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Transportation commissioner was not prepared to meet Ridge

You might have thought that the Brooklyn transportation commissioner would have arrived at a Dyker Heights traffic forum at which he was to be the main event prepared to answer questions about the plethora of traffic issues in the neighborhood.

You would have been wrong.

Startlingly, Brooklyn Borough Commissioner of Transportation Joseph Palmieri answered most queries posed to him at the meeting organized by the Dyker Heights Civic Association and the Neighborhood Improvement Association with vague generalizations or promises to look into the situation.

Fran Vella-Marrone, the president of Dyker Heights Civic, said that some of the group’s members had come up to her to express their disappointment that “he didn’t offer more information. They wanted more meaty answers,” she stressed. But, Vella-Marrone said, his answers were similar to responses the community has gotten in the past from the agency. “I’m sure he’s knowledgeable, but they generally answer in the fashion he answered that night. It’s his usual M.O.,” she said.

Allen Bortnick, a member of Community Board 10, was less diplomatic.

“It’s extremely disrespectful to the community to be as unknowledgeable as he appears to be,” he said, contending that the Department of Transportation is “the joke of the year. They have no answer for you.”

When asked, Palmieri couldn’t even quote the boundaries of the long-awaited and now-overdue traffic study the agency has promised to do of the neighborhood. He didn‘t have the map with him, Palmieri told Councilman Vincent Gentile, though he did offer to forward it to him.

“I don’t really have the particulars,” he admitted in front of the group gathered at the Norwegian Christian Home.

Palmieri did say that the agency was currently “collecting data for accidents at different intersections. Once we have that mapped out, then we will be able to come back with a plan on what we can do about safety. As for traffic flow, that will come eventually when everything is finalized. We should have some recommendations by September of this year.”

When asked, Palmieri declined to describe the next series of changes being planned for the Fort Hamilton Parkway exit from the Gowanus Expressway.

Palmieri explained that the plan for the intersection is still a work in progress.

He did say, however, that recommendations made by the community to prohibit left turns from Fort Hamilton Parkway onto 78th Street at certain hours and from Bay Ridge Parkway onto Fort Hamilton Parkway would be incorporated into the plan, which is intended to correct the traffic nightmare caused by the city when it revamped the exit last summer. Ever since, neighborhood residents have had to put up with extended traffic backups that have led to frighteningly aggressive driving behavior on the part of motorists caught in the logjam.

The Gowanus Expressway itself is under the state’s Department of Transportation, Palmieri said in response to a question about backups onto the highway at the Sixth Avenue exit. “I don’t really know what could be done with that,” he said.

Apparently, he also didn’t know that the state agency had come up with a plan for the exit. But, at this point, Gentile interjected, “Commissioner, the state DOT has a plan that will begin at the end of this year to widen that exit to two lanes.”

As for the controversial bike lane planned for Bay Ridge Parkway, Palmieri said it had not been finalized because of objections raised by Community Board 11.

“Were there any studies that were done?” Liz Amato wanted to know.

While he could not say so definitively, Palmieri did note that he thought it was probably a part of the bicycle master plan, that the transportation department has slowly been implementing over the past three decades.

“I can definitely get you more information,” he said.

There was one nugget to be gleaned from the evening.

“He did say we are going to get the Dyker Heights traffic study,” Vella-Marrone stressed. “I got the impression that we would get something by September, though I’m not sure what that was, so I’m happy something is happening with respect to that, and I’m happy that he made it as a public statement.”

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