Community Board 18 (CB18) held its final meeting outdoors at the John Malone Community Center, 2335 Bergen Avenue, on Wednesday, June 29th, before the summer hiatus. Guest presentations focused on improving East New York streets and reporting the results of a survey of Canarsie’s three commercial corridors.
CB18 Chairperson Michael Ien thanked all outgoing board members for their dedication and welcomed new members to the board. There were two vacancies for First and Second Vice Chairs, and Greg Borruso and Maria Garrett were elected to fill those positions, respectively.
Jeff McDuffie with the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) School Safety Unit gave a presentation on East New York Safety Improvements, including a proposal to install a protected two-way bicycle lane on Wortman and Cozine Avenues between Louisiana and Fountain Avenues. The goal of the city’s Vision Zero program is to reduce traffic fatalities, and this particular area was chosen because there were two child fatalities in February 2020.
As a result, in March 2020, the DOT met with community leaders, schools and NYCHA representatives to discuss how to improve safety along the corridor. Since 2021, a lot of improvements have been made to the area, McDuffie explained, including the addition of school slow zones, speed humps, stop signs and traffic signals.
Speeding cars, a wide roadway, which promotes more speeding, and poor visibility are some of the issues contributing to traffic incidents, totaling 519 injuries from 2015 to 2019. McDuffie said that 21% of pedestrian and bike injuries are children and, sadly, there were four fatalities from 2015 to 2022.
The proposed bike lane is primarily located in Community Board 5 but includes a small portion of CB18 (Louisiana Avenue, between Stanley and Cozine Avenues), and the CB18 meeting served as more of an informational session to inform the community of the proposed plans before taking the presentation to CB5, which was scheduled for July 7th.
When McDuffie announced that 272 parking spaces would be eliminated to make room for the bike lanes, Frank Seddio, who was a former traffic commissioner, expressed his concern. The area is mainly industrial and therefore most of the workers require daytime parking, and the area is desolate at night. “Where is everyone going to park?” he asked the DOT representative, also asking if a daytime study had been conducted.
When the rep was asked on a couple of occasions if the bike lane would connect to any existing bike lanes, he advised that eventually there would an east/west connection on Hinsdale Avenue.
This raised some suspicion by attendees, including Ien, who said, “They want to tie bike lanes back into Canarsie like they tried before.” He was referring to a proposed – but unwanted – bike lane on East 108th Street which was rejected years ago by the community.
Saloni Sharma, Senior Director of Neighborhood Economic Development at Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, and Gabriel Cirio, Program Manager for the SBS Avenue NYC Grant Program, gave a presentation on the “extensive needs assessment” and surveying work that they’ve been doing in Canarsie along three commercial corridors: Rockaway Parkway, Flatlands Avenue and Avenue L.
Sharma said that they have conducted meetings over the past year and are working to bring services and support to Canarsie before turning the presentation over to Cirio.
The three main commercial corridors in Canarsie include Avenue L, between Rockaway Parkway and Remsen Avenue; Flatlands Avenue, between Ralph Avenue and East 102nd Street; and Rockaway Parkway, between Avenues D and N.
Cirio said that beauty shops, nail salons and barbers are the main types of business on all three corridors, along with limited service restaurants, markets, bodegas, grocery stores, laundromats and medical services. Avenue L has many places of worship.
The average vacancy rate of businesses is 6%, which Cirio said is actually on the lower side. “However, some of those vacancies are derelict and not pleasant to look at,” he said.
Overall conditions at 72% of businesses were good or excellent, while 13% were poor. Cirio said that Rockaway Parkway is the cleanest corridor, Flatlands Avenue is second, and Avenue L ranked third, due to residential and commercial trash being dumped there, along with infrequent trash pickup.
Merchant surveys revealed that their main concerns are safety and crime, with sanitation coming in second and commercial rent, third. They would like to see more policing for their storefronts, more sanitation and beautification services.
Both merchants and consumers expressed their desire for a community or rec center, which would include services like afterschool programs.
Consumers want to see more diversity in stores and larger supermarkets, like BJs or Target. Cirio said that one strength is that many of the businesses represent the vibrancy of cultures in Canarsie, especially Caribbean cultures.
A way to assess if a neighborhood is in need during the first year of the program is to assess what is needed and wanted in the neighborhood, Cirio explained.