“You want to keep going?” asked the exasperated Department of Transit official advocating the Clinton Avenue bike lane.
“NO!” shouted the crowd in near-unison.
The DOT presented its plan for transforming Clinton Avenue from a two way street into a one way street with a two-way protected bike lane at the Community Board 2 Transportation Committee Town Hall Meeting which took place at the Brown Memorial Baptist Church of 52 Gates Avenue at 6pm on May 17. There was still significant opposition to what many community members viewed as a disruption to their neighborhood.
“Back to the drawing board,” was the way Council Member Laurie Cumbo put it. She announced her opposition to the plan, acknowledging what she called “the community’s overwhelming response” against the new bike lane, while stressing that she remains an advocate for safer streets.
Public Advocate Letitia James also spurned the project, instead asking for a “compromise.”
Opposition from the community was fierce. 90 people signed up to speak at the event, but only 22 were able to do so. A second event, on Thursday, will allow for the remaining speakers to have their say in the transformative plan.
A particular flashpoint was the projected loss of 35 parking spots which drew ire from the crowd. Other concerns included potential additional traffic, cars idling, and the difficulty many — including emergency vehicles — might face passing in a smaller lane.
Some community members also expressed significant concern for the way in which the bike lane would impact the disabled and the elderly. The concerns especially touched and concerned safety and the accessibility of emergency services.
“There will never be a fireman riding a bicycle to your burning building,” said highly animated resident Erik Lieber.
However, some residents saw this as a chance for a safer redesign of urban infrastructure.
“Better street designs like this one make it easier for people to drive/walk/bike safely so we can all get where we’re going together,” said Shawn Onsgard of Bed-Stuy Safe Streets.
Gentrification continued to be an issue as well, as it has continually resurfaced as an issue throughout the neighborhood recently.
“I feel like settlers have tried to come into the community and tell the neighborhood what to do,” said Esther Blount, a community resident.
When the Transportation Committee was introduced, one audience member exclaimed “all white! Where are the black people?”
The DOT first proposed the bike lane back in January. While it has tried to step up its outreach efforts, after consternation over what many viewed as insufficient outreach for the the Lafayette Avenue bike lane, many members of the community still felt as though they weren’t being sufficiently heard.
The DOT claims that it considered alternatives like Vanderbilt Avenue, but that Clinton Avenue would cause the least disruption.
However, last night there was still significant opposition to what many community members viewed as a disruption to their neighborhood.
The meeting is scheduled to resume on Thursday, May 19. We will keep you posted as we learn more.