Angry Park Slope residents claim they were blindsided by a plan to shut down their block to traffic so students from a nearby private school could have outdoor space.
“I feel like we’re now captives on our own street,” said Lincoln Place resident Paula Rackow Wednesday.
The Berkeley Carroll School successfully sought the closure of the block between 7th and 8th avenues for outdoor school activities.
Barricades will be set up beginning next week to block traffic from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fridays.
In a contentious ZOOM meeting held by City Councilman Brad Lander Wednesday, some residents said the arrangement was abruptly forced on them.
“I’m very disturbed that the residents were given no notice and no opportunity to give their opinion over whether we wanted this or not,” said Trudie Pass. “And that we’re just told it’s a fait accompli.”
Residents, many of them elderly, said they had a range of concerns — from getting deliveries and Ubers to managing ongoing construction projects along the handsome stretch.
Berkeley Carroll Head of School Lisa Waller acknowledged the concerns during the meeting but urged neighbors to empathize with the school’s coronavirus plight.
“We are cognizant of the fact that life goes on in terms of people on the block and want to be respectful of that,” she said. “While at the same time really beseeching our neighbors to understand that we would give anything to not be on this call asking for street space for our kids because we are in the pandemic.”
She said barricades would be manned by school staffers who would respond to requests for traffic access as they arose.
Waller said that the school sought the closure to allow groups of kids to eat lunch outside and play in distanced groups — sometimes without masks.
Several people on the call questioned the health and safety of that format.
“A lot of us are elderly and a lot of us have pre-existing conditions and there is a risk,” Pass said. “It feels like nobody really cares about us. It’s all about Berkeley Carroll.”
A vocal backer of outdoor learning, Lander said that he didn’t play a role in the Lincoln Place closure and tried to mediate the dispute. He suggested that deliveries and other matters involving cars could sometimes be tailored to avoid the blockade.
“If you can do those things outside these hours it’s easier for everyone,” he said. “If they have to be done during these hours the school will have people there to arrange it. But that will be a little bit of a headache for everyone.”
Another speaker countered that deliveries are near constant and can’t realistically be scheduled.
Julia Block, who runs a nearby pet groomer, said her business is already hampered by the coronavirus and that a car restriction will only worsen matters.
“The idea of trying to schedule cars around these hours is just not feasible,” she said. “If someone feels like they are slightly inconvenienced they are going to go to a different shop next time.”
But some block residents said they were willing to give the closure a shot.
“I’m willing to give it a try,” said Diane Milder. “If there are a lot of retired people in the area, there should be a reassessment after a trial period.”
Len Heisler, a former staffer at the school, said kids would benefit.
“If outdoors is safer, what’s the downside?” he said. “Trying to find a parking spot? You have one block out of the whole neighborhood – big deal.”
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