Ocean Parkway residents push back against proposed New York State DOT changes along key intersections
Assemblymember Dov Hikind Hosts Rally Calling on Albany to Preserve Right and Left Turns Throughout Midwood and Kensington
It was a bright and beautiful December Sunday morning in Midwood as a seemingly endless stream of traffic flowed in both directions along Ocean Parkway and a crowd of nearly 100 people gathered at the corner of Ocean Avenue and Avenue J chanted: “No more no-turns! No more no-turns!”
Standing on a wood-slate bench, state Assemblymember for the 48th District Dov Hikind raised a bullhorn: “Stop the madness! Stop the insanity!” he declared to cheers from the group.
Joining Hikind were City Councilmembers Mark Treyger and Chaim Deutsch, Public Advocate Letitia James, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Community Board District 12 Chair Yidel Perlstein and dozens of local residents to oppose some of the impending changes to traffic flow in their neighborhoods.
Included in the state Department of Transportation’s (DOT) three-year, $8.5 million safety improvement plan for Ocean Parkway are the implementation of no left turns from service roads at intersections that include Avenue J as well as eight others, the addition of traffic signals in these same intersections and the elimination of right turns from Ocean Parkway onto many of the avenues.
Running almost five miles north to south from Prospect Park to Brighton Beach and first proposed by park designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, Ocean Parkway is a crucial thoroughfare that connects many of Brooklyn’s most diverse neighborhoods. The majority of its length it offers two lanes in each direction, a median for left turns, sidewalk medians on either side for pedestrian and bicycle use and two smaller side streets with space for parking and deliveries.
Traffic safety has been an issue along Ocean Parkway for some time. In 2014, the city DOT listed two Ocean Parkway intersections — Church Avenue in Kensington and Neptune Avenue in Coney Island — as among the 20 most dangerous for pedestrians in the five boroughs. Calls for safety upgrades along the parkway have come from residents, safety advocates and elected officials for several years.
When it was announced on April 20, 2016, the state DOT’s safety improvement plan for Ocean Parkway garnered positive reactions from many city and state officials, including Hikind, quoted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s press release as saying, “I’m happy to be part of this project that will greatly improve pedestrian safety and traffic flow along Ocean Parkway.”
But the devil is in the details.
Although Hikind’s own constituent update depicts the assemblymember meeting with the state DOT’s Director of Government Affairs and External Relations Charles O’Shea on Jan. 11, 2016, he told the audience on Sunday morning: “I tried to meet with the commissioner [NYSDOT Commissioner Charles Driscoll] … I made it very clear five months ago that these were mistakes!”
Midwood and Borough Park residents took turns describing the particular circumstances of traffic in their blocks. “Did Albany forget that service roads are for service?” demanded Rabbi David Ozery of Yad Yosef Torah Center on Ocean Parkway, just south of Avenue J.
One resident described regular oil truck deliveries that required purveyors to double park for extended periods, impeding any traffic redirected onto the side roads as motorists would be forced to use them in lieu of the parkway in order to complete turns onto the avenues.
“To direct traffic into these streets will create havoc!” Rabbi Ozery concluded.
Borough Park resident Marissa Atenby reminded the group that elimination of parking spaces along service roads would compel drivers to cruise around in search of a spot, adding to rather than subtracting from gridlock.
The biggest cheers that morning went to Councilmember Mark Treyger when he insisted: “If the state really cared about Ocean Parkway, let them do something about all these potholes!”