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Posts from the "Teresa Toro" Category

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Preview: District 33 Transpo Smackdown

Tonight's candidate forum for the 33rd City Council district, which covers the Brooklyn neighborhoods closest to the East River, bears special significance for livable streets policy. Outgoing rep David Yassky was an early supporter of congestion pricing in the City Council and later carried the banner for the Bicycle Access Bill, which passed earlier this summer. Will the next council member from the 33rd build on that legacy?

kent_ave_clowns.jpgTonight's debate: Come for the bike lane drama, stay for the discussion of parking policy. Photo: Brooklyn Paper.
Five of the seven debaters filled out Transportation Alternatives' candidate survey: Isaac Abraham, Ken Baer, Ken Diamondstone, Jo Anne Simon, and Evan Thies. They'll be joined by Doug Biviano and Stephen Levin at the debate. All are vying for the Democratic nomination (primary day: September 15th). The action gets underway at 7:00 p.m. at 50 Bedford Avenue, in the auditorium of the non-aptly named Automotive High School.

To get a sense of the hot transportation topics in the district, especially the North Brooklyn neighborhoods closest to tonight's venue, Streetsblog spoke to Teresa Toro, chair of Brooklyn CB1's Transportation Committee, and Michael Freedman-Schnapp of Neighbors Allied for Good Growth.

Here's what they want the candidates to address tonight:

Bike and pedestrian safety. Streetsblog readers are familiar with the twists and turns of the Kent Avenue bike lane saga. In a district that includes approaches to all three of Brooklyn's East River bridges, it's probably not the last such dispute we'll see. "There’s a clear need in the district to continue to improve biking infrastructure and to make walking safer," said Freedman-Schnapp, noting that, in addition to the bridge approaches, corridors like McGuinness Boulevard have particular safety deficiencies that need to be addressed. The fact that all three bridges remain free, Toro reminded us, attracts a disproportionate amount of traffic to the district and discourages people from biking and walking.

Truck traffic. As the latest Kent Avenue dust-up has made apparent, truck traffic is a big issue in North Brooklyn. "Truck-generating uses are important employment sources in the neighborhood," said Freedman-Schnapp, but management and enforcement of truck routes are lacking. For some sharp insight into how better truck route planning can address some of the complaints arising from Kent Avenue's conversion to one-way flow, check out this post from neighborhood blog Brooklyn 11211.

Too much parking, not enough planning. Williamsburg and Greenpoint have seen a spike in car-oriented development since a 2005 rezoning took effect. Thanks in large part to Department of City Planning parking minimums, thousands of new units have been built with more space allotted to parking compared to the existing urban fabric, causing a surge in traffic volumes.

"The rezoning had no transportation plan," said Freedman-Schnapp. "They analyzed the impacts. They had this very thick EIS. Then nothing happened to address those impacts."

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Teresa Toro is Back in the Saddle at Community Board 1

Here’s some good news: The Brooklyn Paper reports that livable streets advocate Teresa Toro has been reinstated as chair of the transportation committee at Brooklyn Community Board 1. 

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Cyclist Turnout Impressive at CB1 Meeting on Kent Ave Bike Lane

kent_ave.jpgThe Kent Ave. bike lane at work. Photo: New York Times
Supporters of the besieged Kent Avenue bike lane made a strong showing at last night's meeting of Brooklyn Community Board 1. About 150 people showed up, says Transportation Alternatives' Elena Santogade, and of the 60 or so speakers, only three opposed the current configuration.

"It was a really great showing of community support," Santogade told Streetsblog. "The board didn't indicate that there were any changes being discussed about the bike lane." No vote was held on the matter, which has already passed through the CB1 wringer. After the public feedback, some board members also reiterated their support for the bike lane.

Stirring testimony came from regular bike lane users who described "what it was like before, with cars racing by at 50-60 mph on one side, and being afraid of car doors opening on the other side," Santogade said. "They commute there because the trains are packed and they don't have cars, and this is a vital connector on their way to work."

Notably, a member of Nydia Velazquez's staff also spoke briefly to confirm the congresswoman's support for the bike lane, which is a precursor to the long-anticipated Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway. Velazquez has secured $14.6 million in federal funds for greenway construction.

Members of the Hasidic community, widely viewed as the epicenter of bike lane opposition, did not make their presence felt at the forum. Only one representative from the community spoke against the lanes.

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Dispute Over Kent Avenue Bike Lanes Keeps Rolling

The reinstalled detour sign on Kent Avenue. Photo via Gothamist.

The controversy over the new bike lanes on Kent Avenue in Williamsburg (which recently resulted in the ouster of livable streets activist Teresa Toro as chair of the CB1 transportation committee) was chronicled in the New York Times over the weekend:

New York City has created more than 100 miles of bicycle lanes in recent years to encourage and accommodate the number of people who, compelled by a desire to preserve the environment or preserve their bank accounts, have taken to getting around on two wheels.

But the effort to turn the city into a place that embraces bicyclists has clashed with a long-entrenched reality — New York is a crowded, congested urban landscape where every patch of asphalt is coveted.

Gothamist has been following one of the most surreal aspects of the Kent Avenue drama—the ups and downs of the very unofficial "detour" sign pictured above, part of the anti-bike-lane campaign. On private property, it advises drivers that school buses will block the street and the bike lane while picking up and dropping off children. As of Dec. 31st, it was back up. As Gothamist writes, "The big question now is whether the city cares enough to step in and take it down."

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The Livable Streets Backlash Claims a Victim at Brooklyn’s CB1

Teresa Toro, one of New York City's most productive livable streets activists in recent years, has been deposed as chair of Brooklyn Community Board 1's Transportation Committee. CB1 covers the Williamsburg and Greenpoint neighborhoods of Brooklyn and has recently been embroiled in bitter fighting over the new bike lanes on Kent Avenue. CB1's executive committee voted unanimously to remove her.

As committee chair, Teresa was instrumental in winning New York City's first on-street bike parking, last summer's Williamsburg Walks event on Bedford Avenue and -- don't forget this -- a 39-2 Community Board vote in favor of the suddenly controversial Kent Ave. greenway plan.

It's also worth noting that the Kent Avenue bike lanes were the by-product of a decade of community-driven planning as part of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative. Williamsburg's politically-powerful Hasidic community, offended by the loss of parking space and the potential increase in short-sleeved, female goyim rolling through the neighborhood, has vowed to make life miserable for cyclists.

We'll try to get some more details in the new year. In the meantime, get some rest over the holidays, folks. The backlash is for real and it's gonna be a fight in 2009. You can fax a letter to Mayor Bloomberg to express your support for the Kent Avenue bike lane.

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Separated Bike Path Isn’t Gay Enough for CB4

Manhattan Community Board 4's transportation committee unanimously approved DOT's plan to install a physically-separated bike path on Eighth Avenue in Lower Manhattan. The committee enthusiastically recommended the plan to the full board on Wednesday. The board then voted to ignore their own committee and block the plan. Apparently, some members feel that complete streets and safe bike infrastructure are somehow incompatible with the neighborhood's gay-friendly environment. Chelsea Now has the play-by-play:

Board member Allen Roskoff was more specific. “I refer to Eighth Ave. between 14th and 23rd Streets as ‘Gay Boulevard,’ he said. “Large numbers of gay people go there… It’s where we feel at home. … The atmosphere there—the restaurants, the activity, the people walking— it’s a home to many of us that no other avenue is. I don’t think these changes are for the positive in any way, shape or form.”

Which reminds me... Have you looked in to joining your local Community Board lately? This kind of thing is going to keep happening until either the Community Board system is overhauled or we get more Ian Dutton's, Christine Berthet's and Teresa Toro's serving on local boards.

The DOT's plan for a pilot project on Eighth Avenue, which can be downloaded here, mirrors the complete street redesign of Ninth Avenue one block to the west. The Eighth Avenue bike lane also runs through part of CB2, which unanimously approved the project last month.

It's also worth noting that outcry against the bike lane at CB4 was not at all universal and that Community Boards only have advisory power. DOT can go ahead with the project with or without the board's support. Again, from Chelsea Now:

Board member David Hanzel observed that “walking down Ninth Ave., I think it’s an improved experience.” He said there’s less traffic, fewer cars making sharp turns, and it’s “more of a leisurely stroll now.”

Hanzel was seconded by longtime member Bob Trentlyon, who observed that the discussion was the “most retro conversation I’ve heard at a board meeting in a long time. … There must be two Ninth Aves., because the Ninth Ave. I see, the traffic is moving very smoothly along… There are no businesses that have gone out of business since this has happened; there are more people starting to use the bike lanes.”

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Brooklyn CB1 Approves Bike Path in Place of Parking

kent_before.jpg
Here's how space is divvied up on Kent Avenue today...

On Tuesday night, Community Board 1 in north Brooklyn voted 39-2 to support adding a separated bike path to Kent Avenue, a truck route through Williamsburg and Greenpoint. The path will be part of the Brooklyn Greenway, which is slated to follow the waterfront from Greenpoint to Red Hook when complete.

What makes the overwhelming "Yes" vote especially noteworthy is that the greenway section on Kent Avenue will displace hundreds of on-street parking spaces. "That was one of the biggest hurdles, getting a community to accept a loss of parking," says Milton Puryear, director of planning for the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative. "For people who have cars that’s a lightning rod issue."

kent_bike_path.gif
...and how it would be allocated under the proposal approved by CB1 on Tuesday. (Rendering by the Regional Plan Association.)

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MTA: Not Stealing Bikes. Just Following the Rules.

The MTA has been taking a lot of flack following yesterday's dust-up over MTA workers seizing bicycles locked to the Bedford Avenue subway station stairwell railing in Williamsburg. Perhaps the wrong transportation agency is taking the hit on this one.

A camera phone-toting tipster sends along the above photo. It shows that, not only does the Bedford Avenue subway station stairwell has a posted sign warning, "Any property attached to these railings will be removed," but it also lets people know where their property has been taken and what phone number to call to retrieve it: 212-712-4500.

MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin gave Streetsblog a call to let people know that the Lost Property Unit is located on the mezzanine below the 8th Avenue ACE subway lines at Penn Station. It is open 8am to noon, every weekday except Thursdays when it is open from 11am to 6:45pm. The MTA, Soffin says, doesn't have an interest in discouraging commuters from biking but "if someone trips over one of those bikes, we could get sued, without a doubt," he said.

So, with that, it seems, the Williamsburg bike parking problem lands firmly back in the lap of New York City's Department of Transportation. Back in July, DOT eliminated a few on-street car parking spaces, bumped out the sidewalk and installed bike racks on the southeast corner of N. 7th St. and Bedford Avenue. As shown in the plan below, the northwest corner is slated to get the same treatment. We have some calls out to find out when that project will begin.

Teresa Toro, chair of Community Board 1's transportation committee has been the driving force behind these bike parking improvements. She says that at this month's meeting, CB1 approved five more locations where the community would like to see on-street car parking spaces replaced with bike racks on bumped-out sidewalks. CB1's suggestion will be sent over to DOT where, Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has suggested that she is happy to see more projects like this move forward.

Toro says the other five recommended spots are:

  • The northwest corner of Driggs and N.7th St., near the other Bedford Ave. subway entrance.
  • Manhattan Ave. and Driggs, a spot near the park and with lots of nightlife and shopping.
  • The southwest corner of Bedford Ave. and N.5th St. "There is a storefront there but the entrance is on Bedford," Toro says, "It’s nice and unobstructed and would be a really nice little bike parking plaza."
  • Near the entrance to the new state park on Kent and N.8th. You're not allowed to ride a bike inside the park and there is currently nowhere to lock up outside the park.
  • Bushwick and Powers Street, one block north of the Grand Street L subway stop.

"Commissioner Sadik-Khan has indicated that she is entirely willing to do more of these," Toro says. "DOT will get a letter from CB1. Then they'll have to send out their engineers, do their turn radius measurements and make sure these are good locations. Then we just have to find the money to do it but the biggest hurdles are past us."

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An NYC First: On-Street Parking Spaces Replaced by Bike Racks

The new bike racks have been installed at the Bedford Avenue L subway station in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. As the Dept. of Transportation announces in today’s press release, "The
facility marks the first time car parking spaces have been removed to
accommodate bicycle parking in New York City."

DOT extended a 76-foot section of the sidewalk by five feet and
installed nine new bike racks to provide parking for more than 30
bikes. Demand for bicycle parking is high in the area around the
Bedford Avenue subway stop and it has been the scene of frequent NYPD bike seizures.

Livable Streets advocates take careful note of the work that Community Board member Teresa Toro and DOT Deputy Borough Commissioner Dalila Hall did to push this project through. It’s not easy to make change in New York City. This is how you do it.

Here’s the money quote in today’s Daily News:

"It’s superconvenient," said Matthew Holtberg, 34, a graphic
designer from Fort Greene, after unlocking his set of wheels yesterday.

But tow truck driver Luis Padilla, 46, was ticked off that three
parking spots for drivers were removed for a bike port.
He came to pick
up a relative from the station and couldn’t find a legal spot. He
worried about getting a summons.

"I could have parked away from the hydrant and now I’m right in front of it," he fumed.

Previous Coverage:

  • NYPD Stealing Bikes (Again) in Williamsburg, 11/10/05
  • Wider Sidewalks and Bicycle Park-and-Ride for Williamsburg, 12/18/06
  • StreetFilms: On-Street Bike Parking in Portland, 12/20/06 
  • Small Step for Peds & Cyclists, Giant Leap for NYC, 12/22/06
  • A Historic Sidewalk Widening in Williamsburg, 6/8/07
  • 94th Precinct (Still) Clipping Locks & Seizing Bikes on Bedford Ave., 6/28/07
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Breaking News: 94th Precinct Clipping Bikes on Bedford Ave

Police officers from Brooklyn's 94th precinct are, at this moment, clipping bike locks and seizing bicycles parked along Bedford Ave. according to Community Board 1 Transportation Chair Teresa Toro. The precinct gave Community Board members no advanced notice of the police action. Phone calls to the precinct have gone unanswered. Toro, who also works for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, reports that Council Member David Yassky's staff is looking into the situation and says:

capt_paul_vorbeck.jpgCB1 recently wrote to the 90th and 94th Precincts asking them to establish an abandoned bike tagging and removal program. Such a program would ensure that bikes being removed are indeed abandoned; and there would be notice given to the bike owner to remove his/her bike by a given date.

Biking is on the upswing in our community, and I'm proud of that. I find it unacceptable that the precinct is taking such a negative initiative and I intend to follow up. In the meantime, I am calling the 94th Precinct (interesting, there is NO ANSWER on the phone so far despite three tries and counting). I am also letting our local elected officials know about this action.

I find this particularly outrageous, given Mayor Bloomberg's and NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan's recent efforts to promote more and better biking and walking alternatives for New Yorkers. Perhaps the 94th Precinct didn't get the memo yet.

If you also oppose this action by the precinct, please write and/or call the precinct to let them know, and PLEASE copy our elected officials and CB1.

Captain Paul Vorbeck, Commanding Officer [pictured]
94th Precinct
100 Meserole Avenue
Phone 718 383 3879
Fax 718 383 8095

Assemblyman Joe Lentol
619 Lorimer Street
Brooklyn NY 11211
Phone 718 383 7474
lentolj@assembly.state.ny.us

Councilman David Yassky
114 Court Street
Brooklyn NY 11201
Phone 718 875 5200
Fax 718 643 6620
yassky@council.nyc.ny.us

The 94th Precinct was in the news a few days ago for taping notices to bikes parked in Williamsburg warning cyclists to "obey the traffic rules and regulations." The area around the Bedford Avenue subway station has been the scene of frequent bike seizures.