As the plan to redesign the controversial McGuinness Boulevard gets closer and closer to being implemented, several residents and businesses came together to voice their dissatisfaction directly to the City’s Department of Transportation and other North Brooklyn elected officials, who were invited to what was ostensibly an open town hall.
Local film production company Broadway Stages played host to the meeting, days after reporting from THE CITY revealed that several businesses listed as opposing the redesign had ties to Broadway Stages and its owners, the Argento family.
The large warehouse provided ample space for the well-attended event, with a crowd that skewed older, though not everyone interested in participating was allowed in. A few counter-protestors, holding signs with the names of those who had been killed on McGuinness Boulevard, said they had been prohibited from entering the event, even though they had previously registered as requested by the event’s organizers.
In an email response to Greenpointers, a Broadway Stages spokesperson reiterated that the event was public, though did not clarify the decision to prevent redesign supporters from entering the meeting.
The meeting is part of a last-ditch attempt to block the redesign process from going through, a strategy that also includes flyers, robocalls, and extensive postering around the neighborhood.
A campaign to redesign McGuinness Boulevard launched in 2021, after the tragic hit-and-run death local school teacher Matthew Jensen. After a feedback process, the DOT presented three different potential redesign approaches at a virtual meeting last summer, before landing on an option this past May. This option reduces the four-lane street into a two-lane street, adding bike lanes and pedestrian medians.
“I don’t think enough work has been done. I don’t think enough people have been interviewed. Most people when I tell them that this has been going on for two years, they don’t believe it,” said a participant at the event.
DOT has conducted several outreach efforts in the community over the past couple of years, including appearances at town halls, community board meetings, street outreach, an online feedback map that has collected close to 800 comments, and a survey of local businesses.
A resident identified as Bill spoke on behalf of Green Chip Recycling and Allocco Recycling. “I just think this is critically unsafe and that congestion is going to get worse,” he told the crowd.
A Teamsters representative worried that the redesign would negatively impact trucking and other industrial businesses, highlighting how the boulevard is crucial for facilitating deliveries, for families and small businesses alike. Part of the plan to redesign McGuinness includes designated loading zones for private and business use on every block, as well as protecting truck access to the North Brooklyn Industrial Business Zone.
A few participants laid blame on cyclists for unsafe conditions on McGuinness Boulevard. “When cars didn’t have seatbelts, they instituted seatbelts to keep us safe. Football players have helmets. Why don’t we make a law where these cyclists have to wear helmets, to protect their heads?” said noted environmental activist Christine Holowacz.
Holowacz lamented how divisive the issue had become in the neighborhood. “There was never a time when we couldn’t find solutions, and this is the time,” she continued.
According to DOT data, at least 30% of vehicular traffic on McGuinness Boulevard is cut-through, meaning it comes from vehicles with neither origin nor destination in Greenpoint. Part of the goal of the redesign is to redirect that type of traffic, to where it can be absorbed on the BQE, LIE, or Manhattan Avenue, though it’s also likely that the change would encourage drivers to not cut through Greenpoint at all.
Census data also reveals that more than two-thirds of households in Brooklyn’s Community Board 1, which entirely comprises Greenpoint and Williamsburg, do not have access to a car.
Though the plan appears to be in motion, Keep McGuinness Moving plans to fight it as long as they can.
“Keep McGuinness Moving has threatened to sue the DOT if the agency moves ahead with the changes as planned, according to a May 30 warning letter sent to DOT Commissioner Rodriguez from attorney Alex Berger,” reports THE CITY.