Since the BQE’s construction, the portion of Meeker Avenue from Apollo Street to Metropolitan Avenue under the elevated expressway has been used predominantly for parking. A new plan from the Department of Transportation (DOT) aims to change that.
DOT’s capital improvement plan for the avenue — titled Make Meeker Move — will eliminate 680 free parking spots under the expressway, replacing them with a new two-way bike lane. Additionally, all remaining free parking will start being metered at a rate of $1.50 per hour.
Meeker Avenue was targeted as a Vision Zero priority area at the beginning of the de Blasio administration in 2013, and has continued to be one of the most dangerous roads in the borough. Last year it experienced the third highest number of traffic accidents.
The new bike lane, decreased parking, and other traffic-calming measures are designed to improve safety along the avenue.
Representatives from the onprofit organization Transportation Alternatives argue the Meeker Avenue redesign will help unite Greenpoint and Williamsburg.
“For decades, Meeker Avenue under the BQE has divided our community,” said Rachel Albetski, the group’s North Brooklyn Activist Committee chair. “The constant car and truck traffic pollutes our air, and residents feel unsafe walking, biking, or crossing Meeker.
“This is about reclaiming space in a neighborhood that lacks open space and places to recreate,” she added. “We want to see this underutilized space transformed into a place that responds to the needs and desires of the community.”
The new bike lane will connect to bike lanes on the Kosciuszko and Williamsburg bridges. Members of the Greenpoint-based Make Meeker Move Coalition argue the new connection is a critical step towards making bikes a viable method of transportation between boroughs.
“I am eager to see even better improvements in the future,” said Kevin LaCherra. “There is a deep need for green infrastructure in that area. But, first and foremost is the safety aspect and that is what this plan does.”
The Make Meeker Move Coalition has suggested further additions to DOT’s plan for the underpass, including a pedestrian walkway, basketball courts, and community art spaces.
However, not everyone in the neighborhood is satisfied with the new plan. Over 1,200 people signed a petition on change.org titled “Stop the Meeker Ave DOT project,” which argues that removing free parking spaces will negatively impact commuters, the elderly, and disabled individuals who rely on cars.
The petition also argues that the DOT plan will displace the homeless population under the BQE without any clear plan for supporting them.
According to a DOT representative, the agency has already begun “completing improvements in stages, with work now underway that includes repaving, additional signals and some concrete work. We expect portions of the project to open next spring.”
Meeker Avenue is not the only street getting a makeover in north Brooklyn. Just last week, DOT held a community workshop to begin planning a redesign of McGuinness Avenue between the Pulaski Bridge and the BQE.
The workshop was prompted by the death of Matthew Jensen, a Greenpoint elementary school teacher and resident who was struck and killed by a black Rolls Royce at the corner of McGuinness Boulevard and Bayard Street on May 18.