Prospect Heights residents call on mayor to finish Underhill Avenue’s bike boulevard

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The DOT carried out a community survey in 2021 and found that 86% of local residents wanted to see Underhill Avenue (pictured) have pedestrian and/or cycling priority corridors.
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Prospect Heights residents are calling on Mayor Eric Adams to release the results of a community input survey on the Underhill Avenue safety redesign, which was carried out in November and stalled the near-completed project.

The Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council penned a letter to the Adams administration on Jan. 16 asking he release the key results of the survey conducted by the Department of Transportation (DOT) so that the project to turn Underhill Avenue into a “bike boulevard” can be brought to completion.

Mayor Adams allegedly stalled the street-calming redesign — which would feature permanent bike lanes and traffic-slowing measures — after opponents to the project petitioned his office, according to reports.

When asked by Brooklyn Paper when the results of the survey will be released, a spokesperson for the DOT did not give a definitive timeline but said officials are still reviewing all feedback “before making a determination about next steps” for the largely-residential Prospect Heights street.

“Mayor Adams made clear that additional public input was needed at this project location to ensure we hear from the community,” the spokesperson added.

Gib Veconi, chair of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, took issue with the mayor’s “unusual late-stage outreach,” saying that local support is behind finishing the project.

“Multiple years of city-run outreach along with our own data already show that Prospect Heights residents want this to move forward, and this most recent survey will undoubtedly show the same,” said Veconi. “The mayor needs to accept collective opinion and complete a project aligned with the City’s stated traffic safety goals.”

The PHNDC’s Streets for People petition currently has over 3,000 signers, with over 70% of respondents living in Prospect Heights and the surrounding neighborhoods.

The DOT also carried out a community survey in 2021 and found that 86% of local residents wanted to see Underhill Avenue have pedestrian and/or cycling priority corridors.

Despite previous surveys, the mayor told the crowd at an Oct. 17 press conference he wanted his officials to conduct a door-to-door survey in the neighborhood, saying he believed long-term residents had not had their say on how they want the shaping of their streets to change.

“I want a very healthy, hefty community engagement. And to some they believe community engagement is slowing up the process. I don’t. Residents of a community should have input in how their streets are going to be changed. When you change a street, you are changing the fabric of a community,” Adams said, adding that he owns a co-op on Underhill Avenue.

The current design of the Underhill Avenue redesign, based on community feedback
The current design of the Underhill Avenue redesign, based on community feedbackDepartment of Transportation

Underhill, along with its neighbor Vanderbilt Avenue, was among the first of the city’s streets to be closed to traffic and opened to pedestrians at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and the two have since become some of the most popular in the program

In January 2023, officials cut the ribbon on the pedestrian plaza on the Underhill Avenue Open Street, in what the city called at the time the “first step in the evolution of Prospect Heights’ Open Streets to permanent public spaces.”

After the DOT carried out multiple local workshops and made several presentations to Community Board 8, Underhill Avenue’s Bike Boulevard was slated to replace the temporary barriers on the street with permanent traffic calming features to limit vehicle speeds and make the street more friendly for pedestrians and cyclists.

Under DOT’s plan, parts of the two-way Underhill Avenue would be converted to one-way car traffic with bike lanes in both directions, while other blocks would retain two-way vehicle traffic but will be outfitted with hefty center medians, intended to calm traffic.

Initial works by the DOT began in August but the project has remained unfinished since it was abruptly halted on Sept. 2.

In the Jan. 16 letter to Mayor Adams, Veconi wrote that since halting the completion of the improvement project, the street has been lacking vital safety features for cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists alike.

“It is imperative that the results of the survey be released, and that DOT be allowed to take immediate action to rectify this situation,” Veconi said.