In the wake of yet another hit-and-run accident on Brady Street, talk continues of closing the ever-busy street to vehicular traffic—or, at the very least, of doing something. On Wednesday, the city’s Public Works Committee met to discuss and hear public testimony on the issue. The consensus: Yes, something definitely needs to happen.
“Change will be coming, it’s just a question of what it’s going to look like,” said Alderperson Jonathan Brostoff, who represents the Brady Street neighborhood. “The status quo is not acceptable.”
Wednesday’s meeting served as a general discussion. No specific action was taken or recommended. A official study on Brady Street “pedestrianization” options—commissioned by the Brady Street Business Improvement District back in January–is expected to be released soon.
“Bike/pedestrian safety in the Brady Street neighborhood is a top priority,” Brostoff said in January. “This study could be very helpful in coming up with creative strategies for improving the area. I’m excited to see what comes of it and will continue to work with the community to make things better.”
In the meantime, numerous options for making the street safer for pedestrians were discussed on Wednesday. As summarized by Alderman Bob Bauman, those options included “closure, no closure, temporary closure, closure on Friday and Saturday nights, temporary speed humps, and permanent speed humps.”
Most options came with a catch.
Could some on-street parking spots be removed during busy “bar nights,” thus making the street safer? Yes, said City Engineer Kevin Muhs, but “Brady Street is a narrow street, and the [parked] cars are part of what helps slow down more responsible drivers. [Removing some on-street parking spots] may result in more responsible drivers driving faster just because they feel comfortable doing so.”
Could Brady Street be closed to traffic via simple traffic barriers, Bauman asked, similar to Water Street? Yes, said Commissioner of Public Works Jerrel Kruschke, but “there is some concern that what we do as far as closures does not further encourage behavior that the neighborhood feels like it’s already struggling with. People overindulging in alcohol and those sorts of things.”
Indeed, throughout the meeting, Brostoff stressed that any future changes would treat Brady Street as a “neighborhood above all, not an entertainment district.”
Representatives from the entertainment side of Brady Street also spoke at Wednesday’s meeting. Jeno Cataldo–owner of Jo-Cat’s Pub, Saint Bibiana, and Dorsia, as well as co-developer of a planned 11-story hotel for Brady and Farwell—said that while pedestrian-friendly changes are needed, policing of existing speed limits is also necessary.
“I’m not pointing a finger at anybody, because I know times are tough all over,” Cataldo said. “But I do think there are speed limits. What’s the speed limit now? It’s 25 [miles per hour]. If you find me someone who goes 25 down Brady I’ll buy you lunch.”
Nomad World Pub owner Mike Eitel reiterated that Brady Street “has always been a mixed-use neighborhood,” and said that the problem of pedestrian safety necessitated a “multi-layered, very complicated set of solutions.”
“It’s hard to broad-brush this stuff,” Eitel said. “But to me, with the city and neighbors and the businesses knowing that the main issue is calming traffic and providing public safety, that’s a win. I’m cheering for everybody here.”
The Nomad’s “Brady Beach” recently opened for the season on a partially closed section of Warren Avenue.
An unexpected moment at Wednesday’s meeting involved Katy McHugh, owner of Sip & Purr Cat Cafe on nearby-ish Ivanhoe Place. McHugh lambasted the recently created closed-street, pedestrian-only “Ivanhoe Plaza” outside her business. Sip & Purr revenue and sales have been down 51% since the plaza opened over Memorial Day weekend, McHugh said, and she is “obviously looking to relocate.” Brady Street is “on the map” for that relocation, she said, but not a fully closed Brady Street.
“Closing off the street is not going to stop the reckless driving,” McHugh said. “I think that some of the smaller ideas that we’re talking about—the speed bumps, the lights, maybe getting rid of some parking spaces so people can see better—are amazing. But with closing off [a portion of Ivanhoe], I’ve noticed people are almost getting hit by cars now because they don’t know where to walk.”
As for general public comment, it was overwhelmingly in favor of some type of Brady Street closure, whether full-on or temporary. A letter from the family of Arne Bast was included in the file for Wednesday’s meeting. Bast was killed by driver on Brady Street in September 2022.
“Every day that we wait for the improvements allows the possibility of another deadly or serious accident to happen,” the letter reads. “We realize there are drivers who brazenly race down Brady Street thinking that they are above the law. They will continue in their reckless illegal habits which necessitates law enforcement who is relentless in their pursuit of justice. Thank you, friends. Keep working together for change on Brady Street to honor the memory of those who have lost their lives or those who are still suffering from someone’s negligence and disregard for the law.”
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