Court Delays Controversial Bike Lane Project Through Brooklyn’s Chinatown

The crowded thoroughfare along Eighth Avenue in Brooklyn's Chinatown. Photo from the Department of Transportation.

Brooklyn’s Chinese civic and business leadership yesterday hailed a State Supreme Court 90-day stay on the City Department of Transportation’s plan to put protected bike lanes and make into a one-way street the main commercial artery through the heart of Brooklyn’s Chinatown.

In the court settlement, released late last week, the DOT agreed to delay any work on the project slated to begin this summer until Oct. 9 so they can present the plan to local community boards in which the project is slated. 

Under the DOT’s proposal, a portion of both two-way thoroughfares would be converted to one-ways, with Seventh Avenue running south between 39th and 65th streets, and Eighth Avenue running north over the same stretch. Eighth Avenue between 39th and 65th streets is the bustling main commercial artery of Brooklyn’s Chinatown.

The project, which also includes new protected bike lanes, extended sidewalks and other safety configurations, spans community boards 7, 10 and 12. 

Assemblyman Peter Abbate (D-Brooklyn) and several Brooklyn Chinese-American civic and business leaders including Kenny Guan, Bao Zhi Liu, Vincent Lu, Qinwen Lu, Paul Mak, Grace Mo, Kam Fon Mui and Tsang Sun Mai — filed an Article 78 proceeding, alleging that the DOT knowingly violated the New York City Administrative Code when bypassing the mandated public outreach to the affected community boards.

In the settlement, the DOT also agreed to discontinue using the term ‘Community Advisory Board’ or “similar name in connection with any group formed or used by the respoñdeñts to conduct public outreach relating to the Project Proposal.” 

This stipulation indicates the plaintiffs successfully argued that the DOT handpicked a ‘Community Advisory Board’ to streamline the project, instead of including the impacted people and businesses. 

In an emailed statement, the Chinese American Citizens Alliance Greater New York (CACAGNY)  congratulated Abbate and his fellow plaintiffs, noting that Brooklyn’s Chinatown is a lively, safe, hopeful immigrant community of small businesses hit hard by the Covid lockdowns and struggling to recover. 

“For the DOT to cut by half the vitally needed freight and customer traffic capacity through its main business thoroughfare — for a bike lane — is akin to stomping on a man while he is down,” they wrote.

“Communities like ours in the City have had enough of the City being ruled by a remote, tyrannical administration imposing diktats like this all over us. While thanking Assemblyman Abbate, we also call on other elected friends of the Chinese community to join us in stopping the DOT’s callous plan to destroy the main business artery of this recovering Chinatown,” the CACAGNY added.

Abbate said that bicycle advocacy organizations allege the court suit is an attempt to stop expanding safe bike lanes, but neither he nor the other plaintiffs are against safe bike lanes running through Sunset Park.

“Why do you want to ride on Eighth Avenue, instead of riding on Seventh Avenue where it’s nicer or Sixth Avenue. Why do you want to be riding where there is all that congestion? Trucks loading and unloading. Twenty people cross the crosswalk on every block. It doesn’t make sense,” Abbate said.

Abbate also said the local police and fire department were never given notice of the project, and that as the project is written it will force seniors to walk four and five blocks more to get to bus stops. 

The 90-day stay will allow the DOT time to make their presentation to the community boards and to get more local community input.

The DOT did not get back to PoliticsNY regarding the court decision at the time of this post.

Additional reporting by Jessica Parks

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