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Greenpoint Groups Clash Over Proposed Bike Lane on Deadly McGuinness Boulevard

A proposed bike lane on McGuinness Boulevard has polarized a community. One group says it could hurt local businesses, while another insists it’s the safest future for a busy street.
Greenpoint residents and business owners at a town hall to discuss the instillation of a bike lane on McGuinness Boulevard.

Tensions were high at a town hall meeting in Greenpoint last week, as two groups weighed in on whether a bike lane should be installed on the busy McGuinness Boulevard.

The June 15 meeting came after the New York City Department of Transportation unveiled plans last month for a “road diet” — a measure that will cut a lane on either side of the road to make way for a dedicated bike lane.

According to the DOT, there were 229 crashes with injuries between 2015 and 2019 on McGuinness Boulevard. Also, the DOT said three people have been killed in crashes on the busy street during the last 10 years. The latest of these deaths was public school teacher and bicyclist Mathew Jensen in May 2021, which reinvigorated calls for safety improvements on the street. 

Once finalized, the redesign is set to begin this year. But not everyone is on board with the proposed change. Thursday’s town hall was hosted by Keep McGuinness Moving, a group of local business owners who say the bike lane will increase traffic on McGuinness Boulevard and negatively impact nearby businesses.

The proposed road diet for McGuinness Boulevard. Photo: Provided/NYC Department of Transportation.

“If you drive out business, we know what the land will look like," said Randy Peers,  Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, during the event. "It'll look like high-end, high-rise residential. That's the future there if we push out business."

The meeting was attended by more than 200 residents and business owners, who voiced their concerns to DOT Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Keith Bray and Councilmember Lincoln Restler, who were also present.

The street in 2023. Photo: Google Street View.

​“I think there is a better solution that we can come up with that doesn't really constrict all the flow of traffic,” said Vinny Milburn, owner of Greenpoint Fish and Lobster and a cyclist himself. Other town hall speakers echoed these sentiments.

“We want safety. We don't want people getting killed on our streets. But at the same time, there's true impacts with this plan that are going to occur for our local businesses," said Community Board 1 member Karen Nieves.

Council Member Lincoln Restler at a town hall to discuss the installation of a bike lane on McGuinness Boulevard. Photo: Christopher Edwards for BK Reader.

Outside of the meeting, members of Make McGuinness Safe, a group of activists who support the road diet, protested that they were not let in the meeting.

“Public meeting, let us in!” the protesters chanted while holding signs naming those who have been injured or killed in accidents on McGuinness Boulevard.

The Make McGuinness Safe group said the pushback against the bike lane from Keep McGuinness Moving is the work of the well-connected Argento family, who owns the production company Broadway Stages. Thursday’s town hall, which was billed as a public event, was held at one of Broadway Stages’ soundstages. Keep McGuinness Moving removed the list of businesses that support them after a report from THE CITY found that a large number of the businesses can be traced back to the Argento family.

“Opponents of street safety, fueled by one very powerful and very wealthy company in Greenpoint, have been pushing hard on the Mayor’s office to scrap the plan entirely. We need to show the Mayor that he can not walk this back without a fight,” Make McGuinness Safe tweeted on June 12, a few days before the protest. 

The Make McGuinness Safe group demonstrated outside of a town hall to discuss the installation of a bike lane on McGuinness Boulevard. Photo: Christopher Edwards for BK Reader.

But not everyone who spoke at the town hall was anti-road diet. Toward the end of the meeting, DOT Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Keith Bray and Council Member Lincoln Restler spoke, saying that they would take the group’s concerns into consideration.

“We've seen road diets implemented in other places successfully that have improved safety and have not had some negative impacts that many people today articulated concerns about," said Restler.

Later in the day on June 15, Make McGuinness Safe held a march in support of the road diet. Restler, along with other local electeds who support the road redesign, attended the march, according to Greenpointers.

Brooklyn Community Board 1’s transportation committee is holding a public meeting on Thursday, June  22.

Christopher Edwards

About the Author: Christopher Edwards

Christopher Edwards is a native Brooklynite and current student at Baruch College, majoring in Journalism and Creative Writing.
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