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One-way conversion plan for First and Second Avenues in Sunset Park meets resistance

A proposal to turn First and Second Avenues in Sunset Park into one-way thoroughfares has already hit some roadblocks in terms of community reaction, but the city appears to be moving ahead with the plan, regardless.

The New York Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) cites a recent study it conducted in contending that converting First and Second Avenues between 39th Street and 58th Street to one-way streets — with Second Avenue handling southbound traffic and First Avenue handling northbound traffic — would alleviate congestion.

According to EDC, the study looked at emergency vehicles, truck routes, city and school bus routes, and the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, and took into account feedback from area residents, as well.

However not everyone is on board, particularly with respect to ambulance access to NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn, which is located at Second Avenue and 55th Street.

Representatives from EDC attended a Community Board 10 meeting on Tuesday to discuss the plan. Representatives of NYU Langone Health were also in attendance.

The conversion from two-way to one-way streets is “not unusual… in industrial areas” where, said Senior Project Manager for EDC Adam Lomasney, it “cleans up a lot of congestion, makes it easier for vehicles for ingress and egress, particularly when there are a lot of uses happening in the area.”

In conjunction with the conversion of First and Second Avenues to one-way streets, 58th Street between First and Second Avenues would remain a two-way street, but 39th Street between First and Second Avenues would become a one-way street, heading eastbound, according to Lomasney.

According to the city’s Department of Transportation, he said, having two lanes traveling in the same direction would ease lane blockages by making it easier for turning vehicles. In particular, it would make it easier for trucks to turn, as well as reduce congestion.

Safety was a major factor in determining direction for each of the two avenues, said Lomasney, who stressed that the directions had been decided upon based on consultation with DOT, and took into account the exit from the Gowanus Expressway at 39th Street and Second Avenue.

With the proposed realignment of the avenues, he said, “When you come off the 39th Street exit, you can peel off either right or left depending where you’re going.”

But, CB 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann stressed that the change could impact travel to NYU-Langone from Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights.

“The route to our level 1 trauma center is of paramount importance to us,” she told this paper. “Without a local hospital in District 10, we want to make sure travel to the hospital is not impeded in any way, especially for people in the northern area of Bay Ridge.”

Longtime Sunset Park resident Linda Rogando — who lives on 62nd Street between Second and Third Avenues — also expressed concerns.

“There are two blocks there with homes,” she told Lomasney, stressing that if the one-way avenues plan comes to fruition as currently proposed, residents there would “have no direct route to the hospital. From 62nd Street, you’d go up, around and down 63rd Street, then make a right and head towards NYU Langone.”

However, Lomasney said that changes were being made to accommodate precisely that need, based on conversations that EDC had had with hospital representatives and DOT. “This is the original concept we are showing,” he said, adding, “We don’t have a drawing right now, but we’ve developed a solution that allows direct access to the hospital which would not affect the emergency operation.”

Senior Vice President of NYU Langone Health Joe Lhota stressed that EDC representatives have shown a willingness to work with the hospital in solving issues brought to their attention.

“We’ve been working very closely with EDC,” he said. “We want to make sure that anyone that needs to get from Bay Ridge or Dyker Heights to the hospital can do it the same way. All of the other questions being asked, I’ve looked at some of the data already. You should get it, evaluate it and understand what is going on. I can tell you just meeting with EDC they came to the table with a resolution to the problem we had. I think it just shows a willingness on their part to work with the community.”

But, there are issues that go beyond hospital access.

Community Board 7 District Manager Jeremy Laufer brought up the variety of traffic issues that Sunset Park is already grappling with, from double parking to trucks, which will only intensify, he said, as changes in the offing — such as a new, 5 million-square-foot distribution center planned for 20th Street, and the Freight NYC program planned for the Brooklyn Army Terminal — come to fruition.

“What you don’t see is traffic volume,” he said. “The mayor announced in June that Freight NYC would be coming to the Brooklyn Army Terminal. Since then, we’ve been asking for traffic volume for that and we’ve received nothing. How you could propose changes to a truck route if you do not know the volume of trucks? It makes absolutely no sense to me.”

Double parking is another major problem, Laufer said, contending that making streets one-way “encourages double parking. Go to 13th Avenue and see if there’s double parking there. Without enforcement, it won’t work, and we won’t see enforcement. We know that.”

Planning and design for the change are still underway. The allocation of funding is planned to take place this summer, with the final design and implementation slated for 2020 pending funding and stakeholder buy-in.

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