So I'm cruising along on my cruiser today and noticing for the first time since moving to the neighborhood all those years ago something really quite remarkable. Traffic on Flatbush, the Flabenue, was moving...calmly. That's right. No darting in and out. No slamming on brakes then flooring it. I didn't feel like I was taking my life into my hands, and the street looked like any of a hundred other busy thoroughfares in NYC. Busy, but not insane.
Granted the volume is down compared to a normal weekday. BUT drivers were clearly getting more used to the pattern. The horrorshow at Lincoln/Flatbush/Washington continues, and there's still no sign of traffic agents (supposedly coming Monday). But that's part of the point. Flatbush volume has been too high for ages, what with buses, cabs, trucks, dollar vans, car services and...commuters.
A lot of rumors and misconceptions are kicking around out there. Like that median that's being removed at Empire next to the demolished Botanic Garden entrance. That job has nothing to do with the new DOT traffic calming measures. Nor is it related to complaints from drivers about backups. That median, with the sweet little tree on it (sob) made it impossible for trucks of a certain size to turn. It was a big flaw in design and had to be corrected. As will other design flaws be corrected, if they prove to be untenable in the longrun.
But get this straight. DOT is not going back to six lanes on Flatbush. It's too narrow and therefore very unsafe, and in fact is not considered safe at that width anywhere else in the City or any other City for that matter. DOT could probably be convinced to eliminate parking on the outbound side during rush hours (4-7pm), though the reason they didn't was because of concerns about the merchants who are open at those times. However, such concerns did not stop DOT from eliminating parking on Flatbush from the Manhattan Bridge to Grand Army Plaza, so I don't see why we should get special treatment. Traffic is clearly flowing better at rush hour in the morning because of the extra space, so afternoons could work better too. We'll see whether that's politically possible.
Some wonder about the wisdom of the right turn only as you come down Flatbush from GAP and hit Empire. Well, this makes perfect sense, so drivers have time to get it together to form a single lane. You see it work all of the place; we're just not used to it yet. They should add either a right turn signal or an allowed right turn on red to make it even clearer. HONK your butts off drivers! Let 'em know you care!
If in fact the traffic agents turn out, credit goes to Pearl Miles of CB9, who on her vacation, called the powers-that-be to get it going. She also put in tough words to get the 71st out there. Credit should go where it's due...if. I was on a lot of the email back and forth and I feel confident that the responses from Greg and Claudette at DOT and the police came AFTER we complained and complained some more. But I'm glad they're listening. I got a call from Inspector Fitzgibbon on Wednesday guaranteeing an upgraded response. Again, we'll see.
I learned also that for all the complaints about Dollar Vans I've heard through the years, precious few have reached anyone with any power to do anything about it. Have you or anyone you know ever called an elected official? Or the Community Board? Or the TLC? Thought not. It's time for us to create an official task force on the issue. I'm hoping Ed Fanning will lead the effort, as chair of the Transportation committee and/or Rosemarie Perry of Public Safety.
Dollar Vans shouldn't be eliminated. They are part of the solution. At rush hour, they carry as many as 12 people, and cost less than the buses, which are also packed at rush hour. Car services and cabs, well, they're what they are and aren't going away. Trucks are not to be on Flatbush if they're not delivering locally, so we need enforcement there. Double parking needs to be enforced as strongly as north of GAP. And drivers, most just one to a car, need to know that Flatbush is not a freeway and shouldn't expect a quick ride at rush hours. I don't drive through the Holland Tunnel at rush hour expecting a speedy ride; the Flabenue is no different. Tough enforcement all around is needed. I'm with Alex - we may need some sort of hearing to demand it.
If we can deal with some of the behavior, and convince a few commuters to take a different non-bus route from work, perhaps I'll be eating a gratis steak dinner courtesy of neighbor Josh G., who bet me that Flatbush will still be a big mess come the new year. I'm looking forward to my big juicy steak, courtesy of Gino's. Make sure you don't max out credit cards Josh!
The Q at Parkside
News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.