Longtime Clinton Hill residents rail against planned bike lane for ‘settlers’

Longtime Clinton Hill residents rail against planned bike lane for ‘settlers’
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The city must slam the brakes on its plan to eliminate parking and a lane of traffic on Clinton Avenue to make way for a bike path, longtime locals demanded at a packed town hall meeting on Tuesday night, claiming it will create traffic jams, enable reckless riders, and is the latest in a long line of changes to the neighborhood designed to serve only gentrifiers.

“I oppose this plan,” said Esther Blount, who lives on Vanderbilt Avenue, one of 21 people who spoke out against the plan at Community Board 2’s transportation committee meeting. “I feel like settlers have tried to come into the community and tell the neighborhood what to do.”

The overwhelming majority of speakers — including Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo (D–Clinton Hill) and Public Advocate Letitia James — slammed the Department of Transportation’s proposal, which would transform the currently two-way Clinton Avenue from Gates to Flushing avenues into a one-way street with parking on both sides, and a two-way bike lane between one of the parking lanes and the curb.

The proposal would also eliminate 35 parking spaces along the stretch — up to five on each block — to create room for wide turns and pedestrian plazas. The islands would include new trees — an addition the crowd jeered.

The changes would create a safer and more peaceful alternative to Vanderbilt Avenue, where nearly 2,000 cyclists share the road with cars each day, department rep Sean Quinn told the crowd.

“We’re pushing to make more protected bike lanes because that makes more and more people safer, and it also makes it safer for vehicles,” he said.

The department set up street-side booths at 12 locations within the community board — which stretches down to Brooklyn Heights — in April to explain the proposal, and the majority of folks who stopped by were in favor of the plan, Quinn said.

Blueprints: The city is proposing to convert two-way Clinton Avenue into a one-way street with a two-way protected bike lane.

But opponents argued the outreach effort didn’t go far enough to engage a broad range of Clinton Avenue residents, and skipped crucial community gathering places such as churches in favor of the yuppy cyclists who they say have only recently moved into the nabe and are now wreaking havoc on pedestrians and drivers by flouting the rules of the road.

“We have seen an invasion of people who have not invested in the community, they want to change what serves them but not serves all,” said Fort Greene resident Lucy Koteen.

Others expressed concerns about emergency vehicles getting stuck on the newly one-way street, which is home to a number of elderly residents. Quinn said ambulance and fire trucks would be able to use the bike lanes for quick entry, and garbage trucks and street sweepers could also operate within the bike lanes to minimize congestion.

Only two proponents were given the chance speak in favor of the plan, arguing it will make the street safer for everyone — a sentiment shared by other supporters in the crowd.

“Plans like this make it easier to share the road with each other,” said Clinton Hill resident Shawn Onsgard, who claimed critics were letting their biases against “hipster p—–” blind them to the plan’s benefits, but didn’t get a chance to speak publicly. “This is an engineering solution that addresses all the things everyone is complaining about.”

Due to the overwhelming number of people wanting to speak, the transportation committee held off voting and will hold a second meeting on Thursday where people will have another chance to say their piece.

Community Board 2 transportation committee meeting at Brown Memorial Baptist Church (52 Gates Ave. at Clinton Avenue in Clinton Hill), May 19 at 6 pm.

Standing room only: Locals packed the hall at Brown Baptist Church in Clinton Hill to hear the transportation department’s plan to convert Clinton Avenue into a one-way street and install a two-way bike lane.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill