Things have taken a turn for the worse.
A city decision to allow traffic coming off the Manhattan Bridge to turn down a tiny Downtown street has transformed a residential road into a dangerous de facto off-ramp, and officials must close it again before someone gets hurt, say nearby residents.
“Somebody is going to get killed,” said Downtowner Juan Salazar, who lives near Concord Street — the troubled thoroughfare in question — and claims the stream of trucks and cars pouring off the bridge plague the narrow street with near-collisions and congestion around the clock.
Since October, drivers exiting the span have been allowed to turn left onto Concord Street at any hour of the day — where previously they could only do so during rush hour between 3:30 pm and 7 pm.
The local community board okayed the plan back in May, but some panel members now say they didn’t realize at the time that the street is home to several schools and a playground — or foresee the dangers the change would create for local drivers and youngsters walking to class, according to Salazar.
Members of Community Board 2’s transportation committee on Wednesday voted 6–3 with one abstention to rescind its approval for the 24-hour turn — and also asked the city’s transportation department to install signs, speed bumps, and cameras on Concord Street — after residents brought the issue to their attention.
The transportation department says it only made the permanent change in the first place because the neighborhood advisory panel requested it. A rep refused to say whether the agency would consider reversing course in light of the vote, but that it does plan to add more signs, signals, and “school safety measures” in the future.
Drivers veering left would have to take longer routes to Tillary Street or Myrtle Avenue if the city turns off the turn, but Salazar says drivers managed that just fine before October.
“It was never an issue, never a problem before, and people lived without a left turn,” he said.
Locals would like the city to ban the left turn altogether, but will probably settle for a return to permitting it between 3:30–7 pm, Salazar said.
The full community board will vote on the change at January’s meeting, but its judgement is only advisory, and the Department of Transportation will ultimately have to decide what to do.