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Pulaski Bridge Defenders Make Bid to Form Coalition

North Brooklyn and Eastern Queens community leaders have formed a nascent coalition to address finding a way to better accommodate pedestrians, cyclists and motorists using the congested Pulaski Bridge.

Representatives from Brooklyn Community Board 1, Transportation Alternatives, Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, the East Williamsburg Valley Industrial Development Corporation, the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, and several other organizations, met on October 27 at the Smolenski Democratic Club (145 Java St.) to brainstorm ways to expand usage of the bridge while reducing conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians.

“The bridge unites the communities of Brooklyn and Queens.The creek separates us and it shouldn’t,” said Transportation Alternatives member Steve Scofield.“How many people from Brooklyn come to visit Long Island City and Astoria and vice versa?”

The coalition, which does not even have a name yet, follows from the concerted efforts from Brooklyn transportation activists Moses Gates and Marin Tockman to make the Pulaski Bridge safer for cyclists and pedestrians.The coalition has been working on the issue since May 2009, when Transportation Alternatives held a rally on National Ride to Work Day to raise awareness about commuting safety.

Transportation Alternatives members have also encouraged Brooklyn Community Board 1 and Queens Community Board 2 to write a joint letter to the Department of Transportation to request a study about how to improve the Pulaski Bridge for commuters.DOT officials have indicated that while funds to redesign the bridge may not be available for several years, they would be open to a community-based plan.

“We’re at capacity, the DOT says that they have spent all the money they can spend for the next 15 years.We should try to form a compromise,” said Gates.

While working to form a coalition, Gates and Tockman found that community leaders throughout Brooklyn and Queens had similar goals to redesign the Pulaski Bridge, whether through extending the Brooklyn Greenway to Queens, adding a bicycle lane on the bridge, or adding more signage along the bridge to encourage safe commuting over the bridge.

Milton Puryear of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative shared his experiences recommending a community-based plan on a transportation issue in his neighborhood and encouraged his fellow stakeholders to keep the plan “community-based.”

“I would encourage you to try to control it as much as you can in terms of the vision of the project,” said Puryear.

NAG Board Member Lacey Tauber suggested that coalition members reach out to graduate school planning programs at local universities with classes that tackle transportation issues in order to help put together a comprehensive proposal on bridge improvements.

“This is a great program for a transportation studio and there are plenty of students out there to bring their skills to the table,” said Tauber.

Tockman hopes to hold a charette in early 2010 where different stakeholders can put forward their ideas for redesigning the Pulaski Bridge in a more formal setting.In the meantime, she urged community members to bring more stakeholders to meetings to ensure the widest representation possible.

“The next step is coming up with ideas,” said Tockman.“What are the main goals of improving space on the Pulaski Bridge and make it sustainable for the future?”

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