Will DOT save them?
Transportation issues along Grand Street, Metropolitan Avenue, and Morgan Avenue faced by businesses and the residential community have incited a push to address concerns.
On March 30, the NYC Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) held a workshop at 211 Ainslie street, a longstanding town hall center serving North Brooklyn. The meeting was hosted and organized by NYC Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez to gather feedback for ongoing and future street improvements.
“The current street design does not work well for any user and has caused real hardships for the businesses here.”Erin Piscopink, executive director of the Grand Street Business Improvement District.
“For years, the BID has been asking DOT to revisit the roadway design of Grand Street, using an approach rooted in community engagement,” said Erin Piscopink, executive director of the Grand Street Business Improvement District. “The current street design does not work well for any user and has caused real hardships for the businesses here. We are thrilled that DOT has begun a conversation with our community to find solutions that work better for us all.”
The aforementioned streets and surrounding areas are highly concentrated with delivery trucks and other modes of business transport, in addition to local residents trying to get from place to place via car, bicycle, and on foot.
With limited connections for through traffic, packed roads bring all kinds of issues and frustration including lack of loading space, inefficient travel, blocked bus stops, bike lanes, and sidewalks, and safety risks.
Felix is the co-owner of Bahia, a Salvadoran and Latin American restaurant at 690 Grand Street that has been at that location for nineteen years. The redesign of Grand Street has hit his business significantly. He said, “The way they had it before worked for us. [Now] my lunch crowd is gone. People used to leave their office and drop by. It was easy. Now there is only one side of the street where you can park.”
All the parking spots are taken across the street during my visit with Felix, which began at 1:48 p.m. on a Monday. A 2009 NYC DOT diagram of Grand Street shows two nine-foot-wide parking spaces and two five-foot-wide bike lanes on each side of the street. The 2018 diagram of this street shows the south side of Grand Street lose its parking in order for the street to gain two buffer zones (the north side’s buffer is three feet wide and the south side’s is six feet wide)
According to Felix, most of Bahia’s regular customers used to visit at least once a week; now it’s about once a month. He says his customers wish they could eat there more, but it takes too long to find parking and they have a limited time for lunch. “[The NYC DOT] seems to have eliminated the parking to make it safer for the bikers, but I see more accidents now.” Felix mentions mopeds and scooters speed in the bike path and don’t stop at traffic lights, as some elements that have increased the danger. During the fifteen minutes of the interview, I saw only two cyclists, and nearly a dozen e-bikes, scooters, and motorcycles that sped along the bike path in front of his restaurant. Felix added that delivery trucks for all the businesses on Grand Street often have to double park while making a delivery — there is only one designated delivery parking spot, but that isn’t functional for simultaneous multiple deliveries.
The Grand Street and Metropolitan Avenue corridors are high-priority corridors as deemed by Vision Zero, an action plan dedicated to pedestrian safety. Within the past seven years, there has been a combined total of fourteen fatalities on Grand Street, Metropolitan Avenue, and Morgan Avenue, according to data provided by NYC DOT. From 2016 to 2020, there was a combined total of 54 people seriously injured along these streets.
“Major [east-west] and [north-south] corridors are truck routes ranking in the top third of high-crash corridors in Brooklyn,” wrote NYC DOT in their presentation at the March 30 workshop.
As ensuring safety is one of the main points of consideration, NYC DOT offered several tools to look at in future street developments. These include high visibility crosswalks, curb extensions, slow turn boxes, pedestrian islands, and protected bike lanes.
Overall the plan utilizes the Complete Streets approach to street design to enable safe access for all types of users and modes of transportation.
NYC DOT also seeks to improve transport for industrial businesses in the area with ideas like truck route management, the development of neighborhood loading zones, and reducing conflict at turns.
The geometric constraints of streets like Morgan Avenue were discussed at the meeting. Accommodating large trucks and keep traffic flowing are key to having transport run smoothly. NYC DOT raised different solutions to consider: one-way conversion streets, the removal of one parking lane, and reduced travel lanes.
“We’re so glad that Council Member Gutiérrez and NYC DOT are soliciting input from both the residential and business community to develop a plan to improve traffic flow and public safety in East Williamsburg,” said Leah Archibald, Executive Director at Evergreen: Your North Brooklyn Business Exchange.
NYC DOT plans to follow up with more engagement, sharing of feedback, and data in order to draft a redesign proposal to present. Their long-term goal is to implement a project that will result in lasting street improvement on Grand Street, Metropolitan Avenue, Morgan Avenue, and the surrounding neighborhood.
I would like to know what plans the DOT has in place for the congestion traffic along the Metropolitan Avenue corridor. I live on Metropolitan Avenue between Lorimer and Union Avenue. This stretch has always been a very busy area because of the proximity of the BQE and the access to the Williamsburg Bridge however due to the construction of two ADA elevators and the redesign of various subway entrances on Lorimer and Union streets has caused insufficient parking for both businesses and residents of these areas. This is causing much frustration for all residents.