Friday, March 16, 2007

Big Crowd of Park Slopers Turns Out to Jeer One-Way Proposal

CB6crowd

[Photo courtesy of Jonathan Barkey]

Nearly 500 people turned out for a Community Board meeting in Park Slope last night to oppose a Department of Transportation proposal to turn Sixth and Seventh Avenue into one-way streets. More than 160 people squeezed into an auditorium before doors were closed to chants of "Let them in! Let them in!" Another 200-250 people listened in a vestibule outside the auditorium and even more people stood outside on the sidewalk in the rain. The meeting was held at Methodist Hospital in Park Slope.

The DOT plan was presented by Deputy Commissioner Michael Primeggia. He faced a sometimes hostile and mocking crowd and presented the rationale for making Sixth Avenue one-way northbound between 23rd Street and Atlantic Avenue and for making Seventh Avenue one-way Southbound between Flatbush Avenue and Prospect Avenue. "First and foremost it improves safety," Mr. Primeggia said to jeers from the skeptical audience. Under the plan, he said, "half of all pedestrian crossings will be unopposed and conflict free." The B-67 bus would also have to be re-routed because of the change. The DOT Deputy Commissioner listed added benefits adding parking spaces where bus stops are eliminated, introducing muni-meters, giving more "green time" to lights on cross streets. (There is an overall perception in the community that the proposal is being made to eventually ease the flow of traffic through Park Slope to Atlantic Yards.) Another proposal, to eliminate a lane of traffic in each direction from Fourth Avenue and to use them as turning lanes we greeted more openly by the audience.

While opponents repeatedly raised concerns that the plan would increase the volume of traffic on Sixth and Seventh Avenues and lead drivers to speed through the neighborhood, Mr. Primeggia said that "We don't believe extra traffic will be generated."

A parade of elected officials, including Council Members Bill DeBlasio and David Yassky, State Sen. Eric Adams and Assem. Jim Brennan all spoke against the proposal for Sixth and Seventh Avenue. Borough President Marty Markowitz, who is a Park Slope resident, did not attend, but sent a representative.

Mr. Yassky asked if DOT was open to pursuing non-controversial parts of the proposal like installing muni-meters and, even, creating the turning lanes on Fourth Avenue. Mr. Primeggia flatly rejected the idea, saying "We believe this is a nice package. All of the elements complement each other." At times, the crowd outside the auditorium, which was listening to statements on speakers, could be heard cheering opponents and jeering Mr. Primeggia's statements. "There has been a lot of misinformation," Mr. Primeggia said. "I'm convinced that we're not going to induce traffic to come off Fourth Avenue and Third Avenue that doesn't want to come to Park Slope." He joked that people won't come from New Jersey to drive through the neighborhood because of the plan.

"A lot of us are profoundly uncomfortable with this proposal," Mr. DeBlasio said. "It would change the character of our neighborhood" by making traffic faster and putting more cars on side streets. Mr. Primeggia's response that "We do not believe this will increase speeds" was met by booing and shouted questions like "What about Prospect Park West?" and "What about Court Street?" (Both are one-way streets that are believed to be less safe for pedestrians because of being one-way.)

Sen. Adams, who is a former police captain, said the proposal was part of "a pattern that's extremely disturbing" that ignores community sentiment. "It may look great from 57th Street in Manhattan," he said, but the view from the impacted community is different. "I find one-way streets is an invitation for drag racing and for increasing speed."

Opposition was also voiced by Methodist Hospital's Lyn Hill, who said the hospital was opposed to the proposal and that it is "nearly intolerable to the hospital" because of the negative impact it would have on emergency medical vehicles and the increased safety risk for patients coming to the emergency room.

Park Slope Civic Council President Lydia Denworth noted significant community opposition to the plan. "This community has come together over this in a way that is extraordinary," she said. "We are completely united." She characterized the neighborhood response as "intensely and overwhelmingly negative." She also said that DOT's presentation "left out the 800-pound gorilla" known as Atlantic Yards.

Eric McClure of Park Slope Neighbors presented petitions without 1,500 signatures asking that the proposal be dropped that had been collected in little more than a week. Aaron Naparstek, whose Streets Blog initially broke the story about the proposal and who has covered the issue intensively, asked Mr. Primeggia about DOT delays in improving safety on Third Avenue, where a little boy was recently killed by a car. He said Park Slope's "No. 1 pedestrian safety concern is the speed of cars and difficulty crossing Prospect Park West and Eighth Avenue." Mr. Primeggia did not respond to the specific questions but said "to suggest the Department has turned its back on pedestrian safety is a little harsh."

The meeting ended abruptly when the Community Board's Transportation Committee took a vote on a muddled motion to voice opposition on the one-way proposal for Sixth Avenue and Seventh Avenue and to ask the Department of Transportation to work with the Community Board on changes to Union Street and to lowering speeds on Eighth Avenue and Prospect Park West.

The full Community Board will vote on the proposal next month and the plan won't go forward without its support. "I somehow doubt we'll ever see either of these avenues as one-way," said Transportation Committee member Jerry Armer. After the meeting, Lumi Rolley of No Land Grab, who was among those who listened from outside the auditorium, presented a big sheet to the Community Board signed by those unable to get in.

For excellent and detailed coverage of the meetings, see "One way? NOOO way! 400+ Slopers deride DoT plans for Sixth and Seventh avenues" at Atlantic Yards Report. Also, check out Streets Blog's coverage of the meeting, including a lot of photos of the big crowd that was unable to make it inside. And, check out a full set of Jonathan Barkey's photos by clicking here.

There will be another Community Board Meeting on March 29 to discuss DOT proposals for Grand Army Plaza, for creating bike lanes on 9th Street and on Prospect Park West. It will be held at Old First Church. A full Community Board vote on the proposals will likely take place in April.

5 Comments:

Blogger Daniel said...

with 500 that cant not listen.

9:49 AM  
Blogger no_slappz said...

Despite the emotional opposition to converting 6th and 7th avenues into one-way roads, the opponents offered no evidence or support for their claims that the change would be for the worse.

Let's face it, Manhattan has been a good laboratory for the transition to one-way avenues. Meanwhile, much of Park Slope and Brooklyn is covered with one-way thoroughfares. Has anyone begged to convert the one-way roads back to two-way arteries? No.

Opponents, such as Eric Adams, believe, though offer no evidence, that one-way streets are a paradise for drag-racers. Please. What nonsense. That doesn't happen on any street in neighborhoods with heavy retail and pedestrian activity. Drag racing occurs far from the crowds and the police.

Others make nonsensical claims about increasing the traffic in Park Slope. Interesting. Almost every parking space is almost always occupied at every available hour. The shops are busy and the sidewalks are heavily traveled.

I suppose a few more cars and people could squeeze in, but aside from gaining a few more parking spaces due to the removal of some bus stops, it's pretty much a matter of physics when it comes to calculating how much matter can actually fill the available volume on Park Slope streets.

Maybe store owners could stay open extra hours and serve a late-night crowd. Or maybe a few more early birds.

But the reality of more cars in Park Slope boils down to the number of housing units within the neighborhood. More housing, more cars.

A little more prosperity would also boost the car population. Those without cars may choose to buy them if an improving household budget permits.

Furthermore, it's hard to imagine store operators would choose to stick with a plan that supporters claim keeps potential shoppers from their favorite shops.

2:11 PM  
Anonymous chandru said...

Unfortunately, no_slappz, you're wrong on several counts. Manhattan traffic speeds and ambiance should actually be a good counter-example; would you want to live on a typical avenue instead of in a residential area?

It's well known that if you increase traffic capacity, traffic will increase (induced effect.) Making a 2-lane road one way increases traffic capacity (up to 30%, also well known.) In fact, DOT talked about "adjusting the light cycle" to REDUCE flow, a sure indication that one-way-ism increases capacity.

Another important thing is that making streets one-way encourages thru-traffic, as opposed to the primarily local traffic now on 6/7 Avs.

Futher wrong on the begging issue: many, many places around the country are converting back from 1-way to 2-way, exactly to promote the type of ambiance that 7th Av enjoys. Plenty of citations. Manhattan (and NYC) is just way behind the times on making things non-car-centric and pedestrian-friendly.

Speed: just stand on 8th Av/PPW. If you're not brain-dead like DOT, you might notice traffic moving a tad faster than, say, 6th Ave (I won't compare to 7th because of dirrerent circumstances.)

See further comments on my blog if interested.

2:55 PM  
Blogger no_slappz said...

chandru, you wrote:

"...would you want to live on a typical avenue instead of in a residential area?"


Phony argument. Side streets are ALWAYS less traveled because only a few drivers have a reason to travel them. Whether the cental avenue/artery is one-way or two-way will have no effect on whether a driver diverts from it to park or go home or visit a friend.

You claim:

"It's well known that if you increase traffic capacity, traffic will increase (induced effect.)

Well known? Says who? At any given moment there is a maximum amount of physical space on a road surface. It 6th or 7th Ave were jammed with cars, the total would not increase if the roads became one-way thoroughfares.

However, it is certainly reasonable to assume that a one-way avenue connected to one-way streets would allow traffic to move more efficiently. In that circumstance, the traffic-light timing would have a greater effect on movement. No drags created by those turning left across busy on-coming lanes.

YOu further claimed:

"Making a 2-lane road one way increases traffic capacity (up to 30%, also well known.)"

This observation is again, a half truth. When we want to get from here to there in a hurry, we build roads with lots of lanes going in a single direction and limit access to the road.

But that cannot occur in Park Slope on 6th and 7th because is a residential and retail neighborhood still too crowded for the high-speed transit sought by drivers looking for the fastest route to somewhere else.

As always, the vast majority of drivers in Park Slope are there for reasons related to Park Slope. The roads are not a short-cut to anywhere else. For that reason changing the traffic direction on two avenues will not draw new drivers to the neighborhood.

You claimed:

"In fact, DOT talked about "adjusting the light cycle" to REDUCE flow, a sure indication that one-way-ism increases capacity."

The "light cycle" will control the speed of vehicles on the street, as it always has. If today there were no lights on 6th or 7th and only stop signs on the cross-streets, traffic speed would increase a lot. That's hardly news. In other words, whether traffic flows in one direction or two, its speed is a function of the lights.

You claimed:

"Another important thing is that making streets one-way encourages thru-traffic, as opposed to the primarily local traffic now on 6/7 Avs."

Like I said, that's not likely in Park Slope. The access to other places is still limited. The entrance on 7th to the Prospect Expressway points toward Coney Island only. There's no connection to any major roadway via 6th avenue.

With respect to Atlantic Yards, the traffic from the Prospect/BQE/Gowanus would flow along 4th ave.

You claimed:

"Futher wrong on the begging issue: many, many places around the country are converting back from 1-way to 2-way, exactly to promote the type of ambiance that 7th Av enjoys."

Name one or two. Meanwhile, the rest of the country isn't Manhattan or Brooklyn in a million different ways. Thus, way too many comparisons and contrasts have little value.

You claim:

Manhattan (and NYC) is just way behind the times on making things non-car-centric and pedestrian-friendly."

You mean Park Ave should become the pedestrian mall it once was?

You wrote:

"Speed: just stand on 8th Av/PPW. If you're not brain-dead like DOT, you might notice traffic moving a tad faster than, say, 6th Ave (I won't compare to 7th because of dirrerent circumstances.)"

Different circumstances. Exactly. PPW is a WIDE one-way street with streets feeding it on only one side. Cars stop and are parked on PPW for only a few reasons. Very few are there because the drivers are shopping on 7th. There are evident physical reasons that that road has an entirely different character from other parallel roads in the area.

Drivers on 8th pick up speed in the stretches where no stores, churches, temples, or schools exist. However, over those lengths where those sites operate, I see no problems. However, if you think drivers are speeding, demand a change in the "light cycle."

4:18 PM  
Anonymous chandru said...

Given similar circumstances, drivers perceive "friction" between opposing cars on a 2-way st. Therefore a 1-way st will always have more thruput; it's documented. Can cite.

Therefore, since a 1-way st has more "capacity" it WILL "induce" traffic. People will select a street based on its thruput, drivers are quite savvy.

"You mean Park Ave should become the pedestrian mall it once was?"

Not sure if meant to be sarcastic or not, but if you'd think un-like a traffic engineer, why not (in theory)? Lots of cities worldwide are restricitng cars and createing pedestrian enclaves.

8th Av speed "Drivers on 8th pick up speed in the stretches where no stores, churches,temples, or schools exist" Butexistence of these features may or may not slow traffic, that's not the issue. 8th is setup as a speedway, and it is. Other residential streets are not.

But it's a waste of time arguing with you: "name 1 or 2 places [which have changed from 2- to 1-way]" but "way too many comparisons and contrasts have little value," so don't. Lose-lose.

5:27 PM  

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