April 12, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
The wait is finally over for the Department of Transportation’s North Brooklyn Traffic Study, a project pushed for by the community for several years in a bid to make North Brooklyn streets safer, less congested, and with better routes for truck travel.
The agency presented a list of recommendations resulting from the year-long study during Tuesday’s Community Board 1 meeting, including street direction changes, daylighting, and new signal timing at certain points through North Brooklyn’s residential and commercial corridors.
Several Greenpoint and Williamsburg residents and business owners noted the need for better street planning in their neighborhoods, but had mixed to negative reviews on many of the agency’s recommendations. Most of the backlash came from directional changes to key portions of neighborhood streets.
On North Henry Street between Greenpoint Avenue and Nassau Avenue, for example, the DOT is proposing two options for directional changes. One option could see an entirely one-way street southbound, going all the way to McGolrick Park. The path, which also serves as a local truck route, is currently a one way street going north. Another option includes making the street southbound only up to Norman Avenue, with the portion between Nassau and Norman Avenue still northbound.
The southbound directional change here would help alleviate the truck traffic seen the next block over on Monitor Street, one of the few southbound streets directly off Greenpoint Avenue. Many say Monitor Street’s continuous stretch encourages trucks to speed through on a block that also includes an elementary school.
But residents say making cars and trucks go southbound here wouldn’t change the high traveling speeds, and would simply be another truck route on a residential street. Some worried that traffic would simply zip down and pose a direct danger to people at McGolrick Park.
“This proposal to change the traffic direction onto our block is going to be a nightmare for the residents of that block,” said William Broderick, a longtime resident of North Henry Street. He said the trucks and the noise, odor, and dirt from them will depreciate home values on the street, drawing similarities to the impending L train shutdown’s effect on real estate.
Joe Torres, the owner of the Henry Norman Hotel at the corner of Norman Avenue and North Henry Street, said the DOT is essentially damaging his business with the directional change.
“It kept all those trucks out of that residential area,” Torres said about the street’s current northbound direction. “Now you’re dumping them all back in. You’re gonna route them down North Henry, and what that does is destroy our ability to do any business.”
The DOT is also proposing making the stretch of North Henry Street between Meeker Avenue and Richardson Street into a one-way from its current two-way path. The proposal directly responds to repeated concerns over the street’s two-way configuration, given how narrow the stretch is.
“This street…is very narrow and always causing problems,” reads a comment submitted to the study’s online portal. “People get stuck and mirrors of parked cars get broken.”
Some residents, however, said the directional change here would force them to spend more time looking for parking, as the stretch currently offers one of the few two-way paths in surrounding blocks. Many also worried about aggravating congestion on Meeker Avenue with this proposal.
Furthermore, the DOT is looking at extending the sidewalk at the corner of Meeker Avenue and North Henry. Henry LaReau, a DOT project planner, said the curb cut there that allowed for cars to turn right onto North Henry will no longer be needed if the one-way direction change is approved.
Away from North Henry Street, the DOT is looking at directional changes along Eckford Street. The two-block, two-way section from Manhattan and Driggs Avenues could become one-way, which would lead to traffic calming and protected crossings for pedestrians.
In the same area, the notorious V-intersection where Manhattan Avenue and Eckford Street meet currently sees an 85 foot unmarked crossing, which many consider too dangerous to walk through. With DOT measures in place, the section could see a significant curb extension that would shorten pedestrian crossing distances by half. The extended curb would also create a sharp turn for cars, rather than the existing soft turn that encourages speeding.
LaReau stressed that all proposals are simply that, and that the plan would have to be approved by Community Board 1 and others to be implemented. He noted that North Brooklyn is unique in its residential, industrial, and commercial spaces all in proximity to one another.
“It’s very difficult to weigh everybody’s needs,” LaReau said.
The recommendations could be implemented as early as this year, however, if it receives its needed approvals.
The transportation study kicked off in the summer of 2016 after Levin secured funding for it following years of mounting pressure. “This neighborhood has changed in recent years and our approach to congestion and mobility needs to evolve with it for us to meet the needs of everyone in the community,” Levin said in 2016.
Benjamin Soltaire, North Brooklyn Community Organizer for Councilmember Stephen Levin, said he will continue to work with the DOT on the proposals to address concerns heard at the meeting.