Southern Brooklyn

Traffic Changes Needed For Emmons Avenue

Photo by Allan Rosen

THE COMMUTE: Anyone who drives along Emmons Avenue will tell you that the traffic setup just doesn’t work too well much of the time. I always questioned the wisdom of the angle parking, which seems to be an anachronism today, so I thought I would determine exactly how many parking spots would be lost if angle parking were converted to parallel parking. Before I tell you what I found, let us talk first about the history of Emmons Avenue and the recent traffic changes made last year.

The Three Parts Of Emmons Avenue

There are three distinct portions to Emmons Avenue for traffic purposes. Let’s call the area encompassing Shore Boulevard / East 14th Street to Ocean Avenue “Part 1.” It is two lanes in each direction, with parking on both sides of the street and a striped median in the center. “Part 2” extends from Ocean Avenue to Coyle Street and is characterized by a median mall with parallel parking on the north side of the street and mall, two lanes of westbound traffic, angle parking on the south side of the mall, and officially one wide lane of eastbound trafficthat is often treated as two lanes by motorists. There is no parking on the south side of the street where the piers are. “Part 3” extends from Coyle Street to Knapp Street and is identical to Part 2 except that, instead of angle parking along the south side of the median mall, there is parallel parking, and two official lanes of traffic in each direction.

Part 1

Part 1 was widened in the 1970s by having the sidewalks narrowed somewhat to permit two lanes of traffic in each direction. The lane near the parked cars was left wide enough so that cars could still pass if a car was double-parked, or if there was a bicycle on the road. Last September, the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) made some changes by narrowing two of the lanes closest to the curbs to accommodate an extra large striped median, which serves no purpose. The theory was that narrower lanes would discourage double parking. It does not.

Now when cars double park, traffic must merge into a single lane causing severe delays. The DOT claimed the changes were in response to the communities’ request and included one positive feature: extending the length of the westbound left turn lanes onto Shore Boulevard. This was accomplished by banning the lightly-used left turn from Emmons Avenue eastbound to East 15th Street. However, no one asked for the extra wide median, which motorists, residents and shopkeepers all oppose. Also, banning the left turn onto East 16th Street by eliminating the left turn bay seems unnecessary, although there is no sign actually prohibiting the turn.

Delays along this portion of Emmons Avenue have always been bad during the morning rush hour, when hundreds of cars pour off the Belt Parkway trying to get to Kingborough Community College. Narrower lanes have only made the delays worse. Another trouble spot is near the Bay Academy between 2:30 and 3:00 p.m. on school days, when school buses routinely double-park in the only traffic lane dedicated for westbound travel. This forces cars to illegally use one of the left turn lanes as a through lane to proceed straight onto Neptune Avenue.

Before the recent changes, you could easily spend 15 minutes on the few blocks of Emmons Avenue between Sheepshead Bay Road and East 14th Street at school dismissal time. The narrower lanes have only exacerbated the traffic problems at dismissal time. Additionally, a bicyclist in the same lane will also now cause cars to either slowly travel behind the bike or merge to get around it, further delaying traffic. Before the DOT changes, the right lanes were wide enough for both bikes and cars, and even double-parked cars. Three months after the lanes were narrowed, two trucks collided, which some blamed on the DOT changes.

The final traffic problem on this part of the roadway is the single left turn lane onto Ocean Avenue (see photo above), which is a problem only during the summer months with increased traffic on Emmons Avenue. Often it is not possible for cars to get through the signal on the first cycle because of the striping, which does not allow for a dual left turn lane onto Ocean Avenue. On hot summer days it can take two or even three cycles to make that left turn.

The dual lane installed two years ago onto Shore Boulevard improved traffic somewhat. Parenthetically, I was informed by the MTA that that change came at the suggestion of a bus dispatcher, which DOT evaluated for two years before agreeing to it. Making a similar change at Ocean Avenue would also have a positive effect on traffic flow.

Part 2

Before performing this investigation, I never realized that the angle parking on this portion of Emmons Avenue is not consistent, with the angles varying between about 60 degrees at Ocean Avenue to about 45 degrees near East 23rd Street, to about 80 degrees east of Nostrand Avenue. This occurs because the width of the roadway is not consistent. Also, some of the parking space markings are so worn out or non-existent that some cars often take up more than one parking space.

Part 3

This section is three blocks long and is only noteworthy because there is no parking on the south side of the mall for the third block between Brigham Street and Knapp Street. It is instead used as a left turn lane into Knapp Street.

Angle Parking Observations

Traffic moves well most times when cars are not entering or leaving the parking spaces. However, all it takes is for one car to want to park and all traffic on the south side of the street must come to a halt for 30 seconds to a minute while the car enters the parking space. Drivers not used to this type of backing in angle parking can delay traffic for up to two minutes as they try several times to get their car exactly in the parking space so they can open the doors on both sides. Delays are particularly bad in the summer, especially on weekends when a high number of visitors come to the area.

It appears that having parallel parking along both sides of the street instead of angle parking would reduce the delays caused by cars parking since traffic would no longer have to come to a complete stop in order for cars to park. The problem, however, would be a loss in parking spaces, which are already in short supply. I decided to analyze exactly how many spaces would be lost if all angle parking were replaced with parallel parking.

Results Of Observations

Since the angle of the parking varies from block to block, the numbers of spaces lost on each block also varies considerably. Also, on the south side of the street, there are fire hydrants, driveways, express bus stops and utility boxes for the piers, which need to be accessed and limit the numbers of spaces that can be created there. Most of the parking spaces that would be lost by the elimination of angle parking occurs east of Nostrand Avenue where 25 spaces would be lost. Twelve spaces would be lost between Bedford Avenue and Nostrand Avenue. However, between Ocean Avenue and Bedford Avenue, two spaces would be gained if angle parking were replaced with parallel parking.

Block-by-Block Differences If Angle Parking Were Replaced With Parallel Parking

If angle parking were entirely eliminated and replaced with parallel parking along the malls and on the south side of Emmons Avenue, parking would be reduced from 480 spaces to 445, a loss of 35 spaces. Clearly, this would be unacceptable to the community. However, if angle parking was eliminated only between Ocean Avenue and Bedford Avenue, two spaces would be gained, and if eliminated between Batchelder Street and Coyle Street, only one space would be lost. Also, if DOT closed the mall at East 22nd Street, where the street has been eliminated, four additional spaces could be created.


  1. Restore previous lane widths between Shore Boulevard and Sheepshead Bay Road
  2. Restore left turn bay at East 16th Street
  3. Keep through lane in front of Bay Academy free from double-parked school buses, by having buses wait instead on the side streets
  4. Convert single left turn lane at Ocean Avenue into a dual left turn lane to reduce congestion during the summer months
  5. Replace angle parking on Emmons Avenue between Ocean Avenue and Bedford Avenue with parallel parking along the mall and on the south side of Emmons Avenue
  6. Optional: Eliminate mall at East 22nd Street, creating four additional parking spaces
  7. Optional: Replace angle parking on Emmons Avenue between Batchelder Street and Coyle Street, with parallel parking along the mall and on the south side of Emmons Avenue eliminating one parking space

Implementation of all above recommendations would result in reducing angle-parking blocks from 15 blocks to eight blocks and would result in an increase of three parking spaces, thus reducing congestion and aiding traffic flow.

The Commute is a weekly feature highlighting news and information about the city’s mass transit system and transportation infrastructure. It is written by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981).

Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work, and their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

Comment policy


  1. they need to put left turn arrow traffic light on bedford and emmons
    i see accidents at least once a week because you cannot see cars cars going towards ocean avenue when you`re making left turn onto bedfrod from emmons avenue.

  2. I always wondered if the angled parking creates more spaces. i always thought that it did. do the angles matter? does a 90 degree parking provide less spots than 45 degree parking? 

  3. Although most or all of the other intersections have been daylighted with as many as three or four parking spaces removed, DOT apparently forgot to daylight Bedford Avenue at the mall. A left turn arrow certainly would also help.

  4. While all your points are pretty much valid. Too bad as the bike queen would say. All drivers are bad and deserve to be punished for not biking! We should never have criticized the emperor. Now we all suffer his wrath. The New DOT does not care about what the community wants. They will only make it worse for everybody shrinking streets, putting up out of sync lights. Only people that matter anymore are cyclist.  

  5. While logical, incorrect under the bike lady’s DOT. Need to ban left turns. Drivers must suffer. We are all reckless maniacs and with a (dangerous and illogically placed) bike lane on Bedford that will never happen under the kings rein since it invites motorist to run over cyclist.

  6. It would be at the expense of narrowing the roadway. I’m not sure of the math that would give a relative number for actual width difference, but I’m guessing it would be significant.

  7. I do not support changing the current angles which I stated varies from block to block. Since the roadway width changes, the current angles were chosen so that the main roadway maintains the same current width on each block. The current roadway cannot support 90 degree parking which is why we don’t have it now.

  8. Thank you. I spent several hours walking the street and counting parking spaces. Although it woud have been easier to use Google sattelite view, the results would have been less accurate since driveways and hydrants are barely visible and the number of available parking spaces would have been over estimated.

    While daylighting needs to be expanded at some dangerous intersections, which constantly removes available parking spaces, there are many spaces that are banned unnecessarily and could allow parking. For example, why should the spaces between the crosswalks on Emmons avenue

  9. opposite Sheepshead Bay Road on the south side of the street have parking prohibited? It makes no sense.

  10. This article is irrelevant because according to historical documents from the 80s, we are going to have flying cars by the year 2015. Also, the cubs will win the World Series.

  11. Very few places can support a 90° angle. I believe that the angle at Stillwell Avenue south of Surf is closer to that than Emmons. But still not 90°.

  12. If you look at Google maps between Brown and Batchelder, the six spots closest to Batchelder get very close to 90 degrees. I would say they are about 80 degrees.

  13. When I reply on my IPad, once I reach a certain number of characters, it locks up and no further editing is possible. The only alternative is to go to another computer and retype everything. It only happens with Sheepsheadbites. I haven’t had that problem on any other forum. Ned, are you reading this?

  14. When I was studying at Columbia University in 1972, I found a book in the library from around 1914 with predictions for 1960. New York City would have 20 million residents. Blimps would be providing most intercity travel, taking off from the tops of high rises, and local trips would be made with flying cars and jet packs. So we were supposed to have flying cars long before 2015. We still have three more years to do it. Let’s make it a priority.

  15. Your plight has reminded me of one of my favorite poems by Stephen Crane:

    A man said to the universe:
    “Sir, I exist!”
    “However,” replied the universe,
    “The fact has not created in me
    “A sense of obligation.”

    That was mean. Sorry. But, as I’ve said when you’ve brought this up to me other times, I have no idea how to fix this, and our comment system is a commonly used one operated by a third party. And it works fine on my iPad. So it may be an issue with your particular device. You all updated?

  16. I guess the thinking is that the traffic starts to thin out by that point.

    I’m quite sure that some years ago they had surveyors with counters tallying up all the traffic from East 14th Street to Knapp on some cloudless morning. And if they had the budget they took a mid-day survey and perhaps even monitored the evening rush hour.

  17. Technically, no U-turns are permitted, although there are no signs. On any street where there is a center mall or a zebra stripe divider, U-Turns are not permitted.

  18. It was just easier to type the word than look up the code.

    But I really don’t think the angle changes because of the amount of traffic, but because the width of the road south of the mall varies from block to block. The road is wider where the angle is 80 degrees and narrower where it is 45 degrees.

  19. A light rail along Emmons would be a really nice thing to add to the sea side village charm, and it would also solve the B4 matter.  It can run all the way from Keyspan Park, NY Aquarium and so on.

  20. That was actually proposed around 1992. I drew up a map for the proposal which was used for the presentation.  The Bay News was so impressed with it, they used it as a full page cover for their paper, without ever acknowledging where they got the drawing from. 

    It would be great for tourism if coupled with parking near Plumb Beach and a bus to the Rockaways, and would also fill a transportation need that exists now.  Sheepshead Bay has so much potential, but instead we decide to fill it up with condos.

  21. I question the Bedford Avenue bike lanes all the time. I don’t want to think about what would happen to Emmons Avenue or Nostrand Avenue.

  22. I don’t want to start an argument, but maybe you can help me.  And you should know that I do drive a lot more than I bike.

    But what is questionable about the Bike Lane on Bedford Ave?

  23. The lanes are too close to parking spaces. That’s not even the worst part. Many portions of the bike lanes pass THROUGH – not by – bus stops.

  24. If they just closed the beach and shuttered Kinsboro Penitentiary/Asylum, there wouldn’t be a need to do anything else and the crime rate would plummet.

    Or as the luddites want: just ban all cars and combustion motored transportation and there would be Utopia. Mass starvation, but Utopia…

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