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Posts from the Williamsburg Category

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TA Calls for Grand Street to Serve People, Not Cars, During L Shutdown

Transportation Alternatives Queens and Brooklyn activists rallied yesterday for a Grand Street "PeopleWay" during the L train shutdown dedicated to buses, bikes, and pedestrians. Photo: David Meyer

Transportation Alternatives volunteers rallied yesterday for a Grand Street “PeopleWay” to prioritize buses, biking, and walking. Photo: David Meyer

Volunteers from Transportation Alternatives rallied on the Brooklyn side of the Williamsburg Bridge last night to call on the city to prioritize Grand Street for buses, bicycling, and walking when the MTA shuts down the western portion of the L train for 18 months to make Sandy-related repairs.

Every day, New Yorkers make hundreds of thousands of trips on the portions of the L that will be affected. While some of these passengers can shift to other subways, there’s no way to accommodate all that travel without also repurposing street space for spatially efficient modes.

In Manhattan, TA has called for a car-free 14th Street “PeopleWay” exclusively for buses, bikes, and pedestrians, a concept that has the support of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

On the Brooklyn side, Borough President Eric Adams has called for dedicated bus lanes on the Williamsburg Bridge, but otherwise little attention has been paid to L train riders who’ll need better surface transportation options.

The Williamsburg Bridge also serves as the main link in the bike network between North Brooklyn and Manhattan, and is likely to experience increased bike traffic during the shutdown.

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A Closer Look at How the L Train Shutdown Will Disrupt Transit Trips

This diagram shows the alternate routes commuters would have to take to travel between L Train stops. Image: BRT Planning International

Without L train service in Manhattan, trips that used to be a one-seat ride between these origins (y-axis) and destinations (x-axis) will involve multiple transfers and/or long walks. Image: BRT Planning International

The 18-month shutdown of the L train between North Brooklyn and Eighth Avenue may be three years away, but officials still have to move quickly to help hundreds of thousands of L passengers get where they need to go. So far, city officials and the MTA have yet to provide much in the way of specifics.

To get a better sense of how transit service should adapt for the L shutdown, Annie Weinstock and Walter Hook of BRT Planning International analyzed how the loss of the L train west of Bedford Avenue would affect trip times if no measures are taken. Trips between Brooklyn and Manhattan that are currently a one-seat ride will become far more convoluted and inconvenient, as you can see in the top matrix.

Translated into time lost, the effect is most severe for L train riders who cannot conveniently connect to other subway lines at Myrtle/Wyckoff or Broadway Junction. You can see in the matrix below (which includes travel times between a sample of L train stations and other stations) that people by the Brooklyn stops west of Myrtle/Wyckoff are most affected.

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Reynoso Tells DOT: Grand Street Needs a Safer Bike Lane ASAP

Council Member Antonio Reynoso today urged DOT to upgrade the bike lanes on the Grand Street in North Brooklyn. The existing painted lanes did not protect Matthew von Ohlen, who was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver in July.

Antonio Reynoso. Photo: NYC DOT

In a letter sent this afternoon to DOT Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Keith Bray, Reynoso calls for “the immediate installation of safety mitigations along Borinquen Place/Grand Street from the BQE to the Metropolitan Ave Bridge.”

Grand Street is an essential bike connection between the bridge and Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Ridgewood. But its painted bike lanes are often blocked by double-parked cars and provide limited separation from the heavy truck traffic generated by nearby industrial areas.

Pointing to the impending L Train shutdown, which will disrupt trips for hundreds of thousands of subway riders, Reynoso says the local streets are poorly designed for current needs, let alone additional demands:

We should be making a plan now to best prioritize bus, bike, and pedestrian travel that gives community residents the opportunity to move safely and efficiently. Grand Street already serves as a main connector to and from Manhattan, yet the corridor is not equipped with adequate safety measures to accommodate the increasing number of pedestrians and cyclists who use the street.

At Brooklyn Community Board 1’s August full board meeting and again at last Thursday’s transportation committee meeting, Von Ohlen’s friends and family called for a protected bike lane on Grand Street. Von Ohlen, 35, was riding on Grand Street early in the morning on July 3 when the driver of a Chevy Camaro knocked him off his bike and dragged him 20 to 30 feet. (Police located the vehicle on July 6, but have not apprehended a suspect.)

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Matt von Ohlen’s Friends and Family Call for Grand Street Protected Lane

The bike lane on Grand Street, where Matthew von Ohlen was killed last month, fails to keep cyclists safe from motor vehicles. Photo: Google Maps

The painted bike lane on Grand Street, where Matthew von Ohlen was killed last month, provides no physical protection from motor vehicles. Via Google Maps

The family and friends of Matthew von Ohlen pleaded with Brooklyn Community Board 1 to support a protected bike lane on Williamsburg’s Grand Street, where the 35-year-old was killed while biking by a hit-and-run driver on July 3.

Matthew’s father Bernt von Ohlen and other friends and supporters were joined by Council Member Antonio Reynoso, but the board did not take a position last night.

Matthew Von Ohlen. Photo via Gothamist

Matthew von Ohlen.

“I’m not a bike advocate. In fact, I’m afraid of riding a bike on the streets of New York,” said Christine McVay, who had known von Ohlen since he was a child. “Putting effective protected lanes on streets like Grand Street will making riding safer,” she said, holding back tears.

Von Ohlen was riding east on Grand Street between Manhattan Avenue and Graham Avenue at around 2:20 a.m. when the driver of a Chevy Camaro struck his back tire, then struck him again as he fell off his bike and dragged him 20 or 30 feet. Police believe the driver ran over von Ohlen intentionally. They located the vehicle on July 6 but have not apprehended a suspect.

At the outset of the meeting, Council Member Antonio Reynoso led the room in a moment of silence. He made his own call for safer bike infrastructure on Grand Street. “Matt’s death was a tragedy and it was a preventable one,” he said. “We’re gonna sit down and have a serious conversation about what we can do with infrastructure along Grand Street to really move forward and [take] the next step of bike lane protection and infrastructure.”

The bike lane on Grand Street/Borinquen Place runs between the Brooklyn Queens Expressway near the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge to the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge in East Williamsburg. It’s a key connector for people biking across North Brooklyn and is slated to expand eastward along Metropolitan Avenue later this year. In 2015, 29 cyclists were injured along the route between the BQE and Metropolitan Avenue, according to Vision Zero View.

In town from Minneapolis to take care of his son’s estate, Bernt von Ohlen implored the board to call for action. “I think that the best solutions are local solutions. You are a local group, and by keeping your eyes and ears on what goes on in the city by demanding that problems of this kind be addressed, you can make this community a better community for everybody,” he said.

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Hit-and-Run Driver Murders Cyclist, So 90th Precinct Tickets People on Bikes

A hit-and-run driver killed a cyclist in Williamsburg this weekend. Though police believe the motorist ran over the victim on purpose, the 90th Precinct responded by ticketing cyclists and handing out bike safety fliers.

Matthew Von Ohlen. Photo via Gothamist

Matthew von Ohlen. Photo via Gothamist

Matthew von Ohlen, 35, was riding his bike east on Grand Street between Manhattan Avenue and Graham Avenue at around 2:20 a.m. Saturday when the driver of a late model Camaro approached from behind. Police told WPIX the driver then slowed and edged into the bike lane.

The driver then hit Van Ohen’s [sic] rear tire and as the victim fell off his bike, the driver slammed into him again, running over him and dragging him about 20 to 30 feet.

The driver then sped off, heading east on Grand Street.

Video posted by Gothamist shows the motorist enter the painted bike lane and drive away, leaving the victim’s body in the street.

Von Ohlen was a co-founder of Bikestock, which operates bike repair vending machines in NYC and Massachusetts. The Daily News reported that he was on his way home from a bartending shift in Manhattan when he was killed.

WPIX posted footage of 90th Precinct officers ticketing cyclists at the scene of the crash. Gothamist said cops, shown blocking the bike lane in the WPIX story, were also handing out NYPD “Operation Safe Cycle” leaflets.

“When [cyclists] got to the intersection of Grand and Graham on their way, police officers were there to stop them and hand out pamphlets on cyclist safety,” Williamsburg resident Greg Fertel told Gothamist. “I found this to be pretty enraging — I don’t think that this was an issue of cyclist safety.”

Cops from the 90th Precinct, blocking the bike lane where Von Ohlen was killed by a homicide suspect, ticket cyclists and lecture them on bike safety. Image: WPIX

Cops from the 90th Precinct, blocking the bike lane where Von Ohlen was killed by a homicide suspect, ticket cyclists and lecture them on bike safety. Image: WPIX

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Metropolitan Bridge Bike Lane Will Connect Ridgewood and Williamsburg

Bike lanes could soon be coming to the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge, which connects East Williamsburg and Ridgewood. Image: DOT

Bike lanes could soon be coming to the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge, which connects East Williamsburg and Ridgewood. Image: DOT

After two years of back-and-forth with the local community board, a proposal to link the bike networks of Williamsburg and Ridgewood via the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge may finally be coming to fruition. DOT presented an updated version of the plan, which it first unveiled in June 2014, to Brooklyn Community Board 1 last night [PDF].

The Metropolitan Avenue Bridge is a critical connection between Brooklyn and Queens over Newtown Creek. Currently there are only bike lanes to the west of the bridge, on Grand Street in East Williamsburg, not on the bridge itself, where cyclists have to contend with heavy truck traffic.

With two lanes in each direction, drivers on the bridge tend to go too fast. Two cyclists and one pedestrian were killed on or near the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge between 2009 and 2013, according to DOT.

DOT plans to remove one westbound car lane to make room for bike lanes on both sides of the bridge. On the eastbound side of the bridge, the bike lane will have a painted buffer. On the westbound side, in an odd touch, there will be both sharrows and a curbside bike lane.

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DOT Hints at Upcoming Bike Projects in North Brooklyn

DOT is planning a number of bike infrastructure improvements for North Brooklyn, including a buffered bike lane on Metropolitan between Grand Street and Onderdonk Avenue. Image: DOT

A short stretch of buffered bike lane on Metropolitan between Grand Street and Onderdonk Avenue will connect bike networks in Williamsburg and Bushwick. Image: DOT

Last night DOT outlined some of the bike projects it’s planning for Williamsburg and Bushwick in the near future, including bike lanes on Meeker Avenue and improved southbound bike connections from the Williamsburg Bridge. While it didn’t come up at the meeting, the looming L train shutdown lends some extra urgency to bike network improvements in this part of the city. Every L train rider who opts to bike while the shutdown is in effect will be placing less strain on a bus and subway network that can use all the help it can get.

DOT Bicycle & Pedestrian Programs Director Sean Quinn sketched out ideas at a “Vision Zero town hall” hosted in South Williamsburg by Council Member Antonio Reynoso. Design details aren’t available yet, but Quinn did offer some insight into the agency’s timelines moving forward.

On Meeker Avenue, a proposal for “bike facilities” will be presented in the fall, Quinn said. DOT is currently in the process of improving pedestrian crossings along a dangerous stretch of Meeker, but bike lanes weren’t a part of that project. The agency also wants to improve bike connections between Meeker Avenue and Borinquen Place (and by extension, the Williamsburg Bridge), by installing bike lanes on Marcy Avenue and Rodney Street, which both run parallel to the BQE.

DOT is also looking at southbound bike connections from the Williamsburg Bridge. Currently, there is no direct way to get from the bridge bike path to the neighborhoods to the south. “There is a major missing connection across the mouth of the Williamsburg Bridge entrance,” Quinn said. DOT plans to make changes on South 4th Street and Havemeyer Street to address the issue.

Further east, the agency wants to connect the Bushwick and Williamsburg bike networks via a short stretch of buffered bike lane on Metropolitan Avenue between Grand Street and Onderdonk Avenue. The design (above) will go before the local community board in June.

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Video: Rampaging Sidewalk Driver Injures Child in Williamsburg

A hit-and-run motorist sped down sidewalks in Williamsburg Thursday, injuring a child as pedestrians scrambled to get out of harm’s way.

Yeshiva World reports that the driver and at least one other man were suspected of trying to pass counterfeit money at stores in the vicinity of Bedford Avenue and Lee Avenue, in the 90th Precinct. After shopkeepers tipped off Williamsburg Shomrim, the men tried to flee by driving on the sidewalk.

Video shows the motorist driving a Toyota sedan at a high rate of speed as people dodge out of the way. At one point the driver backs off the curb as witnesses try to get him to stop.

WCBS reported that a 9-year-old boy was hospitalized with injuries to his leg.

The driver crashed the car after the sidewalk rampage, hitting another vehicle at Harrison Avenue and Hopper Street before he was caught during a foot pursuit. The other suspects got away.

The NYPD public information office told us no arrests have been made and said police are still investigating.

h/t Gothamist

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Brewer to DOT: Start Looking Into a Bus-Only 14th Street

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer wants bus-only lanes on 14th Street. Photo: David Meyer

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer wants the city to study making 14th Street car-free so buses can carry the load while the L train is shut down for repairs. Photo: David Meyer

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is calling on DOT to study making 14th Street a bus-only thoroughfare while L train service is disrupted during Sandy-related repairs.

To allow for urgently-needed fixes to the L train tunnel, the MTA is considering either a full shutdown of service between Bedford Avenue and Eighth Avenue for 18 months, or a three-year variation that preserves about 20 percent of current service. At a press event this morning, the Riders Alliance revealed that most L train riders who responded to an online survey prefer to get it over with in 18 months — a position the MTA seems to share.

In either case, said Riders Alliance Deputy Director Nick Sifuentes, the city and the MTA need to take steps to keep people moving: “No matter what the MTA does, a shutdown will profoundly change transportation options for commuters on both sides of the East River.” Sifuentes said survey respondents “called broadly for robust, supplementary bus service in Manhattan and Brooklyn.”

In the survey, respondents suggested bus lanes in both Brooklyn and Manhattan and along the Williamsburg Bridge, as well as a number of other measures, including Citi Bike expansion, more capacity for bicycling on the Williamsburg Bridge, increased service on nearby subway lines, and increased ferry service.

“The shutdown will not be easy, but a robust set of alternatives would reduce the pain,” said Kate Slevin of the Regional Plan Association. “For example, 14th Street could become reserved for buses, pedestrians and bikes, and the Williamsburg Bridge could offer dedicated bike and bus routes. The MTA and DOT need to be bold.”

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NYPD: Teacher Killed by Cop in Crosswalk “Assumed Risk” by Crossing Street


NYPD and the city Law Department are fighting a lawsuit filed by the family of a Brooklyn man who was killed in a crosswalk by an on-duty officer, on the grounds that the victim behaved recklessly by crossing the street.

Felix Coss was crossing Broadway at Hooper Street in Williamsburg, in a crosswalk with the signal, on the afternoon of July 6, 2013, when Officer Paula Medrano of the 90th Precinct struck him with a marked police van while turning left. Coss, a 61-year-old veteran Spanish teacher, suffered severe head injuries and died that night at Bellevue Hospital.

Felix Coss. Photo via DNAinfo

Video of the crash shows Medrano stopped at the Hooper Street crosswalk on the north side of the intersection as Coss, approaching from the south, stops for the signal. When the light changes, Coss enters the Broadway crosswalk, still facing Medrano, as Medrano accelerates into the intersection and turns left, driving directly into Coss and knocking him to the asphalt.

The NYPD crash report says Medrano “had the green light,” but does not indicate Coss was crossing with the walk signal and had the right of way.

Following up on a witness statement that Medrano was on her cell phone at the time of the crash, the Internal Affairs Bureau subpoenaed her phone records, according to the Daily NewsBut just two days after Coss was killed the Post reported that Medrano probably wouldn’t be summonsed or charged by NYPD. Though Coss “had the pedestrian signal,” the Post reported, “No criminality and no traffic-law violations are suspected.”

“It was a tragic, unfortunate accident,” an anonymous NYPD source said.

NYPD denied a Streetsblog freedom of information request for files related to the crash.

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