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Kent Ave. pains

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On the new one-way Kent Avenue, drivers have found they are going no way.

Following the conversion of the street from a two-way to a one-way lane on Monday, southbound commuters expecting an unimpeded ride up and down Kent Avenuewere met with traffic backups, unclear signage, and few indications of NYPD officers directing vehicles, this paper observed.

“It has been executed as unplanned,” said Williamsburg resident Meredith Chesney, who released a petition against Kent Avenue going one way last month.“Nobody that lives on [the] street that gets redirect[ed] has been considered at all.”

The Department of Transportation this week converted Kent Avenue between Broadway and Clymer Street into a one-way lane. Over the next month, the DOT will be milling and resurfacing Kent Avenue between Clymer Street and Broadway, converting the stretch to a one-way northbound lane by the end of August.After construction, the DOT will prepare similar changes to Kent Avenue from Broadway to North 14th Street, and will have placed a large digital sign on North 14th Street alerting vehicles of the construction plans.

Councilmember David Yassky’s (D-Williamsburg, Greenpoint) office has had correspondence with the DOT, leading to more signage on Kent and Franklin avenues and the assignment of traffic police near Broadway to assist drivers with the changes.In a letter sent to local residents, DOT explained that they are meeting with 90th and 94th Precinct officials to discuss the enforcement of local truck routes.

“We appreciate the community’s concerns about possible impacts on the neighborhood that might result from these improvements. While we understand that there is concern about trucks utilizing North 11th Street, it should be noted that North 11th Street is a long-standing truck route,” said the DOT letter.

While some residents expressed frustration at the traffic backups south of Broadway, others reiterated their support of the Kent Avenue plan and urged patience as the DOT lets area residents know about the plan and works out initial bugs.

“Based on day 1, it does not look as though DOT is paying attention to the details, and that does not inspire much confidence in their commitment to the big picture,” said Community Board 1 member Ward Dennis.“DOT has a good plan in the conversion of Kent to a one-way street, but solving the neighborhood’s transportation problems entails more than just painting lines on the road and changing some arrows.”

Dennis and other CB1 members, including Transportation Committee Chair Teresa Toro, have been advocating for a comprehensive transportation plan for Williamsburg and Greenpoint that would adequately address truck route traffic on residential streets, one of the major complaints of residents along the Williamsburg waterfront.

“I appreciate DOT’s willingness to revisit their plans for Kent Avenue, but details still seem unclear and the implementation clearly has not started properly,” said Toro, who will convene a CB 1 Transportation Committee meeting on September 16 at 6:30 p.m. at 807 Manhattan Avenue, off Calyer Street, to address Kent Avenue progress.

Cycling advocates such as Transportation Alternatives’ Wiley Norvell hopes that despite the traffic troubles, residents do not lose sight of the bigger picture of bike lanes on Kent Avenue, which he believes will provide safer conditions for all street users.

“As with any new street configuration, we have a learning curve ahead as drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians adjust their habits to what’s coming,” said Norvell.

DOT did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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