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Stops are a go: Activist says signs not lights will tame Boerum streets

Speed racers: Longtime Boerum Hill resident Howard Rubinstein of Bergen Street wants to see all-way stop signs replace traffic lights that drivers often speed through.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Swapping all of Boerum Hill’s traffic lights for stop signs would curb reckless drivers and facilitate a more efficient traffic flow, according to one longtime resident of the brownstone enclave.

Bergen Street resident Howard Rubinstein fired off a letter to Department of Transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan calling for the installation of four-way stop signs throughout the neighborhood to stop drivers from treating residential roads as if they were Atlantic Avenue.

“Traffic lights are wildly overused,” said Rubinstein, who wants lights to be removed at every intersection on Hoyt, Bond, and Nevins streets between Warren and Schermerhorn streets — with the exception of bustling Atlantic Avenue. “They are a reasonable thing to do on a street like Atlantic Avenue, but when you have these residential streets traffic lights are just moronic.”

The 60-year-old retiree claims all of those stoplights lead motorists convince hasty drivers to floor it in hopes of catching the next green.

A mandatory stop at every intersection would put an end to that.

“All-way stop signs means that everybody stops at every corner, so you have to do a little dance and figure out who goes first but no one will speed through the intersection,” he said. “It’s safer for pedestrians and it makes all these streets not really useful for through streets.”

Stop signs tend to slow down traffic, but the purpose of the octagonal placards is to control the right-of-way at an intersection, “not traffic speed,” according to the Department of Transportation’s website.

But agency spokesman Nick Mosquera said his department will review any request for an intersection study that it receives.

“When conducting studies, [the Department of Transportation] observes volumes of pedestrian and vehicular traffic, as well as other factors such as the presence of school crossings,” he said. “The installation of any changes to controls such as stop signs and signals are determined based on federal guidelines.”

Boerum HIll Association president Howard Kolins said the city replaced stop signs with stoplights at Hoyt and Dean streets and Nevins and State streets at the request of neighbors in years past because law-breaking motorists kept rolling through intersections and causing collisions.

“The issue here is safety and when there are specific incidents of accidents at these intersections because people are not observing the stop signs, traffic lights are a better solution,” he said, adding that each intersection should be studied individually to determine whether it warrants a traffic light or stop sign.

One way or another, city planners hope to make traffic slower in Boerum Hill.

The city installed 14 speed bumps and will soon convert the neighborhood into the borough’s first “slow zone” by lowering the speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 20 in the blocks bounded by Smith Street and Union, Third, and Atlantic avenues.

“We all agree that Boerum Hill desperately needs stronger traffic calming measures,” said Councilman Steve Levin (D–Boerum Hill), who pushed for the “slow zone” with the Boerum Hill Association. “I’m certainly willing to look into the idea of having all way stops, but I don’t know if it necessarily makes sense at every intersection.”

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at nmusumeci@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.

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