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Op-Ed: Keeping McGuinness Safe and Keeping it Moving Has Always Been Our Goal

Averianna Eisenbach, of Greenpoint, shares her thoughts on the controversy surrounding the Department of Transportation's "road diet" plan for McGuinness Boulevard.
McGuinness Boulevard. Photo: Google Street View.

By: Averianna Eisenbach

For months now, Mayor Eric Adams and the NYC Department of Transportation have gone back and forth on a redesign plan for McGuinness Boulevard. This plan has been pushed overtly and covertly by the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives and those acting on their behalf, namely Greenpoint’s local politicians Assemblymember Emily Gallagher and Councilmember Lincoln Restler. Those politicians have clearly chosen to listen only to one small portion of their constituencies that supports a redesign that will add bike lanes to McGuinness Boulevard at the expense of either parking or travel lanes on the most heavily used road in Greenpoint, a road that absorbs traffic volume and keeps it off the local side streets. The supporters of the McGuinness bike lane say that this is about safety, so why does it seem a lot more like it is about getting a bike lane on McGuinness Boulevard at any cost?

I founded Keep McGuinness Moving in the summer of 2022 when I saw this project being pushed on social media — and social media only — by Assemblymember Gallagher, Councilmember Restler and the lobbyist backed, multimillionaire funded, Transportation Alternatives surrogate group “Make McGuinness Safe.” Why was this major change to Greenpoint’s transportation infrastructure advertised solely online on social media? Seems intentionally marketed to the “TransAlt constituents,” a vocal minority of the population, while designed to exclude everyone else in Greenpoint from the conversation, which is exactly what happened. 

Because the outreach, such as it was, was advertised exclusively online, when my group Keep McGuinness Moving started canvassing the neighborhood, most people we spoke to had no idea that anything was happening to McGuinness Boulevard. There are a great number of people who do not use social media, and there are even more who have social media but have not been following the few specific groups or accounts that this so-called “road diet,” as its supporters have nicknamed it, was advertised on.

What’s worse, our politicians took part in this deception and have even enabled dozens of Make McGuinness Safe supporters who ultimately harass, wrongly defame and utterly terrorize local businesses, residents and neighbors who disagree with the “road diet” plan. The silence on the part of Assemblymember Gallagher and Councilmember Restler about the hostility of the group they support speaks volumes. Mr. Restler was specifically asked to take a pledge against such violent behavior from Make McGuinness Safe this past June at a community meeting but he would not.

So, when Ms. Gallagher, Mr. Restler, Make McGuinness Safe and TransAlt supporters say they are fighting for safety, we should consider harassment and threatening neighbors or merely condoning such behavior as part of the means to safety.  Also know that those of us who are fighting this absurd road diet plan are doing so because we are genuinely concerned about the safety of our Greenpoint community that currently enjoys safe, quiet residential side streets. That won’t be the case when thousands of cars and trucks get routed to them off of McGuinness every day. And those are based on DOT’s numbers, not mine.

DOT’s own numbers show that upwards of 55,000 cars and trucks use McGuinness Boulevard every day, and that’s based on numbers from a 2021 study when the pandemic was in full swing. The numbers are no doubt greater today because fewer people are working from home, not that DOT would know because they have not conducted an updated study. But more to the point, that amount of traffic volume will not just magically disappear. Sure, some of it will divert elsewhere and avoid Greenpoint altogether, but not all of the tens of thousands of cars and trucks that will suddenly face a very real choice between a jammed McGuinness and our local side streets.

As a mother, every day when I walk with my son in his stroller, I am in fear of bicyclists and e-bike riders zooming through stop signs and red lights that are not being enforced. In June, there was a 2-year-old struck by an e-bike while in his stroller and was sent to the hospital. This is a fairly new problem and fear of all people walking with strollers and children. Think these new bike lanes will attract reckless scooter drivers? Why should we welcome a new type of danger into our community? Will Ms. Gallagher, Mr. Restler and Make McGuinness Safe be policing these bike lanes?

Our ideas for improving safety and access on McGuinness Boulevard instead of narrowing the road and adding bike lanes employ a combination of methods, such as adding red light cameras, speed cameras, digital speed warning signs, curb extensions, rumble strips, speed bumps, changing the traffic signal timing, adding signals by the off ramps of the highways and increased police presence and enforcement to catch reckless drivers and riders of all kinds of vehicles. That’s nine potential solutions that would significantly reign in the real problems, and not one of them has been tried before we rush headlong into this road diet quagmire. Our ideas will keep everyone safe and maintain access. We are in this for the whole neighborhood and all of the stakeholders.

Averianna Eisenbach is a 22 year old single mom, college student, and as of lately a community activist. As a 5th generation Greenpointer, she founded Keep McGuinness Moving and is honored to speak on behalf of and advocate for her community.