While contemplating the changes for Kent Avenue and Northside, and the proposed rezoning of the Broadway Triangle, I have found myself referencing the Greenpoint-Williamsburg Rezoning Action from 2005. At the time, I expressed to anyone who'd listen that the rezoning proposal was incomplete because it did not provide the transportation planning necessary to make the rezoning sustainable. I find that saying "I told you so" in this instance is distinctly unsatisfying.
I dug up the testimony I gave at the Brooklyn Borough President's public hearing on the rezoning, and am offering it here, as a meditation on failed opportunities and what still needs to be done. Please note that I have not edited this statement, which was made in the context of that time.
December 9, 2004 Public Hearing, Office of the Brooklyn Borough President
My name is Teresa Toro. I am a Greenpoint resident and the transportation committee chair for Brooklyn Community Board 1. I oppose the Department of City Planning’s proposal for the Greenpoint and Williamsburg community for a variety of reasons, but in particular because the proposal will create more traffic on our already overburdened streets.
Overall, the DEIS is alarmingly incomplete regarding its assumptions for traffic and transit in the rezoning proposal, and has therefore made incomplete and irresponsible mitigation recommendations. This rezoning proposal should not go forward unless the transportation impacts are thoroughly reevaluated and addressed by the Department of City Planning, especially in the form of a traffic calming study similar to the project for Downtown Brooklyn.
The DEIS does not adequately estimate or address increases in vehicular traffic likely to arise from new development, and it relies excessively on additional parking supply to accommodate the travel demand growth it does produce, which will likely add to more vehicular traffic. Additionally, the DEIS states that truck traffic won’t be a problem because industrial activity has largely left the CB1 community. That may be true, but every transportation analyst in New York has predicted a minimum of a 30% increase in truck traffic volumes over the next twenty years due to globalization.
The rezoning that DCP is undertaking will attract a more affluent residential (and business) demographic, and that demographic will be a major traffic generator through demand for goods and services, as well as increased personal auto trips. What’s more, local truck routes still run through our community, and the volume of those trips is increasing. We are going to be overwhelmed by more and more truck and auto traffic unless an array of real solutions is applied to our streets, and this cannot be accomplished without a traffic calming study.
Regarding transit services, the DEIS does not acknowledge that there is a severe budget shortfall at the MTA, and its assumptions about future transit availability and accessibility are therefore inaccurate. The DEIS must be immediately updated to reflect the nature of the MTA’s budgetary problems as they affect the CB1 area: We stand to lose two local bus lines (B24 and B48) within a year and a half, and to my knowledge there is no rolling stock on order or planned for the G or L subway lines to accommodate the significant boost in ridership that the development will induce on all subway lines in the district, including the J train. We are losing five token booths in the district, and that will also affect local pedestrian and auto traffic patterns.
As some of the newcomers to our community will surely be car owners, and the community will continue to attract many additional tourists seeking waterfront and upland recreational opportunities, I recommend that the DEIS adopt more stringent traffic management options, such as adjusting parking regulations and adopting commercial and residential parking permits. DCP must make a concerted effort to get residents out of their cars and into our mass transit system whenever possible.
For example, DCP’s proposal should incorporate the City’s plans for a Bus Rapid Transit pilot program, and propose a BRT corridor from Red Hook to Queens Plaza, connecting North Brooklyn’s communities, as well as opportunities for transfer to existing mass transit transfer hubs. The BRT will serve two purposes: it will provide a link between various commercial, residential, recreational and cultural destinations; and it will provide sorely needed additional transfer options at all major existing mass transit links to subway service.
Last, a total reevaluation of the traffic study hours is still needed, because the DEIS has drawn inaccurate conclusions regarding the type and volume of traffic in the CB1 area. One of the most disturbing aspects of the rezoning proposal is that it only evaluates traffic conditions on weekdays, during peak morning and evening hours. Greenpoint and Williamsburg have a strong commuter population, but we also have a bustling nightlife and are a destination for tourists and New Yorkers who patronize our restaurants, bars, art galleries, and nightclubs. Traffic counts must be taken not only during peak commuter hours but also on weekends and night time hours, to provide an accurate picture of the volumes of people traveling in and out of the area via all travel modes.
Transportation improvements in the rezoning proposal should minimize the diversion of highway auto and truck traffic to our local streets; improve and create additional opportunities for pedestrian/bicycle travel; increase the effectiveness and accessibility of mass transit; address the specific needs of emergency response personnel and vehicles; and enhance opportunities for the efficient movement of goods and other commercial services. This DEIS does absolutely none of that; in fact, quite the opposite.
DCP is recklessly adding to our community’s chronically overlooked transit needs by passing the buck – other agencies will be forced to compensate for DCP’s lack of transportation planning, and the community as a whole will suffer for it, both environmentally and economically. I see no evidence of genuine urban planning anywhere in this DEIS.
To sum up, the traffic and transit portions of the DEIS are incomplete, unrealistic and inadequate. Without real transit investment and thoughtful planning – as evidenced in our award-winning 197a plans – Greenpoint and Williamsburg will not be able to accommodate the growth that will result from this rezoning plan, and will become the latest victim in a city which has turned a blind eye to gridlock.
I respectfully ask that the Borough President take CB1’s recent vote into full consideration when drafting his own recommendation, and pay particular attention to the traffic and transit difficulties that will be imposed upon us if the current proposal is approved. Thank you.
(... and to make a note, Borough President Markowitz did in fact support CB1's vote in opposition to the rezoning, for which I thank him yet again.)