Could one-way Congress Street be the key to Brooklyn Bridge Park access?

The Brooklyn Paper
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The city is considering reversing the direction of a Cobble Hill Street make it easier for cyclists to pedal to Brooklyn Bridge Park — but critics say the move will be more hazardous than helpful.

In recent weeks, officials quietly contacted a small group of community leaders, advancing an idea to reverse traffic flow westbound on Congress Street between Court and Hicks streets.

But according to a draft proposal of the plan, car traffic between Hicks and Columbia streets one block to the west won’t be reversed, forcing eastbound cars to turn left on Hicks Street to Amity Street, shepherding motorists past the emergency room of Long Island College Hospital and the Cobble Hill Health Center, a nursing home.

“This doesn’t make sense to anybody,” said Roy Sloane, president of the Cobble Hill Association. “Why should the entire community, the hospital and a nursing home be inconvenienced when frankly, cyclists can go on any street?”

Longtime residents agreed, and said the city’s much-touted bike lane expansion is becoming bike-lame.

“The city is so high-handed,” said neighborhood legend Alice Besheer. “They are out of touch with the feeling of the neighborhood. They are very autocratic and they don’t care about the needs of the people. All they’re interested is their own aims.”

Besheer, whose family has lived in Cobble Hill for the past four generations, said at one time, Congress Street did allow westerly traffic — but the direction was changed decades ago because of the traffic it encouraged to rumble through area streets, she recalled.

The Department of Transportation said, essentially, “Don’t blame us!” because the proposal was actually commissioned by the Economic Development Corporation as part of ongoing project to enhance the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

Supporters also say it would solve the continuing problem of how to encourage cycling to Brooklyn Bridge Park’s popular Pier 6 playground and restaurant (coming soon!). A protected bike lane on Columbia Street leads to the park, but cyclists can’t currently access it via bike lanesbecause streets run the wrong way.

The plan is still in a draft phase, and may not be implemented. A final scheme is due soon.

Regardless, critics said the proposal is illustrative of the city’s hubris when deciding where to install the lanes.

“I think the entire community should have known about it,” declared Congress Street resident Stephen Negrycz. “I just hope we can stop it.”

The plan comes on the wheels of a bike-lane backlash throughout the city, with Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Mill Basin) even drafting a bill that would force the agency to be more open about where the lanes would go, a measure that even won the support of a Brownstone lawmaker, Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Fort Greene).

And this week, some residents sued the city over its installation of the Prospect Park West bike lane.

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Reader Feedback

Gary from Carroll Gardens says:
This hasn't even gone through CB6 Transportation yet, and I don't recall this specific issue being raised at the "Fix the Ditch" workshops.

It sounds like a bad idea and I don't foresee it being implemented.

I can appreciate the concerns of the residents, but the criticism of DOT is a bit over the top.
March 9, 2011, 10:53 am
Brett from Carroll Gardens says:
"[F]rankly, cyclists can go on any street?” Thanks for calling a spade a spade, Roy.
March 9, 2011, 11:39 am
Missy from Red Hook says:
What's the point if it's not reversed between Hicks and Columbia? Isn't the idea to send cyclists to the bike path?

Even if traffic were reversed the entire length, it's a bad idea. There's no light there, so cyclists have to cross bi-directional traffic on Columbia to get to the path. Kane Street is the appropriate street, already set up with an existing light and bike lane, for making the crossing safe for cyclists.

Also, as someone who commutes daily by bicycle from Red Hook and who finds morning rides up Clinton Street through Carroll Gardens & Cobble Hill slow and slightly dangerous despite a bike lane (opening car doors, jaywalkers, dogs, joggers in the bike lane, morning car traffic all crammed together), I go up Columbia instead and head east on Congress. Other options are limited because of the BQE: Union (thus not cutting much of my Clinton Street commute) or busy Atlantic Avenue.
March 9, 2011, 12:08 pm
Paco from Cobble Hill says:
I understand the plan, but agree there are some major flaws in it. Thankfully DOT seems very intent on working with the community, not around it. So, I respectfully disagree with the quote above "I think the entire community should have known about it.” This draft was just an idea seeking initial input from Congress street residents. There isn't really yet a complete idea to even present to the community. When there is though, I should go to both the local civic group and the community board for full public input.
March 9, 2011, 2:51 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Cyclists can get there if they just go with the traffic rather than against it. Why do they need special lanes just to get there? Also, why does this have to recquire reversing a street direction to do so? Either way, it's good to see people who are seeing JSK for who she really is, and it's not just the other groups and politicians that bike groups make personal attacks at.
March 9, 2011, 6:54 pm
AlexB from Astoria says:
I used to live in Carroll Gardens, on Columbia St. The streets really are inconveniently organized, with one way Bergen (same as Congress) changing directions at Court St. and requiring a detour to continue to the East River.

That doesn't mean they should necessarily make the change, and considering it on behalf of the EDC doesn't mean the DOT is being imperious or callous towards Carroll Gardens. Please put this in perspective.
March 10, 2011, 1:52 pm
Honestly? from Cobble hill says:
This paper is so absurd. The print version of this had about 5 typos and grammatical errors--Gersh, if you want anyone to take you seriously, at least one person should attempt to edit, or at least proof read, your articles before you print a paper that isn't worth ink it's printed with
March 13, 2011, 10:31 pm

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