City goes both ways on Furman Street

City goes both ways on Furman Street
Photo by Tom Callan

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.

Pedestrians cross heavy traffic — now made worse by a new two-way Furman Street — any time they take Old Fulton Street to Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Photo by Tom Callan