Dissent over the Kent Avenue bicycle lane plan has not abated, as several Williamsburg residents vigorously protested this week the Department of Transportation’s proposal to reroute truck traffic onto North 11th Street and restrict vehicular traffic to a one−way northbound lane.
After revising the proposal six months ago, Department of Transportation (DOT) officials presented their updated plan for the redesign of Kent Avenue to residents at a Community Board One meeting this past Tuesday.
The plan, which also includes the proposed restoration of 200 loading and parking spaces, a two−way bicycle path along the west curb, and a floating parking lane on the west side of Kent Avenue, enjoys considerable support among community board members, though some have called the truck route diversion flawed.
“They’re essentially saying that we should be expanding the use of a truck route that should have been eliminated years ago,” said Evan Thies, CB1 Environment and Sanitation Committee Chair and a candidate for City Council. “Anybody who knows the area knows that sections of North 11th Street are primarily residential. To send more trucks down that route will surely create new traffic problems and endanger. It is totally unnecessary to reroute trucks on North 11th Street when you can reroute them farther north and send them on existing truck routes on McGuinness Boulevard.”
Maria Levitsky, a resident of North 11th Street who’s fearful that her block would be subject to unwelcome truck traffic as a result of the plan, would prefer there was a southbound bicycle lane on Wythe Avenue and just one northbound lane on Kent.
“I am a lifelong cyclist and I love bike lanes, but this Kent Ave bike lane has been rammed down the community’s throat from the beginning,” said Levitsky. “The decisions are being made by people who are not from here. We are the people who have to deal with the consequences of outside decisions about trucks coming through our neighborhood. It is just not fair.”
Williamsburg’s transportation activists dispute Levitsky’s remarks about the process being underhanded and without input from the community. Transportation Alternatives spokesperson Wiley Norvell, who attended the meeting, agrees that the trucks should not be using Kent Avenue but said that the real problem was the lack of enforcement of traffic laws. Despite its flaws, Norvell and many members of Transportation Alternatives are confident the plan would move forward.
“I think this is a plan that can evolve,” said Norvell. “The DOT coming back to the table six months after their original plan is kind of unprecedented. This street design never reached consensus, and I think it’s a good one, but I think there’s room for improvement.”
Local business owners on Kent Avenue, such as David Reina, who runs David Reina Designs (79 Guernsey St.), hope that the improvements focus on securing enough parking and loading spaces so their businesses will continue to operate while the bicycle lanes are added.