Despite strong local support, DOT will go door-to-door to assess feelings on incomplete Underhill Avenue redesign
BROOKLYN — Following the news that the Department of Transportation will conduct door-to-door outreach in Prospect Heights, the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council has penned a letter to City Hall insisting that work on the incomplete Underhill Avenue redesign be finished before neighbors are asked if they like the new configuration. “We ask that you just let DOT finish the job. Any further delay makes no sense and is irresponsible,” PHNDC wrote.
The redesign, which will transform Underhill Avenue into a bike boulevard, has been sitting unfinished for over a month since work on the project inexplicably stopped in August. Mayor Adams confirmed at a press briefing yesterday that door-to-door outreach will now be used to poll residents on the project despite nearly two years of previous outreach. DOT has also confirmed this development to PHNDC. DOT typically relies on online surveys, community planning meetings and presentations to community boards to gather feedback on projects.
“Having the Mayor pretend more outreach is necessary before finishing the Bike Boulevard is simply moving the goalposts,” said Gib Veconi, chair of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council. “We’ve had two and a half years of surveys, workshops, town hall meetings and Community Board presentations. In three weeks, our petition supporting the Bike Boulevard has 2,600 signatures and counting. Enough is enough.”
PHNDC announced the launch of the Prospect Heights Streets for People petition on September 22, 2023 in response to hearing from Mayor Adams that the Underhill Avenue redesign was under review, and to combat misinformation alleging a lack of local support for public space initiatives in the neighborhood. A subsequent analysis by BetaNYC of the first 2,000 petition signers showed that locals strongly support public space initiatives in Prospect Heights — including Vanderbilt Open Streets, Underhill Plaza and the Underhill Avenue Bike Boulevard — with nearly three-quarters of signers living in Prospect Heights and the surrounding neighborhoods of Park Slope, Boerum Hill, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Crown Heights.
“It feels like this is just another hoop City Hall is forcing local organizers to jump through,” said Underhill Avenue resident Matt Weinstein. “The previous years of outreach haven’t shown what City Hall wants, so now they’re insisting DOT go door-to-door. The Mayor needs to stop fighting these projects and recognize that the redesign has made my street more safe for kids using the playground or on their way to the local public school. We need to finish the markings for cyclists to make it safe for them, too.”
In addition to Commissioner Rodriguez’s remarks, Mayor Adams made evasive comments about Underhill Avenue at last week’s town hall, claiming he “[doesn’t] know what Underhill looks like,” even though he owns a co-op in the neighborhood. PHNDC is awaiting City Hall’s response to its letter.
- NYC DOT has conducted extensive community engagement over the past three years in support of thoughtful and responsive street planning in Prospect Heights.
- Work on the Underhill Avenue Bike Boulevard in Prospect Heights, which began this summer, was inexplicably stopped just before completion. Mayor Adams confirmed to PHNDC that his office is reviewing the project.
- Last week, Mayor Adams made a statement praising the effects of Open Streets city-wide, but he has yet to voice his support for these initiatives in Prospect Heights.
Benefits of public space initiatives
- The Underhill Avenue bike boulevard and the Vanderbilt Open Streets program are vital public space and economic development initiatives that support local businesses and provide jobs. These programs are incredibly popular, benefit the community and have widespread community support.
- DOT’s own surveys found 86% of residents support permanent changes to make Prospect Heights Open Streets pedestrian and/or cycling priority corridors and only 10% of survey respondents want to drive on the street.
- PHNDC regularly hosts programming on both Underhill and Vanderbilt Avenues, providing a variety of enrichment activities to residents at no cost.
- Restaurants along Vanderbilt’s Open Street, which contribute funds to help run the program, have seen a 20% increase in sales compared to pre-pandemic numbers.
- Prospect Heights public space initiatives FAQs
- About – Prospect Heights Places
- What is a bike boulevard?
- A closer look at how Vanderbilt Open Streets affects businesses by Tim Chin Walks
- StreetsblogNYC, October 17, 3023: “Mayor Adams Blasts Mayor Adams’s DOT Community Outreach Efforts”
- Gothamist, October 18, 2023: “Advocates worry which street safety project Mayor Adams will abandon next”
Please contact Alex Morano ([email protected]) to request interviews with key stakeholders, community members and activists who are engaged in these efforts.