Residents of North 11th Street in Williamsburg are steamed about trucks that roll down their street.
At a Community Board 1 Transportation Committee meeting at the Capital One Bank (807 Manhattan Avenue), frustration and resentment seemed to bubble through the basement floor like molten magma.
“I would rather have a bike lane than truck traffic,” said Monica Levitsky. “This project from the very beginning was railroaded.It’s not a matter of us against them.This is an example of a project that is not representative of the community.”
Department of Transportation staff members tried to placate residents during their update of the Kent Avenue Improvement Plan, explaining how they would mitigate traffic through residential streets in Williamsburg’s north side.
“We’re not going to be trying to divert more trucks to North 11th Street,” said David Wolloch, DOT Commissioner of External Affairs.“We’re going to monitor the truck traffic on North 11th, open signal studies, and route more trucks directly to North 14th.We have not been doing what we should have been doing for decades.”
For the past year, the DOT has presented and modified its plan to calm traffic on Kent Avenue while adding a contiguous network of bicycle lanes from Greenpoint to downtown Brooklyn.The plan generated controversy when it was introduced almost exactly one year ago, as many community board members decried being excluded from the planning process.
“I’ve been screaming for one and a half years that they were not going to the community and now everyone is suffering,” said CB1 member Simon Weiser.
In the months that followed, community leaders and many transportation advocates became more supportive of the plan, though residents along Kent Avenue and on North 11th Street still expressed displeasure at the truck traffic through their streets while many were careful to say they did not oppose the larger network of bike lanes that the plan included.
“No one is against bike lanes.We’re not against the project, just against some extremely bad decisions.North 11th is one of them,” said Tony Bruno, who lives off Berry and North 11th streets.
Community Board 1 Transportation Chair Teresa Toro, who was briefly removed from her title early this year during the Kent Avenue controversy, tried to put the DOT improvements within the larger context of transportation issues throughout North Brooklyn. She called for a transportation study throughout North Brooklyn and encouraged residents not to blame local businesses or cyclists for the traffic.
“This DOT commissioner has taken up the banner for cycling in a way that no commissioner ever has in New York, so cyclists are the latest presence in already congestion-challenged streets,” said Toro.“A lot of people wrongly blame cyclists for congestion but they’re not.They thread through congestion.”
DOT officials said they are widening the scope of their plan, which now includes diverting truck traffic to Greenpoint, McGuiness and Meeker avenues.
“Time is money to truckers and convenience is money,” said DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow.“Hopefully this encouragement to take McGuiness or Greenpoint will separate shorter truck trips from longer distance truck trips that don’t end in Northside Williamsburg."
Community Board 1 Chair Chris Olechowski encouraged community members to look forward and work to fix any transportation problems in Williamsburg.
“I hope we all learned a lesson from this,” he said.