Greenpoint

Greenpoint community to hear more arguments about McGuiness Blvd. traffic changes on June 15

June 14, 2023 Andrew Blustein
Share this:

GREENPOINT — A June 15 town hall at Greenpoint’s Brooklyn Stages will discuss the hotly debated fate of McGuinness Boulevard, the site of a deadly 2021 hit-and-run that instigated plans to redesign the throughway. 

The plan, which would reduce the number of lanes on each side of the boulevard from two to one and add parking-protected bike lanes along each curb, is moving ahead with supporters and detractors set to meet with the Department of Transportation (DOT) once again to share their thoughts on the divisive project.

Katie Denny Horowitz, board member of Brooklyn Community Board 1, said the McGuinness Boulevard road diet has been a frequent topic of conversation over the last two years among committee members and has spurred community advocacy around the neighborhood. 

“I think it’s difficult as a longtime community member or a business to kind of visualize how that’s supposed to work, which is causing a lot of concern,” said Denny Horowitz, who is also the executive director of the North Brooklyn Parks Alliance. “I think that the calls for a redesign, the requests for feedback on how it’s going to be redesigned, is something that has been really well thought out in consultation with the community for the last few years.”

But not everyone in the community feels like they’ve been heard or are fully aware of the breadth of the redesign plan. Organized by community advocacy group Keep McGuinness Moving, more than 225 businesses signed an opposition statement asking the DOT to offer “alternative solutions and listen to the opinions of everyone in the community on the best way forward.”

Monica Holowacz, director of community relations at Broadway Stages, said many Greenpoint residents don’t feel like there’s been enough outreach on the issue. The upcoming town hall with the DOT, arranged by Keep McGuinness Moving, is meant to provide the community with answers.

“I feel that this community deserves to have their voices heard, and more research needs to be done,” said Holowacz.

A spokesperson for Assemblymember Emily Gallagher, an early supporter of redesigning McGuinness Boulevard, pushed back on claims of lack of outreach, pointing to an online feedback map with nearly 800 comments, a street ambassadors program that gathered more than 400 comments and the handful of workshops run by the DOT and Assemblymember Gallagher.

The project kicked off in 2021 when then-mayor Bill de Blasio committed $39 million to redesign McGuinness Boulevard following a hit-and-run that killed Matthew Jensen, a teacher at PS 110, marking the third death caused by drivers on the road in a 10-year span.

Workshops for the redesign started in August 2021. A year later, after initial outreach and feedback, the DOT presented three options for altering the boulevard, eventually settling on a plan that would, among other changes, reduce the number of travel lanes in each direction to one, add parking-protected bike lanes, remove an average of two parking spaces per block to improve visibility and install neighborhood loading zones on each block.

There has also been plenty of support for redesigning the boulevard. Assemblymember Gallagher’s spokesperson said over the last two years, a coalition of PS 110 parents and Greenpoint residents organized the Make McGuinness Safe campaign, which has resulted in over 4,000 emails to the assemblymember’s office calling for protected bikes lanes, safer pedestrian crossings, neighborhood loading zones and a road diet on McGuinness Boulevard.

Painting on McGuinness Boulevard is set to begin later in the summer, with road work expected to begin later in the year. Some alterations to the road have been made in the interim, including prohibiting left turns off McGuinness Boulevard at Nassau Avenue, Driggs Avenue and Engert Avenue, along with the clearing of parking and installation of bike corrals at a handful of intersections to improve visibility at corners and provide bicycle parking.

In a statement, the DOT said the agency is dedicated to enhancing the safety features of “critical transit arteries” like McGuinness Boulevard.

“Last year we slowed vehicular turns, improved visibility at corners, and brought much needed bicycle parking to this road. We’re taking safety one step forward with a redesign proposal that installs protected bike lanes along both curbs, creates neighborhood loading zones on each block, shortens crossing distances, and discourages cut-through turns. We’re reviewing community stakeholder feedback as we finalize the design,” the DOT said.

Concerns still exist. In a May presentation, the DOT explained that vehicle volume on McGuinness Boulevard after removing lanes would need to drop between 30% to 40% during peak hours to maintain current traffic flow, and that the agency will monitor conditions and make adjustments as needed.

Luke Skrodzki, who runs Amber Steak House on Eckford and Nassau, is worried about possible spillover traffic around his restaurant and congestion on McGuinness Boulevard that would dissuade Manhattan clientele from driving into the neighborhood.

Skrodzki wants McGuinness Boulevard to be safe, but he also wants to see other options.

“I understand change happens,” he said, “but we have to put all these things into thought before we just make a decision, get approval and that’s it.”

The DOT has also said cut-through traffic comprises more than 30% of vehicular traffic on McGuinness Boulevard. Kevin LaCherra, who’s part of the Make McGuinness Safe coalition, said a goal of the road diet is to disincentivize cut-through traffic and keep vehicles on more major highways like the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

“It’s our lives,” said LaCherra. “It’s our neighborhood, and we have the opportunity here, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to make a safer street.”

 

Point/Counterpoint: Opposing views clash

But the June 15th meeting promises to be contentious because of a continuing effort to organize opposition to the DOT plan, led by Holowacz and members of Keep McGuinness Moving.

Members of Keep McGuinness Moving advocate because of the following points:

  • The lack of involvement of local businesses in the decision-making process, causing frustration and a sense of exclusion and the lack of proper communication and outreach by the Department of Transportation, leaving many residents and businesses unaware of the project until recently.
  • Negative impacts on businesses, including reduced access to parking and deliveries, as well as increased traffic congestion, price surges from vendors. 
  • Diversion of traffic to nearby residential streets, making conditions very hazardous for seniors, children, and the disabled. 
  • The potential environmental impact of the road diet, such as increased congestion and idling vehicles, needs to be thoroughly evaluated with additional reports and studies and data.
  • McGuinness Blvd. is a coastal evacuation route. What do we do in an emergency? 
  • Delayed emergency response times, for emergency vehicles especially the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) who made over 8,200 firehouse runs out of the Greenpoint stations in 2022.

Other factors they cite as overlooked by the Department of Transportation (DOT) plan include the following:

  • The lack of involvement of local businesses in the decision-making process, causing frustration and a sense of exclusion and the lack of proper communication and outreach by the Department of Transportation, leaving many residents and businesses unaware of the project until recently
  • Negative impacts on businesses, including reduced access to parking and deliveries, as well as increased traffic congestion, price surges from vendors. 
  • Diversion of traffic to nearby residential streets, making conditions very hazardous for seniors, children, and the disabled. 
  • The potential environmental impact of the road diet, such as increased congestion and idling vehicles, needs to be thoroughly evaluated with additional reports and studies and data.
  • Mcguinness Blvd is a coastal evacuation route. What do we do in an emergency? 
  • Delayed emergency response times, for emergency vehicles especially the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) who made over 8,200 firehouse runs out of the Greenpoint stations in 2022.

“McGuinness Boulevard serves as a major artery that connects Greenpoint and East Williamsburg to Long Island City, as well as to the BQE, LIE, Midtown Tunnel, etc.,” said Holowacz.

She added, “McGuinness is also noted as a designated truck route by the DOT. We are looking for additional /alternative solutions that will promote safety while maintaining the functionality of the truck route that serves our growing community of Greenpoint as well as its surrounding communities. Our goal is to ensure that the final plan for McGuinness Blvd. is inclusive of and beneficial to the entire community.”

Keep McGuinness Moving has been active in getting local support in anticipation of the June 15 meeting. Their collective efforts, they say, have brought in the following responses:

  • Over 200 opposition statements signed by businesses, representing over 8,000 jobs. 
  • Over 200 signed opposition statements from residents 
  • 3,300 signatures on the online action network petition (Keep McGuinness Moving Petition)
  • 817 signatures on the change.org petition 
  • 4,213 signatures in total

They also cite support from the following organizations:

  • Polish Business Merchants Association 
  • Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce
  • IATSE Local 52 – 4,500 members 
  • Teamsters Local 817 – 2,500 members

 

Advocates and Electeds March to Protect the McGuinness Safety Redesign

Thursday, June 15 at 6:00 p.m. street safety advocates from Make McGuinness Safe and other local groups will join local elected officials, including Assembly Member Emily Gallagher and Council Member Lincoln Restler, to march down McGuinness Boulevard and demand that the NYC DOT McGuinness safety redesign continues as planned.

After two years of studying data and traffic patterns in and around McGuinness Boulevard, and a robust public engagement process that included numerous public meetings, street ambassador outreach and nearly 1,200 public comments, the Department of Transportation presented a redesign plan that prioritizes a safer, cleaner, greener McGuinness, and protects local use for the residents and businesses of North Brooklyn.

Opponents of street safety have allegedly pressured the Mayor’s office to scrap the plan entirely, in hopes that this deadly street will remain unchanged. Advocates and elected officials will demand that City Hall prioritizes the health and safety of Greenpointers by continuing to support the plan.

WHAT: Street safety advocates and Brooklyn electeds march to protect McGuinness safety redesign

WHEN: Thursday, June 15 at 6:00 p.m.

WHERE: Bayard St. and McGuinness Blvd.

WHO: Assemblymember Emily Gallagher, Council Member Lincoln Restler, State Senator Kristen Gonzalez, Make McGuinness Safe, Transportation Alternatives

RSVP: [email protected]


Leave a Comment


Leave a Comment