Community Board 2: Uniting for Safety

On April 3 I attended the monthly meeting of Community Board 2. Commissioner McCarthy spoke briefly about the light timing change, and there was discussion of the proposals to change Barnett Avenue to one-way and install speed humps on the side streets.

CB2 member Al Volpe confirmed what we heard from John Millus: it’s now almost impossible to drive faster than 20 miles per hour without running a red light. In gratitude for this important safety step, the Board and attendees gave a round of applause to Commissioner McCarthy and her staff, and to Board Chair Joe Conley and our neighbor Ann Eagan for their work on bringing the issue to DOT’s attention.

It was very heartening to see such a large number of people come out to speak in favor of safer streets. Unfortunately, they were not able to unite and accomplish their goals: the Board voted to table the Barnett Avenue question and only recommend speed humps on 46th Street. There were several residents of 39th Avenue who were afraid that traffic would be diverted from Barnett to their street, and no one made much of an effort to reassure them. Joe Conley reported that he had received several emails in opposition to both the Barnett Avenue plan and the speed humps. On the way to the meeting I encountered two residents of 46th Street that I knew, who had come specifically to speak against the Barnett Avenue plan. The Board voted to recommend speed humps on 46th Street because one resident went door-to-door and got 80% of her neighbors to sign a petition in favor.

The lessons are clear: if there’s a project you really care about, get support from your neighbors, show up to speak in favor of it, and find ways to assuage any concerns your neighbors might have. In particular, the notion of induced demand could have used a lot more airing there. I’ll try to write something about it soon for future use.

During my three minutes of fame, I mentioned how happy I was to see so many pedestrian safety advocates in the neighborhood, but how I was disappointed to see that they were not united. I suggested a neighborhood pedestrian safety workshop, where a street safety expert could present an overview of the various tools available for safety improvements, and then people from the neighborhood could take a few minutes to talk about their problem areas. The expert would then give suggestions about ways to make those areas safer, and the neighbors could react to those suggestions. This would provide a low-pressure context for people to work together to find solutions and resolve conflicts.

I was very pleased when, right after I suggested this, Joe Conley quietly said, “Okay, we’ll set that up.” I’ve asked him to keep me informed about the dates so that I can pass them on to you.

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