DOT Will Not Drop Traffic Plan, Despite Continued Pressure From Community Leaders

DOT Will Not Drop Traffic Plan, Despite Continued Pressure From Community Leaders
New street signs were installed on Sheepshead Bay Road. (Photo: Alex Ellefson / Sheepshead Bites)
New street signs were installed on Sheepshead Bay Road. (Photo: Alex Ellefson / Sheepshead Bites)

Here’s another one for the wastebin!

Despite receiving letters from community leaders protesting the new traffic plan on Sheepshead Bay Road, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Department of Transportation (DOT) says they will not abandon their controversial Vision Zero project on the neighborhood’s main street.

Letters sent last month from members of the community board as well as the Manhattan Beach Community Group followed up on neighborhood opposition demanding the agency drop the project to allow for more community input.

DOT insists the changes improve pedestrian safety: Between 2007 and 2013, there were 74 injuries from motor vehicle collisions in the area, seven of which resulted in serious injury or death. While the community board rejected the proposal last summer, the city revived the project after a 62-year-old woman was fatally struck by a B36 bus while crossing the street at East 17th Street and Avenue Z.

“Safety is DOT’s number one priority, and our goal behind implementing this Vision Zero safety project is to save lives. DOT made the decision to proceed with implementation of this safety project in this area, which has a history of pedestrian injuries, following the pedestrian fatality in December 2015,” the agency said in a statement.

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However, some neighbors, who raked DOT officials over the coals at a meeting in May, said the changes create new safety hazards and do more harm than good.

Community Board 15 Chairwoman Theresa Scavo wrote DOT puts the B36 bus’ 600,000 yearly commuters in harm’s way by requiring them to cross Sheepshead Bay road to reach the new bus stop on Avenue Z. Neighbors have also complained the dim lighting underneath the train trestle where the stop was relocated makes it dangerous to wait for the bus at night.

Besides moving the bus stop, DOT also turned part of Sheepshead Bay Road, between Jerome Avenue and East 15th Street, into a one-way and blocked traffic on Jerome Sip and East 15th Street.

Scavo’s letter says the changes have caused greater congestion in the area by rerouting traffic to surrounding streets. And considering that soon-to-be-completed residential buildings, including the 28-story tower on Voorhies Avenue, are expected to put more cars on the road, the extra traffic only makes streets less safe.

“In reality, by placing more cars and more pedestrians on our streets, Community Board 15 believes that this serves the opposite purpose of what Vision Zero was created to do and has the potential for a real disaster,” he letter reads.

Community board member Maurice Kolodin took safety concerns a step further. He sent a letter to the mayor arguing the city should be held legally responsible for any injuries that occur in the area affected by the changes.

Kolodin noted the DOT ignored requests to conduct further studies about how the plan would affect the surrounding area.

“Despite all of the opposition, your Administration decided to simply institute your plan as originally conceived,” he wrote.

DOT make some alterations to the plan following a meeting with City Councilman Chaim Deutsch. They agreed to create better lighting under the train trestle, move the taxi stand away from the subway station, and add more metered parking on the street. They also recently completed a repaving that is supposed to prevent water from pooling in the street.

However, those changes have not addressed concerns about how the project clogs surrounding streets and still requires pedestrians to dash across Sheepshead Bay Road to catch the B36 bus.

Manhattan Beach Community Group President Judy Baron sent a letter on behalf of the organization’s members urging DOT to halt the project to conduct further traffic studies and listen to neighbors concerns.

“It is our expectation that an organized task force with the Councilman and your staff, the Community Board and the several organizations whose members are all affected will be put together to do a comprehensive plan for the rest of the Sheepshead Bay area that has not been ‘vision zero-ized’. We hope you will do this,” the letter reads.

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