Frustration Over ‘Waste of Paint’ At Bay Ridge Traffic Meeting


BAY RIDGE – A proposed change to three blocks of 86th Street in Bay Ridge led to a heated debate last Wednesday night.

About 20 people attended a community meeting in the offices of Brooklyn Community Board 10 to hear about the city’s plan to reorganize 86th Street between Shore Road and 3rd Avenue.


The Department of Transportation (DOT) proposes to re-stripe three blocks of the 60′ wide road by clearly marking parking lanes, adding designated bike lanes (though unprotected) that connect to the Shore Parkway Greenway, as well as a marked turn lane. The proposal aims to reduce speeding (DOT recorded a 45 miles/hour speed in midday on the stretch) and accidents:

DOT representative said there have been 42 incidents of traffic-related injuries on this stretch of 86th street between 2010-2014, resulting in the need for “traffic calming measures.”

If you know what Amsterdam Avenue looks like in Manhattan these days – that is essentially what they are proposing:

Most of the accidents that DOT hopes to remedy through redesigning the road took place on the blocks on which three neighborhood schools are located. Parents whose children attend those schools spoke out against the changes, saying that they need all the driving space possible during busy pick-up and drop-off times.

One woman who lives on the street said that there is already too much traffic on that stretch of road, which is also a path for the B-16 bus, and that losing driving lanes will make the situation worse.

DOT countered that the new plan would actually improve traffic flow:

Not everyone in attendance was against the plan. Anna Lise Jensen, an activist with Transportation Alternatives for South Brooklyn, which advocates for increased bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure, said that reducing car access to the schools could help change the culture so that more students will begin to walk or bike to school instead.

Others were more concerned about cars drag racing up and down 86th Street.

A man who identified himself as a local firefighter showed a reporter pictures on his cell phone of skid marks outside his home from what he said are drivers doing donuts past midnight. He said drag racing has been going on for years, but that the donuts are newer. “I’m running out of batteries to chuck at [the drivers],” he said.

Two other men in attendance agreed that drag racing was their main reason for attending.

Department of Transportation (DOT) representative Leroy Branch said that the issue of drag racing was not under DOT’s purview.

When some in the audience proposed their own solutions, including speed cameras or speed bumps, DOT said neither option was feasible.  Cameras must be approved and allocated by the state, and 140 have been approved for all of New York City, and speed bumps cannot be built on bus routes, according to Mr. Branch. 

After about an hour of impassioned comments from people who said they live on the affected route and oppose the changes, Mr. Branch said that the city would move forward with the project as proposed.

At this, the crowd erupted, with one person likening the decision to being in “a dictatorship.”

Most community members left when the board moved on to discuss other matters, some expressing displeasure at learning that what they believed was a proposal was, in fact, a done deal. The firefighter called the plan “a waste of paint and a waste of my time.”

The project is expected to be implemented in 2018. 

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Anya van Wagtendonk

Anya is a writer and producer based in Crown Heights, pursuing an M.A. in Urban Reporting at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Previously, she worked as a political reporter and producer at the PBS NewsHour, and moonlit as a freelance arts reporter and critic. Anya hails from beautiful western Massachusetts.


  1. I don’t live in the area, so I don’t have an opinion one way or another about the proposed changes. However, I found the comments by the rep from Transportation Alternatives to be galling. Telling parents that their “culture” needed to be changed and that elementary school children should be made to walk or bike to school is really out of line. The rep has no idea where the students live, what their living situation (or their parents’) is that might make picking them up by car important.

    Transportation Alternatives continues their “holier than thou” attitude towards anyone who doesn’t use a bicycle. It’s a real turn-off.

  2. The point of the meeting is to bring up real and substantive criticism of the plan, not issues which are best addressed by local law enforcement. The only actual concern brought was potential loss of flow, which measured was only half the capacity of the proposed design during a observed peak.

    Agreeably they have a valid issue, but venting at the wrong people and at the wrong place. Talk to your State legislators and local law enforcement. If they don’t respond, you may need to go as far as placing your own recording systems and radar based speed overlays. Use the video with media outlets and you’ll find them more receptive afterwards. Not only that, each and every request you make afterwards will be taken more readily since your capability is a bit more understood.

  3. It would be great if we didn’t need Bike Lanes. If speed limits were lower , if motorists gave cyclists more respect, if drivers who threaten or intimidate cyclists were jailed or heavily fined (we need video cameras for this ) , and perhaps if cycling was taught as a sport in the public schools physical education curriculum .

    Maybe part of the answer is a public subsidy for the proper safety equipment, the price of LED lights, rear-view mirrors, reflective clothing , helmet, gloves, and a GoPro camera can add up to more then the cheap bicycle actually costed .

    We do need Bike Lanes, but it’s not as if we haven’t already tried everything else.

  4. There would probably be less pushback against bikes if the bike riders themselves obeyed traffic rules. As it is, they act aggressive and entitled, yelling at pedestrians while blazing through red lights or going the wrong way down one-way streets. I was a bike commuter for years so I’m sympathetic to their cause, and I get that they face dangerous aggression from the entitled car drivers, but putting pedestrians in danger is not the solution. Bike riders need to act more like the vehicles they are, AND we need better infrastructure for them to be safe and protected from cars.

  5. Safety improvements should not be up for a veto by a handful of angry people who are not planners or engineers. Also, the article should say, ‘crash,’ not ‘accident.’ We need to remove ‘accident’ from our vocabulary. It was invented by the auto industry so that we’d treat crashes as unavoidable and blameless. Most of the time they are not. This will be a great change for the neighborhood by reducing the insane speeding that neighbors have rightly pointed out.

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