Fulton Street biz, customers protest new bus-only lanes in Clinton Hill
DOT says it modified hours
Small business owners and their customers in Clinton Hill say the city’s decision to turn the curbside lanes on Fulton Street into bus-only lanes will wipe out parking and deliveries to dozens of stores along the busy shopping strip.
Activists and community representatives gathered in front of the family-run Key Food at 991 Fulton St. on Thursday to protest the designation, which they said was made by the local business improvement district and the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) without consultation with the small businesses on Fulton Street.
The designation would ban parking and deliveries on Fulton between Grand and Lafayette avenues between the hours of 7 – 10 a.m. on the downtown side of the street and from 2 – 7 p.m. on the eastbound side, according to businesses and representatives of officials.
The intention of the designated lanes is to ease congestion for the B25 and B26 bus lines, which frequently get stuck in rush hour traffic.
A DOT spokesperson told the Brooklyn Eagle, however, that the city agency modified the hours of the bus-only designation following a survey of businesses along the corridor and a time lapse study during which they monitored curb usage.
Based on the results of the survey and study, DOT says it will add midday loading zones on the commercial sections of the corridor to reduce congestion and better facilitate deliveries for businesses.
Subi Widdi, a member of the family that has operated the Key Food on Fulton Street for the past 50 years, says DOT never contacted him. He said he found out about the bus lanes from a DOT worker on the street, but when he called DOT, “They said they had no knowledge of anything happening.”
“We’re for the city buses, but the one thing we do not want is for the bus express lane to take away our loading zone where we get 40 trucks a day,” Widdi said. “And then you have small businesses that get maybe four or five trucks a day, that’s 35-40 trucks a week. Now if they cannot get their deliveries, what’s going to happen?”
During the protest, the group was confronted by Daniel Baer, a member of Transportation Alternatives, who said he believed the activists were “cranks” who were against buses and bike lanes in general.
“Buses aren’t responsible for gentrification,” Baer said. He told the activists that he has lived in the neighborhood for three years. “I don’t understand why you’re directing your anger at bus lanes,” he asked the activists.
“You’re new here. I never saw you in my life before. I never saw you at a meeting,” long-time resident Joe Gonzalez told Baer as he laid out the businesses’ case.
Businesses “were not consulted by DOT and the Fulton Street Business Improvement District,” said Ernest Augustus, a resident of Clinton Hill for 40 years and a member of Community Board 2’s Land Use and Transportation committees. “There’s an issues about the negative impact it will have on merchants and on deliveries along Fulton Street.”
Between Vision Zero’s plazas, bike lanes and neck-downs, “parking has become desperate for both the residents and now the merchants,” Augustus added.
“The challenge with the Department of Transportation’s proposal … is the removal of much-needed parking for residents and small businesses,” Councilmember Laurie Cumbo said in a statement.
“The vitality of our community is dependent upon thriving small businesses who provide jobs and access to critical resources such as groceries to residents of all ages – particularly our families and seniors. This proposal does not address our immediate concerns and would be detrimental to the growth of economic development amongst Fulton Area Businesses,” she said.
Cumbo called on DOT to review the proposed timeframes, specifically the 2 – 7 p.m. period. (See update below.)
UPDATE: On Friday, resident Schellie Hagan submitted to the CB2 Transportation Committee a seven-page list of the 84 stores in the Fulton Street Business Improvement District (FAB) who signed the “no buses-only” petition.
UPDATE: Councilmember Laurie Cumbo issued this statement on Monday: “As a commuter, I have firsthand experience of the unforeseen delays that New Yorkers encounter on a daily basis. I want to make it clear that I do not oppose improvements to the flow of traffic for our scholars, seniors and city’s workforce. Public transportation is a major concern for my constituents, as evidenced by the level of engagement on social media, which impacts the economic vitality of our beloved community. The “bus-only” lane proposed by Department of Transportation (DOT) for eastbound traffic along Fulton Street from 2 – 7 p.m. should mirror the allotted timeframe for westbound traffic and take effect exclusively during the morning and evening rush hours. We are a city of shared streets and therefore must take into consideration how policy will impact every stakeholder. I am calling on the DOT to revise the evening hours of the “bus-only” lane to 4 – 7 p.m. and share the proposed loading zones to accommodate the needs of the commercial corridor where some businesses receive multiple deliveries per day.”
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