City goes both ways on Furman Street

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Fulton Ferry residents are slamming the city for quietly turning one-way Furman Street into a two-way thoroughfare — saying the change ruins plans for a pedestrian-friendly Old Fulton Street.

The Department of Transportation changed the one-mile stretch from Old Fulton Street to Atlantic Avenue to facilitate emergency, post Hurricane Irene, repairs to the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway — but then kept the configuration in place even after the repairs were done in order to evaluate its “traffic-calming benefits” to the tourist-filled area near Brooklyn Bridge Park.

You don’t need a study to know how locals feel.

During rush hour, vehicles have dangerously barreled through pedestrian crosswalks to Brooklyn Bridge Park — and raced the wrong way down Furman Street to escape congestion. To make matters worse, cars heading west on Old Fulton Street, a wide thoroughfare of two unmarked lanes, backed up traffic as they tried to enter a single lane on Furman Street — which is often lined with tour buses.

Cars on Old Fulton Street have to stop at a crosswalk at Furman Street before heading south, though many times drivers ignored the stop sign and nearly hit park-goers.

“The amount of traffic and pedestrians at the same location is scary,” said Yevsey Lenchner, who lives on the corner of Old Fulton and Furman streets. “With cars going 35 miles per hour, something will happen soon.”

Pete Thristino, owner of Pete’s Downtown on Old Fulton and Water streets, said that he ended the restaurant’s valet parking service because customers couldn’t wait for his attendant to get around the traffic.

“When rush hour comes, it’s a horror story,” Thristino said. “The city needs to find a way to straighten this out.”

Locals and business owners supported plans announced this summer to make Old Fulton Street into a pedestrian gateway to the park’s Pier 1. The design included a pedestrian plaza and landscaped medians intended to ease traffic and thwart idling tour buses.

That streetscape was put on hold last month, when the Department of Transportation converted Furman Street to reduce congestion after heavy rains damaged the highway’s eastbound lane near Grace Court. Workers finished repairs last week, but the city quietly kept the yellow line down the middle of normally one-way, two-lane Furman Street — pleasing drivers in other neighborhoods, but outraging those who live off Old Fulton Street.

Officials will present their revised plans for Furman and Old Fulton streets to Community Board 2 next month. A spokesman would not give details, but said that the two-way thoroughfare was suddenly compatible with the Old Fulton Street redesign.

Richard Mauro, president of the Fulton Ferry Business Association, had faith that the two-way street would eventually temper traffic.

“The city is planning for 20 years down the line,” Mauro said. “The two-way adds access to our businesses. We prefer people taking mass transit, but we need the accessibility for cars to get here.”

Community Board 2 Transportation Committee at St. Francis College [180 Remsen St. between Court and Clinton streets in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 596-5410], Oct. 18 at 6 pm.

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Reader Feedback

Mary from Red Hook says:
This change really helps residents to the south get to Brooklyn Bridge Park and DUMBO. Work on traffic calming may be needed, or maybe the Brooklyn Paper needs to take a tonic to reduce the Tabloiditis that you seem increasingly to use covering local issues.
Sept. 26, 2011, 10:20 am
t from Cobble hill says:
Needs Speed bumps
Sept. 26, 2011, 11:25 am
S from PPW says:
Amazing what happens when Natalie O'Neill doesn't write a "Mean Streets" story: pedestrians actually get a fair shake and reporting actually is done accurately! Please have Kate do stories instead of Natalie from now on.
Sept. 26, 2011, 12:51 pm
DHG from Brooklyn says:
Something changed.

Sept. 26, 2011, 1:07 pm
frank from furter says:
Furman Street has been scheduled to be make two ways for many years. Old Fulton street is scheduled to be made one lane shortly instead of the unnecessary two and is one lane south by the BQE anyway.

What is needed is better signage and a plastic center divider(Jersey barrier that says don't enter on the left hand side....)

Pete's downtown would have the same problem with the redesign of old fulton and the removal of the bus turnaround...Frankly i think it was convenient excuse to end valet parking.
The problem is that people who have been driving this for years as a fast way around the BQE just don't get the change. Also the changes on the South end by Atlantic Avenue which have also narrowed the street also slow traffic down(not a bad thing)...
Sept. 26, 2011, 3:06 pm
ham from burger says:
frank, your first sentence would be more accurate if phrased, "desire by some for many years." There has been no schedule for making the change.
Sept. 26, 2011, 4:36 pm
ty from pps says:
The "chaos" is caused by jerks... jerks that are impatient and aggressive. There is no real chaos. Just jerks.

The police should just spend 3 days writing tickets and the "chaos" will disappear.
Sept. 26, 2011, 6:29 pm
Frank from Furter says:
thanks Ham

Sept. 26, 2011, 7:03 pm
trans alt from bike city says:
Get rid of the jerks, make it bike only.
Sept. 26, 2011, 11:48 pm
Investigate NWO/globalists from Brooklyn Heights says:
If memory serves me, Furman St was 2-way some 20 years or so ago, then made one-way.
Sept. 27, 2011, 11:40 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
trans alt is right again - let the bikes have it and put the cars in the park along the river - you can make better time there.
Sept. 27, 2011, 2:52 pm
albertoindumbo from dumbo says:
this is a dopey set of comments. (e.g., bikes? seriously?) if you live in FFL, the new street design is a menace to anyone not in a car (and to most of those in cars, too). no amount of traffic calming can deal with the regular gridlock on OFS (one lane, right...), the drivers who roll through the stop signs, the tourists who play chicken with cars and trucks on Furman, etc. this was a bad idea. but, at the end of the day, necessary. what was a bad idea is to do this with no planning and no serious design work. slapdash. and the police are useless when they're not invisible. write a summons, will ya?
Oct. 3, 2011, 8:16 am
carol from bklyn hts says:
DOT should not make Furman two-way until they can effectively protect the public at Old Fulton and at the entrance to the BQE on Atlantic Avenue. Investigate is correct that Furman was two way when the Piers were a working waterfront - since it became one way it serves as the 4th & 5th lanes of the BQE in the pm rush hour since there is not enough capacity at the entrance at Old Fulton.
A long term solution is to toll the East River Bridges to reduce the load of the free Brookyln Bridge.
Oct. 5, 2011, 9:47 am

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