The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

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.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Mayor Closes Half the Park To Traffic

Here's the story.

And here's the beef, per reader JDB:

"For someone who lives on the East side of Prospect Park, I find this proposal to be outrageous. The Mayor talks often about two New Yorks, this proposal only exacerbates that problem. Already, Prospect Park West is a one way road with a wonderful bike path and plentiful parking. Compare that with Ocean Avenue on the East side of the Park, which is basically a four lane highway in two directions and no bike path. Moreover, there is constant running of red lights on the street due to lax enforcement. Now the Mayor wants to compound that inequity by creating a more peaceful, safer, and environmentally friendly West side of the park without giving any relief to those on the East side of the park. Let's not forget the demographic differences: the West side of the park is predominantly white and wealthy and the East side of the park is predominantly minority and poor. Hopefully, the Mayor will be open to discussions about this proposal and decide to cut car traffic from the entire park so all New Yorkers can equally enjoy the park."

While I happen to be highly in favor of closing the park to all traffic, I think it's a mistake to make this a Tale of Two Cities. The park's drives have been closed in stages. Various entrances and exits have gone the way of the Dodo. And at each new bit of closings, various constituencies have complained. The direction is clear; one day, hopefully very soon, non-City vehicles will be outlawed, except to Park in the Lakeside parking lot. Or with special permits for special events.

But not everyone agrees, certainly not the hundreds of drivers who use the park every day. Believe me, they're there! I negotiate them every morning on my way to work and kid's school near Barclay's. But if this were really a matter of minority or poorer sides of park being neglected, how do you explain Lakeside and the wonderful new amenities on "our" side of the Park? The Drummer's Grove? The Lake itself? The Carousel and Zoo and Leffert's House, all in great shape and super popular? Even the Oriental Pavillion is going to get another sprucing up.

I think what's really going on is a political calculation, since morning traffic on the east side is twice as great as in the evenings. Park Slope, more bike-centric and anti-auto, won't complain too much. Then close it down over here when people start to get used to the no-traffic thing. Trust me, there are some who will put up a fight for the auto! I deal with them all the time over at CB9.

And here's the thing. Now's the time to come out in support of a full closure! Demonstrate! Call the Mayor's office! I'm just not so sure it's the right time to pull out the "poor and black" card, which as we know is becoming less and less accurate all the time anyway.


pam said...

folks may want to write to Eric Adams, the Propect Park Alliance (and Diana Richardson?) about this

roxv said...

i don't know about park slope being any more pro-bike and anti-auto than people here. there was a HUGE fuss about the bike lane on PPW by Park slope residents when it happened, not to mention i tend to think of parents with young children as the most entitled car users...

Clarkson FlatBed said...

T.A. has a real strong presence there. I know there was pushback; that's why I expect it here as well.

The thing that DOT tells me is that there primary concern is traffic flow. Also, if they close the drive, there's no going back. That's why it's been done in stages. And despite what some have claimed, the East Drive does get quite a bit of traffic in the 7-9 rush.

The irony, of course, is that it's not that many locals who use these routes anyway. The fact that it's worse during nice weekend days and commute times suggests that it's folks from outside the Slope, Windsor Terrace, Park Slope etc who clog it up. And you know what? That's fine. It's everyone's park, they're everyone's roads.

Now. Let's get the damn cars out of the park. But not make it so us against them.

JMB said...

I do hope that this is the next phase in an eventually completely car-free park. Though it should be noted that we recently got a new parking lot on our side of the park as well.

It's not Park Slope residents driving through the park, it's traffic from South Brooklyn. The main thing to note here is that by cars can only enter the park on the west side, at Coney Island Ave, where they get shunted through the east side of the park instead of driving through Park Slope. That's where the feeling of getting dumped on comes from.

But yeah, time to redouble the efforts to get it shut down all the way. I never thought we'd get this far, and here we are...

Alex said...

Agree with the O.P. First thing I thought was "Tale of two New Yorks" when I saw the article.

Maybe as a sign of protest we should all go set up BBQ's on the sidewalk on PPW and see what happens - totally allowed on Ocean Ave (Thanks again, 71st!).

Anonymous said...

How much money a neighborhood has absolutely affects how NYC and its agencies do things. I'm kind of blown away at anybody saying otherwise.

JDB said...

Do you think for a second that if the plan was to close the east side completely now and then maybe close the west side in some unspecified future that there would not be an immediate uproar from big donors to the Mayor. Why should we have to wait for the unspecified day in the future? When we will be treated like our park slope brethren?

Also, the stages argument does not hold for the disparity between Ocean Ave and Prospect Park West.

Seems like this is another example of political rhetoric about equality that is not backed up by action. Another example of minority neighborhoods supporting a candidate and getting little in return.

MattOnLincoln said...

I thought of tale of two cities when I heard about this. Then I rationalized this as a stage-by-stage maneuver to get all cars out of the park. Then I entered the park at Garfield the other day, and appreciated the West Drive closure: pedestrians and little kids cross the drive there in large numbers, yet there's neither a crossing signal nor a stoplight to help them. Made me appreciate that on the East Side, the department's at least put one of those at Lincoln to stop the morning auto flow.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Anon 4:24. That's not what I said. In terms of this particular issue, I think it would be wrong to make that claim. Let me tell you what they have over in Park Slope, and increasingly in Windsor Terrace. They have strong, consistent organizations. They have political connections. They have a powerful Community Board (6). Most importantly, they have respected City leaders. We have none of those. And you can GET all of those things without piles of cash (though it never hurts!)

The City does not generally "bestow" services and changes upon neighborhoods. I've learned it's much more reactive than proactive. It's a big City and there are limited resources and the squeaky wheel gets the grease. If you present a strong, coherent proposal - like, say, the narrowing of intersections parallel to Flatbush north of GAP, DOT will do it. If you have a strong Merchant's or Civic Association or BID and you want to do an attractive median and bike lanes and smarter traffic (like Vandervilt). And if you want a protected bike lane and two rather than three lanes of traffic along a major travel route - like PPW, you can get it, despite an intense car lobby.

So far, in regards to closing traffic on the east side of the park I've seen an online petition. Which, we should all get used to knowing this, is an extremely ineffective way to get things done. Who even saw it? I mean, I can get 500 signatures to build a giant Wicker Man in the Nethermead and plan to burn it, but that doesn't mean it gets done.

PLGNA and CB9, and CB14, must make this a priority. Better yet, Diana Richardson and Jessie Hamilton, because you know damn well Mr. Do Nothing Eugene ain't gonna take the lead, call meetings, get involved, talk to the Mayor. Hell, he drives from Canarsie to work every day. Because he Canarsie. And loves his car. And doesn't know shit from Shinola.

Guys, this is about leadership and organization. Sure, the Mayor will eventually close our side of the park. But it will be DESPITE the lack of commitment on our part, not because of it.

So yeah, rich neighborhoods get more attention. But it's because they DEMAND it. We may have pent up demand, but until people start really getting involved, nothing's gonna happen. Look at Delson and his crew and the plaza at Parkside. You think that was going to happen in a vacuum?

Sorry if I sound preachy. It's just that I've spent the last few years learning how this stuff works, and you can whine all you want about being the poor and black side of the park that gets shafted. Or you can do something about it. What kills me is that it's white people complaining about how the poor, black side of the park gets the raw deal. Like, what the hell are you doing about it?

This is not meant to the few, some of whom read and comment regularly, btw. You know who you are.

Anonymous said...

Here's a helpful analogy, I think. Our neighborhood deserves equality and actually is not legally required to "demand" it in order to deserve it. There is an affirmative obligation our government has, that no community should be denied, whether silent, under-represented, or loud. Plain and simple: Cities are not supposed to do things that have a racially disparate impact. Although it is becoming impossible for citizens to bring suit on disparate impact/municipal services claims under Title VI (after a bad supreme court case called Sandoval) the law does still exist, and the DOJ can bring those sorts of suits if it wants to enforce Title VI. The "disparate impact" principle is still alive in other areas of law, such as our New York City Human Rights Law, and the federal Fair Housing laws, e.g.:

"Municipalities have the obligation to analyze and modify rules, policies, and practices that have potential discriminatory effects. Before adopting any policy or practice, it is necessary to ask:

• Is it likely that policy or practice will negatively impact on members of a protected class compared to the general population?

• Is the policy or practice necessary to achieve substantial, legitimate, non-discriminatory interests?

• Is there a less discriminatory alternative that would meet the same interest?"

To some extent, implicitly blaming under-represented communities for not loudly demanding their rights over the past decades misses the point.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Anon 12:59

Good luck with that! Your idealism is quaint. In the real world, you have to be tactical. With a limited set of political and financial resources in the City, you have to make sure your needs are known, and that the Powers that Be know that you'll hear from them if they don't deliver. Wait a lifetime if you like. The world won't care.

Besides, this is not an issue of "services delivered" or "services undelivered." We're talking about CHANGE. Most people, believe it or not, don't like change. We're seeing it on zoning. You could argue that no SANE person would not want to update 55 year old zoning laws. And there are plenty of folks who DON'T want the East Drive closed, or ANY drive closed, or any bike lanes etc. The question is whether those who WANT change are willing to put the time and effort into making it so. Almost every serious positive change in this City started with one or a few dogged individuals who lined up their ducks. And gained the support from the populace through education and/or propaganda.

As for legal arguments, I would remind you that we're all supposedly equal under the law. Right. And sugar is sour.

Anonymous said...

hi, this is anon at 12:59. i was only trying to make an analogy to make a point, which apparently was not effective. you succeeded in insulting and disappointing me if that's what your intent was. quaint? wait a lifetime? I've been doing civil rights law in NYC for nearly 20 years under the "quaint" delusion that I've actually been trying to make a difference in people's lives and make systems more fair. i did not know the "real world" is this blog, i guess i ought to spend all my time here instead. thanks for clarifying.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Oh, Anon, don't take it so hard. It's a blog. This is supposed to be discourse! As a lawyer you should know that it's fun to make a point with a flourish. I don't think that YOU are quaint. But your citing laws is not going to pick up the garbage piling up in the vacant lot. Or fill a pothole. Or close a road. You gotta make some noise, man!

I'm sure you've been making a difference in people's lives, and frankly I don't know what any of that has to do with the issue of closing the East Drive. Are you suggesting that there is a lawsuit that would compel the closing? And would it be worth pursuing? Because I know damn well that citing the law isn't going to amount to a hill of beans. Hell, I don't even think closing a road that a lot of people want kept open even qualifies as a dereliction of service delivery. Seems like it's more effort to keep it open than shut it down! If anything, the City is giving us a surfeit of services in this case.

I also clearly didn't go to law school, because I don't understand what you mean when you use the word "analogy" in that context. Please skool me! I wanna know! And try not to be so sensitive. If I were I'd never write another word.

Anonymous said...

Why doesnt Eric Adams take the lead on this, he knows our CB quite well since he personally knows half the members