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Proposed traffic conversions face heavy backlash

A project proposed by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) is seeking to transform 7th and 8th Avenue into one way streets between 39th Street and 66th Street in Brooklyn. Stretching between Park Slope and Sunset Park, both avenues are currently two-way thoroughfares lined with businesses and filled by delivery trucks and traffic.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has designated both 7th and 8th Avenues as Vision Zero Priority Corridors due to the high amount of traffic accidents and injuries on each. The DOT plan was conceived in the hopes of directly decreasing these statistics.

In addition to transforming 7th avenue and 8th avenue into one-way streets (running south and north respectively), the proposal calls for adding a protected bike lane to both streets, altering the B70 bus route to conform with the new flow of traffic, and installing additional traffic calming measures to make the street more pedestrian friendly.

Although the one-way conversion is aimed at making both avenues safer, members of the local communities have expressed their concern about the project. Our paper recently spoke to Sunset Park Assemblymember Peter J. Abbate, who believes that the plan would be ineffective if implemented.

“The plan they [the DOT] came up with, I did not think solves the problem of safety or the flow of traffic,” Abbate explained over the phone last week.

Abbate was specifically concerned about the net loss of 183 parking spots and the decreased amount of loading zones for trucks that the project would bring about. Although the DOT proposal calls for specific loading zones for trucks, Abbate believes that it will not be enough to service the many businesses in the area.

“I think it will become a hazard because instead of having trucks loading and unloading there will be cars parked [in the designated truck loading zones] and then the trucks will have to double park and block traffic,” Abbate explained.

The City has also been criticized for trying to ram the project through the approval process without seeking adequate feedback from the community. 7th and 8th Avenues are located in the heart of Brooklyn’s Chinatown, and Assemblymember Abbate was specifically upset that the neighborhood’s Chinese community was not thoroughly consulted before the street conversions were proposed.

“I think they [the DOT] picked the area because there is a large Chinese community and they didn’t think they would face any opposition,” Abbate said. “They thought they could sneak it past the Asian community because in the past they have been very passive and have not organized.”

However, the local Chinese community has been anything but passive since the DOT released it’s plan back in May. The Sunset Park-based Brooklyn Chinese-American Association staged a rally in front of Transportation Commissioner Hank Gutman’s House on August 25, decrying the street-conversion plan and the impact they believe it would have on local businesses. The group plans on holding similar events every week ahead of the plan’s implementation starting this October.

“No one is against a bike lane,” Abbate added. “This is just the wrong place to put it. I think it would be better on Sixth Avenue. If I was riding my bike on sixth avenue, which I do sometimes, I would go right by Sunset Park and be able to stop on a bench to get some water or a soda. I think that would be even better, but the Mayor wants to do his maze plan and get his 30 miles of bike lanes for the year.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio has been criticized for similar street conversion plans throughout the City, including on Skillman Avenue Sunnyside, Queens. De Blasio set the lofty goal of creating 30 new miles of bike lanes in the City by the end of the year, but Assemblymember Abbate is hopeful that the 7th and 8th Avenue conversions can be delayed through legal action until a new mayor takes office.

“Eric Adams says he does not support the plan,” Abbate said. “Why don’t we just wait and give some time so we can do something good. Some people want to complain that everyone is against bike lanes. We’re not against that at all. We just have to get it right.”

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