New traffic patterns along Liberty Avenue may be driving businesses and customers away.
A year after the Department of Transportation (DOT) installed new traffic patterns at the intersection of Liberty Avenue and Cross Bay Boulevard, stores along Liberty say their business has suffered.
“Whenever you make a change, there is an expectation that there will be some growing pains, but people will learn the new configurations,” said Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder. “But it has been a year since the changes, and for the businesses along Liberty Avenue, it’s harder and harder for cars and pedestrians to get to their stores.”
Among the modifications was converting Liberty Avenue to a one-way eastbound street between 93rd Street and Cross Bay Boulevard — forcing cars to circle around if they want to visit the stores on the block. A concrete barrier was also placed along Cross Bay to prevent Liberty Avenue traffic from crossing through the intersection.
The newly sworn in assemblymember sent a letter to the DOT requesting the agency to review the changes that have adversely affected the stores.
“The new traffic patterns have really hurt the businesses,” said Goldfeder. “We want to make the streets safe, but we don’t want to affect businesses.”
Goldfeder said he spoke with several business owners in the area — many of whom have had to shut their doors or reduce staff.
Kimberly Liverpool, manager of Tommy’s Pizza and Restaurant, said she had to reduce her staff by one, while the manager of Kalish Pharmacy, Joseph Bruno, reduced employee hours.
“[Customers] have difficulty getting to us,” Bruno said. “Sales have dropped tremendously.”
Jimmy Jobah, manager of Fine Food Market and Deli Grocery on Liberty Avenue, started a petition that has received at least 100 signatures in the store to get the changes reversed. Jobah said sales have almost been cut in half in the past year.
The plans were implemented to ease traffic and make the area more pedestrian friendly. From 2004 to 2008, the area averaged over 14 pedestrian injuries a year.
Though businesses have been affected, the changes have made the once-dangerous intersection safer, according to local officials.
“[The changes] have resulted in increased safety in that intersection, and fewer accidents have occurred since the changes were implemented,” said Community Board 10 Chairperson Betty Braton. “On one hand, you’ve got the greater good. On the other hand, you have some individual impact. I don’t want to see merchants impacted, but I don’t want to see pedestrians killed.”
Crashes have declined more than 50 percent at the location since these changes were made, according to the DOT.
“I would say there has been a vast decrease in collisions,” said Lyn, an area resident who often walks to the stores along Liberty Avenue. “It keeps people safer in the neighborhood.”
DOT officials said they will continue to update Goldfeder and work with the community. Since the changes were implemented the DOT has monitored the area and will continue to as they determine if any adjustments are needed, a spokersperson said.
Goldfeder, who hopes to get a full review from the DOT, said safety and thriving business do not have to be mutually exclusive.
“We can accomplish both,” he said. “If we include more people in the conversation, we’ll come up with a result that really improves the situation.”
— Additional Reporting By Melissa Chan