More on Kent Avenue

The Eagle article (linked to below) about today’s clown time on Kent Avenue also includes some substance, which deserves some comment beyond a quick link.

Wiley Norvell of Transportation Alternatives is quoted extensively in the article, starting with this:

“[The city is] no longer treating parking as sacred. Newer designs are treating parking as any other space on the street. Kent is one of only half a dozen streets in New York City where the bike lane affected parking by more than one space … When safety is up against convenience, safety wins.”

Dead-on correct. Parking should not be driving this discussion; there is no inalienable right to parking in NYC. (On a related note, I am told that CM Yassky is working to get Shaefer Landing to change its ridiculous exclusionary access regulations, so that all residents can use the driveway there.

Additionally, the lost parking spaces could potentially be compensated. The DOT’s Kent Avenue plan, available online, says there would be a high availability of curbside parking on side streets off Kent if “outdated, overly restrictive regulations” are removed.

However, Scott Gastel of the DOT told the Eagle that the potential parking changes on these side streets, running from Clymer to North 14th streets, are still “under review.” He could give no timeframe for how long the review process would take. “We are continuing to discuss the changes with the community,” he said.

This is the whole problem with the DOT’s Kent Avenue implementation – a complete lack of a comprehensive approach. Rather that piss off half the neighborhood and pretty much guarantee that the community will never, ever, support another bike lane initiative, why not do the parking study before you take away dozens of parking spots? When the plan was presented to the community last Spring, we were told that the lost parking would be made up on adjacent streets. That hasn’t happened and the fact that it hasn’t is indicative of DOT’s shortsightedness in this whole process.

“It was always a part of the DOT plan to accommodate businesses on Kent by adjusting the parking restrictions on side streets,” says Norvell. “We would have liked to have seen that done before, but sometimes the order gets messed up.”

Why didn’t they “accommodate” those businesses beforehand? I find this statement pretty hard to swallow given all the scrambling DOT has undertaken to make up for the lost access to businesses (and, DOT’s solution of side street loading zones takes away more on-street parking).

“The blocks on Kent are very short, so that to park on a side street makes a difference of about 10 or 15 feet. Most retailers’ needs can be met with these measures,” [Norvell] says.

The blocks along Kent are, on average, 200′ long – just as long as the north/south (avenue) blocks in Manhattan (and those on the Southside/Northside). For a business that is loading heavy goods (like, say, a printing press), that means the loading zone is around the corner and as much as 125′ feet away. These remote loading zones are a stop gap measure at best.

For businesses with loading bays and deliveries that take hours due to the quantity, DOT can “maybe cut into the buffers of the bike lane to the outside of the loading zone,” Norvell said.

Again, why didn’t DOT think this through before they installed the bike lanes? And why is Wiley Norvell forced to be defend DOT’s botched implementation – shouldn’t DOT speak for themselves?

Hopefully, DOT is taking a very careful look at Kent Avenue and coming up with solutions that address the business and economic issues in a meaningful way. That starts with having a plan that recognizes that Kent Avenue can only do so much. It probably includes some actual traffic control measures, like stop lights. It also probably includes actually rescinding outdated parking regulations on the side streets and on Wythe Avenue (there are plenty of opportunities for this). Hopefully, this great new plan will rescue the Greenway and make it work.

Let’s face it, a can of paint is not a comprehensive transportation planning solution.