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McGuinness Boulevard Status Quo: Blocked Bike Lanes, Speeding Trucks, Angry Elected Officials

Lawmakers are demanding that the Adams administration do what it said it would do a year ago: Give McGuinness a road diet.

Brooklyn Councilmember Lincoln Rester stands at a podium in front of a group of street safety activists with Make McGuinness Safe next to McGuinness Boulevard.

Brooklyn Councilmember Lincoln Restler addressed the crowd on McGuinness Boulevard last Friday (Hell Gate)

On Friday afternoon, a group of four lawmakers who represent North Brooklyn gathered near the midway point of McGuinness Boulevard in Greenpoint to demand that Mayor Eric Adams change his mind yet again, and do what his Department of Transportation said it was going to do one year ago: remove two lanes of traffic from this historically deadly 0.9 mile stretch of road.

Recall that last May, after the DOT announced its plan, a lobbying campaign spearheaded by local studio mogul Tony Argento and his Broadway Stages company spurred the administration to backtrack on the road diet. Then the administration, safe streets advocates, and opponents of the plan reached a "compromise" to remove a lane of traffic from one half of McGuinness. Then the "compromise" was compromised, in large part thanks to top mayoral advisor Ingrid Lewis-Martin, who has repeatedly intervened on behalf of powerful business interests looking to scuttle street redesigns across the five boroughs. 

A DOT slide from May 4, 2023 showing the original road diet planned for the entirety of McGuinness Boulevard (DOT)

As of last September, the compromised compromise was this: For the section of the road north of Calyer to the Pulaski Bridge, vehicles will use all four lanes during business hours, and at night, one lane will turn into parking, with bike lanes in both directions. McGuinness south of Calyer still needed more "analysis," the DOT said. And with that, the debate paused for the winter.

A cyclist attempts to cross McGuinness at Green Street from the east side to the west side where the two-lane bike lane to the Pulaski Bridge begins (Hell Gate)

Now, with springtime and the paving season in full swing, the DOT has still not issued the results of the analysis it has done so far, and a visit to the northern section of McGuinness shows that the new bike lanes are constantly blocked, and pedestrians and cyclists still struggle to traverse a very busy street. The DOT says the work on the northern section of McGuinness, including more roadway changes to improve visibility and enforce speed limits, will be completed this summer.

The bike lane on the east side of McGuinness leading to the Pulaski Bridge is blocked (Hell Gate)

According to the City's records compiled by Crashmapper, there's been a serious crash on McGuinness Boulevard once every 13 days since April of 2021, injuring 96 people—and 18 of those crashes and 10 of those injuries have occurred since August of 2023.

State Assemblymember Emily Gallagher called the status quo "a despicable and endless cycle of pain." Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said the administration's actions were "an unacceptable response to preventable violence." State Senator Kristen Gonzalez wondered why "our mayor has chosen to refuse the facts, and instead follow a fear-based narrative." City Councilmember Lincoln Restler said the mayor's behavior was "Trumpian."

"And it's disgusting," Restler told the crowd of reporters and members of Make McGuinness Safe coalition, which has been advocating for a road diet on McGuinness since 2021, after public school teacher Matthew Jensen was struck and killed. The group recently announced it had gathered 10,000 signatures of people from the neighborhood who support a full road diet.

None of the elected officials at Friday's press conference have seen the DOT's "analysis" on McGuinness south of Calyer, though Restler said he heard from DOT employes that "it showed that a reduction in a lane of traffic in each direction was eminently reasonable policy."

"Unfortunately, the data has never informed the mayor's decision," Restler said. "It's the politics that are informing the mayor's decision. Our lives shouldn't be—and the safety of our community shouldn't be—at the whims of what the mayor believes are in his political interests. That is disgraceful."

Last fall, Hell Gate published DOT data revealing that one of the main concerns of residents who opposed the McGuinness Boulevard road diet—that necessary, neighborhood-based truck traffic would be stifled—is unfounded.

We asked the DOT what the plan was for the southern part of McGuinness, whether they will release the traffic analysis, what they think of the renewed calls for a full road diet, and to comment on Restler's second-hand view of the DOT's traffic analysis. The DOT responded with a boilerplate statement from Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, and added that the analysis is still ongoing.

"Traffic safety is a key priority for Mayor Adams, and we are delivering a redesign of McGuinness Boulevard that will make this corridor safer for everyone," Rodriguez's statement said. "Too many New Yorkers have been injured or lost their lives on McGuinness Boulevard, and working with the community we will continue to make significant safety improvements."

The Mayor's Office also gave us an anodyne statement attributed to a "City Hall spokesperson": "Traffic safety is public safety, and the Adams administration remains committed to making McGuinness Boulevard safer for all road users, whether walking, biking, or driving."

"I personally support trying to change [McGuinness] into one lane in each direction. And have more sidewalks and bike lanes," Ryan Hohn, a 38-year-old Greenpoint resident told Hell Gate, as they walked down McGuinness on Friday afternoon. Hohn described the current configuration as "unsafe," and hoped the DOT would keep improving the road. "In general, I would like it to be more walkable and not have as many cars in the neighborhood."

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