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Green Street makes many see red

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It was supposed to be a meeting between Department of Transportation officials and the community to discuss ways of improving safety along Gerritsen Avenue. But the hundreds of angry Gerritsen Beach residents who packed the P.S. 277 auditorium at 2529 Gerritsen Avenue last week were not in a talking mood. “Leave our traffic patterns the way they are,” they roared in opposition to the Department of Transporta­tion’s Green Streets proposal. “Don’t boo them and don’t boo me,” an increasingly frustrated State Senator Marty Golden implored at one point. The state senator representing the 22nd District had a devil of a time trying to keep things civil before ultimately deciding to pull the plug on the proceedings about 30 minutes in. “There’s no reason to torture the Department of Transportation or ourselves any longer,” Golden told the crowd. Adamantly opposed residents challenged DOT officials on every point of their proposal to install raised medians and turning bays along Gerritsen Avenue. The concrete medians measuring eight feet in width would be installed from Nostrand Avenue south to the dead end. Left-hand turning bays would also be incorporated along the avenue with room for additional parking. Traffic accidents along Gerritsen Avenue have dropped dramatically since new traffic lines were introduced two years ago. In 2004, there were 18 recorded accidents on Gerritsen Avenue. Last year, that number fell to just four. Nevertheless, Gerritsen Beach residents who attended the meeting maintained that if executed, the DOT’s plan would not leave motorists enough room to negotiate around stalled automobiles and emergency services vehicles. DOT officials assured residents that the Fire Department would first have to okay the proposal as part of the overall approval process. Such assurance, however, did nothing to assuage community concerns. “I’ll hop in a Bobcat and rip it up,” one man threatened. “The message is clear, there will be no Green Street, so let’s go home and forget about that,” Councilmember Lew Fidler said. “None of the elected officials wanted to do this without your support,” Assemblymember Alan Maisel offered later. While the number of accidents along Gerritsen Avenue have fallen substantially since traffic striping was introduced on the roadway two years ago, many residents said what they really want is a few stop signs and a traffic light. Some in attendance said that they have been waiting for the latter to no avail for the last 40 years. DOT officials said that a traffic study was recently completed at Channel Avenue, but that the corner failed to meet the federal warrants required for installing a new traffic signal. Traffic signal studies are performed every 18 months. Golden urged residents to sign a new traffic light petition before they left the building for the evening. Vocal residents also told elected officials and the DOT that instead of Green Streets, a bike lane should be installed along Gerritsen Avenue to safeguard neighborhood children. “There should be one and we’re looking to do that,” Golden promised. Reports that the Gerritsen Avenue Green Streets project is dead and buried could be premature, however. DOT spokesperson Ted Timber told this newspaper that the issue was still being discussed internally between local elected officials and the city. “I think everyone is going to take a second look at it,” he said. “Last night alone did not kill it.”

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