Do you drive to work? You’re not alone, says BCF report

March 12, 2012 Denise Romano
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A higher percentage of Bensonhurst residents drive their cars to work than those living in the rest of the borough, according to a comprehensive report by the Brooklyn Community Foundation, although the number has been reduced over the past decade.

According to the data released by BCF, 35.2 percent of those living in Community District 11 — which consists of Bath Beach, Bensonhurst and parts of Dyker Heights — drove cars to work in 2000. Although that number shrunk to 29.8 percent in 2007/09, the percentage is still higher than the rest of the borough, where just 25.7 percent of residents drive to work.

“I think people are driving for a reason, because they need to get around,” said Fran Vella-Marrone, president of the Dyker Heights Civic Association. “We are using cars because we need to.”

Vella-Marrone talked about how the limited mass transit options in the area. She said much of southern Brooklyn used to be a “two-fare” zone, meaning residents had to pay two fares to travel into Manhattan by public transportation. Now with MetroCards, residents only have to pay one fare, but the commute is still a long haul.

“For those living in traditional two-fare zones, commuting is still not easy. We don’t have the resources to accommodate the need that the people in this community have,” Vella-Marrone explained.

Although there are no bike lanes in CD 11, the number of Bensonhurst residents walking or taking their bikes to work increased between 2000 and 2007/09. In 2000, 8.1 percent of Bensonhurst walked or rode their bike to work, compared to 7.9 percent in 2007/09. For the rest of the borough, 9.9 percent of residents walk or take their bike to work.

Marnee Elias-Pavia, district manager of Community Board 11, mentioned the controversial bike lane that the Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed last year along Bay Ridge Parkway. She said the community board had opposed it because the one recommended was unsafe – it ran straight into Bay Parkway, which is a through truck route.

“We had to look at the whole picture,” Elias-Pavia explained. “The board is not opposed to bike lanes, just the one recommended.”

She said she met with the bike program director to discuss the community board’s proposal, but the DOT never got back to her. “I didn’t understand why they didn’t look at the Seventh Avenue bike lane, connecting to Bath Avenue, to 17th Avenue so bicyclists could get on the greenway,” Elias-Pavia said, referring to the bike path that stretches along the waterfront. “They said they would review it, but never responded back. They never proposed any other locations.”

Nonetheless, Vella-Marrone said that adding bike lanes is not the answer. “We are lacking in necessary mass transit and I don’t believe bike lanes will replace any need in mass transit,” she said. “Not everyone rides their bikes and we have a large number of senior citizens in Dyker Heights. Bicycle lanes are not the answer for all.”

When it comes to taking mass transit, CD 11 is on par with the rest of the borough. In 2000, 54.5 percent of Bensonhurst residents took public transportation to work, compared to 59.4 percent in 2007/09. In 2007/09, 60 percent of residents living in the rest of Brooklyn took the subway or bus to work.

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