Benjamin Geremia, who has lived in the area near Calamus Avenue for seven decades, believes one-way streets actually lead to faster driving because there is no “friction or opposing traffic.” He has been organizing neighbors against the proposed conversions.
“Driving faster doesn’t make our neighborhood any safer,” he said. “I have five grandchildren growing up on Calamus Avenue, I don’t know if there’s anyone in the neighborhood who wants safer streets more than I do.”
Last April, DOT began receiving requests from some residents to study the area for potential one-way conversions. According to Geremia, those residents had complained about sideswipes and broken mirrors caused by the tight two-way traffic.
DOT then received a letter of support from Community Board 5 in June 2017, followed by a request from then-councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley in September. Later that winter, the agency found those conversions to be feasible.
DOT specifically looked at converting 71st Street, 72nd Street, 72nd Place, 73rd Street, 74th Street and 51st Road.
“As we do with all studies that come at the recommendation of the community board, DOT will look to the board for a determination on which ones, if any, get implemented,” a DOT spokesperson said.
Though DOT has not proposed a specific plan to the community board yet, neighbors in the area have already drummed up opposition.
In three days, Geremia collected 135 signatures against the one-ways. He said what shocked him the most was that it seemed 90 percent of his neighbors didn’t know about the potential changes.
“I think a letter should go to every single person who is going to be affected by the change,” he said. “A letter should be delivered to their door.”
Geremia said he has spoken to DOT many times about the changes, and has requested a copy of the study. He believes the agency is using “bad data” because traffic patterns have changed drastically in the last five years due to a massive sewer project.
“If DOT can prove to me one-way streets are safer, I would tell you to do it tomorrow morning,” he said. “Everything I read says changing to one-ways becomes speedways.”
Geremia isn’t the only one who thinks that. Community Board 5 member Deborah Cox said she believes there are “serious flaws” in the DOT’s proposal that need to be further vetted. She wants the agency to look at cross-streets, traffic counts and signals as part of the plan.
“There needs to be a more comprehensive look at the area, with respect to not just the one-ways, but to confirm the rationale for their directions,” she said.
Like Geremia and many of their neighbors, Cox said there should be a town hall or community meeting on the issue so everyone’s opinion is heard.
“I would suggest that more resident input be given for the specific issues, and include a town hall of the affected residents,” Cox said. “We want community input so we can have the best situation for the community.”