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The Crucial Truck Traffic McGuinness Redesign Opponents Say They’re Trying to Protect Doesn’t Exist

Pedestrians walk next to traffic on McGuinness Boulevard.

McGuinness Boulevard on a recent Thursday afternoon (Hell Gate)

Giving Greenpoint's deadly McGuinness Boulevard a road diet will stymie vital truck traffic in thriving industrial corners of the neighborhood, and "destroy the local economy." At least, that's the argument pushed by opponents of the Department of Transportation's ever-evolving plan to reduce the boulevard from four lanes of traffic to two. At a contentious meeting in June, demonstrators held up signs that said, "Trucks Need Truck Routes, Period." 

"The Teamsters have signed up, the industrial businesses have signed up, the businesses along McGuinness Boulevard have signed up," Randy Peers, the president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, told NY1's Errol Louis last month, pointing to the commercial interests aligned against the DOT's plan. "They want to ensure that, you know, this thoroughfare is open for business and the corridor is open for business."

"I mean, the actual proposals don't have any data, they don't have any numbers," added Lyn Pinezich, of the anti-road diet group Keep McGuinness Moving, who was also on the NY1 panel. "It's really just sort of one big, bike lane experiment."

Except the DOT does have some data on this topic, and it shows that trucks traveling to and from Greenpoint don't really use McGuinness.

According to a DOT PowerPoint slide obtained by Hell Gate, the percentage of truck trips that start or end in the Greenpoint Industrial Business Zone that also use McGuinness Boulevard, is in the single digits. Most commercial trucks use Provost Street, Greenpoint Avenue, Norman Avenue, and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The DOT says the data was collected in October 2022 and March 2023 by StreetLight Data, a company that scrapes information from a variety of sources and is used by cities across North America.

Bronwyn Breitner, who helped found the group Make McGuinness Safe, told Hell Gate that she saw this slide in late July, at a meeting with the City that was also attended by members of Keep McGuinness Moving.

"When I saw this slide, my mind was completely blown," Breitner recalled. "To see that the assumption that some people have—which is that there's gonna be a backup of traffic and it's gonna impact the travel times for their trucks—to see that rebutted so concretely, through data, to me is a big deal."

Another part of the map wasn't lost on Breitner: The DOT had starred the locations belonging to Broadway Stages, the Greenpoint soundstage company run by the family that has been the largest and most powerful opponent of the street redesigns, and whose companies make up many of the businesses that are backing Keep McGuinness Moving. 

The DOT slide with Broadway Stages locations mapped out.
The same slide as it was later sent out to elected officials.

To Breitner, the fact that the slide name-checked the company was yet more proof that the City was casting policy aside for politics. "It says what we all already know is actually happening: The City of New York is catering to one very wealthy, private business, and prioritizing their needs and their requests," Breitner said. "The City is catering to a private industry over the needs and wants of our community for a safe and livable street. It's disgusting."

The slide with the Broadway Stages locations was also shown to elected officials during a DOT briefing in late August, but when the agency emailed the full slideshow out, the stars had been removed.

"Everyone was like, this is pretty blatant, but also, I'm glad we're acknowledging that this has been fucked up exclusively by the influence of a single company, so why not talk about it directly?" a government staffer who was present for the briefing told Hell Gate. 

If the slide was meant to convince opponents of the road diet to change their minds, it failed.

"The people who are saying the economy will be ruined by this—they don't care about data," the staffer said. "And the DOT hasn't put it out to the public, so they've allowed misinformation to be constantly repeated."

The DOT did not answer our questions about why Broadway Stages was singled out in the map, or why the map was not made public, but said that they created this slide in June in an attempt to address the growing number of concerns they heard about the plan impacting truck traffic. 

The agency did reference the data once, in a bullet point of a press release sent to reporters on August 29 ("NYC DOT data show that a vast majority of truck traffic to Greenpoint’s Industrial Business Zone does not travel on McGuinness Boulevard.") By then, the project had already been changed to appease its opponents. 

Messages we left with Keep McGuinness Moving and Randy Peers, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce CEO, were not returned.

Opponents of the redesign march down McGuinness earlier this month (Hell Gate)

The plan to reduce the number of lanes on McGuinness has been fraught with political meddling since the DOT announced their lane-reduction plan this past spring. In June, Broadway Stages hosted a "town hall" attended by the DOT commissioner, and the company's representatives and allies denounced the plan, which had already been approved by Mayor Eric Adams. The mayor's top advisor, Ingrid Lewis-Martin, reportedly listened to the company and forced a "compromise" plan, but that plan too was compromised late last month, after Lewis-Martin again heard from business interests.

The latest iteration of the plan has McGuinness cut up into two parts. North of Calyer to the Pulaski Bridge, McGuinness will remain four lanes during business hours, and at night, one lane will turn into parking; the stretch will also get bike lanes in each direction. 

The section south of Calyer to Meeker Avenue was supposed to lose a lane of traffic under the first compromise plan, but it now has to undergo more "analysis," and its fate is uncertain. The DOT says they've already started work on the northern half, including putting down street markings.

Breitner, of Make McGuinness Safe, pointed to the 8,700 people who have signed the petition asking the DOT to return to the original plan, which called for removing a lane of traffic from the entire boulevard, and said she would keep working to ensure that the DOT removes a lane of traffic south of Calyer.

"Our intention and hope is to get the compromise plan implemented and continue to advocate for the full road diet," she said. 

A spokesperson for Broadway Stages, Juda Engelmayer, said that the Adams administration never shared the slide with the company or its representatives. "It's not only about [Broadway Stages], it's about the whole neighborhood," Engelmayer said of the fight against the McGuinness redesign, adding, "We don't oppose bike lanes. We just think that that's the wrong street for a bike lane."

Engelmayer denied that the company had an outsized influence in the debate. 

"It's no secret that Broadway Stages has been very, very active in politics going back many years," Engelmayer said. "The fact that they're a big player as opposed to a small mom-and-pop shop makes them a bigger target."

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