A city survey's reported support for the Willoughby Avenue open street, but only if the city’s transportation department makes some tweaks, reports The Brooklyn Paper.
The Brooklyn Community Board 2’s Transportation Committee voted on Tuesday to adopt a position in favor of the street. The motion was offered by committee member Juliet Cullen-Cheung, who proposed supporting the open street on the condition that DOT change its operating hours from 24/7 to 8 a.m.-8 p.m., and to shorten its length by a block, so it would end at Washington Avenue rather than Hall Street.
“I think, basically, we live in a community where there are a lot of diverging opinions about how to use the public space, so I would like to make a compromise proposal to recognize that,” stated committee member Cullen-Cheung.
The motion passed 7-5, with one committee member not present for the vote. The Willoughby Avenue open street, which stretches between Fort Greene Park and Hall Street, has been operational since June 2020, when then-mayor Bill de Blasio announced the Open Streets program in response to the pandemic. And while community board support is not technically needed for DOT to continue the program, the August 9th meeting was utilized for all voices to be heard.
And in the DOT’s spring survey which was launched specifically to gather feedback, out of 2,000 respondents, 44% said their primary mode of transportation on Willoughby is walking, 28% mostly ride their bicycles, and 16% drive their personal vehicles. The rest use for-hire vehicles or ridesharing services, according to the survey results.
“We also asked folks, do they feel safer walking or biking on the Willoughby Ave. open street since we were able to implement these traffic calming measures in December,” said Kyle Gorman, a program manager in DOT’s public space unit. “Nearly three-quarters of the folks who took this survey … said that ‘Yes, they did feel safer since the traffic-calming measures were implemented.”
However, some committee members still had pressing concerns with the program like Brooklyn local Ernest Augustus who voted against the motion to support the open street. Augustus claimed the city had “violated the city charter” and “circumvented the community board” in developing the permanent Open Streets program.
“That’s not a compromise,” Augustus said. “A compromise would have been, realistically, if the city had undertaken the proper land use review, filed the appropriate land use review, submitted it to the board … what we got was extortion.”
Representatives at the DOT did not immediately respond to request for comment on whether or not they would take the motion into consideration.