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.