A long-overdue city plan to fix the disastrous Fort Hamilton Parkway exit from the Gowanus Expressway is heading back to the drawing board after residents gave it a thumbs down this week.
City officials have promised that they would remedy a congestion and safety problem they created when they redesigned the exit last summer, but when they finally presented the blueprints for the intersection of Fort Hamilton Parkway, Seventh Avenue and 78th Street on Monday night, Dyker Heights residents were disgusted.
The anger mostly boiled over at the agency’s plan to allow traffic exiting the expressway to go in any direction, while restricting local traffic by barring left turns onto 78th Street from Fort Hamilton.
”You’re telling me that people from Staten Island can go anywhere and I live in the neighborhood and I can’t,” complained Joe de la Cruz, one of dozens of residents who flocked to McKinley JSH to hear a briefing about how the city would correct the extended traffic backups and aggressive driving behavior that resulted from last year’s construction.
Residents also strongly objected to the idea that trucks exiting the highway would be able to go along Fort Hamilton Parkway, rather than being steered onto Seventh Avenue, which is the truck route.
“The trucks have to go that way anyway,” Carol Kidney pointed out, asking agency officials to “spread the pain around a little bit.”
Lisa Herbert agreed: “The people who live on 78th Street have been totally disenfranchised by this plan. Now, you’re telling us we can’t even turn into our own block. That’s a problem.”
City designers initially defended their plan, which includes:
• Reducing the number of traffic movements at the intersection from four to three.
• Reconfiguring a barrier to allow for an extra lane of car traffic.
• Creating a diagonal pedestrian crosswalk near PS 127.
• Adding crossing time for pedestrians.
• Adding a new barrier to prevent pedestrians from going where they shouldn’t.
Residents did cheer the increased crossing time, the relocated crosswalk and the added lane of car traffic to prevent backups.
But most were still concerned.
“People are going to drive backwards down that street even more,” said Christine Kennedy, who had complained at an earlier meeting that congestion was sending cars backwards down 78th Street. “You’re fixing one little problem at a time and it’s dominoing into another problem.”
In the end, Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge) told agency officials to go back to the drafting table and come up with something better.
“Don’t do anything until you consider what you have heard here tonight,” he said.