Make Meeker Move is a six-year-old campaign led by North Brooklyn Transportation Alternatives. The initiative includes residents, elected officials, and neighborhood organizations dedicated to restoring the space under the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE) in Greenpoint and Williamsburg between the Kosciuszko Bridge and Metropolitan Avenue, making the area safer, more environmentally-friendly, and more community-focused. The restoration will involve a comprehensive redesign of Meeker Avenue to add these elements in an effort to calm traffic and promote safety for everyone.
The Make Meeker Move Coalition’s presentation to the community board states that the coalition’s first priority is the creation of safety improvements for both pedestrians and cyclists with protected bike lanes and sidewalks. The second priority is environmental justice for the communities directly impacted by the decades of harm caused by the Expressway. The third priority is the transformation of a parking area to a park or green space that would bring the community together.
“For decades, Meeker Avenue under the BQE has divided our community. The constant car and truck traffic pollutes our air, and residents feel unsafe walking, biking, or crossing Meeker. Make Meeker Move is a vision for a sustainable, healthy, and community-focused Meeker Avenue,” said Rachel Albetski, Transportation Alternatives North Brooklyn Activist Committee Chair. “This is about environmental justice. This is about reclaiming space in a neighborhood that lacks open space and places to recreate. We want to see this underutilized space transformed into a place that responds to the needs and desires of the community.”
A large number of local groups and elected officials have supported Make Meeker Move for many years. It was recently approved by the local community board after many years of input and feedback.
The movement started to take shape in 2014 when Transportation Alternatives began engaging with North Brooklyn residents and asking where they felt unsafe biking, crossing the street, and walking. Many pointed to Meeker Avenue.
In 2015, the street safety group Transportation Alternatives officially kicked off the Make Meeker Move campaign with petitioning from activists in the North Brooklyn area. By 2016, Make Meeker Move’s petition had about 4,000 signatures and the support of 80 neighborhood businesses.
Transportation Alternatives then went to the community board. In turn, the community board wrote a letter to the Department of Transportation requesting changes on Meeker. In 2017, after gathering input from locals and reviewing Transportation Alternative’s work, the DOT presented its initial plan for Meeker Avenue.
After almost two years of advocacy, the campaign progressed in 2019, and Transportation Alternatives questioned how the space under the BQE could better serve North Brooklyn residents. They felt that more space for cars was not the solution.
Transportation Alternatives based this answer on statistics. 63.2% of households in the neighborhood do not own a car, and only 9.5% of people in the area drive to work alone. Siena College polling shows that 87% Brooklyn voters support taking away parking to enhance crosswalk safety. 71% of Brooklyn voters support bike lanes. Data from the NYPD shows streets with protected bike lanes lead to a 15% reduction in all crashes with injuries and a 21% reduction in pedestrian injuries. This is especially important because the neighborhood has some of the highest number of cyclists in the city. According to the Department of Transportation, 23% of residents ride their bike at least once a month, which is the 2nd highest percentage in Brooklyn and fifth highest citywide.
The corridor being redesigned is also a designated Vision Zero Priority Area because of the number of crashes. There have been 27 pedestrian injuries and 20 bicyclist injuries between 2014 and 2018 on Meeker Avenue, according to the DOT, ranking it in the top third of Brooklyn corridors. According to NYC Crash Mapper, in the past five years, there have been 1301 crashes along the Meeker corridor, including 5 fatalities and 1,813 injuries.
After progress stalled again in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Transportation continued planning sessions. In November of 2020, the DOT moved forward with a plan to add paid parking spots under the Expressway. This plan received overwhelming pushback and was put on hold. The Department of Transportation then presented a new plan with more pedestrian and bike space to the community board a few months ago in May 2021.
The Department of Transportation’s plan is currently moving forward with an 8 foot wide bike lane and an 8 foot wide pedestrian path, plus a redesign of the intersection and crosswalk. They have also agreed to survey street lighting.
The Department of Transportation’s current plan does not include the Make Meeker Move Coalition’s third priority of adding a park or green space. In the proposal, the DOT added a section called “Future Opportunities” where it states they will explore “capacity building for public amenities.” Not everyone is completely satisfied with the fact that green space has been left out, but most still support the plan because the safety improvements are a top priority.
“I am eager to see even better improvements in the future,” said Kevin LaCherra, a coordinator in the Make Meeker Move Coalition. “There is a deep need for green infrastructure in that area. But, first and foremost is the safety aspect and that is what this plan does.” LaCherra went on to explain his vision for the future, which would include anything from basketball courts and skate parks to dog runs and possibly outdoor theater.
The Department of Transportation recently commenced the Make Meeker Move project with the removal of parking spaces and prepping of bike lanes under the Kosciuszko Bridge. Brian Zumhagen, a representative from the Department of Transportation said that DOT is “completing these improvements in stages, with work now underway that includes repaving, additional signals and some concrete work. We expect portions of the project to open next spring.”