Locals call for better outreach as city looks to convert span of Seventh, Eighth Avenues to one-way streets

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The city’s Department of Transportation wants to convert a stretch of Seventh and Eighth avenues to one-way streets.
NYC Department of Transportation

City transportation officials are looking to convert a span of Seventh and Eighth avenues to one-way streets, but members of more than one community board maintain that the agency hasn’t done enough to inform residents about the major traffic adjustment

“I don’t understand the logic behind it and I am incredibly frustrated,” said Julio Peña III, first vice-chair of Sunset Park’s Community Board 7, “because this is ‘once again, we’re making decisions that are going to have a significant impact and just rush them through.’ It does not make sense.” 

Under the city Department of Transportation’s current proposal, portions of both the two-way thoroughfares would be converted to one-ways, with Seventh Avenue running south and Eighth Avenue running north between 39th and 65th streets  — a stretch spanning community boards 7, 10 and 12. 

In addition to the conversion — which officials contend would ease congestion — the project includes a slew of other safety improvements and considerations, an online presentation shows, such as expanded sidewalks on Eighth Avenue between 60th and 51st streets, new loading and parking regulations, protected bike lanes and the rerouting of the southbound B70 bus to Seventh Avenue as well as the consolidation of bus stops. 

And while the one-way conversion ends at 65th Street, there are elements of the project that continue onto 67th Street such as the addition of a left turning lane at 65th Street and Eighth Avenue, a new protected bike lane at 66th Street to connect cyclists from Seventh to Eighth Avenue and angled parking on the northside of 67th Street between Seventh and Ninth avenues. 

The expansive proposal requires careful review from the impacted community boards, members contend, arguing that transportation officials have hardly given the local panels a chance to examine the proposal and its impacts.

“I think we all understand the need for traffic mitigation along the business corridors,” Pena said, “but for me, what really struck me was that there wasn’t any kind of outreach on the city’s part and the Department of Transportation on this proposal.” 

Locals further argue that the proposal consists of diverse conditions — unique traffic patterns, intersections with high crash history and stretches switching between commercial and residential — which need to be considered.

“It is a very large project that I believe requires a great deal of outreach and public review because it’s such a vast area,” said Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Bay Ridge’s Community Board 10, “and it also covers three community boards.”

Some board members have speculated that the alleged lack of communication could be tied to news that transportation officials aren’t requesting the panels’ approval of the proposal. At May’s general board meeting, the head of Community Board 7’s transportation committee said he was told by DOT that any future meetings about the plan would be purely informational. 

“About a week ago, we were informed by the DOT that our approval would no longer be necessary for this project to move forward,” said Zachary Jasie. “They want our input but don’t want our approval.”

Instead, the project is subject to the approval of a community advisory board, which members of the Sunset Park board claim was handpicked in order to ensure the project passed. 

“I think they’re going to implement their own community process,” Peña said. “They are going to do some rubber-stamp process with hand-chosen people, to make it look like community engagement.”

Community boards 7 and 10 have asked transportation officials to host a joint meeting with the three affected community boards, followed by individual meetings with each panel on its portion of the proposal — a request, Beckmann said, the agency has not yet agreed to.

“We are working that out because right now DOT has not committed to the full process requested by board 7,” Beckmann said. 

Jasie told his fellow Community Board 7 members at the May meeting that there would be an informational session with transportation officials on June 23, and on Monday, DOT announced an additional informational meeting scheduled for June 14.

Community Board 12 and the city Department of Transportation did not return requests for comment by press time.