Community, Politicians Call on Mayor to Make McGuinness Safe


By Jean Brannum |

Elected officials and community advocates spoke to the press at the intersection of McGuinness Blvd and Calyer St to advocate for a safer McGuinness Blvd after opponents lobbied against the changes.

Council Member Lincoln Restler calls on Mayor Adams to approve the proposed changed to McGuinness Blvd. Credit: Jean Brannum

Speakers addressed reporters in front of several posters with the names of people killed in traffic collisions on McGuinness Blvd. Organization Make McGuinness Safe started advocating for a safer McGuinness Blvd after the death of teacher Matthew Jensen in 2021. However, politicians and communities have fought since at least 2009 to make the road safer noting several collisions and near-misses. 

The organization pushed for several changes to improve pedestrian safety. Mayor Eric Adams initially agreed to the changes verbally, but walked back his agreement in 2023. He instead encouraged the Department of Transportation to work with both opponents and supporters of the plan, according to The CITY. The CITY reported that the campaign against the changes was backed by Broadway Stages owners Gina and Tony Argento. The film company has produced shows such as “Law and Order: SVU” and “Blue Bloods.” The Argentos have donated over $15,000 to Adam’s campaign. 

A modified plan was implemented, which included adding bike lanes on a part of McGuinness in the Summer of 2023. Despite the changes, community members want the bike lanes to extend to Meeker Avenue and for one traffic lane in each direction to be cut to ensure safer pedestrian crossing.

Community members hold up signs of people killed on McGuinness. Credit: Jean Brannum

But not everyone wants the plans the group is advocating for. Many businesses have joined to form the Keep McGuinness Moving organization, which wants to keep the four lanes of traffic and says that removing one lane will cause congestion and destroy local businesses in the industrial zone. The organization supports the safety of everyone who uses the boulevard, according to its website. 

One of the speakers, Bronwyn Breitner, mentioned that owners of the company Broadway Stages lobbied against the changes to Adams’ aide Ingrid Lewis-Martin, which reportedly caused Adams to walk back on his promise. 

A petition recently collected 10,000 signatures. Local City Council Member Lincoln Restler called on Adams to honor the demands of the residents who signed the petition, after Restler said there were rumors the mayor would never approve the changes.  

“I want him to know that if he fails our community, if he fails to make Greenpoint safer, we are going to keep organizing until we win.”

At the conference, several members of the community shared their safety concerns with the current state of McGuinness Blvd. 

Local resident Jordana Jacobs tells the story of narrowly avoiding a collision with a truck while crossing McGuinness with her son. Credit: Jean Brannum

Jordana Jacobs used to let her son walk to many places by himself, except places where he had to cross McGuinness Blvd. She discussed with her son several times how the street was not safe and one had to be hyper-vigilant to cross. 

She was about to cross McGuinness with her eleven-year-old one day when a truck nearly hit them. The walk sign was on, but Jacobs and her son knew the truck was not going to stop as it came barreling toward them with no sign of slowing down. Since then, Jacobs said her son does not feel safe walking around outside by himself. 

“My son was shaking. His entire body was shaking. Since then, my kid, who has always had a pretty healthy sense of independence, does not feel comfortable crossing streets by himself”

State Assemblymember for Greenpoint, Emily Gallagher, used to live next to McGuinness. She told stories of the injuries and deaths she witnessed outside her apartment. 

“I watched people get hit by cars,” Gallagher said. “I wiped up blood from the street. I brought my own dish towels out to hold against elders’ heads who got in a car crash right on this very intersection.” 

Jeanine Ballone, who has lived in the area her whole life, has helped several elderly people cross the street by stopping traffic on both sides. She has witnessed several cars be hit, and cars ride through stop lights.

 As someone who has seen many changes in the area, she said that something needs to be done to accommodate the new development. Saying that the area cannot accommodate the new growth and influx of outside traffic that speeds down the boulevard. 

Many residents and politicians at the conference pledged to keep advocating for a safer McGuinness. The Mayor’s office said the following in an emailed statement: 

“Traffic safety is public safety, and the Adams administration remains committed to making McGuinness Boulevard safer for all road users, whether walking, biking, or driving. Throughout this project, we have listened to community members about their needs and updated our design accordingly, and we will continue to weigh the needs of all area stakeholders as we continue to work on safety improvements.”

The DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said in another emailed statement, “Traffic safety is a key priority for Mayor Adams, and we are delivering a redesign of McGuinness Boulevard that will make this corridor safer for everyone. Too many New Yorkers have been injured or lost their lives on McGuinness Boulevard, and working with the community we will continue to make significant safety improvements.” 

According to the DOT, construction resumed last week to improve conditions on McGuinness Blvd and add speed limit enforcement equipment. The DOT also said that it added traffic counting equipment to analyze traffic volume changes since last winter in addition to data collected in 2021.

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