Businesses on Fowler Square Plaza: Go Ahead, Make It Permanent

DOT is scheduled to go before Community Board 2′s transportation committee on December 18 with plans to make the new pedestrian plaza at Fowler Square in Fort Greene a permanent redesign. Before the city went ahead with reclaiming this block of North Elliott Place for the plaza, a small, vocal contingent — mostly upset that they would have to slightly alter their driving routes — predicted that the new public space would be unsafe for walking. Previously, another opponent claimed the plaza would “split the neighborhood apart.” Now that everyone has had the summer and fall to see the plaza in action, we thought we’d check in with some local business owners about what they think of the project.

Getting Fowler Square plaza in Fort Greene ready for business yesterday morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

By and large, nearby business owners either actively welcomed the plaza or had no objection to giving people a place to sit, even if it changed their commutes a little bit.

J.J. Lee, owner of La Bagel Delight, supported the plaza. “I think it’s a great idea,” he said. “It’s for everybody in this neighborhood.” Lee had heard some people complaining that the plaza removed parking spots. If they think that losing a handful of parking spaces would make or break the neighborhood’s businesses, he said, “they’re out of their mind.”

Ed Tretter owns 67 Burger on Lafayette Street and said he’s heard plenty of arguments for and against the plaza, but he likes what it’s done for the area. “It’s nice and clean and people are enjoying their neighborhood,” he said. He did say he would prioritize other initiatives above the construction of a permanent plaza, and wants something done about speeding. “We call this the Lafayette 500,” he said. “They don’t care if the light’s red or green.”

Jay Rajani owns the Sahil Magazines and More bodega. “I don’t care, actually,” he said. “I lost my parking, that’s it,” he said, adding that it didn’t have an impact on his business.

Sung Lee, manager of Luxury Nail and Spa, said he experienced one big change since the plaza was installed. “Now I have to go around” the block when driving, he said. “I don’t mind.”

Shira Glouberman lives in the neighborhood and was walking on Lafayette Avenue yesterday morning. “It’s a wonderful idea,” she said, noting that the plaza serves a different need than the grassy expanses of nearby Fort Greene Park. “A lot of people use it.”