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Traffic Flow Changes at 79th Street Get Thumbs Down

Traffic problems in Dyker Heights took center stage at a town hall meeting sponsored by one local elected official.

At the event, which was organized by State Senator Marty Golden, area residents complained bitterly about traffic calming measures installed at Seventh Avenue and 79th Street -- that are currently being redesigned by the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) -- as well as about speeding along some of the neighborhood’s thoroughfares,

The addition of Jersey barriers and pavement markings at 79th Street at the exit from the Gowanus Expressway was done to enhance safety at the location, which is near Public School 127.

But, residents attending the meeting at St. Ephrem’s Old School Hall, Fort Hamilton Parkway and 74th Street, said it has had the opposite effect, because it has backed up traffic dramatically, leading at least one local man to fret that the congestion could actually impede the ability of ambulances, police cars and fire trucks to get down side streets in an emergency.

While noting that “the safety of the children is paramount,” the man stressed that, “When you have a surge in traffic, it could take 15 minutes to go one block.”

“You have got to see it, the people getting into rages, because there’s no place for the cars to go,” another man expostulated.

The changes also encourage cars to turn on 79th Street, and go past the schoolyard, another man said, noting, “It has increased traffic 10-fold on 79th Street, and put the kids in danger.”

“The Brooklyn borough commissioner apologizes for any inconveniences you may have experienced,” because of the alterations at the exit, said Claudette Workman, a community affairs liaison for DOT.

Among the changes that the agency is currently contemplating making to correct the problems, she told the crowd, is altering the timing of traffic signals at the location, as well as altering the roadway markings. The proposal has been forwarded to Community Board 10, Workman added, noting that the board had told her that they wanted to “reach out to the public and get the community’s input” on the plan before giving it a green light.

The exit was not the only problem location in the neighborhood. One man complained vociferously about aggressive drivers along 11th Avenue, which has a minimum of traffic control devices, encouraging high rates of speed, he said.

The problem is exacerbated because there is only one traffic control device, a stop sign, between 86th and 80th Streets, and none between 80th Street and Bay Ridge Parkway, the man contended. “When a child gets killed, that’s when something gets done,” a woman interjected.

But, some said they didn’t simply want to see a traffic light or all-way stop installed at one location or another. Rather, noted Fran Vella-Marrone, the president of the Dyker Heights Civic Association (DHCA), what is needed is a traffic study of the entire area, so it can be determined what the impact of any changes at particular intersections would be.

This is something, Golden said, that had been promised, “three commissioners ago,“ but never delivered.

Simply adding traffic lights, he went on, “doesn’t necessarily save lives, It can cost lives, if there are too many and they aren’t synchronized, and there are people racing to get through those lights.”

The police will keep an eye on the strip, promised Deputy Inspector Eric Rodriguez, the commanding officer of the 68th Precinct. “It’s something we will definitely target,” he told the group.

A third issue was the bike lanes on Seventh Avenue. “Why do we need them?” one resident wanted to know. “People are using the bike lanes as passing lanes. The bike lanes were put in to slow down traffic, but they do nothing but speed up traffic.”

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