While living in Brooklyn from June 2009 till November 2010, I had the opportunity to live on the northern and southern ends of Prospect Park. Until June 2010, I lived in Prospect Heights, just a few blocks down from Grand Army Plaza and the Brooklyn Public Library.
In June of this year, I moved to Windsor Terrace – at the south end of the park, near Bartel Pritchard Square. It was around this time that the New York City Department of Transportation installed a two-way bike lane along Prospect Park West (PPW). To accommodate this development, the DOT removed one lane of traffic from PPW and made the parking spots along the park side of the street into an island separating the bike lane from the motorists.
One of the loudest critics of this change was Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. Markowitz, an avid supporter of the boondoggle that is the Atlantic Yards arena project, slammed the bike lane’s impact on the neighborhood.
Markowitz had several concerns about the bike lane. First he said, “Prospect Park West was one of the most beautiful, scenic, majestic thoroughfares in Brooklyn and the bike lane has destroyed its beauty!” Oh, Marty! Removing a lane for cars, adding a space for bikes, and moving parking spots off the curb destroys the beauty of Prospect Park West? Really? Maybe I’ve been mistaken all these years, but I thought the street’s beauty came from the fact that an Olmstead designed park bordered the thoroughfare, not because it was a three-lane road.
He also said the cars parked off the curb created a blind spot that put pedestrians at risk of being struck by cyclists. Older bike lanes in New York City were painted into the first lane of traffic. This set-up of sidewalk, parked car, bike lane creates the same dynamic Markowitz says is unique to the lane on Prospect Park West.
Incredulously, Markowitz said speeding hasn’t been an issue on Prospect Park West. Prospect Park West, much like 8th Avenue in Park Slope, has traffic lights every few blocks. From personal experience, if you can catch the lights at the right time, it is possible to go from Union Street to 15th Street – the length of the park – without stopping for a red light. And as both a pedestrian and driver, I’ve seen people treat that road like a speedway which is incredibly reckless with so many children, parents, and senior citizens using the park.
Markowitz saved his most inane complaint for last. Despite substantial community support for the bike lane prior to their installation, the borough president alleged that Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan had a nefarious plan to stigmatize car drivers. Markowitz pointedly asked reporters, “Do we want Brooklyn to replicate Amsterdam?”
This week, there was two big developments on the bike lane front. This past Tuesday, Brooklyn Councilmen Brad Lander and Steve Levin released the results of a neighborhood survey on the Prospect Park West bike lanes. More than three quarters, 78 percent of those surveyed prefer the current set-up (54 percent) or would like to see slight modifications (24 percent). In terms of the impact on car traffic, the results are even more favorable for supporters of the bike lane. The Brooklyn Paper reports that 85 percent of respondents “feel the project has ‘very much’ or ‘somewhat’ met the goal of reducing speeding and 91 percent feel it has ‘very much’ or ‘somewhat’ met the goal of creating a safer space for biking.” Of those polled, 53 percent did believe it was harder to cross the street because of the set-up. If anything, this number is an indication that the current layout is a good start, but some work still remains.
Yesterday, the New York City Council’s Transportation Committee held a hearing on the Bloomberg administration’s bike lane program and subsequent push back in some neighborhoods. Not missing an opportunity to get his name in the papers and his face on TV, Borough President Marty Markowitz testified. Did he address the neighborhood poll? Did he provide substantive feedback as borough president? No and no. Markowitz serenaded the committee with a self-written song, “These Are A Few Of My Favorite Lanes,” to the tune of “These Are A Few of My Favorite Things.” Take a listen for yourself. It is both pointless and maddening. Brooklyn is a great place. With so much potential in every neighborhood, it is a disappointment that my home has a clownish cheerleader for borough president, when it deserves an thoughtful advocate.
At the end of the video, a reporter tells Markowitz, “Don’t quit your day job.” Marty, please do!