Bay Ridge panel slams city plan to shrink 86th Street

City: Time to 86 left turns at Fourth Avenue
Photo by Steve Solomonson

A Bay Ridge panel slammed the city’s plan to rip away two lanes of traffic from a swath of 86th Street, claiming the Department of Transportation’s traffic calming proposal would cause major gridlock on the heavily traveled boulevard.

“I object to you using the word ‘calming.’ What you mean is ‘delaying,’ ” Community Board 10 Traffic and Transportation Committee member Allen Bortnick told a Department of Transportation rep on Wednesday as he panned the city’s recommendations for 86th Street between Fourth Avenue and Shore Road.

The city wants to whittle 86th Street down to one lane in either direction, create a 10-foot painted median, expand the current parking lanes to accommodate double parked cars, and ban left turns from Fourth Avenue onto 86th Street, where city officials say drivers struck 36 pedestrians and five bicyclists from 2006 to 2010.

Slowing down speeding cars — which are currently unencumbered by a wide roadway — is the only way to end the carnage, Department of Transportation representative Maria Quirk told the committee.

“Taking away a lane won’t lead to any jamming,” she said. “Anytime you take away a left turn you make an intersection a little bit safer.”

But longtime Bay Ridgites disagreed. Bortnick and many others said that cars are already backed up on 86th Street. Under the city’s proposal, the congestion everyone is already suffering through would only increase, they claimed.

“This is going to be horrendous,” said resident Tressa Kabbez, fearing that idling vehicles stuck in traffic would lead to serious air quality problems.

Yet some praised the plan, claiming that the changes will force wayward motorists to behave.

“You’re not simply having the same drivers making the same decisions, you’re going to have different drivers making better decisions,” said resident Ian Richards.

Resident Maureen Landers, who was struck by a car as she pushed her child’s stroller across the street — even though she had the light — said that 86th Street’s traffic problems were killing local businesses.

“I often choose not to shop along 86th because I am afraid,” Landers said.

The committee rejected the city’s proposal with a seven to four vote, but not before firing off a litany of traffic calming ideas for 86th Street, such as staggering the timing of traffic lights, putting stop signs mid-block, and constructing metal and concrete fences to corral jaywalkers.

Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) said the city should consider CB10’s ideas before making any drastic changes to 86th Street.

“Adding lights and traffic signs might be something we might try before we start changing traffic patterns,” Gentile said.

CB10 is expected to vote on the committee’s recommendation on March 19, but the Department of Transportation could still go ahead with its plan since CB10’s opinion is only advisory in nature.

Yet committee Chairman Brian Kieran believes that the city won’t go ahead with an idea that is so wildly unpopular with the community.

“The overwhelming majority of phone calls at our office were against the proposal,” he said.

CB10 blocked the city’s plan to build a median and ban left turns onto 86th Street from Fourth Avenue last year. The city eventually backed away from both proposals.