De Blasio: Eastern Parkway Pedestrian Islands Posed Parade Safety Hazard

Mayor de Blasio speaking at yesterday's press conference. Photo: Flickr/NYC Mayor's Office
Mayor de Blasio said the city didn’t realize pedestrian islands on Eastern Parkway would interfere with an annual parade, so he had them torn up. Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office/Flickr

Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference yesterday that pedestrian islands on Eastern Parkway were removed because unnamed elected officials wanted to make room for West Indian Day Parade floats, which would have otherwise posed a risk to the public. The mayor indicated the median islands would not have been installed had the city realized they would interfere with the parade, which is held once a year.

The concrete islands at Eastern Parkway and Kingston and Brooklyn avenues were installed last December as part of a Safe Routes to School project 10 years in the making. The segment of Eastern Parkway where the islands were is a Vision Zero priority corridor with five priority intersections, including Kingston Avenue, where seven people were severely injured in traffic crashes from 2009 to 2013. Four pedestrians were killed on that section of the parkway during that time period.

Last Sunday the Post reported the islands would be removed at the request of parade organizers. On Tuesday the city ripped them up.

Yesterday the mayor’s office told Streetsblog removing the islands was “an NYPD directive.” NYPD referred us to DOT.

Ultimately, though, it was the mayor who authorized removing pedestrian infrastructure from one of Brooklyn’s most dangerous streets with no public process. At Wednesday’s presser on new J’Ouvert security measures, de Blasio said he was prompted by requests from elected officials, whom he did not name.

Here are de Blasio’s remarks, from a press conference transcript:

It definitely was a safety issue. In other words, the original pedestrian malls were put in for safety and then when the recognition of what it would mean to move the floats around them became clear, we realized there was an unintended consequence. So to me this is a case where the City was trying to do something good for the overall safety of the community, 365 days of the year. But on that one day there was a different problem that had been created that had not been fully taken into account — that the floats would have trouble navigating around them and that could create safety issues for the people around. So they are being taken out for the parade. We have to figure out a long-term solution. We don’t have that yet, but we will get to a long-term solution. I don’t know we can find out though.

Some of the elected officials raised the concern that there might be a danger problem because of the floats having to navigate the very tight space. And when we looked at that very practically we came to the conclusion that they were right and we had to reset. So again, now we will have to figure out a solution that will work for the long-term. The idea of having that pedestrian island was a good one. We have to find that happy medium.

The mayor’s office has not returned an inquiry into which elected officials made the request. We have a message in with City Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who represents the district where the islands were located.

DOT did not provide a timetable for substitute traffic-calming treatments and did not specify what dangers the concrete islands posed one day a year that warranted their permanent removal.