Kent Avenue: Making it Better


By adding a left-turn signal at Greenpoint & McGuinness, most truck traffic could easily turn onto McGuinness (thick red line), greatly reducing the traffic on truck routes west of McGuinness (thin red line).
Map source: Google Maps.

The new DOT plan to fix Kent Avenue does a lot of things right. First and foremost, it makes business on Kent Avenue viable again. It retains the future Greenway’s bike lanes, and separates bike and car traffic. It acknowledges that Kent Avenue – and the neighborhood as a whole – is changing from manufacturing to residential. It mostly keeps truck traffic on existing truck routes.

But the plan could be better. The chief complainers about the new plan are residents along North 11th Street. On the one hand, North 11th Street has always been a truck route, so its a bit disingenuous of people to buy a condo on a mapped truck route and then complain when trucks use that truck route. On the other hand, North 11th Street has never been a good truck route, and as the neighborhood becomes more residential, is even less so. The big problem is not so much the presence of (new) residential buildings, but rather that North 11th is a crosstown street – all the stop signs and avenue crossings will create backups and increase chances for accidents.

There are solutions. The single biggest (and simplest) change that DOT should make is to add a left-turn arrow onto McGuinness Boulevard for traffic westbound on Greenpoint Avenue. DOT should be shifting as much southbound traffic onto McGuinness and Meeker as possible. Trucks coming down Greenpoint from Long Island City and the Greenpoint IBZ have plenty of room to make the left onto McGuinness (which is in effect three lanes wide in the eastbound direction there), but probably not enough time given the heavy eastbound traffic on Greenpoint.

By diverting traffic at McGuinness, we would reduce truck traffic from the narrow block of Greenpoint between McGuinness and Manhattan, reduce the number of trucks making the tight left off of Greenpoint onto Franklin, and reduce the number of trucks going down North 11th Street. The only trucks that should be going west of McGuinness are trucks making very local deliveries. Everyone else should be using McGuinness to get to Meeker, and from there taking either Union south (or getting on the BQE at McGuinness and Meeker).

Another thing that DOT should be doing is adding traffic lights and stop signs. Kent Avenue has to have traffic lights in the area between North 4th and North 14th. It is insane to have residential towers and public parks (well, plural in the future) that are only accessible by crossing a mini-freeway1. Wythe Avenue needs more stop signs and other traffic-calming measures in the area south of North 11th Street. Since truckers tend to prefer a straight unhindered route, this will discourage truck traffic in the area of Wythe that is not a truck route. The existing stop signs and avenue crossing on North 11th Street will probably have a similar effect – trucks won’t want to take North 11th if they don’t have to. But to make the intersections safer, there needs to be stop signs or traffic lights on the avenues too (there is already one at Berry and North 11th).

And finally, as I’ve said before, there needs to be enforcement of the truck routes. With the exception of the BQE, all of the truck routes in CB1 are for local traffic only. Trucks shouldn’t be using our neighborhood as a shortcut around the BQE. DOT, NYPD et al also need to step up and ticket trucks that use Wythe south of North 11th Street (despite the scare-mongering I hear in the neighborhood, DOT is NOT turning Wythe Avenue into a truck route).

1. In their presentation last night, DOT said the top speed on Kent was 46 mph. The reality is probably closer to 60 mph.

13 responses to “Kent Avenue: Making it Better”

  1. Great post – this seems like a no-brainer, though that doesn’t mean it’ll get done, of course. I’ve also long wondered why they don’t widen Kingsland Ave and make it two-way (at least the section north of Norman) to ease some of the truck traffic coming from/going to Queens. There’s nothing residential up there.

  2. It’s nice to see someone using their brains , rather than their emotions to make a clear case for the pros and cons of the DOT ‘s plans for changes to the truck situation on Kent ave and in the neighborhood in general. Thanks.

  3. How is it possible you did not mention a word about the Broadway Triangle in your blog? There was almost a riot at your
    CB1 meeting, are you going to pretend like nothing happened?

  4. Vito,
    What’s this about the Broadway Triangle? I’m new to the issue.

  5. I wonder if Rabbi Leib Glanz , in one of his three closed door meetings with Deputy Mayor Sheekey, at the end of last year, were about this project. Stu Loesser himself declared that they were meetings about housing and transportation. They amount to Bloomberg currying favor with a big group of voters for his third run. The Satmars will put aside the red herring of scantily clad bicyclists zooming thru south Williamsburg , if they can get their parking back PLUS the bonus of getting less trucks rolling thru. Bloomberg’s myopic vision for a Greenway in his legacy will be accomplished at any cost to communities. Some of us have a more valuable currency to exchange in how it is put in place. Votes.

  6. Definitely a more logical solution. It IS leading traffic down the primrose path to get trucks so deep into a neighborhood only to have to divert them at small residential streets. A “half-way” one way Kent ave. defies logic. An all the way one-way on Kent is certainly worthy of the DOT studying. (They DO know that study should be part of the process, right?) This whole implementing first , and seeing what happens later is an embarrassment on behalf of the Mayor and the DOT. Why haven’t they done a comprehensive study of the neighborhood’s traffic? Rezoning again, and again with out looking at infrastructure is irresponsible growth for any neighborhood.

  7. Personally, I think that once the Kent one-way goes into effect that the number of southbound trucks using that route will drop dramatically. Most truck drivers on through routes or even long local routes won’t want to deal with the added turns and stops as well as the traffic around Greenpoint and Manhattan. Right now they deal with the latter because it leads them to Kent, which is straight shot to the rest of Brooklyn. Eliminate that straight shot, and a lot of truck drivers will opt for McGuinness anyhow – my suggestion is to just make it easier for them to do so.
    As for long-range planning, right on. The issue of planning for growth in general has been a huge complaint of us community activists going back to well before the 2005 waterfront rezoning, and on the transportation side, Teresa Toro has been banging the drum loudly for a comprehensive district-wide transportation plan for years and years now. The silver lining in the (first) Kent Avenue snafu is that DOT is finally doing some studying of the neighborhood’s transportation needs, which is what has resulted in this new plan. But it is still nothing near the comprehensive district-wide study some of us have been pushing for since 2004 and before.

  8. The number of trucks that have to use the route will drop after they do the route once. How many trucks, and how long it takes all the drivers to “get it” is indeterminate. A willingness to accept the collateral damage in an interim truck-maze to dissuade truckers at the beginning of summer, is overly optimistic regarding public safety.
    I DID see a DOT car counting strip on Lorimer st. & Bayard st. yesterday. It’s something. Hallelujah.

  9. Certainly sounds like a safer plan then diverting trucks from Kent down N11th indefinitely. Traffic lights totally makes sense on Kent, as well as the plan to utilize McGuiness. I’m beginning to feel a little hopeful. Lets see what happens. I have a feeling the Satmars will not like this idea.

  10. Redeseapedestrian

    Trucks disregard truck routes and will always take the quickest route to their destination. In this case, southbound trucks will take the shortest route to the BQE, which will become Wythe Avenue. Without constant police presence, there is no way to enforce these truck routes. Making Kent Ave a one-way street will flood the narrower, neighborhood streets with traffic, both cars and trucks. Very bad planning. Children will get hurt.

  11. Stop the dangerous Kent av one-way plan. a big middle finger to the a-holes that think it is a good idea. NAG , Theresa Toro , all of cb1 , Michael Bloomberg, Janette Sadik-Khan .

  12. Stop the dangerous Kent av one-way plan. a big middle finger to the a-holes that think it is a good idea. NAG , Theresa Toro , all of cb1 , Michael Bloomberg, Janette Sadik-Khan , Transportation Alternatives…

  13. The transformation of Kent Ave. started last night. And kept me up most of the night as DOT crews tore up the asphalt between Broadway and S. 7th. Thank God! I’m glad to see some change, but the coming change is not the answer either. The bike lanes and no parking was a big mistake. It turned Kent Ave. already dangerous because of how people speed down it, into an open freeway. The way drivers race through the curve at Broadway is often terrifying. Kent Ave is not the West Side Highway, it’s not going to be the west side highway and the Brooklyn Greenway plan to make it into one was a mistake. Kent Ave. simply isn’t wide enough to accommodate all that stuff in a 40 foot wide road. As it is, with the new traffic island “beautification” in the middle of Broadway 18 wheelers cannot turn without driving over the island or crushing a car parked at the corner. Kent Ave, is and for the forseeable future will need to be a truck route. The new plan I fear will create more problems like the Broadway planters — making a truck route hostile to trucks!
    What about pedestrians? how can the city have rezoned the whole waterfront for housing, on the other side of a truck route and not imagined that thousands of people a day might need to cross that street? The North side is still mostly without traffice lights to allow pedestrian crossing to the high rises and a state park — I mean come on get real.