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Advocates Call on City to Make Grand Street Safer to Brace for L Shutdown

By Gwynne Hogan | November 1, 2016 5:39pm
 Matthew Von Ohlen, 35, was killed in July on Grand Street while riding in the bike lane.
Matthew Von Ohlen, 35, was killed in July on Grand Street while riding in the bike lane.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

NORTH BROOKLYN — Advocates are calling on the city to redesign Grand Street with bus lanes, protected bike lanes and wider sidewalks, following the recent death of a biker and in the buildup to the L train shutdown.

Calling it the "Grand Street PeopleWay," advocates point out that the street, which links up to the Williamsburg Bridge and traverses the neighborhood connecting it to the rest of North Brooklyn, will be a key artery when L train service shuts off between Manhattan and Brooklyn in 2019.

"We are less than 800 days away," from the L train shutdown, said Luke Ohlson, an organizer with Transportation Alternatives. They plan to rally Tuesday evening at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge with local elected officials and community advocates to call for the People Way. "Right now there is no plan."

"We see Grand street as being a really important part of a solution," he said.

Advocates began to call for a revamped Grand Street following the death of cyclist Matthew Von Ohlen, 35, who was hit while cycling in the bike lane in July. The driver fled the scene and still hasn't been caught.

They convinced local Community Board 1 and Councilman Antonio Reynoso to ask the Department of Transportation to study ways to improve safety on the street.

"We lost Matt and it's just not acceptable to lose anybody," said Amanda Stosz, 32, one of Von Ohlen's friends whose leading the charge to push for the PeopleWay. "Right now [trucks] park in the bike land and cyclists are forced into traffic."

There have been five deaths along the block since 2009, according to VisionZero statistics — three pedestrians and two cyclists. Two people have died this year: Von Ohlen, and 71-year-old Dominica Gonzalez, who was hit by a car near Union Street in March and died about two weeks after the crash, according to police.

Alana Morales, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Transportation wouldn't say whether the agency would look into improvements on Grand Street, but said that they were working with the MTA at different ways of bracing for the L train shutdown.

Councilman Reynoso didn't respond to a request for comment.

Artineh Havan, head of the Grand Street Business Improvement District, said she needed more details about the proposal and planned set up a meeting with local businesses and transportation advocates to discuss it.

"At the moment there's a lot of questions as to how that's going to effect businesses, especially deliveries," she said. "We need more information."