Rendering of a Bioswale via NYC DEP

The NYC Department of Transportation is getting ready to release the results of a Transportation Study for Brooklyn Community Board 1 (That’s us)!  The study, focusing on issues like street design, traffic flow, public safety and environmental impact, was funded by Councilman Stephen Levin’s office. While North Brooklyn residents have already contributed over 400 unique comments and concerns to the study, Levin’s office is now inviting community members to submit last minute input “to make sure this process reflects everyone’s voices.”

The North Brooklyn streetscape is not the first to be surveyed by the NYC DOT. For example, the department assessed conditions on Jay Street in 2016. Past studies like this one have analyzed existing issues on the street, then offered solutions based on public input, so your ideas are essential to the process. 

But what kind of ideas is the Department looking for? The survey will take into account elements of street design including lane width, and sidewalk and curb extensions. These seemingly small considerations can have a very big impact on traffic patterns and pedestrian safety. An email from councilman Levin explains, “the width of lanes often dictates what streets can and can’t do. Parking, bus routes, truck traffic, bike lanes, and sidewalk width are all dependent on the minimum lane width and number of lanes… A street’s width, and the accompanying lane width, determines the nature of street activity. When thinking about lane widths there are also safety considerations. There is a strong correlation between the space available on the road, and the average speed of vehicle traffic. Wide lanes lead people to step on the gas while narrow ones encourage traveling at a safe speed.” As for sidewalk and curb extensions, improvements in these areas contribute to safer intersections because they produce shorter crosswalks and greater visibility.

Finally, the study will consider North Brooklyn’s unique environmental challenges, and offer solutions in the arena of street design. Two common environmentally friendly solutions in New York City are planting street trees, and installing bioswales. According to the EPA, the shade that trees provide lowers surface temperatures between 20 and 45 degrees. Trees also reduce energy use by decreasing demand for air conditioning; they improve air quality and lower greenhouse gas emissions; they enhance stormwater management and water quality by reducing runoff and absorbing and filtering rainwater; they reduced pavement maintenance by slowing the deterioration of street pavement; and they improve quality of life by helping to reduce noise and promoting feelings of wellbeing.

While trees can improve any streetscape, bioswales are particularly important for New York City. The same email from Levin’s office continues, “these curbside landscape features remove pollution from runoff water as well as improve water infiltration into the soil. By increasing the amount of water that goes into the soil, bioswales reduce the strain on our sewage system. Rainfall as little as 1/20th of an inch can overload our sewer system. Every year, more than 27 billion gallons of raw sewage are discharged into New York Harbor.”


These are just a few ideas and solutions to improve North Brooklyn’s streetscape. The councilman’s office encourages everyone to get creative with proposals they think will benefit the community. Your ideas need not be limited to roads and sidewalks, they can include transportation and other areas of infrastructure. Let the DOT know what’s working and what’s not in this community. To make your voice heard, you can fill out the survey from Councilman Levin’s office here!

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