When Putnam Plaza opened nearly two years ago in Clinton Hill, it was welcomed with a dance party. Last Friday, the dancing continued as the Fulton Area Business Alliance, the local business improvement district, held one of its FAB Friday events in the plaza. The space featured games, live music, and a portable library allowing people to sit and relax with a book. On Sunday evening, the BID hosted Soul Aerobics in the plaza. FAB Friday events are also scheduled this summer for Cuyler Gore Park and Fowler Square plaza in Fort Greene.
Posts from the "Plazas" Category
Once the plaza is installed, the block will also receive two bike-share stations with 59 docks each, making it the city’s biggest bike-share hub.
An airport bus stop was relocated to accommodate the plaza and bike-share stations, ”turning that street essentially into a bike-share plaza that would really allow it to be a gateway to Grand Central,” DOT’s Kate Fillin-Yeh said at a bike-share planning meeting with Community Board 5 last year.
On the other side of the viaduct, Hamilton said the southbound block of Park Avenue didn’t get attention from DOT crews today, but it will soon: a plaza plan in the works for that block since 1987 is scheduled to begin construction next year. The space will be managed by the Grand Central Partnership business improvement district.
Our most recent progress report on the protected bike lanes for East Harlem and the Upper East Side came last October, when crews installed the bike lane and pedestrian refuges on Second Avenue between 100th Street and 125th Street. Last year also saw the construction of a protected bike lane on First Avenue between the Queensboro Bridge and 72nd Street. Now, long-time reader Jacob sends in photos of the latest extension on First Avenue, which will stretch up to 125th Street.
This is a major safety upgrade that East Harlem residents and Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito fought hard for the past few years. When complete, crossing distances will be shorter for people walking across the avenue, and biking will feel much safer than it did with the old buffered lane, which was frequently obstructed by double-parkers.
Elsewhere, adjustments to pedestrian and bike space on Broadway between Times Square and Herald Square are underway. When this stretch was first redesigned about five years ago, a protected bike lane was sandwiched between the sidewalk and a floating plaza space, which wasn’t the smoothest arrangement for either pedestrians or cyclists. The design tweaks, which got a thumbs up by Community Board 5 last fall, narrow Broadway from two general travel lanes to one, while replacing the plaza-adjacent protected bike lane with a buffered bike lane on the other side of the street. It also widens the plaza space to 20 feet and connects it to the sidewalk. While cyclists now ride between parked cars and motor vehicles, traffic is light and tends not to move at high speeds.
Courtesy of Christine Berthet of CHEKPEDS, here are photos of what could be Manhattan’s newest public space, a pocket park on Dyer Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen.
This plaza, conceived by area residents, occupies a sliver of traffic island on Dyer between 34th and 35th Streets, near the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. The space was formerly used for motorcycle parking.
Berthet says this is an interim installation, since plans are on hold to convert three lanes of leftover asphalt on Dyer into a park.
See the before shot after the jump.
A two-block pedestrian plaza for a Second Avenue service road in Kips Bay, which was on track for implementation this summer, has been indefinitely delayed after adjacent property owner J.D. Carlisle sent a letter to DOT last week saying that it opposed the project.
DOT, which had hosted two public design workshops for the plaza, says it will not proceed without the support of Carlisle, which owns a two-block retail complex adjacent to the plaza site.
“It was obviously a disappointment, to say the least,” said Erica Rand Silverman, a board member of Kips Bay Neighborhood Alliance, which was the plaza’s sponsor. “We’ve been working on the plaza for a couple years. In that time, Carlisle has been really, really supportive.”
Carlisle provided financial support for maintenance of a three-month demonstration plaza over the summer, Silverman said.
The demo plaza relied on temporary materials from DOT and programming from KBNA. The result apparently left a bad impression and confused some local residents about what a final plaza would look like. ”We did the best we could with the resources we were given,” Silverman said. “We got our tables, but not our chairs. We got our umbrellas, but two weeks before the plaza closed.”
Despite the problems with the summer installation and opposition from some residents of nearby Kips Bay Towers, KBNA collected 1,200 signatures in favor of the plaza by January. Design workshops in January and March moved forward, gathering feedback on the design.
But behind the scenes, J.D. Carlisle was souring on the project. On March 19, the company sent a letter to DOT [PDF] saying that it “staunchly opposed” the plaza, as did its two largest tenants, an AMC Loews movie theater and a Fairway supermarket.
With painted curb extensions expanding the pedestrian realm on Broadway and Whitehall Street in the Financial District, public space projects are now expected to spread around the corner to Water Street. The area is also on track to receive a first-in-the-city rule rule change making it easier to host public events in privately-owned off-street plazas.
The proposals come after a 2010 plan from the Downtown Alliance, the local business improvement district, to transform Water Street into a boulevard and boost the area’s street life.
On March 6, DOT presented a plan to Manhattan Community Board 1′s Financial District Committee that would expand pedestrian space and install new pedestrian plazas along Water Street [PDF].
The existing pedestrian plaza at Whitehall Street would be expanded and extended an additional block to Broad Street, while Coentis Slip, between Water and Pearl Streets, and Gouverneur Lane, between Water and Front Streets, would be converted to pedestrian plazas. The plan also adds painted curb extensions to shorten crossing distances between Whitehall and Fulton Streets.
In addition, traffic moving southbound on Water Street beyond Old Slip would be reduced from two lanes to one. The travel lane would be replaced with a striped buffer zone between curbside parking and the remaining moving lane.
The changes could be completed by Labor Day, according to DNAinfo. DOT may also consider reducing or adjusting the number of bus stops on Water Street in the future.
Also last week, CB 1′s planning committee voted unanimously to support a regulatory change from the Department of City Planning that aims to bring more programming and events to privately owned public spaces — the bonus plazas developers created in exchange for the right to build taller, for instance — along Water Street.
Last night, two community boards in Sunset Park and Manhattan’s West Side voted to support bike lanes, bike parking and permanent pedestrian plazas. As a result, Sunset Park will be receiving shared lane markings on Fifth Avenue, the permanent reconstruction of a plaza at Ninth Avenue and 14th Street will move ahead, and bike lanes and on-street corrals are on track for the West Side of Manhattan.
In Sunset Park, Brooklyn Community Board 7 voted to support the extension of shared lane markings on Fifth Avenue from 23rd to 65th Streets. (On Fifth Avenue between 23rd and Dean Streets, there are already bike lane and sharrow markings.)
The proposal received a supportive transportation committee vote in July, but stalled after a 15-9-10 vote at the full board in October. CB 7′s first vice chair, Daniel Murphy, reintroduced the sharrows resolution last night, and it passed, 23-5, with seven abstentions.
“We always planned to reintroduce it, it was just a question of when,” Murphy said, adding that a few board members who opposed the plan in October switched to support it this time around. “We didn’t get angry. We got rational,” he said. Murphy said he doesn’t believe this will delay DOT’s ability to install the markings this spring. Streetsblog has asked DOT to confirm an implementation schedule.
In Manhattan, Community Board 4′s transportation committee passed a resolution in support of the permanent reconstruction of a 9,000 square-foot plaza on Ninth Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets. DOT will add street trees on the east side of the plaza; the committee is asking DOT to add greenery to the center of the space, as well.
The Ninth Avenue protected bike lane, which shrinks to a standard painted lane at this location before becoming a buffered lane on Hudson Street, is often full of double-parked cars and trucks. “They told us there is not enough space on the avenue to create a protected bike lane,” committee co-chair Christine Berthet said. “We’re definitely not happy about it.”
A median pedestrian island on Ninth Avenue at 15th Street will be removed and replaced with a curb extension. The design will include cobblestones to match the aesthetic of plaza spaces on Ninth Avenue as it approaches Gansevoort Street.
In case you missed it, the Brooklyn Paper ran a by-the-numbers NIMBY react piece on a public plaza that has been proposed for Broadway near Bedford Avenue.
Though DOT has installed dozens of successful, community-backed plazas across the city, reporter Danielle Furfaro leads her story with typical narrow-minded complaints and baseless predictions. Furfaro says the plaza will take parking in an area where “every space is prime real estate,” implying that the space in question belongs to motorists and no one else. An employee of an area business — one of the two critics cited in the piece — even claims that the plaza will cause crashes.
Thing is, Furfaro or her editors lay bare the fallacy of their own narrative with this paragraph:
The city has reclaimed street space for a handful of pedestrian plazas in Brooklyn in the past couple of years, including Albee Square in downtown, Fowler Square in Fort Greene and Pearl Street in DUMBO. Some of those plazas, such as Fowler Square, brought the ire of drivers who complained that the pedestrian area would make driving a nightmare. Now, people who frequent the west end of Broadway are making the same predictions.
The article doesn’t challenge those predictions, or report whether the other plazas have, heaven forfend, made “driving a nightmare.” The Brooklyn Paper is only interested in repeating the tired storyline.
To her credit, Furfaro at least hit up Juan Martinez at Transportation Alternatives for a bit of reality-based perspective. Still, how many successful plazas do the Brooklyn Paper and other media outlets have to see before they stop leading every story with NIMBY bellyaching?
NYC DOT’s plaza program hit a milestone today, when officials cut the ribbon on a block of Willoughby Street reclaimed from car traffic between Pearl and Adams Streets in Downtown Brooklyn. What used to be, essentially, a private parking lot for government placard holders, is now the first plaza program project to make the transition from temporary materials to permanent construction.
The 14,000 square-foot plaza, set in motion in 2006 with a street reclamation by Iris Weinshall’s DOT, was folded into DOT’s Plaza Program after Janette Sadik-Khan took charge of the agency. It then entered the capital project pipeline for the Department of Design and Construction, which raised the plaza to the same grade as the sidewalk and worked with DEP to replace water mains.
The project cost $2 million, paid for by federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds. Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez was on hand for today’s ribbon-cutting, along with Sadik-Khan, DDC Commissioner David Burney, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Tucker Reed, Jeff Kay of Muss Development, and Borough President Marty Markowitz.
“It’s a pleasure when the commissioner and I can be on the same side of a project,” Markowitz said, before launching into a gregarious bit inviting the single people of Brooklyn to make the plaza their new meeting spot.
The overall theme this morning was not match-making, but retail sales. Sadik-Khan cited research showing that plazas help improve retail sales, adding that DOT expects to release a complete study of those effects this summer.
A go-to NIMBY argument against safe street improvements is that bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, and ped refuge islands interfere with emergency responders.
In 2009, one complainer at an event sponsored by then-Council Member Alan Gerson claimed that pedestrian islands on Grand Street “put lives in danger” by slowing down fire trucks and ambulances. Opponents of the Prospect Park West bike lane lobbed the same accusation at DOT and got Marcia Kramer to give them a megaphone. Assembly Member Dov Hikind spearheaded a successful campaign to make Fort Hamilton Parkway more dangerous for seniors based on nothing more than specious complaints from Hatzolah ambulance drivers, again amplified by Kramer.
A data set released by the city Wednesday blows another hole in what has always been a weak and cynical criticism. At an event on Randall’s Island yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg and Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano announced that in 2012, FDNY achieved the fastest average EMS response time in the city’s history. Fewer civilians died in fires last year than ever before, which the mayor and fire chief attributed to another near-record low average response time. From a City Hall press release:
The FDNY’s Emergency Medical Service averaged an ambulance response time for life-threatening medical emergencies of 6:30 — a second faster than the previous record of 6:31 set in 2011.
Structural fire response time in 2012 was 4:04, two seconds higher than last year when it was 4:02 due in part to the large call volume that occurred during and after Hurricane Sandy when the FDNY responded to nearly 100 serious structural fires.
Compared to the total amount of street space in the city, the square footage dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists in recent years is actually quite small. But there are still hundreds of places with new sidewalk extensions, pedestrian islands, and bike lanes, and at the very least the FDNY numbers suggest that new measures designed to make streets safer for walking and biking are not having the detrimental effect prophesied by the likes of Dov Hikind, NBBL, Marty Markowitz, and Marcia Kramer.