Brooklyn Chinatown’s main street to become one-way thoroughfare

Foot traffic on Eighth Avenue in the heart of Brooklyn’s Chinatown.
File photo

Plans to change Brooklyn Chinatown’s bustling Eighth Avenue commercial thoroughfare into a one-way street with protected bicycle lanes is receiving strong pushback from the Chinese-American community.

But the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to push forward with its plan anyway. It calls for both Seventh and Eighth avenues between 39th and 65th streets in Sunset Park to undergo safety upgrades and then the two streets will become a pair of one-way streets. Seventh Avenue is slated to become a southbound one-way, and Eighth Avenue a northbound one-way, both with protected bike lanes.

In addition to the conversion — which officials contend would ease congestion — the project includes a slew of other safety improvements and considerations beside the bike lanes, an online presentation shows, such as expanded sidewalks on Eighth Avenue between 60th and 51st streets, new loading and parking regulations, and the rerouting of the southbound B70 bus to Seventh Avenue as well as the consolidation of bus stops.

But Sunset Park’s large Chinese-American community is particularly vexed about the plan for Eighth Avenue — a thoroughfare, they contend, is the commercial hub of Chinatown, crammed with small businesses, trucks making local deliveries to these businesses, and filled with both foot and vehicle traffic.

“The first response from people in the neighborhood is that we’re talking about the center, the main artery of Brooklyn Chinatown. So if you take away all that traffic space, those lanes, you’re not going to be able to have people and the trucks come in to take care of all the stores,” said Wai Wah Chin, founder of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater New York (CACAGNY). 

The Asian Association of America and members of the community went to the Municipal Transportation Bureau in Manhattan to protest the plan last week, where they asked the city government to hear their concerns.   

At the rally, demonstrators said their main issues with the conversion in the center of Brooklyn’s Chinese community are that it would make it more difficult for small businesses to receive shipments and lead to a lack of parking spaces. 

“Whatever they decide, they have to talk to some of the people that are most involved there — not just their pockets of samples that don’t really know as much about the issues,” said Chin. “I know that they included in their discussion a couple of groups but these were not groups that had anything to do with the businesses on the thoroughfare.” 

The DOT responded that they did hold a public information session on June 30. The session was held online via Zoom and the DOT did have a translator available. 

But Chin said the meeting was not a conversation and that the DOT just laid out their plan, which can be found here. 

“They were not listening. They were telling what was going to happen as opposed to listening to the community,” alleged Chin. 

The plan is still expected to move forward. Construction is slated to start sometime in July.

Additional reporting by Jessica Parks

A version of this story first appeared on PoliticsNY.com.