Flatbush

Church Avenue no-parking plan riles up Flatbush temple members

July 31, 2019 Lore Croghan
The city Department of Transportation plans to create dedicated bus lanes on Church Avenue. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Anger erupted over parking issues related to the creation of dedicated bus lanes on Church Avenue in Flatbush at a public forum on Tuesday night.

Members of Beth Shalom v’Emeth Reform Temple, or B’ShERT, said city Department of Transportation officials didn’t take their needs into consideration when making the plan, which calls for the elimination of parking between East 16th Street and Ocean Parkway on Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Creating red-painted curbside bus lanes would mean 113 parking spaces — 61 metered and 52 unmetered — could not be used during those times. To lessen the impact of this measure, DOT would create 59 metered parking spaces around the corners of several side streets.

The DOT sent the temple a survey about parking issues and truck loading that was written for merchants, Rabbi Heidi Hoover said at the forum. It was hosted by City Councilmember Mathieu Eugene and held at the synagogue.

Councilmember Mathieu Eugene, at right, speaks at a public forum. DOT Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Keith Bray, second from right, and DOT’s Ryan Feller and Allison Bullock stand by. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Councilmember Mathieu Eugene, at right, speaks at a public forum. DOT Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Keith Bray, second from right, and DOT’s Ryan Feller and Allison Bullock stand by. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

“Redo the survey,” someone in the audience shouted.

Many members of B’ShERT live in other neighborhoods and drive to the temple for Saturday services — including elderly congregants with parking placards for disabled people who can’t walk to subway or bus stops.

“Is this a done deal?” a woman asked about the no-parking plan.

When DOT presenters didn’t answer her question, audience members started chanting, “Is this a done deal?”

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Just moments earlier, DOT Deputy Director of Select Bus Service Allison Bullock had said during a presentation that the implementation of the Church Avenue bus-improvement plan will start in late summer or early fall.

‘We are a mainstay of the community’

Eugene stepped up at the forum and said he will meet with temple members and formulate a solution about Saturday parking to suggest to DOT. He said he would “champion” the issue. But synagogue members remained upset.

Rabbi Heidi Hoover said she’s very concerned about the elimination of Saturday parking on Church Avenue. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Rabbi Heidi Hoover said she’s very concerned about the elimination of Saturday parking on Church Avenue. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

A woman in the audience said the transit agency hadn’t even tried to make a show of concern for the temple, which has been located on the corner of Marlborough Road and Church Avenue for more than a century.

“There’s not even the optics of care,” she said.

A B’ShERT congregant told DOT presenters, “We are a mainstay of the community. You are showing us the back of your hand.”

The Better Buses Action Plan

The dedicated bus lanes are part of a broader plan to improve bus service and traffic flow on Church Avenue between Flatbush Avenue and East Seventh Street. This is one of 24 “priority projects” in the de Blasio Administration’s Better Buses Action Plan, which aims to increase bus speeds by 25 percent by 2020.

Church Avenue bus service made it onto the priority list because of high ridership of 45,000 per day and slow speeds of 4.25 miles per hour at peak travel times.

This Department of Transportation map shows a section of Church Avenue where transit and traffic improvements are planned. DOT map via Community Board 14
This Department of Transportation map shows a section of Church Avenue where transit and traffic improvements are planned. DOT map via Community Board 14

Transit advocates such as the Riders Alliance support the creation of dedicated bus lanes on Church Avenue.

“Brooklyn riders are suffering from slow buses that crawl along at just 4MPH on Church Avenue during rush hour. A bus lane can help fix this, and get riders moving,” a Riders Alliance posting about Tuesday night’s forum said.

‘We were never consulted’

When the forum ended, Rabbi Hoover told DOT reps her congregation needs Saturday parking between 9 a.m. to 2 or 3 p.m. Bullock responded by saying they’d look into it.

“We’re not making any commitment,” DOT Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Keith Bray, who was also a presenter at the forum, told the rabbi.

Rabbi Hoover told the Brooklyn Eagle that B’ShERT is the only Reform Judaism temple south of Prospect Park. Many congregants live outside Flatbush, in Mill Basin, Brighton Beach, Sheepshead Bay and other southern Brooklyn neighborhoods. A significant number of them drive to the synagogue.

“We’re very concerned,” the rabbi said. “We were never consulted. They did not take into account all of the people this affects. They only took into account some of the people. And they didn’t survey homeowners either.”

Brooklyn Borough Historian Ron Schweiger is a member of Beth Shalom v’Emeth Reform Temple. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Brooklyn Borough Historian Ron Schweiger is a member of Beth Shalom v’Emeth Reform Temple. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Brooklyn Borough Historian Ron Schweiger, who attended the forum, told the Eagle he has been a member of the temple since 1984, when he lived in the neighborhood.

He drives to Saturday services because he now lives in Flatlands.

“Parking is going to become a major — capital letters — major inconvenience,” he said.

“I’m upset they came here to hear our questions and when someone called out, ‘Is this a done deal?’ they couldn’t say yes or no,” Schweiger said. “It feels like a done deal.”

Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.

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