The city unveiled its latest Kent Avenue bike lane plan — this time seeking to bring peace to warring bicyclists, motorists and business owners — but Williamsburg’s inland residents claim the new proposal only makes matters worse.
The Department of Transportation’s new plan, presented on Wednesday night, would turn the currently two-way, truck-heavy avenue into a one-way, northbound street — with a protected two-way bike lane on the waterfront side of the roadway.
The agency says its proposal — which could be implemented as early as July — would reduce speeding on Kent Avenue and restore more than 200 parking spaces and loading zones. The department’s bid to end the fighting over the bike lane that began six months ago when newly painted lanes replaced hundreds of badly needed parking spaces and truck loading zones on both sides of Kent Avenue.
The current proposal would divert southbound truck traffic off Kent Avenue at North 14th Street — where the one-way section of the thoroughfare would begin. The detoured trucks would turn south on Wythe Avenue for three blocks until North 11th Street, where signs would direct the trucks to veer east across the neighborhood towards an existing truck route on Union Avenue.
As a result, some inland Williamsburg residents — a new group of opponents in the tumultuous conflict over the bike lanes — fear that Wythe Avenue would become a big-rig highway.
“It’s mayhem!” said Williamsburg activist Stephanie Eisenberg, who was one of many residents at the crowded meeting to claim that truck traffic is a major quality of life concern in North Brooklyn. “With all of these new residential communities, how are you going to reactivate a truck route?”
“If the bike lanes are the tipping point, you should get rid of one of them,” she added.
Grand Street resident Tim Main agreed.
“Kent Avenue is a natural thoroughfare,” said Main, who called for two-way traffic on Kent and a one-way bike lane. “Closing it down to traffic in one direction would be like closing the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in one direction.”
But Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner David Woloch insisted that the current proposal is the best solution for the neighborhood’s cyclists, motorists and business owners.
“Right now we have a situation on Kent Avenue that is not working,” he said. “After a lot of thinking about it, we think this is the best plan and the only plan we can go forward with. There is not a perfect plan that is going to satisfy everybody. We think far and away this is the plan that has the most wins for everybody and the fewest losses.”
Some people at the crowded meeting agreed on the need for a two-way bike lane on the waterfront side of the street, which would become part of the proposed Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, an uninterrupted cycling and walking path that would stretch from Greenpoint to Sunset Park.
“It defines the space so the community can anticipate and start to make room for [the Greenway],” said Greenway Director of Planning Milton Puryear. “It’s a much more informed approach.”
The new proposal has also found a surprising ally among factions of South Williamsburg’s Satmar community — groups that took early and aggressive stances against the Kent Avenue lanes when they were installed last fall.
“It’s the city and you’ve got to give and take,” said former bike lane opponent Leo Moskowitz. “If the bikers and the business owners are accommodated, it’s a win-win.”