DOT to finish Underhill Avenue’s bike boulevard after six-month standstill

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The DOT carried out a community survey in 2021 and found that 86% of local residents wanted to see Underhill Avenue (pictured) have pedestrian and/or cycling priority corridors.
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The Department of Transportation announced Wednesday night that it has been given the greenlight to move forward with completing the long-stalled safety redesign of Underhill Avenue in Prospect Heights.

Brought to a halt near-completion last September, the DOT project to turn the largely-residential Prospect Heights street into a “bike boulevard” was put on ice by Mayor Eric Adams who claimed additional community input was needed — despite previous DOT and local surveys indicating support was largely behind the street-calming redesign.

At the behest of Adams, DOT officials conducted a door-to-door survey in the neighborhood in November to ensure long-term residents had their say. Some four months later, transport officials confirmed that the survey results showed strong community backing.

“Following a thorough community engagement process, it is clear the community strongly supports this work on Underhill Avenue, which will better protect everyone on the corridor — whether you’re biking, driving, or walking,” DOT Press Secretary Vincent Barone said, announcing that prep work to finalize the project began Wednesday night.

“With this project, DOT will continue the work we’re doing across the city to keep New Yorkers safe from traffic violence,” Barone added.

Prospect Heights residents, who had been tirelessly advocating for the redesign, expressed relief Thursday at the decision to finally finish the project which features permanent bike lanes and traffic-slowing measures.

“Public space revisionsings like the Underhill Avenue Bike Boulevard contribute to creating safe, sustainable and equitable public spaces, and we’re relieved that Mayor Adams plans to complete these improvements instead of rolling them back,” said Gib Veconi, chair of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council.

The ‘bike boulevard’ was left unfinished for six monthsCourtesy of Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council

Initial works on Underhill Avenue began in August but the project was abruptly halted on Sept. 2 after opponents to the project petitioned Adam’s office, according to reports. The Underhill Avenue was not the only street redesign impacted by complaints by local business interests after bike lane projects on McGuinness Boulevard in Greenpoint and Ashland Place in Fort Greene also weakened or watered down due to interventions by opposition.

“Pausing this street safety initiative that was nearly complete has had a chilling effect on DOT’s introducing similar projects across the city, so we hope that these kinds of extraordinary City Hall interventions are now over,” Veconi, added.

Underhill, along with its neighbor Vanderbilt Avenue, was among the first of the city’s streets to be closed to traffic and opened to pedestrians at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and the two have since become some of the most popular in the program.

In January 2023, officials cut the ribbon on the pedestrian plaza on the Underhill Avenue Open Street, in what the city called at the time the “first step in the evolution of Prospect Heights’ Open Streets to permanent public spaces.”

After the DOT carried out multiple local workshops and made several presentations to Community Board 8, Underhill Avenue’s Bike Boulevard was slated to replace the temporary barriers on the street with permanent traffic calming features to limit vehicle speeds and make the street more friendly for pedestrians and cyclists.

Under DOT’s plan, parts of the two-way Underhill Avenue would be converted to one-way car traffic with bike lanes in both directions, while other blocks would retain two-way vehicle traffic but will be outfitted with hefty center medians, intended to calm traffic.