Concerned residents of Borough Park, Kensington and Midwood along with frequent Ocean Parkway drivers, stood up for what they feel is a definite steer in the wrong direction in terms of recently implemented changes to the thoroughfare.
Organized by Assemblymember Dov Hikind – joined by Public Advocate Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Councilmembers Mark Treyger and Chaim Deutsch – the rally, held on the corner of Avenue J and Ocean Parkway on Sunday, December 4, turned out quite the crowd in protest of eliminating right turns along the parkway onto Avenues J and P as well as Kings Highway.
“Eliminating right turns will only endanger the safety of motorists, children and their families who live adjacent to Ocean Parkway, and will undoubtedly create havoc for all,” Hikind said.
The changes are part of the New York State Department of Transportation’s (NYSDOT) Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety project for Ocean Parkway, a two-year, two-phase $15 million-plan (the first phase costing an estimated $8.5 million and the second costing approximately $6.7 million) set to be implemented as early as February, 2017.
According to Hikind’s office, NYSDOT presented traffic changes to community boards through PowerPoint slides back in 2015 – changes that included banning left turns from the service road onto Ocean Parkway from Avenue C, Cortelyou Road, Ditmas Avenue, 18th Avenue, Avenue I, Avenue J, Avenue P, Kings Highway and Avenue U. However, a spokesperson for Hikind told this paper that no mention of banning right turns had been made to the community boards and that it was only when signage banning the turns along Ocean Parkway were installed that the ban on right turns was made public.
“We saw the signs going up. All of us use Ocean Parkway on a regular basis and no one was made aware of it,” Hikind’s spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for NYSDOT, however, said that the banning of right turns had been discussed with community boards, elected officials and the community as far back as 2014 during the early planning phase.
“DOT is meeting with community leaders on this issue,” said New York State Department of Transportation’s Director of Communications Gary Holmes. “Safety is our top priority and we look forward to a productive conversation.”
In the meantime, residents and elected officials are making sure that their voices are heard.
“Nearly 100,000 people who use Ocean Parkway on a regular basis would be forced down these service roads and narrow avenues where children play and go to school,” Hikind said. “It’s unbelievable that officials somewhere in Albany agreed to this — people who don’t even know of Ocean Parkway let alone the community. Do they think they know Ocean Parkway better than we do?”
“If the state cares about Ocean Parkway then let them do something about all of the potholes along the major thoroughfare. Let them do something about the service paths and the bike paths along Ocean Parkway,” said Treyger. “That’s my message to the state. This concept of Vision Zero should not mean zero common sense or zero input from the people of this community.”