Could one-way Congress Street be the key to Brooklyn Bridge Park access?

Could one-way Congress Street be the key to Brooklyn Bridge Park access?
Photo by Bess Adler

The city is considering reversing the direction of a Cobble Hill Street make it easier for cyclists to pedal to Brooklyn Bridge Park — but critics say the move will be more hazardous than helpful.

In recent weeks, officials quietly contacted a small group of community leaders, advancing an idea to reverse traffic flow westbound on Congress Street between Court and Hicks streets.

But according to a draft proposal of the plan, car traffic between Hicks and Columbia streets one block to the west won’t be reversed, forcing eastbound cars to turn left on Hicks Street to Amity Street, shepherding motorists past the emergency room of Long Island College Hospital and the Cobble Hill Health Center, a nursing home.

“This doesn’t make sense to anybody,” said Roy Sloane, president of the Cobble Hill Association. “Why should the entire community, the hospital and a nursing home be inconvenienced when frankly, cyclists can go on any street?”

Longtime residents agreed, and said the city’s much-touted bike lane expansion is becoming bike-lame.

“The city is so high-handed,” said neighborhood legend Alice Besheer. “They are out of touch with the feeling of the neighborhood. They are very autocratic and they don’t care about the needs of the people. All they’re interested is their own aims.”

Besheer, whose family has lived in Cobble Hill for the past four generations, said at one time, Congress Street did allow westerly traffic — but the direction was changed decades ago because of the traffic it encouraged to rumble through area streets, she recalled.

The Department of Transportation said, essentially, “Don’t blame us!” because the proposal was actually commissioned by the Economic Development Corporation as part of ongoing project to enhance the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

Supporters also say it would solve the continuing problem of how to encourage cycling to Brooklyn Bridge Park’s popular Pier 6 playground and restaurant (coming soon!). A protected bike lane on Columbia Street leads to the park, but cyclists can’t currently access it via bike lanesbecause streets run the wrong way.

The plan is still in a draft phase, and may not be implemented. A final scheme is due soon.

Regardless, critics said the proposal is illustrative of the city’s hubris when deciding where to install the lanes.

“I think the entire community should have known about it,” declared Congress Street resident Stephen Negrycz. “I just hope we can stop it.”

The plan comes on the wheels of a bike-lane backlash throughout the city, with Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Mill Basin) even drafting a bill that would force the agency to be more open about where the lanes would go, a measure that even won the support of a Brownstone lawmaker, Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Fort Greene).

And this week, some residents sued the city over its installation of the Prospect Park West bike lane.

Signs warn locals of the coming danger of a one-way route.
Photo by Bess Adler