The newly-redesigned Schermerhorn Street features a long-overdue protected bike lane and other measures designed to make the thoroughfare and its tributaries safer for cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians alike. But some Downtown Brooklyn residents say the conversion of the street to a one-way has led to gridlock in the nabe, and the city’s Department of Transportation is considering a solution.
To make way for the new two-way protected bicycle lane, DOT made Schermerhorn Street one-way eastbound between Smith Street and Third Avenue — eliminating a vehicle traffic lane. Now, those who live and drive on Schermerhorn Street are having trouble driving north, toward Fulton Street, because all of the streets crossing Schermerhorn Street are one-way southbound.
“As a result of the one-way conversion on Schermerhorn, our offices have received numerous complaints regarding the conversion’s impact on traffic patterns on surrounding streets,” Councilmember Lincoln Restler wrote in an Oct. 6 letter to DOT Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Keith Bray. “The primary concern is that there are currently no northbound connections south of Schermerhorn Street, between Smith Street and Flatbush Avenue.”
Restler, along with Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon and state Senator Andrew Gounardes, asked the department to study a seemingly-simple solution: extend Bond Street’s northbound direction one block further, to Livingston Street. Currently, Bond is one-way northbound up until Schermerhorn, where it changes to one-way southbound.
“We believe that this proposal will improve traffic flow and enhance the public’s access to essential services, deliveries, and residences,” Restler wrote. “We request that DOT expeditiously analyze this proposal.”
On Thursday, Brooklyn Community Board 2’s Transportation and Public Safety Committee voted to second that request.
“It allows the residents who are on Schermerhorn and State to have a way of getting out relatively easily without bouncing into traffic,” said committee chair Sid Meyer at the Oct. 20 meeting. “And that’s all this is, it’s relatively simple.”
DOT is weighing a potential northbound conversion, according to a department representative.
A number of locals spoke up about the difficulty of navigating the neighborhood after the conversion — from spending hours traversing a few locked-up blocks to struggling to get home on Access-A-Ride because the vans don’t have an easy place to turn onto their streets.
“I just want to say, myself and a number of people in this building would also be in favor of this,” said Shannon, a resident of Bond Street, during the meeting. “It doesn’t just affect State Street, it doesn’t just affect Schermerhorn — now, on Bond, what used to be an easy commute is chaos — we have ambulances going one way down our street that’s currently going the other way, we have ambulances in the bike lane.”
The committee was sure to add a clause to their request — that DOT maintain and protect the Bond Street bike lane with some kind of physical barrier like the small plastic “armadillos” it’s piloting elsewhere in the city.
The motion to make the request was passed with 10 “yes” votes and two abstentions.
“With a two-way protected bike lane and new pedestrian space, the Schermerhorn Street redesign has delivered transformative safety upgrades to a busy cycling corridor,” DOT spox Vin Barone told Brooklyn Paper. “As with every project, we are reviewing post-implementation if there are any adjustments that need to be made in addition to these life-saving improvements.”