With change always comes pushback, and the recent change to the traffic rules of McGuinness Boulevard was a big one. The New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) presented a complete redesign proposal of the street to improve safety back in August 2022 and have begun to take action since. However, some are less than happy about it.
Along with a new crosswalk and turn calming, the DOT proposed to issue a ban on “lightly-used” left turns as well as extending street medians to, “provide refuge to people crossing McGuinness Blvd who don’t make it all the way across.”
Recently, people have noticed that the “no left turn” signs have been installed on some streets. This means left turns are no longer allowed when turning from McGuinness Blvd. onto Nassau, Engert, and Driggs avenues.
This left turn ban and major design changes that will narrow the streets have caused frustration from some drivers in the community. There is a petition that suggests that many of the design changes will result in a loss in efficiency for commuters, decrease accessibility to small businesses and worksites, create congestion, and delay emergency responders.
“We demand the NYC DOT’s redesign of McGuinness Blvd. preserve the traffic lanes currently present and ‘Make McGuinness Safe’ proposal be rejected,” the petition states. “Some changes we welcome: renovation of median, crosswalks, pedestrian signals and traffic signals being adjusted.”
The Make McGuinness Safe Coalition, NYC DOT, and local electeds, however, maintain that all changes are essential to ensuring the safety of pedestrians. As of June 2022, NYC DOT reported that in the past ten years, three people had been killed in crashes on McGuinness Blvd. and from 2015 to 2019, there had been 217 crashes with injuries
“The traffic violence we’ve experienced on McGuinness is unacceptable, and left turn bans will protect pedestrians and cyclists from further harm,” said NYC Council Member Lincoln Restler. “The left turn bans, expanded pedestrian islands, and efforts to improve safe pedestrian passage on McGuinness are critical for the safety of our children, our seniors, and anyone with limited mobility.
Left turn bans in particular has been instated in part due to how dangerous they are compared to right turns. According to the NYPD website, left turns are taken at higher speeds and cause greater pedestrian exposure due to the wide radius, decreased driver visibility, and more complicated turns.
“Left-hand turn bans were necessary since the additional pedestrian waiting space needed to come from somewhere. But more importantly, left turns are the most dangerous movement at an intersection,” said NYS Assembly Member Emily Gallagher. “We’re counting on DOT to come back to the community next year with a comprehensive redesign plan that addresses the longstanding concerns of Greenpoint residents.”
Vincent Barone, spokesperson for the DOT, said: “As we develop the final proposal for McGuinness Boulevard, DOT is making immediate, short-term safety improvements to calm traffic and protect pedestrians along the corridor. We appreciate the continued advocacy from the community and their representatives on this project.”
Around noon of November 26, two cars made a left turn from McGuinness onto Driggs. “They didn’t even slow down,” said Lori Ann Doyon, GREENLINE editor, who happened to be crossing McGuinness Boulevard at that time. She also reported moments earlier a DOT worker was painting markers on the street and had driven off right before the left turns happened. The No Left Turn sign on McGuinness at Driggs is positioned high up so it’s possible it wasn’t noticed, but paint and barriers placed where the old left-turn lane was clearly indicate no left turn.