Two local panels are at loggerheads over a plan to slow down cars on the streets of Clinton Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Community boards for the two neighborhoods took starkly different views of the city’s plan to make the area a so-called “slow zone,” with Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Community Board 3 voting against it on Feb. 10, just two days ahead of Clinton Hill’s Community Board 2 delivering a resounding “yea” vote. The arc of history is bending toward slowing auto traffic to save lives, according to the latter board.
“Slow Zones are very popular,” said Hemalee Patel, transportation committee chairwoman for Community Board 2. “They’re just meant to slow cars down.”
Her board overwhelmingly approved the plan, which affects an area bounded by Washington, Lafayette, and Bedford avenues, and Fulton Street. The program would reduce the speed limit to 20 miles per hour and introduce speed humps and special signage announcing the designation.
On the other side of Classon Avenue, however, residents see the plan as misguided, saying that it will only worsen already-awful car clogging on major thoroughfares.
“It’s an overreaction,” said Demetrice Mills, president of the Classon Fulgate Block Association. “We don’t have a traffic safety issue in this neighborhood. We have a traffic issue.”
Mills said he took his car out on Classon Avenue to see how it felt driving at 20 miles per hour.
“Bicycles were passing me,” he said. “They were flying by me.”
The test driver, along with members of Community Board 3, say that the go-slow area would dump insult onto the injury already caused by the recent loss of a lane to the new B44 Select Bus Service route, on both Bedford and Nostrand avenues.
“Lots of people spoke out against [the slow zone] at the public hearing,” said Tremaine Wright, chairwoman of Community Board 3. “People were asking how it interplays with all the other changes.”
Board members also asked city bean-counters for data on how the safety measures actually affect injury rates. The city’s presentation of the plan included statistics showing that reduced speeds made roads safer in other countries, but it did not show how it has worked in Boerum Hill, where the policy went into effect two years ago.
The transportation department designated 15 communities in the city for the increased traffic safety measures last year, including Clinton Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant as one. Neighborhoods were supposedly chosen based on high accident rates, a concentration of schools, and demonstrated support from the community.
The Clinton Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant slow zone would contain four schools and eight pre-kindergarten and daycare centers and its roads see an average of 62.4 injuries per year, according to the roads agency.
The city will move ahead with the plan despite of the objections raised by Bedford-Stuyvesant residents, leaving some steaming.
“They’re going to do it anyway,” said Mills. “So why even bring it to the community board?”