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Posts from the "Williamsburg" Category

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Eyes on the Street: A Super-Sized Pedestrian Island on Bushwick Avenue

Bushwick Avenue used to widen at Seigel Street, making it difficult to cross. Now, there is a super-sized pedestrian island giving safer passage between a school and a library. Photos: Google Maps (above), Stephen Miller (below)

Bushwick Avenue used to be difficult to cross at Seigel Street. Now, there is a super-sized pedestrian island between a school and a library. Photos: Google Maps (above), Stephen Miller (below)

Once an extra-wide asphalt expanse, a section of Bushwick Avenue has been reclaimed by the addition of a pedestrian island. The new public space, which makes it easier to cross between Brooklyn Latin School and the Bushwick Library, is joined by smaller changes to an adjacent stretch of Bushwick Avenue installed this spring and summer.

After securing support from Brooklyn Community Boards 1 [PDF] and 4 [PDFlast fall, DOT began installation in April. The plan was developed in response to requests from the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, a power base for former Kings County Democratic Party chairman Vito Lopez, and the Graham Avenue Business Improvement District.

BID executive director Betty M. Cooney is happy with most of the changes, but not the pedestrian island. “We did not ask for that,” she said. Instead, the BID had suggested using the extra asphalt for a left turn lane. ”I don’t know what their thinking is,” she said of the pedestrian island. “There’s a library there. There’s a school there. It probably makes it safer, but all they had to do was put in a turn lane.”

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A Handful of Car Spaces, or a 27-Dock Citi Bike Station?

Parking for 27 bikes has replaced parking for four or five cars, and complaints abound. Photo: Stephen Miller

Parking for up to 27 public bikes replaced parking for approximately four cars. But will it last? Photo: Stephen Miller

Because a construction site is blocking the sidewalk on Kent Avenue in Williamsburg, a Citi Bike station was taken off the sidewalk in mid-April and re-installed along the protected bike lane on the other side of South 11th Street a couple of weeks ago, replacing a handful of parking spaces. The new site was the only space near the Schaefer Landing ferry dock that could accommodate the Citi Bike station within the city’s siting guidelines, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Cue the parking complainers.

Congressmember Nydia Velazquez, a major backer of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, has reportedly contacted DOT on behalf of constituents who want those free parking spaces back. Streetsblog checked in with local elected officials, and Council Member Steve Levin and Assembly Member Joe Lentol reported receiving complaints about the loss of parking.

“We have received a couple complaints and have reached out to DOT,” said Lentol spokesperson Edward Baker. “DOT is looking at ways to free up some additional parking in the immediate area to offset the spaces lost to the bike-share station.”

DOT and Citi Bike have not responded to questions about what changes, if any, they are considering. But it’s possible that the station might be removed — or re-sited too far from the ferry dock for people to make convenient bike-share-to-ferry connections — because people who care about free parking are very good at contacting their elected officials.

The people who benefit from the bike-share station may not be making phone calls about it, but they’re out there. In fact, many more people can use those 27 Citi Bike docks than the four or so car parking spaces they replaced.

Monika Drelich, 38, lives nearby. She uses the station several times each week and was upset when it was removed in April. “I know that people complain about the parking,” she said, “but it wasn’t convenient for me.”

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Eyes on the Street: New Bike Path, Same Old Illegal Parking

NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas Chan's unit, overseeing illegally-parked minivans putting pedestrians and cyclists at risk. Photo: Robert Wright

NYPD Traffic officers had a great view of illegally-parked minivans last night in South Williamsburg. Photo: Robert Wright/Flickr

Well, that didn’t take long.

The paint is barely dry on the new two-way bike path on Kent Avenue in South Williamsburg, and drivers are using it as car storage for minivans. Again.

Robert Wright snapped a photo of cars blocking the bike lanes and sidewalk in full view of NYPD Traffic officers. “What’s the point of putting in a new bike lane if the police are essentially going to supervise its obstruction?” Wright asked in an email.

The bikeway should eventually include flexible posts, supposedly to keep cars out, before implementation wraps up. But without a more substantial barrier — and the revocation of consent from New York’s Finest – illegal and dangerous parking in the path of cyclists and pedestrians will probably continue.

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Eyes on the Street: Bikeway Upgrade Calms Deadly Stretch of Kent Avenue

A missing link in the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway is turning green. Photo: Frank Hebbert

A stretch of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway route along Kent Avenue turned green last week. Photo: Frank Hebbert

A project that slims a dangerous section of Kent Avenue in South Williamsburg and straightens out an awkward stretch of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway route is nearing the finish line.

In March 2013, Julio Acevedo was driving north on Kent Avenue at 69 mph when he killed Raizy and Nathan Glauber, both 21, in a two-car crash at Wilson Street. Acevedo fled the scene and later faced charges, including criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter.

The deaths spurred changes. DOT installed traffic signals at Wilson and Hooper Streets, and last January Community Board 1 supported a plan to replace parking on the west side of the street with a two-way bikeway, while adding parking along the median on the east side to slow northbound traffic.

The plan also improves the continuity of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway route. Previously, the two-way bike lane on Kent jogged awkwardly, directing northbound cyclists to hop onto a sidewalk path between Williamsburg Street West and Division Avenue, while southbound cyclists had a painted lane between parked cars and motor vehicle traffic. The new arrangement creates a route where cyclists’ paths don’t criss-cross, bike traffic stays off the sidewalk, and the bikeway is separated from cars with flexible posts. Time will tell if those posts are enough to prevent the sidewalk parking extravaganzas that occasionally overwhelm this part of Kent Avenue.

With the reconstruction of Flushing Avenue planned for this fall, there will soon be three miles of continuous two-way bikeway from North 14th Street in Greenpoint to Navy Street near the foot of the Manhattan Bridge.

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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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Brooklyn Parking Preservation Board Votes Down Bike Corrals

Brooklyn Community Board 1 has had enough of the “war on cars,” and they’re taking it out on pedestrians, cyclists, and local businesses.

Jackson Heights is one of many NYC neighborhoods that survived the installation of bike corrals. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Jackson Heights is one of many NYC neighborhoods that survived the installation of bike corrals. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

The Brooklyn Paper reports that four Williamsburg shops want bike corrals, to provide room to park bikes while keeping sidewalks clear. “We believe it is our responsibility to beautify the area,” said Jason Merritt, co-owner of Tutu’s, a Bogart Street bar. “And it is beneficial to businesses to have safe bike parking that is not on street signs and posts.”

But CB 1 member Simon Weiser, for one, isn’t having it. “Enough is enough,” said Weiser. “They can put it on the sidewalk and stop taking away car parking spaces. We need to keep the parking we have.” As if these four spaces will have any effect in a district with thousands and thousands of on-street parking spots.

You might remember Weiser from 2008, when he was a go-to bike lane critic during the Kent Avenue redesign fracas. Well, now he and CB 1 have drawn a line in the sand. They rejected all four corrals by a vote of 12-7.

Board members who voted against the corrals argued that there is plenty of room on sidewalks for bike parking and that their turf has lost too many parking spaces to the CitiBike bike-share program and the planned de-mapping of Union Avenue in the middle of McCarren Park, which is meant to make the greensward more pedestrian-friendly. Parking is now more difficult than it was a few years ago, Weiser argued.

So, North Brooklyn might have lost out on nicer sidewalks (DOT could overlook this vote) thanks to a few people in a position of power who think curbside car parking is scarce because there’s not enough of it. Not because it’s, you know, totally free.

“It is worrying and confusing to me that any community board would side against alternative transportation and neighborhood beautification,” said Merritt. More than that, CB 1 has sided against anyone whose highest priority isn’t securing on-street parking for their car.

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Electeds Want MTA Onboard With Vision Zero After Latest Pedestrian Death

Marisol Martinez was struck by an MTA bus driver as she crossed Union Avenue at Meeker Avenue in Brooklyn. The red arrow represents the movement of the driver and the white arrow the movement of the victim, according to reports and photos from the scene. Image: Google Maps

Marisol Martinez was struck by an MTA bus driver as she crossed Union Avenue at Meeker Avenue in Brooklyn with her cousin and a friend. The red arrow represents the movement of the driver and the white arrow the movement of the victim, according to reports and a witness account. Image: Google Maps

Electeds and advocates called for changes at the MTA and for Mayor de Blasio to focus street safety resources on northern Brooklyn after another pedestrian was killed by a bus driver this weekend.

Marisol Martinez, 21, was crossing Union Avenue at Meeker Street in Williamsburg with two other people at around 1:25 a.m. Saturday when she was hit by a bus driver making a left turn.

“When we were in the middle of the crosswalk, we saw the bus, and we saw it too late,” the victim’s cousin, Jose Gonzales, said at a press conference on Sunday. ”We had the right to cross, so I mean, for the bus not to yield, for it not to stop, I don’t know.”

Martinez was at least the tenth pedestrian or cyclist killed by an MTA bus driver in the last 12 months. Photo via ##http://nypost.com/2014/03/01/woman-21-killed-by-bus-in-williamsburg/##New York Post##

Martinez was at least the tenth pedestrian or cyclist killed by an MTA bus driver in the last 12 months. Photo via NY Post

Gonzales, 22, said he and his friend Jonathan Acosta, also 22, ran to get out of the driver’s path, and barely avoided being hit themselves. Martinez was behind them. She was first hit by the front of the bus, Gonzales said, and was run over by the right rear tire.

“I made it in time, my friend [Acosta] made it in time, but as I turned around at the same time I saw my cousin go down face first and get ran over. It ran over her body, and I didn’t see her anymore on my side. I went around the other side to see her crushed. Her leg was crushed. The flesh was all over the floor. I couldn’t bear to see it. I saw her on the floor. I couldn’t get near her. I couldn’t do anything to help her anymore. My friend screamed for the bus to back up. It never did.”

Acosta told the driver, an unidentified 50-year-old woman, to move the bus off of Martinez, Gonzales said. “She said she couldn’t do anything about it.” The Daily News reported that the bus driver was not charged for turning a bus into a crosswalk where three people were walking. As of this afternoon, a spokesperson told Streetsblog NYPD could not confirm information on charges or summonses, and said the investigation is ongoing.

Martinez was a sophomore at Hunter College and wanted to be a nurse, according to a News 12 report.

Martinez was the third pedestrian or cyclist killed by an MTA bus driver in 2014, and at least the tenth such fatality in the last 12 months, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. On Sunday, officials joined loved ones of Martinez, Ella Bandes, and Seth Kahn — who were fatally struck by bus drivers in 2013 and 2009, respectively — at Grand Street and Borinquen Place. On hand were City Council members Steve Levin and Antonio Reynoso and Assembly members Joe Lentol and Martiza Davila.

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Two Trees: Less-Parking-for-More-Affordable-Housing a No Go at Domino

A rendering of the Domino Sugar Factory plan from Two Trees Management. Image: SHoP Architects

A rendering of the Domino Sugar Factory plan from Two Trees Management. Image: SHoP Architects

In his first big stand on development, Mayor Bill de Blasio is trying to wring more affordable housing out of the Domino Sugar Factory project on the Williamsburg waterfront. The mixed-use plan currently calls for 2,284 housing units, 29 percent of them affordable. The mayor is looking for more affordable housing, while so far developer Two Trees Management has offered to solidify its existing commitments.

One way to shift resources toward subsidized residences could be to reduce the number of parking spaces in the development. The current plan calls for 1,050 parking spaces — several hundred fewer than earlier versions of the project, but still enough to fill about two city blocks. But Two Trees says a parking reduction is off the table because it would require adjustments to the project’s environmental review documents in advance of a City Planning Commission vote scheduled for Wednesday.

Off-street structured parking in New York City costs up to $50,000 per space to build. Recognizing the expense that parking adds to housing construction, the city has suggested eliminating parking mandates for affordable housing in “inner ring” neighborhoods like Williamsburg. It remains unclear how much the de Blasio administration will use the elimination of parking minimums to achieve its affordability goals.

The New York Times first reported the de Blasio administration’s Domino bargaining effort yesterday, and the topic came up at a mayoral press conference today.  ”This proposal on the table offers a lot of opportunity for the developer, and we think it’s important that it also offer a lot back for the people,” de Blasio said, adding that he hopes Two Trees will make a deal “that will allow us to create a lot more benefit for communities, starting with affordable housing.” 

Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen and City Planning Commission Chair Carl Weisbrod are leading the administration’s effort. Streetsblog has asked City Hall if it is pushing for a reduction in parking as a way to secure more affordable housing but has not received a response.

Asking for affordable housing in exchange for less parking is not unprecedented. In East Harlem, the community board pushed the developer of a 32-story residential tower on 125th Street to add more affordable housing in exchange for building half the amount of parking required by the zoning code. In the end, the developer got the parking variance but the board didn’t get the affordable units, settling instead for an agreement that local residents would be hired for retail jobs in the development.

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80-Year-Old Pedestrian and MTA Bus Driver Killed in Separate Crashes

Senior Margarita Seda was killed in the middle of the day by a driver making a left turn at at a signalized intersection with marked crosswalks. He was cited for careless driving and failure to yield. Image: Google Maps

Senior Margarita Seda was killed in the middle of the day by a driver making a left turn at a signalized intersection with marked crosswalks. The driver was cited for careless driving and failure to yield. The red arrow represents the movement of the driver and the white arrow the movement of the victim, according to reports. Image: Google Maps

In the last 24 hours, an 80-year-old pedestrian and an MTA bus driver were killed in crashes in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

At around 1:35 p.m. Tuesday, Margarita Seda was struck by the driver of a GMC vehicle as she crossed Grand Street at Graham Avenue in Williamsburg, according to WCBS and the Daily News. WCBS reported that Seda was crossing Grand north to south when the driver, traveling north on Graham, struck her while making a left turn onto Grand. Seda suffered head injuries and died at Bellevue Hospital.

The unnamed motorist was summonsed for careless driving and failure to yield to a pedestrian.

Grand Street and Graham Avenue are two-lane streets that meet at a signalized intersection, and there is strong evidence that the victim was in the crosswalk and had a walk signal, based on published reports and the fact that NYPD cited the driver. If it occurred as described, yesterday’s crash appears nearly identical to the one that killed Maude Savage, the 72-year-old who was hit by an unlicensed driver last November while crossing with the signal at Sutter and Euclid Avenues in East New York. The man who killed Savage was charged criminally, but only because he was driving without a license.

This type of crash is not rare. At least 30 NYC pedestrians and cyclists have been killed by turning motorists since January 2013, and for the most part the drivers were breaking the law by failing to yield. As we wrote after Savage’s death, that this deadly behavior does not apparently meet the standard of criminal negligence is a sign that New York’s criminal justice system is failing to hold drivers accountable for killing law-abiding pedestrians.

The crash that killed Margarita Seda occurred in the City Council district represented by Antonio Reynoso, and in the 90th Precinct, where in 2013 local officers cited 35 drivers for failing to yield to pedestrians, and wrote 311 speeding tickets.

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DOT Plans Road Diet and Bikeway Upgrade on Deadly Section of Kent Avenue

On Kent Avenue, DOT is proposing converting one northbound lane to parking and turning the southbound parking lane into a two-way protected bike lane. Image: DOT

On Kent Avenue, DOT is proposing converting one northbound lane to parking and converting the southbound parking lane into a two-way protected bike lane. Image: DOT

Last night, Brooklyn Community Board 1′s transportation committee unanimously recommended the board support a DOT project [PDF] to calm traffic on a deadly stretch of Kent Avenue between Clymer Street and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. The project also upgrades a link in the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway to a two-way protected bike lane.

Last March, hit-and-run driver Julio Acevedo, who police say was traveling 69 mph, killed Raizy and Nathan Glauber, both 21, in a two-car crash on this section of Kent Avenue at Wilson Street. Acevedo, facing charges including criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter, is scheduled to go to trial next year.

Since the crash, DOT has installed traffic signals at Wilson and Hooper Streets. The agency says crosswalks will be added at these locations next year, once crews begin striping again in March. (Currently, there are no marked crosswalks between Clymer Street and the BQE, a distance of four-tenths of a mile.)

This section of Kent Avenue is currently a median-divided road with parking on the east and west sides of the street. There is one southbound car lane and two northbound car lanes. A DOT study in May found that 82 percent of northbound drivers exceeded the 30 mph speed limit, similar to measurements taken last March by Transportation Alternatives and Council Member Steve Levin, which found 89 percent of drivers breaking the limit.

“When roads are overbuilt, this is the way people drive,” said DOT’s Ted Wright, adding that car volumes on Kent could be accommodated in one lane in either direction without any impact on traffic. ”This is about limiting the speeds of vehicles on the northbound side,” he said.

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