Flatbush Avenue

Flatbush Avenue and Prospect Place, southeast corner. Photos: Ian Dutton

Thanks to Ian Dutton for these great shots from Flatbush Avenue, where pedestrians are being allotted more space on five side streets from Prospect Park to Atlantic Avenue.

The materials are designed to be temporary, but it’s remarkable what a little paint and plastic can accomplish. According to Ian, crossing distances at Prospect Place and Sterling Place have been reduced by 50 percent. Not bad for a few hours’ work.

Flatbush at Park Place and Carlton Avenue

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DOT Makes Room for Pedestrians on Flatbush Avenue

A conceptual before-and-after sketch of how the new neckdowns on Flatbush Avenue side streets will look. Image via North Flatbush BID

Ahead of a 2014 capital project that will shorten crossing distances for pedestrians on the stretch of Flatbush Avenue between Grand Army Plaza and Atlantic Avenue, DOT this week is installing temporary sidewalk extensions on side streets at five intersections.

Crews will be painting extensions on Bergen Street, St. Marks Avenue, Prospect Place, Sterling Place and St. Johns Place where those streets intersect with Flatbush, according to a DOT flier. The pedestrian areas don’t extend into the roadbed of Flatbush itself but should calm traffic turning onto the cross streets. The intersection of Carlton Avenue and Park Place will also see an expansion of pedestrian space. In addition to paint, plastic bollards will be installed to delineate the new pedestrian areas.

“Working with the North Flatbush BID, Community Boards, and elected officials, DOT has over the past several years fully repaved the roadway, added pedestrian countdown signals, limited turns for safety, and retimed the signal progression during off-peak hours,” said Craig Hammerman, district manager of Community Board 6, in an email announcement. The temporary spaces “will set a footprint” for the 2014 improvements, which will include permanent sidewalk extensions and the reconstruction of four triangular parks, Hammerman said.

Efforts to make this stretch of Flatbush Avenue safer have been in the works for several years. More than 200 pedestrians and cyclists were injured, and two cyclists were killed, on Flatbush between Atlantic Avenue and Eighth Avenue from 1995 to 2009, according to Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat.