DOT Has Not Revealed a Plan to Calm Deadly McGuinness Blvd. — And the Neighborhood is Impatient

Rough road, indeed. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Rough road, indeed. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

It doesn’t take a genius to fix McGuinness.

It has been 18 days since a beloved local teacher was killed by a hit-and-run driver on McGuinness Boulevard and eight days since Mayor de Blasio promised a major redesign, yet the Department of Transportation failed to offer any plan at the last community board committee meeting until September and has not responded to requests for information — raising the distinct possibility that the solution to the wide speedway will be left to the next mayor.

Locals are frustrated that the only thing moving since the death of Matthew Jensen on May 18 are the hands of the clock that is counting off the last hours of de Blasio’s tenure.

Beloved teacher Matthew Jensen.
Beloved teacher Matthew Jensen. Died in vain?

“When I spoke to the mayor on the phone [after Jensen’s death], I explained to him that we have done a lot of the preliminary work and we just need some money to make physical changes to the road,” said Assembly Member Emily Gallagher, who has been leading the effort to fix McGuinness Boulevard since even before earlier cycles of death, study, community demand and failure — the all-too-predictable pattern that follows road violence in this city. “The mayor promised me there was Vision Zero money he could dedicate to that. I was told they are going to do actual work.”

Gallagher said she wanted her constituents in Greenpoint to understand that construction timelines do stretch, but she also said she would be demanding that they don’t extend this time.

“There are things that have to happen fast,” she said.

Yet at Wednesday’s Community Board 1 Transportation Committee meeting — the last before the traditional summer break for New York’s local panels — DOT officials attended, but didn’t offer anything.

But community members certainly did. Committee member Bronwyn Breitner, who has two children at the school where Jensen taught, spoke passionately about the “profound and raw” grief of the PS 110 community over the killing of Jenson — the latest name on a “long list of individuals who have been made victims of traffic violence due to the poor, outdated planning of McGuinness Boulevard.”

The list includes Solange Raulston, Neil Chamberlain, Nicole Detweiler and Liem Nhan, four people killed on McGuinness, where 11 pedestrians and three cyclists have been killed since 1995. And since 2013, there have been 1,548 reported crashes on the mile-and-a-quarter stretch between the Pulaski Bridge and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway entrance ramp where Jensen was killed. Those crashes — basically one crash every other day — have injured 40 cyclists, 59 pedestrians and 236 motorists.

The roadway has been repeatedly studied throughout the bloody decade. And residents are sick and tired of being struck and killed. They’ve started a petition that makes critical demands, including “at a minimum”:

  • Widened sidewalks and a wider median to help pedestrians as they cross the street
  • A two-way protected bike lane connecting the Pulaski Bridge (which would connect to an ongoing bike lane project on Meeker Avenue).
  • The elimination of one lane of traffic in each direction as a traffic-calming measure.

The petition generated about 1,000 signatures in 10 days. Those people will likely be impatient for change.

“We are not calling for a traffic study at this isolated intersection or a series of intersections,” Breitner said. “We are not calling for speed deterrents. We are calling on the mayor and DOT to …. put forth a comprehensive redesign which makes it impossible for cars to speed at double the speed limit in this slow zone.”

The mayor, she added, needs to “think beyond incremental changes to a flawed, outdated design and accept this as a singular opportunity to bring a visionary, future-focused proposal to our community which reflects the importance of this moment, and making Mr. Jensen’s the last pedestrian or cyclist death on McGuinness Boulevard.”

The NYPD said it has no update on the search for the Rolls Royce driver who struck and killed Jensen in the early morning hours of May 18.

After initial publication of this story, DOT responded to our several requests for comment. “We understand the concerns surrounding McGuinness Blvd, and we are actively discussing feasible plans to address these issues,” the agency said in a statement  “DOT appreciates the community’s feedback and will continue to review their specific requests. More details on the plans will be available soon.”