Greenpoint community advocates and local pols gathered at City Hall Thursday, calling on Mayor Eric Adams to “do the right thing” and not roll back his support for the planned redesign of McGuinness Boulevard, which had been finalized after months of community meetings.
Having previously supported the road diet, which would see the removal of one vehicle lane in each direction in favor of a bike lane, the mayor this month ordered the Department of Transportation to come up with an alternative after some locals and influential members of the administration spoke against it.
Brooklyn Council Member Lincoln Restler called out mayoral advisor Ingrid Lewis-Martin, who reportedly told Adams that local businesses opposed the plan, and that supporters of it all hailed from outside the area.
“The people who support the Make McGuinness Safe Plan are the people of Greenpoint and Williamsburg,” Restler said, holding up a map highlighting the location of the signatories of a petition to keep the redesign on track.
At least 30% of the 7,250 people who signed the petition live within 1,200 feet of McGuinness Boulevard, Restler said, while two-thirds live in Greenpoint and Williamsburg and 96% live in New York City. The council member delivered the signatures to City Hall alongside community advocates asking Adams to stand up to “powerful interests.”
“We are out here today so that the mayor can hear us in City Hall, so his staff can hear us in City Hall. It is not too late for them to do the right thing, to finally make McGuinness safe,” he said.
Weeks later, opposition group “Keep McGuinness Moving” — a coalition of local businesses led by Broadway Stages — ramped up its criticism of the plan, calling the proposed redesign McGuinness Boulevard’s “worst makeover yet,” and claiming it would “destroy the local economy” by cutting down on the number of vehicle lanes on the boulevard, a designated truck route.
When DOT introduced its plan at a May 4 meeting of Brooklyn Community Board 1, it addressed several of those concerns, stating that it does not expect to see an increase in traffic during a transition period immediately after the road diet is implemented — but rather for conditions to ease as drivers choose alternative routes.
Kevin LaCherra, a longtime Greenpointer and member of Make McGuinness Safe, told rally-goers the clock had run out on officially opposing the redesign but because a wealthy corporation is now saying “no,” the plan is in jeopardy.
He accused Broadway Stages of spending thousands of dollars to sabotage “the good faith and democratic process” that local stakeholders had engaged with for the past two years.
“We are here to tell the mayor that Greenpoint needs him to make good on his promise to our community and to implement his plan to make McGuinness safe,” he said, adding that it was a “necessity” for them to hold Thursday’s demonstration at City Hall park because “We know the stakes, we know it is our lives, the lives of our families, neighbors and friends that are on the line.”
“We’ve had to come to the steps of City Hall, we don’t want to be here but we are. For two years we’ve done everything we’re supposed to do. We’ve engaged with the process, we’ve exhaustively built a consensus plan that balances the needs of everyone in our community — cyclists, pedestrians, residents, local businesses — but now that plan is jeopardy,” said LaCherra.
Following Adam’s U-turn, a representative for Brooklyn Stages and Keep McGuinness Moving told Brooklyn Paper that the opposition group “welcomes the opportunity to come together as a community to find a solution.”
“We are eager to collaborate with the Department of Transportation, as well as other groups and community organizations to identify comprehensive and sustainable solutions that prioritize safety without compromising the economic vitality and quality of life in our neighborhood,” the spokesperson said, not addressing the accusations leveled opposition leaders at Thursday’s rally.
Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez, of District 34, criticized City Hall for ignoring the concerns of the Greenpoint community and giving into the demands of powerful interest after the road diet had been approved and earmarked to get underway later this summer.
“For anyone that tells you that people were not included, they decided not to come to the party years ago,” Gutiérrez told the crowd. “This has been a community driven process long before the number of deaths and collisions kept creeping up along McGuinness. Every single person here agrees that every collision and traffic death was preventable, and the longer we wait to institute common sense mitigations is another risk to our communities, is another potential life lost.”
Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso said the roll-back of Adam’s support was “dangerous” beyond the McGuinness Boulevard redesign.
“What we’re talking about here is reinstated this idea that anecdotes and individual experience can dictate policy on transportation in the city of New York,” said Reynoso.
“For a long time we’ve been fighting to use data, information and expertise to help us build safe streets,” he said before being interrupted by a lone heckler wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “NYC Drivers Unite.”
After the brief interruption, Reynoso continued, saying of the heckler: “He’s a one man show, he has no supporters behind him, but someone like that can have the ear of the west side of that building [city hall.] What we need is to listen to data and real information to make determinations and policies.”
When contacted for comment following Thursday’s demonstration, City Hall referred Brooklyn Paper to the mayor’s comments on Monday in which he said, “We will find a way to get what we are looking for: a safe place.”
The City Hall spox added that DOT has participated in dozens of meetings over multiple years and are “continuing to refine the proposal as they receive feedback from the community. All decisions are based on the merits of any issue.”
According to DOT data, 230 people were injured in crashes on McGuinness Boulevard between 2016 and 2020. Most — 176 — were drivers or passengers in vehicles.
Some of the Greenpointers present at the rally held up signs with the names of people who have lost their lives on McGuinness Blvd, among them Matthew Jensen, a P.S. 110 teacher who was killed in a hit-and-run in 2021.
One parent present, Chris Roberti, said the obstruction to planned redesign was “playing Russian Roulette” with the lives of the families in the area.
“Please Mr. Mayor, speak to your colleagues and scientist who actually know what they’re talking about when it comes to street safety,” said Roberti. “Every week someone is injured on the boulevard, this delay will lead directly to more injuries, it’s unforgivable.”
—With reporting from Kirstyn Brendlen.