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Transportation officials propose new bikes lanes, traffic-calming measures to Greenwood Heights

A proposed Bike Boulevard on Greenwood Heights' 21st Street would not eliminate traffic or parking from the eastbound roadway, according to the city's Department of Transportation.
NYC Department of Transportation

City transportation gurus hope to install a slate of traffic-calming measure along two streets in Greenwood Heights by the fall — something which they say will lessen the impacts of truck traffic on the neighborhood, while bridging gaps in existing bike routes for local cyclists.

Earlier this month, representatives from the city’s Department of Transportation presented their plans to convert 20th Street into a one-way road headed toward the waterfront between Third and McDonald avenues to a local civic panel. 

As part of the city’s new Bike Boulevard initiative, the proposal also includes the installation of car-deterring infrastructure along neighboring 21st Street — which already runs one-way toward Windsor Terrace between Third and Seventh avenues.

Mayor Bill de Blasio had pledged to build one of the so-called Bike Boulevards in each borough by the end of the year, essentially adding infrastructure to a roadway that calms driving speeds to allow bikers and cars to peacefully coexist on the same street without removing parking. 

A DOT employee said the measure would allow people to drive on the road if they need, but the mechanisms would encourage drivers to use alternative routes whenever possible. 

“We are not diverting traffic off the street,” said Eileen Botti, a transportation planner in the department’s bicycle unit. “We are just heavily discouraging that cut-through traffic through design.” 

Also, on the same area of 21st Street, the department will install curb extensions at four intersections, which will force drivers to make slower turns onto the street. Third and Fifth avenues will see one sidewalk extended further into the crosswalk, while Fourth and Seventh avenues will see symmetrical extension jutting into the crosswalk from either side. 

Transportation officials are planning to use two different models for curb extensions at intersections on 21st Street.Department of Transportation

The proposal would also construct roundabouts on Sixth Avenue at the intersections of 21st, 22nd, and 23rd streets that will slow traffic when entering the bike boulevard between Sixth and Seventh avenues.

Vehicles traveling on 22nd and 23rd streets would be able to continue straight around the roundabout and across Sixth Avenue, according to the plan.

On 21st Street, only bicycles and pedestrians would be able head straight across Sixth avenue, while cars cars would be forced to turn right onto Sixth Avenue at the roundabout — although cars already on Sixth Avenue could make a right onto 21st Street, a transportation rep said.

The agency is planning to install roundabouts at three intersections on Sixth Avenue. Department of Transportation

The Windsor-Terrace bike boulevard, paired with a waterfront-bound protected bike lane proposed for neighboring 20th Street, will fill a gap in bike lanes through the neighborhood, and connect Prospect Park with the newly incoming Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway.

As it stands, the proposal calls for the 20th Street bike lane to be constructed by removing eastbound vehicular traffic, and installing a 4-foot wide bicycle lane with a 3-foot buffer between Third and Seventh avenues. 

After crossing Seventh Avenue, the proposed waterfront-bound 20th Street bike lane will expand into a two-way shared path for bicyclists and pedestrians — providing 7 feet of space both way, with a 3-foot buffer to make up for the existing narrow sidewalks along Greenwood Cemetery that are known to push joggers and pedestrians into the street.

On the other side of the plan’s geographic scope, a patchwork system of bike lanes allows riders to snake from the corner of 20th Street and 10th Avenue one block over to 19th Street, and then to 11th Avenue, where they can finally head north to Prospect Park.  

The transportation representatives said they elected to eliminate Windsor Terrace-bound traffic on 20th Street to make way for the new bike lane after studies showed that traffic patterns were predominantly headed in the opposite direction. They recommended that drivers who regularly utilize 20th Street to travel to areas around McDonald Avenue use the Prospect Expressway, Prospect Park Southwest, or 39th Street to reach their destination instead.

Trucks driving from those areas can also use 39th Street or enter the Prospect Expressway from Columbia Street if coming from Red Hook, or from Seventh Avenue from Park Slope. 

In addition to increased bicycle and pedestrian safety, the one-way conversion of 20th Street would add parking spaces to the more-residential parts between Third and Fourth Avenue, transportation officials said. And while it will account for a total loss of approximately 130 spaces to make way for the two-way shared path, reps said those losses would largely include lesser-used spots along Greenwood Cemetery between Seventh and McDonald avenues.

The one-way conversion proposal also meets goals set in the city’s ongoing efficiency plan for truck routing as it improves truck passage by eliminating the risk of them not being able to pass each other on the narrow road. 

Two speed bumps will also be added on Seventh Avenue between 2oth and 22nd Streets to slow traffic around the exit of the bike boulevard.

Despite intricate plans, the head of the CB7’s transportation committee raised concerns at the Aug. 3 meeting that truck traffic will be pushed to a similarly crowded 19th Street, where the transportation agency didn’t propose any alterations to ease traffic. Meanwhile, other members feared the conversion would create congestion all around the neighborhood as drivers seek an eastbound route to leave. 

“I feel like we’re glossing over the impact that it’s going to have on 19th Street,” said Zach Jasie, chairman of the transportation committee. “It is just inevitable… 19th Street is going to become an eastbound corridor. A cut-through. I understand what you’re doing on 21st Street so people can’t use that as the cut-through but no precautions are being taken on 19th Street.”

Jeremy Laufer, Community Board 7’s longtime district manager, retorted that — even with such an overhaul in the works — it is unlikely that there will be any stepped-up enforcement of oversized vehicles on 20th Street, claiming the board has been asking for the same thing from DOT for more than a decade. 

“Let me quickly say we’ve been asking for increased enforcement on 20th Street for 11 years,” he said. 

Transportation officials told community board members that the proposed signage, which they say will be plentiful, and the new design should be effective in routing truck drivers away from 19th Street. The agency has also vowed to work with the local 72nd Precinct to step up enforcement of improper road usage by truck drivers in the area. 

“We did mention that enforcement will be a part of this larger conversation,” Diniece Mendes, the director of the department’s Office of Freight Mobility.”The conflict-reducing designs that we are proposing as part of this proposal also helps to restrict the types of vehicles that we would likely see on this street.”

Either way, the agency hopes to move ahead with the traffic-calming measures before the year is up.

“We are hoping for October,” said Shawn Macias, the deputy director of DOT’s bicycle unit. “September, October is our goal [to implement].”

While DOT does not need the board’s approval to move forward, the agency’s Brooklyn transportation commissioner told CB7 members  that they would seriously consider community feedback, and reconfigure the plans if suggestions call for that.

“We are not asking for a vote, this is informational,” said Keith Bray. “But again we do want to get community feedback on the program, so we are coming to the board, talking to elected officials. We are happy to talk to other parties as needed about this plan.” 

One resident of 20th Street commended the transit honchos for heeding their calls regarding the lack of safety and heavy truck traffic they deal with every day.

“Thank you for the continued efforts to try and solve a really unsafe and unpleasant condition living with all of this truck traffic,” the local said, “and just say that I fully support the one-way travel.” 

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