A local panel unanimously approved a city plan to calm traffic at Atlantic Avenue near the entrance to Brooklyn Bridge Park even though residents at Thursday’s hearing — and some Community Board 6 members — said it doesn’t make the area safe enough for pedestrians.
“This is not anywhere near a final solution,” said board member Jerry Armer. “I strongly urge the Department of Transportation to go back to the drawing board.”
Still, nine members of the board’s transportation committee voted unanimously to push the plan through in hopes of protecting pedestrians heading to the park via Atlantic Avenue or Columbia Street — who have to cross entrances to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, busy Furman Street and a beer distributor’s driveway — even though it admitted it would like to see substantial changes to the plan.
Residents speaking at the hearing also demanded several revisions and changes. Among them were to:
•Keep the B63 bus and tour buses out of the park roadways. The city wants to reroute the B63 bus through park streets, instead of its current U-turn at the base of Atlantic Avenue. The new route loops around One Brooklyn Bridge Park — the condo within the park’s footprint — and past an area with a dog run and playground.
“Tour buses coming through the park at all hours of the day would now be in contest with city buses,” said Douglas Eisenstein, who lives in One Brooklyn Bridge Park. “This turnaround is more dangerous.”
• Ban a “right turn on red” on the Atlantic Avenue on-ramp to the BQE. Transportation officials planned for a bolder “no right turn on red” sign at the north side of Atlantic Avenue, though there is an exception: drivers can turn right from 7 am to 10 am on Monday through Friday.
“When it’s red, it should be red — even if it means people have to wait longer to get through,” said Roy Sloane, president of the Cobble Hill Association, “We’re not going to sacrifice community members just so cars can get to the BQE faster.”
• Create lights on Columbia Street near Congress Street, so people can safely cross to the west side of Columbia Street, which will soon have a two-way bike path and sidewalk.
• Permanently close the entrance to Pier 7 on the south side of Atlantic Avenue. The city’s plans for a pedestrian plaza is too close to the fence lining the pier, where trucks often emerge from the beverage distributor.
The Department of Transportation’s project manager Ted Wright, who explained the plan to residents at the meeting, defended the plan during the hearing, but refused to comment to us on neighbors’ concerns afterward.
The city’s reconstruction of Atlantic Avenue will break ground in late August, according to Wright, reducing traffic lanes to create expanded sidewalks and a new two-way bike path that stretches from Columbia Street to the park.
Locals have clamored for a traffic fix to the area since the park opened last summer and attracted hordes to the park — who now cross treacherous intersections to reach the waterfront getaway.
And some residents think the pedestrians can only be saved from the high-traffic area if they can literally travel above it.
They could build a fly-over,” said Judi Francis, of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund, a park watchdog group. “This is baby steps to make this a safe entrance. What we’re missing is how to get as many people as possible into this grand park.”