City unveils safety proposals for Meeker Avenue triangle of death

Make Meeker Avenue meeker, say activists
Meeker Avenue in Williamsburg.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

They’re making Meeker Avenue meeker.

The city on Tuesday unveiled plans for a bevy of safety improvements for Williamsburg’s most ironically named street, and locals think the scheme could finally bring some peace to the notoriously deadly thoroughfare.

“It’s dangerous, and frankly it’s terrifying, as a pedestrian who has tried to navigate it,” said Brandon Chamberlan after hearing the city’s proposed changes at a Community Board 1 meeting. “This proposal is going to save lives and prevent injuries.”

Department of Transportation reps presented a handful of changes targeting the triangle of streets where the treacherous road — which runs directly under the Brooklyn Queens Expressway — meets Union Avenue and Metropolitan Avenue around the Macri Triangle park.

Proposals include adding more crosswalks along Union Avenue between Meeker and Skillman avenues, increasing crossing times, and building out the sidewalks near crossings so there is more space between pedestrians and the vehicles that roar down the street off the expressway.

The plan would also chop a lane off the three-lane Meeker Avenue below Union Avenue to slow down traffic, and would re-route the Q59 bus — currently running down Meeker Avenue near the expressway exit ramps — down Metropolitan Avenue to lighten the overcrowded road.

The triangle has been a regular site of death and destruction in recent years, said the reps — seven people died and 90 were injured while braving the mean streets between 2009 and 2013.

Transit activists have been pushing the city to fix Meeker Avenue since last year, and begged the community board to approve the plan, saying it could prevent further death and destruction down the line.

Crossing guard: The city’s plan would put new crosswalks along Union Avenue, making it safer for pedestrians to cross the notoriously treacherous Meeker Avenue.
New York City Department of Transportation

“I urge the board through the transportation committee to approve this plan,” said Luke Ohlson of activist group Transportation Alternatives. “Hopefully we can see some fixes.”

But a handful of board members were put off by the plan’s piecemeal approach — Williamsburg and Greenpoint need a more comprehensive transportation plan to address traffic issues across the entire community, said residents sick and tired of sporadic visits from city reps regarding small sections of roads.

“If we’re going to spend every meeting having these little dribs and drabs of transportation, we’re going to be here until we’re a hundred years old,” said Tom Burrows, to applause from several other members.

The city reps contested that many locals do care about the details of certain stretches of road, and that taking on smaller stretches allows more attention to detail. Plus, a community-spanning plan would take years to formulate and approve, they said.

Activists said the plan is a much-needed step in the right direction, and that it makes sense to address a particularly dangerous area right away instead of waiting for a larger plan.

“I think it makes sense to get the safety fixes on the ground that we need now before more people get hurt,” said Becca Kaplan of the Brooklyn chapter of Transportation Alternatives.

Community Board 1’s transportation committee will vote on the plan at its next meeting, before it goes before the full board.

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at ahobb[email protected]local.com or by calling (718) 260–8312.
Route revamp: Williamsburg’s Q59 route currently takes the bus down Meeker Avenue, in the path of speeding traffic coming off the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and crossing pedestrians, but the city’s re-route would just have it turn down Metropolitan Avenue instead.
New York City Department of Transportation