With the community weighing in on the Department of Transportation’s recently revised Kent Avenue bike lane plan, a network of local activists is engaging in a debate about how to best reduce traffic in Williamsburg.
Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG), a Williamsburg−based community organization, responded favorably to the Kent Avenue proposal, but has suggested specific recommendations for improving pedestrian safety in the area.
“The community simply cannot wait for another lengthy study, the danger is already there. We also urge that the final design narrow the crossing distance on Kent for pedestrians as much as possible,” NAG members wrote in a letter to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik−Kahn.
The NAG letter specifically requested that traffic lights be installed on intersections between Kent Avenue and North 4th, North 8th and North 14th streets, that parking be made available upon completion of the greenway and for the implementation of traffic calming measures such as stop signs or neckdowns on truck routes on North 11th Street and Wythe Street.
According to Lacey Tauber, NAG’s Transportation Working Group Co−Chair, the letter, posted on the group’s blog, received the most amount of comments that NAG’s blog has recorded. Residents have also reacted both positively and negatively to the plan sending e−mails to the Community Board 1 public listserv. One resident criticized NAG and CB 1 Transportation Committee members for supporting the plan, suggesting that traffic calming measures along North 11th Street will not be enough to accommodate residents in that area.
“By your suggested traffic calming measures, such as stop signs, traffic lights, neckdowns and⁄or road diets on these streets as a plan to insure a safe traffic scenario on North 11th street to Union avenue and McCarren Park one block to the north, is neglectful in properly assessing the potential for harm,” said the resident in an e−mail. “I have no confidence in your declaration of support for the plan.”
Teresa Toro, CB 1 Transportation Committee Chair, responded, writing that the majority of the Williamsburg community supports the Greenway and that the community has been calling for more open space along Kent Avenue and the waterfront for much of the past decade.
“The 2005 rezoning represented a missed opportunity for the Bloomberg administration to carefully consider the infrastructure needed to support the flood of new residents coming into Williamsburg and Greenpoint,” said Toro. “Another missed opportunity in the rezoning was that the city did not include any urban planning of any kind. So the community is growing outward and upward, very painfully, and we’re seeing increased conflicts on the streets as a result, in terms of truck traffic impacts, pedestrian safety, and lack of curbside parking.”
NAG Transportation Committee Co−Chair Lacey Tauber, who drafted the letter, said that the NAG board wanted to issue a statement on the plan following some of the criticisms that emerged following the June Community Board 1 meeting, where the updated plan was first introduced to the public.
“I was surprised by the amount of negative energy at that meeting,” said Tauber. “NAG should have a role in the conversation about truck traffic in the neighborhood.”
Tauber acknowledged that some community members disagree with her position, but NAG is trying to prioritize the creation of the Greenway because they think the plan will benefit everyone in the community.
“The main issue about changing the truck route is the kind of trucks that people are worried about, take our buildings, hurt foundations, those trucks shouldn’t be on the streets at all,” said Tauber. “That’s an enforcement issue.”