De Blasio’s Office Ducks Responsibility for Erasing Eastern Pkwy Ped Islands

Pedestrian islands on Eastern Parkway barely lasted nine months before DOT ripped them up, and no one in the de Blasio administration will say why. Photo: David Meyer
Pedestrian islands on Eastern Parkway barely lasted nine months before DOT ripped them up, and no one in the de Blasio administration will say why. Photo: David Meyer

DOT removed pedestrian islands on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights yesterday, undoing years of street safety advocacy work on the part of local residents and community board members with no public process, and no one in the de Blasio administration is taking responsibility.

Earlier this week, the Post reported that organizers of the West Indian Day Parade requested that concrete medians at Kingston and Brooklyn avenues be destroyed so floats and trucks “can navigate the roadway” for the event, which is held once a year. It’s not clear how the islands, which were installed in 2015, would impact the parade, since identical street treatments have been in place for years elsewhere along the route.

We asked City Hall if the order to remove the islands originated with the mayor’s office. “This was an NYPD directive, not City Hall’s,” de Blasio spokesperson Austin Finan told us via email.

NYPD referred us to DOT. When we called DOT for comment, the person who answered the phone said all agency press reps were away from their desks. DOT got back to us, but only to ask which NYPD staffer referred us to DOT.

Brooklyn Community Board 8, which endorsed the project that included the islands, was not notified that they would be removed, according to Rob Witherwax, a longtime street safety advocate who serves on the board’s transportation committee. Witherwax said he learned about the changes on Streetsblog.

DOT rarely undertakes street safety projects without the approval of the local community board, but the agency does not always consult boards before removing bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

“If you bring a proposal before a board, put us through months of meetings and contentious votes, and end up implementing it, shouldn’t you extend the same courtesy to un-implement it?” said Witherwax — who emphasized that he was speaking for himself, not CB 8 — in an email. “If DOT stood by their projects, NYPD would have figured out how to move the marchers and floats safely.”

The safety treatments at Brooklyn Avenue and Kingston Avenue were installed last December as part of a decade-old Safe Routes to Schools plan for Arista Prep Academy and Nursery School and the Oholei Torah yeshiva [PDF].

Eastern Parkway between Grand Army Plaza and Ralph Avenue is a Vision Zero priority corridor with five priority intersections, including Kingston Avenue, where seven severe injuries occurred from 2009 to 2013. Four pedestrians were killed on that segment of the street during that time frame.

It’s unclear whether the de Blasio administration plans to abandon future traffic-calming measures on Eastern Parkway.

Update: We received the following statement from DOT spokesperson Scott Gastel:

Due to safety concerns involving parade participants and large vehicles during the upcoming annual West Indian Day Parade, DOT (in coordination with NYPD) has removed two islands along Eastern Parkway. We are looking at potential replacement treatments in the area and for the long term.

With reporting by Brad Aaron