News & Politics

Slope Weighs One-Way Byways

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WEBCB6Primeggia.jpg

Primeggia: One-way or the highway

(photo by Jonathan Barkey)

Say what you will about the Bloomberg administration’s sweeping
development plans, they’re done wonders for civic involvement. Last night,
more than 400 Park Slope residents turned out for a meeting of Brooklyn
Community Board 6’s transportation committee to discuss the
thrill-a-minute topic of one-way streets—specifically, a proposal by
Bloomberg’s Department of Transportation to change 6th Avenue and 7th
Avenue, the neighborhood’s central thoroughfares, from two-way to one-way.

The DoT plan, as presented by deputy commissioner Michael Primeggia, would
include a whole host of changes, including narrowing 4th Avenue from six
lanes of traffic to two to allow for more functional left-turn lanes, and
installing one-per-block Muni-Meters along commercial 7th Avenue to allow
for more efficient use of curb space. It was the proposed switch to
one-way streets, though, that brought the standing-room-only crowd to the
Methodist Hospital auditorium. (About 150 people squeezed inside, with the
rest listening via loudspeaker in an adjacent waiting room, or even
standing outside in the rain hoping to catch word of what was transpiring
within.) Primeggia insisted that one-way streets are safer than two-way,
primarily because fewer pedestrians need to watch for turning cars (or, in
DoT-speak, “half of all pedestrian crossings become conflict-free”);
opponents countered that one-way streets see 30 percent more cars, which in turn
drive faster without the “friction” caused by an opposing traffic flow,
creating more noise and more pollution—and further charged that the real
motivation for the DoT’s plan was to make it easier for out-of-towners to
speed through the Slope en route to Bruce Ratner’s new Nets arena.

And on this night, it was all opponents—and that means all.
Councilmembers David Yassky and Bill de Blasio, state senator Eric Owens,
assemblymember Jim Brennan, and even the community relations director of
Methodist Hospital itself all spoke vehemently against the plan, arguing
that it would disrupt bus routes and lead to more vehicles circling the
block on residential streets to get where they needed to go. “Let me state
the obvious,” began de Blasio, a South Slope resident, “a lot of us are
profoundly uncomfortable with this proposal”—only to be interrupted by a
tremendous cheer filtering in from the overflow crowd next door.

“This community has come together over this in a way that is truly
astounding,” said Lydia Denworth, president of the Park Slope Civic
Council. Her organization, she said, had received more calls, with more
unanimity, on this issue than any other in its history, including Ratner’s
Atlantic Yards project itself. Denworth further noted that the most
frequent traffic complaint she heard was about cars speeding down the
neighborhood’s two existing one-way arteries, 8th Avenue and Prospect Park
West, suggesting that perhaps they should be changed to two-way—prompting another roar from the peanut gallery.

What looked like it would turn into a long evening—doubly so for
Primeggia—was cut short when the CB’s transportation committee passed a
pair of motions urging DoT to withdraw its plans until they could be
revised to accommodate community concerns. (The only dissenting board
member quickly clarified that she was holding out for an even stronger
rejection of the plan.) While community board votes are only advisory, a
DoT spokesperson had previously
declared
that “if the community doesn’t support these proposed
changes, we will not move forward with them.” Would that make this the
death knell for the plan, Nets fans and inexperienced street-crossers be
damned?

It was a question that Primeggia clearly wanted to duck as the meeting
dispersed into the night. After looking baffled by a question about the
noise impacts of the proposed changes (“I don’t study noise”), he parried
questions about the plan’s future with the declaration that “our
commissioner said she will be guided by the community board’s letter.” If
he was trying to be reassuring, he probably picked the wrong verb.

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