Community leaders say they were blindsided this week when the Department of Transportation (DOT) moved forward on a controversial plan to transform part of Sheepshead Bay Road into a Times Square-style pedestrian plaza.
The agency sprung the project on the community Sunday, haphazardly sprinkling orange traffic cones around East 15th Street and Jerome Slip to close the streets to traffic. The B36 bus stop was also moved to Avenue Z and a section of Sheepshead Bay Road, between East 15th Street and Jerome Avenue, was made into a one-way.
But last month, DOT announced they were reviving the proposal, partly because a pedestrian was struck and killed by an MTA bus in December. However, Community Board 15 Chairwoman Theresa Scavo said the board was given no notice the plan would be implemented Sunday.
“We received no direct correspondence from DOT about when the work would begin or when it would be completed,” she said.
The community board did receive an email April 4 from DOT that the plan would be implemented at the end of the month, but there were no details about what date the project would begin or what the changes would look like, Scavo explained
“They should have given us another presentation. All we received was: ‘It’s being done, goodbye,'” she said.
The plan also calls for creating a taxi stand a block away from the subway station, putting pedestrian islands where Sheepshead Bay Road meets Jerome Avenue and East 14th Street, and adding crosswalks throughout the roadway. A DOT spokesperson said the agency had no timeline for when it would follow through on the rest of the proposal.
Instead, commuters coming out the subway station glared at the sign posted at the old bus stop for the B36 bus — informing them it had been moved to Avenue Z. Cars swerved around the traffic cones littering the roadway. To some, the move felt more like a hostile takeover considering it was such a huge change for one of the community’s major roadways.
Steve Barrison, president of the Bay Improvement Group, said he found out the project was underway at a Bayfest planning meeting on Tuesday.
“Everyone feels like we’ve been ambushed,” he said. “What’s the rush? This is going to have a tremendous impact on our community, on our visitors, on our shoppers, on our businesses, and on our commuters.”
Scavo said DOT should have made more of an effort to communicate with the neighborhood after they announced the plan was moving forward.
“They should have come to the community board again, made a presentation, and listened to the community. I don’t think they were exactly following procedure that’s been established,” she said.
A DOT representative is expected to speak next week at the Sheepshead Bay-Plumb Beach Civic Association. However, the group’s co-president, Cliff Bruckenstein, said it was odd his group was selected for the presentation considering Manhattan Beach Community President Judy Baron had been hounding the agency to visit her group.
“They don’t want to make a big showing. So since my community group is the smallest one at the moment, I believe they’re coming to me,” he said.
Bruckenstein said he was also caught off guard when DOT rolled out the project this week.
The Sheepshead Bay-Plumb Beach Civic Association will meet Tuesday, May 3, at 7:45pm in the at Waterford on the Bay, 2900 Bragg Street, near the corner of Emmons Avenue.
Neighbors are encouraged to attend and ask questions about the traffic changes.
“We’re going to have many, many questions,” Bruckenstein said.