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'Dangerous' Left Turn Off Manhattan Bridge May Remain, City Tells Locals

By Alexandra Leon | January 20, 2016 7:24am
 Residents say the left turn from the southbound Manhattan Bridge onto Concord Street is a safety risk.
Residents say the left turn from the southbound Manhattan Bridge onto Concord Street is a safety risk.
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DNAinfo/Alexandra Leon

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — The city's Department of Transportation has no plans to end a controversial 24-hour left turn off the Manhattan Bridge onto Concord Street, according to locals who are furious after a meeting with city officials last week.

Residents of Bridge Plaza — the neighborhood bordered by Flatbush Avenue and Tillary, Prince and Nassau streets — told DNAinfo New York they met with representatives from the DOT and Councilman Stephen Levin at the troublesome intersection Friday afternoon. The meeting came two days after Community Board 2 voted to reverse its earlier decision to allow the left-hand turn 24 hours a day.

Residents said DOT officials informed them the department had no plans to restrict the left turn, which was opened to 24-hour traffic in October.

“It was outrageous,” said Bridge Plaza resident Juan Salazar. “It seems like the DOT’s next step is to wait until somebody gets killed until they really do something.”

Representatives from the DOT told DNAinfo on Tuesday they are looking into community complaints, but would not specify whether any action would be taken.

“We have heard from the community, DOT staff met with the Bridge Plaza Association and CM Levin’s office last week, and we are reviewing the concerns,” a DOT spokesperson said in an email statement.

The controversy comes as Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that the city is rolling out a new initiative for his Vision Zero plan that would eliminate about 100 left turn lanes, which he says account for 30 percent of crashes involving pedestrians.

The mayor did not release the intersections of the left turns that are expected to be removed.

Previously, drivers were only allowed to make a left turn off the Manhattan Bridge between 3:30 and 7 p.m. Earlier this year, CB 2 voted to permit the turn 24 hours a day, but it reversed its decision after hearing from residents with safety concerns.

Residents say trucks and other commercial vehicles coming from the Manhattan Bridge have been flooding Concord Street, a roadway that includes entrances to two school buildings, a playground, a community garden and a CitiBike station.

NYPD records show there have been 11 crashes on Concord Street, past the left turn from the Manhattan Bridge, since the traffic pattern was changed between September and December. 

Three people were injured in those crashes, but none were pedestrians and no fatalities were reported, records show. Twelve crashes were reported in the four months prior to the traffic change in the same area.

Some school administrators say they worry the new traffic pattern will confuse students.

“The traffic patterns have changed, so when students cross the street, traffic could be coming from directions they’re not used to and it could surprise them,” said Kathleen Rucker, principal of The Brooklyn International High School, which has an entrance on Concord Street.

She said there’s been heavier traffic and more trucks driving past the high school, which shares a building with two other schools — The Urban Assembly School of Music and Art at Waters Edge and Science Skill Center High School.

“We want the city to do all it can to ensure the safety of our students,” Rucker said.

Another school building just down the road at Concord and Navy Streets houses P.S. 287, Junior High School 265 and Community Roots Middle School.

Residents say they’re frustrated with the DOT because it was the original CB 2 vote that prompted the city agency to allow the turn 24 hours a day. Now that CB 2 has backtracked on its decision, residents say it’s senseless for the DOT to keep the 24-hour left turn.

“I was just let down,” said Bridge Plaza resident Juliette Ibelli. “I thought they would come and say, ‘Yes, we got the message from Community Board 2.’”

CB 2 also asked the DOT to add pedestrian safety measures to the intersection. Ibelli said the DOT added a crosswalk on Concord Street that goes from the corner of the school building to the corner of the community garden. But she says what the intersection really needs is a four-way stop sign so cars coming from the bridge won’t fly down Concord when they make a left turn.

Ibelli said she is hoping Levin, who supported restricting the left turn at Friday’s meeting, will put pressure on the DOT.

A spokesman for Levin did not give specifics about a plan to restrict the turn, but he said the councilman's office will be working with the DOT to find a solution.

"The Council Member is very sympathetic to resident concerns about increased traffic on this residential street and wanted to see the conditions for himself,” said a spokesperson for Levin in an email statement. “Our office will continue to work with residents and DOT to explore the issue and any possible resolutions.”