A new effort to make Brooklyn Heights more pedestrian-friendly may have taken a wrong turn, as new sidewalk extensions at Joralemon and Hicks streets will make the intersection a concrete obstacle course for fire trucks exiting the nearby firehouse.
Workers started installing traffic-calming curb expansions called “neckdowns” at three of the four corners this week — and when passers-by suggested that the wider sidewalks might pose a problem for turning firetrucks, a city inspector did the strangest thing: he agreed!
“Firetrucks are definitely going to be a problem,”
Ishwar Patel, an on-site inspector with the Department of Design and Construction told The Brooklyn Paper.
But he quickly backtracked — a bit.
“I’m just the inspector,” he added. “This is not my issue. The DOT [Department of Transportation] sends the designs, we implement them.”
But Patel did say that firetrucks would almost certainly have to go up onto the sidewalk to make a left turn from Hicks Street onto Joralemon Street.
Later in the day, after The Brooklyn Paper started making a federal case out of the inter-agency neckdown showdown, another Design and Construction engineer suggested that Patel may have exaggerated the concern.
But that engineer, Gerry Ambroise, also admitted that the Hicks-Joralemon crossing is “a tight corner.”
“I haven’t seen anything that says for certain that [a truck] cannot make it, but it’s tight,” he said.
Then, even later in the day, the Department of Transportation sent over a statement (on background, of course) that the agency and the Fire Department have been talking about the design and both are satisfied that everything will work out.
This curbside controversy has been a decade in the making. Believe it or not, but neckdowns and other traffic-calming measures began being implemented in 1999.
The measures have not always been popular. For one thing, some gadflies were muttering on Friday that the corner of Joralemon and Hicks is hardly a local speedway.
And more important (for some, that is), the new sidewalk material in the extensions appears to clash with the original walkway, which is in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District.
“Some people are often uncomfortable with change, and there may be an element of this,” said Rob Perris, District Manager of Community Board 2.