They aren’t turning back now.
The city won’t immediately slam the brakes on a recent decision to allow drivers zooming off the Manhattan Bridge to turn onto a residential street where more than a thousand kids attend school, despite community outcry that the influx of traffic is putting pupils in danger, transportation officials told residents on Friday. Now locals are worried it won’t reverse course until it is too late.
“Somebody is going to get hurt or killed, ” said Juan Salazar, who lives near Concord Street, the thoroughfare in question. “Then they will make some changes, but that’s not what we want.”
Borough transportation commissioner Keith Bray met with Concord Street residents on Jan. 15, after they raised the alarm that their once-quiet street has become a de facto off-ramp for the span since September, when the city began allowing bridge traffic to make left turns there at any hour of the day, where once it was only okay between 3:30 pm and 7 pm. Gridlock and near collisions are now frequent sights on the four-block strip, they say.
But Bray told them there are no immediate plans to rein in the rampant left-turning, according to Salazar. The department claims it hasn’t ruled it out — it just hasn’t decided what it will do yet — but Salazar said he isn’t confident after Friday’s discussion.
“If they were going to reverse it, they would’ve said so,” he said.
The meeting came just days after a local community board meeting where members said they now regretted approving the full-time turn zone back in May, voting 21–7 with seven abstentions to reverse the decision after many admitted they didn’t realize they would be sending trucks past kid-heavy venues at the time.
“We should have talked to the community first and we did not do that,” said Sidney Myer, who also sits on Community Board 2’s transportation committee, at the Jan. 13 vote.
Department reps did discuss the idea of installing a left-turn signal to calm the traffic during Friday’s meeting, Salazar said, but he doesn’t think that will fix the problem, as it will just replicate the lights that are already there. The department refused to say whether that would be the case.
Councilman Steve Levin (D–Boerum Hill) was also present during the meeting and says he hopes to find a solution, but declined to offer any specifics.
“The Council member is very sympathetic to resident concerns about increased traffic on this residential street,” said a spokesman. “Our office will continue to work with residents and Department of Transportation to explore the issue and any possible resolutions.”