Slow down, Kent! Three new stoplights headed for W’burg waterfront

Slow down, Kent! Three new stoplights headed for W’burg waterfront
Community Newspaper Group / Aaron Short

Three new traffic lights will tame Kent Avenue in Williamsburg, slowing motorists and cyclists while protecting pedestrians who are beginning flock to the neighborhood’s burgeoning waterfront, city officials say.

Department of Transportation workers will put stoplights and countdown clocks along Kent Avenue at N. Fifth, N. Sixth, and N. Seventh streets in May in an attempt to stop trucks, cars, and bikes from careening into crossing walkers.

Community Board 1 members, who have pushed the city for several years to slow traffic on Kent Avenue, called the measures an “amazing victory.”

“It is long overdue and will do a lot to increase safety — for both pedestrians and cyclists — along the Kent Avenue corridor,” said Community Board 1 Transportation Committee member Ryan Kuonen, who works off Kent Avenue.

The traffic change is the latest adjustment to the street, which is a truck route and the city’s second-most popular bike path.

In 2009, the city converted Kent Avenue into a one-way, northbound street while eliminating hundreds of parking spaces in a controversial plan that polarized residents.

But in 2010, bicycle traffic on the street’s protected lane surged 64 percent during weekdays and 324 percent on weekends, from 269 in 2008 to 1,141.

That happened as pedestrians began swarming to the waterfront and its parks as several condominiums towers filled up with residents and new attractions including food fairs, summer concerts, and ferry service debuted.

The flood of new residents and activity around Kent Avenue forced public officials to push the city to make changes.

“For too long, crossing Kent has been simply harrowing,” said State Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Williamsburg). “These traffic signals are an important step toward protecting residents and all users on Kent.”

Residents who live on the waterfront say the signals will make a difference.

“The cars rush by here with no care for pedestrians, especially at night,” said Diana Park. “It will add another level of safety.”

And Bobby Kim says the lights and signals will make using Kent Avenue safer for both cyclists and pedestrians.

“Sometimes it takes seven to eight minutes to cross the street when there are a lot of cars,” said Kim. “And there are always children and pets running around. Now it will be better.”

Reach reporter Aaron Short at ashort@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2547.