In Coney Island, modifications to help calm snarled streets are causing stress for motorists who say they had no clue when the changes would be initiated, or which streets would be affected.
The modifications made by the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) came after years of complaints concerning the intersection at Cropsey and Neptune Avenues, “in order to alleviate injury, death, and total confusion,” according to Chuck Reichenthal, district manager of Community Board 13.
The changes included turning West 17th between Surf and Neptune into a two lane roadway with both lanes going southbound to Coney Island. Previously, the roadway had three lanes, with two going to Coney Island and one exiting. West 19th Street from Surf to Neptune, previously southbound, is now northbound. And 16th Street was changed from a southbound roadway to a northbound street.
The agency engaged the community all during the study, Reichenthal said.The problem, he continued, is that “the changes occurred without alerting the community —either the community board or the people on the street. The changes were made without informing us when and which streets would be changed,” he said. “People weren’t alerted and were faced with confusion.”
The DOT said it met with the community board and local elected officials in May and June about the traffic calming project and during the week leading up to the implementation, the agency informed the board that work was set to begin. Agency spokesperson Scott Gastel said the DOT will monitor the changes and would consider any necessary alterations.
Nino Russo, owner of Gargiulio’s Restaurant on West 15th Street, said he would have appreciated some notification. At the last minute, he was forced to amend cards directing customers to the restaurant, since West 15th was suddenly turned into a southbound roadway.The restaurant’s Web site was also amended. Still he said, the agency was “very accommodating” after finding out he was taken off guard, altering West 19th before West 15 was changed,allowing him a bit of time to alert customers.“Technically, it’s better for me,” he said. “In the summer, when its busy, you don’t have to go to Surf Avenue to come up West 15th — they can just go up Neptune down to West 15th Street, right into my parking lot.”
Sea Gate resident Julie Diamond isn’t as happy with the altered roadways. “They need to put the streets back the way they were,” she said. Double and triple parked cars along Cropsey between Neptune and Hart Place are the real problem, complicating matters for drivers trying to navigate the crowded roadway that now has two turning lanes, Diamond said. In the morning, it is virtually impossible to escape the backlog on Neptune — and afternoons are even worse, she said. “I can’t see what they accomplished except to create a traffic jam,” she said.
City Councilmember Domenic Recchia said he was unaware of the changes until the Thursday before they were initiated. “I wasn’t happy about it,” he said, adding that he has already spoken with DOT Borough Commissioner Joseph Palmieri about the backlog of cars at Cropsey and Neptune. “He promised he would reevaluate,” the city lawmaker said, adding that the true impact of the changes won’t be felt until the summer, when traffic in the neighborhood is at its height.
Reichenthal vowed to continue to meet with DOT and urge the agency tomonitor whether the changes are working.“Change is never easy,” the district manager observed.