Two days before the city’s transportation department shares its preliminary plans to redesign McGuinness Boulevard, a community group has sent the agency a petition signed by more than 2,500 local residents in support of dramatic changes to the streetscape.
“The despair felt by the North Brooklyn community after the hit-and-run crash that killed beloved P.S. 110 teacher, Matthew Jensen, was met with hope one year ago when the city announced a $39 commitment to a full redesign of McGuinness Boulevard,” said Bronwyn Breitner, coordinator for the Make McGuinness Safe Coalition, which gathered the signatures. “But McGuinness is still unsafe and we need this death trap to be fixed urgently.”
Jensen was killed on May 18, 2021. Within weeks, “Make McGuinness Safe” had become a rallying cry in the community and online as residents called for the city to finally do something about the infamously deadly and dangerous street.
Then, just over a year ago, then-mayor Bill de Blasio announced a $39 million redesign of the roadway, promising to “apply vision zero right here and now.” The city’s Department of Transportation started its public engagement process for the redesign last fall, hosting virtual education and feedback sessions and inviting locals to share their concerns on a feedback map — which garnered more than 700 comments.
At a September workshop, DOT representatives said they had already made some safety improvements at McGuinness Boulevard’s most dangerous intersections, and planned to install other short-term fixes while the full redesign was being developed.
On Thursday, June 30, the department will present its full vision for the redesign at a meeting of Brooklyn Community Board 1’s Transportation Committee. According to the committee agenda, the presentation will include a draft proposal for street safety improvements and a summary of the information collected during the public input period.
“Our community is speaking loud and clear: no more deaths on McGuinness,” said local assemblymember Emily Gallagher. “They mobilized thousands of Greenpointers to demand the transformative redesign New York City promised us one year ago. I’ve been grateful for the Department of Transportation’s thoughtful engagement as they’ve worked on a proposal but now it’s time to see the results.”
In the months after Jensen’s death, local organizers partnered with Transportation Alternatives to form the Make McGuinness Safe Coalition, which has spearheaded organizing efforts and proposed its own redesign centered on a “road diet,” which would reduce the number of traffic lanes.
The 2,500 signatories on the recently-delivered petition were voicing their support for the Coalition’s vision for McGuinness: wider sidewalks and a wider median, a protected bike lane, and eliminating one lane of traffic in each direction.
“Our city should be prioritizing plans to make our streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists, especially in areas with high instances of injuries and deaths,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “I support Transportation Alternatives and the Make McGuinness Safe Coalition in their advocacy.”
The campaign has also garnered support from local councilmember Lincoln Restler, who has joined his colleagues to voice his support for a full redesign and a speedy timeline.
McGuinness Boulevard stretches through the densely-populated Greenpoint from the Pulaski Bridge to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The four-lane boulevard is both a truck route and a popular cut through for drivers looking to avoid highway traffic.
A wide roadway and speeding vehicles have made the road dangerous for pedestrians, bikers, and motorists, with dozens of crashes reported along McGuinness every year — in September, the DOT said there had been at least 190 crashes with injuries from 2016 to 2019.
That reality has not changed since de Blasio first announced the redesign a year ago — in January, a 75-year-old woman was left in critical condition after she was hit by a driver while crossing the street midblock. According to NYPD data, there were five crashes — one with injuries — in May 2022 alone.
“I was a student at P.S 110 and losing one of my favorite teachers, Mr. Jensen, was really said,” said Maru Matsuura, one of Jensen’s former students, who is now in the sixth grade. “Let’s Make McGuinness Boulevard safe so we can prevent a tragedy like this from happening again.”
Matsuura added that though he owns and enjoys riding his bicycle in the neighborhood, he avoids riding it on McGuinness because it feels so unsafe.
“Since Robert Moses forced this highway through Greenpoint, against community will, in the middle of last century, residents of North Brooklyn have suffered greatly, a result of dangerous traffic conditions and local pollution,” said Lisa Bloodgood, Interim Executive Director at North Brooklyn Neighbors. “We are squarely in the 21st century and McGuinness Boulevard still cuts through the heart of our beloved Greenpoint community, the time to fix it is now.”
“The DOT is committed to implementing a safer redesign of McGuinness Boulevard and we look forward to presenting to the Community Board Thursday evening,” Department of Transportation spokesperson Vin Barone said in a statement.
The Department of Transportation will be presenting its draft plan to Brooklyn Community Board 1’s Transportation Committee on Thursday, June 30, at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will take place virtually via WebEx. Find more information and the link to the meeting online.
Correction 6/29/10:49am: A previous version of this story referred to Maru Matsuura with by the incorrect pronouns. We regret the error.