The Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association revealed a laundry list of traffic safety proposals at their meeting last night, and lambasted their rival community group’s efforts for “patting themselves on the back.”
Executive members of MBNA and Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo met with representatives of Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s office on Thursday, July 29, to present their ideas. According to the group, the advocate’s office gave a warm reception to the suggestion and is now issuing letters to relevant agencies to spur action.
“I’ve got to say the Public Advocate’s representatives were extremely attentive,” said Scavo. “They questioned why DOT, why Parks, why [there hasn't been] reception from these various agencies.”
MBNA President Alan Ditchek is optimistic about the plan.
“[These are] very good ideas and certainly will go a long way to rectifying the situation in Manhattan Beach that’s happened here over the last few years,” said Ditchek. “I think we’ve got a very good list compiled and if we implement just some of these things we will certainly see safer streets.”
Scavo provided details of the proposal that emerged from the meeting with the Public Advocate’s office. The meeting was scheduled in the wake of an accident on Shore Boulevard that left one man dead and another behind bars.
Below is the list of suggestions being pushed to Department of Transportation and Parks Department officials:
- Move bike lanes from Oriental Boulevard to where they originally were, on Shore Boulevard’s pavement, closer to the curb
- Move zebra lines to median and include left turn bay
- Install stop signs, and add another signal light at Exeter Street and Shore Boulevard
- Solicit additional police presence
- Use Kingsborough Community College’s public safety officers to help monitor and gather information about driving conditions
- If a traditional signal at the footbridge can’t be installed, add a flashing crosswalk sign
- At the bend on Shore Boulevard, install no parking signs and include reflectors that you’re approaching a turn when coming towards Coleridge Street and Dover Street
- Try to bring a city pilot program to the neighborhood that places rubber speed bumps – called speed cushions – on the roadways
- Remove the cement planters
Additionally, CB15 has a request pending with the DOT to place a fixed stop sign at the exit of Kingsborough Community College instead of the current removable one. They’re also seeking a stop sign at the exit of Menorah Home and Hospital.
A representative of the Public Advocate’s office attended last night’s MBNA meeting to present the group with copies of letters his office has sent to the 61st Precinct captain and commissioners of the DOT and Parks Department. The letter requests a sit down attended by those three agencies, his office, CB15, MBNA and Kingsborough officials.
Claiming Victory Over Rivals
Notably absent from Thursday’s meeting – and from the advocate’s letter – is the Manhattan Beach Community Group.
An election snafu more than two years ago divided the 67-year-old MBCG in two, and sparked a bitter feud with the newly-founded MBNA. Recently, however, tempers appeared to have calmed as they went about business.
That ended last night, as MBNA President Alan Ditchek derided the other group’s attempts to solve the traffic issue. Ditchek used the meeting with the Public Advocate as an example of the accomplishments his group has attained.
“While the other community group has taken bows, applauding themselves, patting themselves on the back, [mounting traffic safety problems] happened on their watch,” Ditchek told MBNA members. “We’ve got this crazy signal flashing, they asked for it. The zebra lines happened on their time and so did the planters. So now we have to address these things to make our neighborhood safe again.”
He also took issue with the with some of the current solutions being deployed at MBCG’s behest.
“I think we came up with a more creative and more useful list than the other group that decided to put an empty police scooter sitting there on Shore Boulevard, which I think is the silliest idea and most ridiculous idea, and of course would have no effect on anyone speeding or crossing or anything else,” he added. “And that was their idea and their response to this problem.”
Many of the MBNA plan’s points, though, can be found in MBCG’s action plan, issued after the fatal accident last month, and during meetings. Two months ago, for example, the MBCG presented drawings that moved Oriental Boulevard’s zebra stripes to the median, with turn bays, and also moved the bike lane.
Ira Zalcman, MBCG’s president, said his group wasn’t invited to the meeting with de Blasio, and that Ditchek’s claims fail to move the community forward.
“They can say whatever they want,” said Zalcman. “They can go back to name calling. Their rhetoric doesn’t go to improve the lives of anyone in Manhattan Beach, including their own. It’s not about patting yourselves on the back, it’s about helping the community. If we can save some lives, then we’ve done some good things, and that’s the goal of my group.”
Looking For More Help
Beyond the inter-group squabbling, the MBNA is still seeking broader support from city officials.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Community Liaison Charles Glover appeared before the group, and was promptly solicited by MBNA Public Relations Chairperson Edmond Dweck to be more responsive to community needs.
“This is a person’s death, yet somehow it’s getting swept under the rug, pushed aside, and it seems like its being ignored,” Dweck told Glover. “Manhattan Beach is begging for traffic lights that work like regular traffic lights, more police enforcement … we’re looking for more involvement from the city.”
He pointed out that the neighborhood is home to many city resources, including the several schools, the beach and park, and the nursing home.
“We don’t complain that they exist here or that we can’t live amongst them,” he said. “We live amongst everything that you guys throw at us, but when we need your help, it’s just not there.”
Glover said he’d bring the concerns back to the mayor’s office and also said he’d look into the timing of traffic studies. According to Scavo and Dweck, recent studies – required before the placement of a traffic light – have only been done in August and February. Kingsborough is in recess during those months so traffic isn’t accurately reflected, causing the study to show less-than-justifiable usage for a traffic light. The last study was done in February, and another cannot be scheduled for 18 months.
With letters to relevant agencies in the mail, MBNA and Scavo are looking forward to bringing officials to the neighborhood and demonstrating the problem.
Scavo calls it a “step in the right direction,” and if officials see the visual obstruction caused by the plantings on the median or the trouble with the zebra lines, they might be more inclined to respond.
But the battle with city agencies has been ongoing for many years, and she’s not holding her breath that the end is in sight.
“I believe it’s become a war of wills,” Scavo said. “Who can hold out longer to do something?”