The workshop was prompted by the death of Matthew Jensen, a Greenpoint elementary school teacher and resident who was struck and killed by a black Rolls Royce at the corner of McGuinness Boulevard and Bayard Street (a block away from the BQE entrance/exit ramp) on May 18th. Jensen was on the way home from his own birthday party at the time of the crash.
The driver is still yet to be found, but Jensen’s death led to widespread calls for safety improvements. In response to this community action, Mayor Bill de Blasio visited Greenpoint in June, pledging to apply vision zero to the McGuinness Boulevard corridor with both immediate and gradual safety improvements.
Some short term improvements have already been made to the road ahead of the workshop this past week. These include the installation of a new crosswalk and pedestrian signal on Bayard Street, where Jensen was killed, and a reduction in the lengths of green lights throughout the road to slow down drivers.
Representatives from the DOT present at the workshop confirmed that a right-turn traffic calming barrier has been approved for the Bayard Street corner. Left turn barriers have been approved for the corners of Greenpoint Avenue, Kent Street, and Nassau Avenue.
Zachary Wyche, a civil engineer from the DOT, discussed the ways that seemingly small changes to the road — rubber pylons, concrete barriers, etc. — can begin the work of improving safety for pedestrians and drivers.
“It’s a lot of paint, plastic bollards, rubber speed bumps,” Wyche explained. “There’s sometimes a little bit of concrete, but in general, it’s done with things that we can put down quickly and rearrange, and it’s a shorter timeline than the capital project, which is rebuilding the entire right-of-way of the road.”
Over 80 Greenpointers attended the workshop, discussing their concerns about the roadway and spitballing potential solutions.
“I’m super grateful that DOT and the Mayor’s office are working with us to design a better street, and taking our recommendations into consideration and working alongside us to build a better opportunity, especially for pedestrians, cyclists,” Assemblymember Gallagher said to the workshop attendees. “It’s very important for us to take this opportunity to really think about the roles we have as users of the street, and really think about the moments we felt unsafe, however you use this street.”
The DOT is currently drafting their larger redesign of McGuinness Boulevard, which is planned to begin in 2022. Feedback gathered from the Greenpoint workshop will be factored into the agency’s forthcoming redesign proposal.
Proposed solutions offered by workshop attendees included the elimination of one lane of traffic to make room for a two-way bike lane or dedicated loading zones for trucks.
In addition to the DOT study, the community organization “Make McGuinness Safe” is working on its own redesign proposal that it hopes the City can use as a template. The group’s redesign includes renderings of a reimagined McGuinnes boulevard with a two-way bike lane, concrete dividers with greenery, and Citi bike docking stations.
Greenpointers who were not able to attend the virtual workshop are still able to submit input to the DOT via an online portal (nycdotprojects.info).